Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens Review

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This review features real world sample photos from the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye (which is also sold under Samyang, Bower, Pro-Optic brands), my thoughts on the lens, and side-by-side comparison images to the Zenitar 16mm and Rokinon 8mm fisheye lenses. This is the new full frame fisheye built by Samyang Optics, and while it is technically a budget fisheye lens, its ~$500 price point puts it nearly in line with regular third party brands. The question for this review is thus whether this glass can command the premium price. Given the stellar performance of the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, I was optimistic that it could…or I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

Before we get to the substance of the review, a little background is in order. I think this is the first review to be posted of the new Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye, so I’m guessing some of you reading this might be “regular” photographers, and not the normal audience of crazy Disney enthusiasts who frequent this site. As such, you might be wondering why there is a review for a fisheye lens on a Disney fan site and why you should trust my opinion.

The review is here because Disney Parks photography is one of my favorite hobbies; my family will tell you that under no circumstances should you trust my judgment. However, I have tested or owned every major fisheye lens for Nikon mount cameras in recent memory, and I have reviews on this site (click each name to open the review in a new tab) of the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 fisheye, and Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye. I’ve also used but have not (yet) reviewed the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G Fisheye Lens, the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens, the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens, and the Nikon 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens. None of this precludes me from having awful opinions about fisheye lenses, but at least now you know I have some experience with them. Suffice to say, I love shooting with fisheyes.



As is the case with all of my photography reviews, this is a “real world” review, meaning that it’s based on my use of the lens in the regular course of taking photos in the field, not arbitrary photos in a sterile lab. Some people have an affinity for photographing lab charts and pixel peeping at 100%, but I’m not one of those people. I have an affinity for photographing landscapes and environments I find beautiful, and I see more value in how the lens actually performs in such scenarios, and how edited photos from the lens actually look.

With that said, let’s take a look at this Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, how it stacks up to its competitors, and whether it’s worth the price… (more…)

Christmas at Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea’s “Christmas Wishes” event is the park’s November and December during which time the ports get into the holiday spirit. Whereas Tokyo Disneyland does a lot along the lines of Walt Disney World and Disneyland for Christmas, everything DisneySea does is unique, anFor DisneySea’s Christmas festivities, there are stage shows, attraction overlays, special merchandise, and seasonal food menus.

This post takes a look at “Christmas Wishes” at Tokyo DisneySea (here’s the official page in Japanese) based upon our time in the park last year at Christmas, with photos plus my thoughts. We have a separate post covering Christmas at Tokyo Disneyland. Little has changed from last year, but keep in mind that things can change in the future, so there’s more a trip report than a strict planning post for those of you visiting Tokyo DisneySea in 2015, 2016, or beyond.

Because Christmas at Tokyo Disney Resort is so different than in Walt Disney World and Disneyland (and most readers are presumably regulars of the US Parks), a little background is in order. I already covered most of this in the Tokyo Disneyland Christmas post, so I’ll be brief. As is the case with Tokyo Disneyland, Christmas Wishes special entertainment is included in regular park admission. This is a great value given that park tickets for regular attractions and Christmas entertainment cost under $60, making a full day cheaper than the hard ticket Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World alone.

Also mentioned in the Tokyo Disneyland post is how Christmas is more of a date holiday in Japan. This is even more noticeable at Tokyo DisneySea. Since it first opened, Tokyo DisneySea has been marketed in Japan as the more mature foil to Tokyo Disneyland, aimed at adults and the aging population. This is evident in some of the beautiful marketing the park uses in Japan. A bit of this adult edge has been lost with the rise of characters in the park, but it’s still the EPCOT Center of Tokyo Disney Resort. Can you really imagine a better romantic date night than an early dinner at Magellan’s, followed by a dusk ride on the Venetian Gondolas, catching the last show of the Broadway stage show, Big Band Beat, and a romantic nighttime stroll from the Arabian Coast to the Aquasphere? I get goosebumps just thinking of it. I’ll bet there’s a lot of risky business going on in those rooms in the MiraCosta after couples share an experience like this. I mean, how could there not be?! ;)



If you’re going as a couple, this romantic itinerary absolutely should be on your agenda (it will be crazy-busy during the Christmas season, especially weekends, so make sure to follow our 1-Day Tokyo DisneySea Itinerary for at least the morning if you want to keep your sanity), but for now let’s take a look at things on the actual entertainment slate at Tokyo DisneySea during the Christmas season… (more…)

Tips For The Awesomeness That Is ¡Viva Navidad!

