8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens Review


Fisheyes lenses are great for Walt Disney World and Disneyland photography. This fisheye lens is sold under multiple names (Rokinon, Samyang, Bower, Pro-Optic) but all are made by Samyang Optics. Rokinon is the most common brand-name for the lens in the US, and is the brand I own, so I’m going to refer to this lens as the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens. If you see an “8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens” under one of the aforementioned brand names, this is the lens.

Following the reception of the Tamron 17-55mm f/2.8 review I posted, I’ve decided to occasionally post individual reviews of specific photography equipment that is especially useful at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. That Tamron lens is probably the most versatile Disney photography lens, and this one is probably the most FUN lens. I’m not going to individually review everything in my camera bag, you can refer to our capsule overview reviews of different photography equipment, accessories, books, and software for Walt Disney World and Disneyland photography for that. If you really dig the photo-oriented stuff, you should probably check out ISO 5571, a podcast I co-host that is entirely focused on Walt Disney World and Disneyland photography. We also try to make it somewhat humorous, although I’m sure we largely fail at that!

This is the lens that I use the most at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. I think this lens has a lot great purposes. You can use it for the normal “fisheye effect,” but you can also get in tight spaces and achieve a substantial field of view, you can take self portraits that are of more than just your head (as long as you don’t mind distortion; just make sure to center yourself), you can take interesting close-up shots, and you can use it as the functional equivalent of an ultra wide angle lens with the appropriate distortion-correcting software. It opens up a world of creative possibilities beyond just the “fisheye look” type of shots.

So what, exactly, are its pros and cons? Let’s start with the cons.

Some people–a lot of people–will tell you that a fisheye is best used in moderation, and that the “gimmick” of the fisheye wears off quickly or becomes tiresome after a few shots. I am not one of those people. While I believe some of the exaggerated distortion shots are overdone, I think a fisheye can be used pretty extensively without wearing out its welcome. I want to be up front with that so you don’t give my review too much weight; if you don’t like the photos in this review (all of them were taken with the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye) or my photos in general, chances are that you won’t be happy with a fisheye lens. It’s a lot like HDR–it’s not for everyone.


Another caveat is that this lens is manual focus for all camera brands and the cheaper version of the lens requires manual metering for some lower-end Nikon cameras. If you have anything below the Nikon D7000 (so the D40, D60, D90, D3000, D3100, D5000, and D5100, plus any lower end cameras that I’m forgetting), the camera will not meter with $290 version of this lens. With the D7000 and above (D300, D200, etc.), the lens will meter. Those using an entry level Nikon will want to purchase the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens with Auto Aperture and Auto Exposure Chip. Manual focus is no big deal at all, and is not something to worry about with a fisheye. While manual focus can be tricky with other lenses, the natural depth of field is so great on a fisheye that you almost never have to focus the lens. I set my focus on 3 feet and rarely ever adjust it. The only time I do adjust is if I’m taking a handheld self-portrait, and then I’ll adjust it to around 1-2 feet.

At Walt Disney World and Disneyland, manual focus is actually a plus for this lens, as you don’t have to worry about the lens hunting for focus. It’s ALWAYS in focus! Seriously, don’t worry about the focus at all. I am really stressing this because I’ve heard this concern (and had it myself before buying) a lot, but it’s a complete non-issue. The much bigger issue is the lack of metering if you have an entry level Nikon. For that reason, spend the extra money to get the chipped version. I’ve used mine (the non-chipped version) with Sarah’s Nikon D3100 DSLR and have had to guess at the exposure, review on the LCD screen, adjust, and retake some photos. Most of the time I guess pretty well with my first shot, but it can be a pain to do this. If my only camera were an entry level Nikon, I definitely recommend spending ~$40 for the chipped version. Time is limited at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and I wouldn’t want to spend valuable time guessing and checking.

Aside from these two potential issues (neither of which are real issues for me, but might be for you), there aren’t many other negatives about this lens. It isn’t all that sharp at f/3.5 (or f/4, which isn’t an aperture listed on the lens but is a possible aperture), but it is sharp at f/5.6 and above. At f/8 to f/11, it’s one of the sharpest lenses in my bag. I’ve also had some slight issues with minor color fringing, but I don’t tend to notice this much, and this is pretty common with all fisheye lenses.

Now, the pros. There are a lot of them. First and foremost is the price. The Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens retails for $350 and sells for $290-299 on Amazon.com. You might remember that I called the Tamron 17-55mm f/2.8 a great bargain at $500. This is a couple hundred dollars less, and is a GREAT deal. Compare the Rokinon Fisheye to the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8GFisheye Lens that sells for $700 on Amazon, the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens that sells for $650 on Amazon, or the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens that sells for $670 on Amazon. The Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens is less than half the price of ANY of those lenses. Back when I owned the Nikon D90, I owned the last lens on that list, the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye (because of the metering issue with the Rokinon on that camera). Based on my first hand experience, I can say that the Rokinon is better than the Tokina fisheye. The zoom of the Tokina is novel, but it’s totally unnecessary for a fisheye lens. The Rokinon is sharper, and produces better images. At less than HALF the price!