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Disney ¡Viva Navidad! is a celebration of Latino holiday cultural traditions in Disneyland Resort’s Disney California Adventure from November 13, 2014 – January 6, 2015. It is a really high energy celebration with a wide array of appeal for just about anyone, taking place in the Paradise Garden corner of the park (it’s near beloved Disney institution Corn Dog Castle for those unfamiliar with DCA). This post takes a look at the various things going on during ¡Viva Navidad!, and provides some tips…to the extent that they are actually necessary. It’s a pretty straightforward and easy-to-experience event.

The Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party is the main draw of ¡Viva Navidad!, and it’s like a party that rolled straight out of circa-1982 EPCOT Center. With its marrying of authentic culture with Disney fun, it has shades of vintage EPCOT Center, and reminds me how well that park used to integrate entertainment, education, and culture. (more…)

Christmas at Disneyland Paris

November 9, 2014 through January 7, 2015, Disneyland Paris celebrates “Disney’s Enchanted Christmas,” during which the park is decked out for the holidays. Disneyland Paris’ Christmas features lights, a beautiful Christmas tree, Disney Dreams of Christmas, and other special Christmas entertainment. Disneyland Paris at Christmas-time is much like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom or Disneyland in California, but with its own unique twists. If being cold is an important part of the Christmas experience for you, you’re in luck! Christmas at Disneyland Paris has weather you’d actually associate with winter, and a real snowfall in late November or December is not uncommon.

This post has been updated with new photos and information for Christmas 2014 at Disneyland Paris; those using it for 2015 or 2016 Disneyland Paris vacation planning should keep in mind that entertainment changes from year to year, so this is more a pseudo-trip report or rough outline of what to expect rather than precise info on what to expect. For exact details of what’s offered, check out the official Disneyland Paris Christmas page.

Before we get to the details of Disneyland Paris at Christmas, if you’re planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, you’ll want to check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide.



Before we go any further, let’s set the mood. No, I’m not going to dictate that you turn down the lights, pour a cup of eggnog, and light the fireplace. But I do think it would “enhance” your enjoyment of the rest of this post if you read and viewed it while listening to the greatest Disney theme park Christmas song known to mankind: Chante, c’est Noël. This song is the unofficial theme song of Christmas at Disneyland Paris. It was once (apparently) played during a Christmas parade at Disneyland Paris. Then it was played at the close of the previous Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Now, I think it’s just played back in Santa Claus Village at Cottonwood Creek Ranch. Why it’s no longer prominent is beyond me, because it rocks.

Now that the mood is set, let’s head to Paris and take a look at a Parisian Christmas, Disney-style!
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Christmas at Tokyo Disneyland

Disney Christmas is the seasonal event at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea during November and December consisting of “Christmas Fantasy” in Tokyo Disneyland and “Christmas Wishes” in Tokyo DisneySea. There’s a great holiday spirit around Christmas-time in Japan; although the holiday itself has a largely different meaning in Japan than in Western countries, the parks and guests celebrate similarly to the US Parks in terms of Christmas offerings. Much like Disneyland and Walt Disney World, there is a Christmas parade, attraction overlays, holiday stage shows, special merchandise, and seasonal food menus.

This post takes a look at Tokyo Disneyland’s “Christmas Fantasy” (here’s the official page in Japanese, which contains much more info; your web-browser should translate most of it, and it’s worth clicking around randomly on things you can’t read to figure out the rest). from our visit last year, with photos plus my thoughts. This info is now a year old, making some of it stale for pure planning purposes, although there are many things that remain the same from year to year. Consider this a hybrid post of info and a portion of the trip report I didn’t find the time to write. Just keep in mind that what’s pictured here probably won’t be exactly what you’ll see in 2015, 2016, or beyond.

Let’s start with a little background: like all seasonal offerings in the Japan parks, Christmas Fantasy’s special entertainment is included in regular park admission. At just under $60 for a 1-day Tokyo Disneyland ticket, a full day at Tokyo Disneyland including regular attractions and Christmas entertainment is actually cheaper than just the hard ticket Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World. I mentioned this in the Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland post, but I think it bears emphasizing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Christmas Party at Walt Disney World, but I am not such a fan of the rising cost of party tickets each year. I think it says something that Tokyo Disneyland features better seasonal enhancements and manages to include them in the cost of a regular day ticket (one that is also cheaper than the US parks). In fairness, demographics are different in Japan (annual passes are much more expensive than they are to the US parks) and getting there from the United States has its own expensive costs… (more…)

Christmas at Trader Sam’s

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It’s a Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou at Trader Sam’s this time of year! Since I never pass up an excuse opportunity to visit my second favorite Disney bar in the world, we headed to Trader Sam’s recently to test out its Christmas menu.

I won’t rehash my love for Trader Sam’s here–you can read my Trader Sam’s Backstory & Details and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar Review posts for the reasons why this is one of our top stops at Disneyland Resort. Suffice to say, I’m really excited for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto to open at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World so everyone who has yet to experience it at Disneyland Hotel can understand why this place is so special. I just hope the Walt Disney World location is as special as the Disneyland Resort one.

We didn’t make it out to Trader Sam’s during our last Christmas trip to Disneyland, which I assume upset the Tiki Gods, so we were committed not to make that same mistake again this year. It came as no surprise that not only were there special drinks for Christmas, but the tiki bar had also been decorated for the holidays. If this were anywhere else, it would probably seem like cheap and thoughtless Christmas decor thrown into the bar. However, it’s the perfect kitschy Christmas, and the decorations fit perfectly in Trader Sam’s.

Let’s take a look at the Trader Sam’s Christmas decorations and drinks… (more…)

Biergarten Review

Biergarten is a buffet restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase Germany at Walt Disney World that is set in the middle of a Bavarian Village celebrating Oktoberfest year round. Biergarten serves authentic German cuisine for lunch and dinner (menu). At the center of the village is a stage where costumed musicians perform traditional Oktoberfest entertainment and where guests can get up and fun fun on the dance floor. Biergarten is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, and also accepts Tables in Wonderland. As a buffet, it’s priced slightly below average for a table service restaurant, making it a good option if you’re paying out of pocket, but a poor option for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

Biergarten is an interesting restaurant. The exterior is somewhat understated, with only the painted name of the restaurant above a small archway at the back of Epcot’s Germany pavilion. However, once you step inside, you’re inundated by the sounds of the traditional oompah music, other entertainment, and a Bavarian Village setting (outside, no less!). The seating is communal, which may not appeal to all patrons, but was fine by us. The other guests at our table chatted with us throughout the meal and we had a good time. If you’re looking for a romantic meal or are shy, this may not be the best dining option for you.

This review covers two visits to Biergarten, the most recent of which occurred in Fall 2014, after which this review was updated/basically re-written… (more…)

My Disney Theme Park Library

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There are many Disney Parks books that focus on Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Walt Disney Imagineering. This post reviews some of the books in my Disney Parks library, and provides links for finding inexpensive copies of the books. Over the last 5 years, I’ve gradually accrued a substantial collection of Disney Parks books.

Currently, an Amazon search for “Disney books” yields 94,266 results. That’s a lot of books. My Disney library focuses on coffee table books with strong visual elements that were originally sold as souvenir books in the Disney Parks. There are tons of Disney biographies and other non-fiction titles, and although I have or have read a good number of these, I only touch upon some of what I consider to be the highlights here.

Many of these books are out-of-print, so they can only be purchased on the secondary market. Luckily, you can still find many of them on Amazon.com for prices ranging from $.01 to a few dollars (click each title for current prices on Amazon.com). A few are quite expensive, costing a few hundred dollars, but most can now be purchased much cheaper than they were when sold new at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

A word of caution before we begin: although these books are individually cheap, the costs of collecting them is deceptively expensive, and these books can take up a lot of space. When I updated this post to add new books in December 2014, I decided to go back and approximate how much I had spent “for fun” and the number was a bit staggering. The good news is that the values on most of the rare titles have risen since I purchased them, so consider buying to be a “pragmatic investment” if you need to justify a purchase!

With that, let’s take a look at my Disney theme park library… (more…)