As for the Rokinon’s image quality, I think these images speak for themselves, but just in case they don’t (and I know this is a concern given the odd brand names for this lens), the image quality is spectacular. The lens is tack sharp at f/8 to f/16, produces great color and contrast, and its 8mm 180 degree field of view is great and allows latitude in centering subjects (and cropping) for a less distorted photo. I really can’t say enough about the quality of the photos this lens produces. I never expected so much from an “off” brand.

Image quality is even great on full frame cameras. The photo immediately above of Spaceship Earth was taken with my Nikon D600 (read my review of that camera). Although there is a dark border around the photo, as soon as you crop that off, you have a great looking fisheye image. So don’t fret if you plan on upgrading to full frame–this lens will work with that, too!

One of my favorite things about the lens, and this is another “your mileage may vary” type thing, is the starbursts and sunbursts it produces. At apertures of around f/11 and up, the lens produces a very visually-pleasing 6-point starburst. I really like the way this starburst looks as it “fans” rays of sunlight out. Other lenses I have produce more points of light in their star/sunbursts (the number of points is determined by aperture blades), and I’m not a fan of these tighter and more numerous rays in the bursts (example). The starbursts produced by this lens, in my opinion, have a more natural and pleasing look. Again, that’s just my opinion–your starburst preferences may vary widely.

Additionally, the Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens offers great build quality since it’s made of metal, not plastic. This is really surprising for a $290 lens, especially when many more expensive lenses are made of plastic. It really seems like there should be more “pros” on this list, but the pros I have mentioned should be really compelling reasons to buy this lens. I can’t adequately articulate why this is an amazing lens, but it is. All of this said, even though this is my single most-used lens, it wouldn’t be the first lens I’d purchase if I were building my camera bag. It is a specialty lens, and if you’re starting out, you might want to go for well-rounded lenses before trying specialty lenses. I happen to love this lens, and I think it’s the perfect “Disney” lens, but it’s certainly not for everyone!

If you do want to purchase this lens–or any other photography equipment–please use the Amazon links here. Not only does Amazon offer great customer service and low prices, but using the links here help support DisneyTouristBlog.com (at no cost to you!) and help us continue to provide you with great content. 

If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts:

Photography Buying Guide: Way More Than You Ever Needed to Know…
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Neutral Density Filter Buying Guide

Your Thoughts…

Do you own the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye? Interested in it? Share your thoughts about this wonderful fisheye lens in the comments!

 

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41 Responses to “8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens Review”

  1. Dustin says:

    Thanks for the great open and honest review. Seriously considering getting this one over a Canon brand now. Especially if the quality holds up as good as you say. Would rather not break the bank over a ‘toy’ lens.

  2. kickstand says:

    You said:

    > If you see an “8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens” somewhere, regardless of the brand, this is the lens.

    Yeah, unless it’s the Peleng 8mm f/3.5, which is an entirely different design and predates the Rokinon by about a decade.

  3. Dana says:

    Great article! I bought your Tokina 10-17mm on eBay last year and I love love love it- I definitely fall into your category where the fisheye will never get old for me. I went to WDW last May and brought my 10-17mm and my Tamron 28-300 (mainly because I wanted to travel light)- well let me tell you- i could have travelled lighter and only taken the fisheye- it was on my camera 99% of the time!
    I’ll have to look into the 8mm now too- I just love how you can get in all the elements of a scene at once!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The Tokina 10-17mm is definitely a fun lens, but after having the Rokinon for a couple years now, I have to say, I love it so much more! Mostly because of the price-difference! Glad to hear that you’re still enjoying that Tokina fisheye. It served me well for a few trips!!!

  4. Great review & a great lens!

  5. Glenn says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been very interested in wide angle shooting (mainly from looking at your great shots), and my buddy let me borrow his Sigma 10-20mm during my last trip to WDW. I really like it, but I’m interested in a fisheye lens as well. This review helps.

    Question: Do you use a tripod for all your shots?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I use a tripod for the majority of nighttime photos, but never for daytime photos (unless I’m using a ND filter).

      • Zack says:

        Nice sample shots with that lens! I just got one to use in Hawaii!

        I have been getting some great results so far and plan on also doing some time lapse JPG sequences!

        I was wondering what filters you are able to put on this lens – not sure if the big square ones will have any way to mount – have not tried yet.

        I have a feeling I may have to fabricate some kind of mount. I was looking at a 77mm polarized filter and the square filter kits.

        Any tip would be appreciated. – Thanks!

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I wouldn’t use filters on a fisheye lens. I don’t really see the benefit. A polarizing filter is not effective on wide angle lenses due to their coverage–it’d be even worse on a fisheye.

  6. Chris says:

    I see you made a slight change in adding the information about the “chipped” lens. I am glad I came back to catch that. I have a D5100, and was a little let down to hear that the lens did not auto-meter. With this new info I think I will be buying this lens from the provided link. You take wonderful photographs Tom. I appreciate your skill and knowledge.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Good catch! Someone pointed this out to me, so I made the change. Sounds like it’ll make a great lens with the D5100 now that there’s a chipped version!!!

      • Chris says:

        Ok, I now have my lens and am wondering what kind of “appropriate distortion-correcting software” you are using? I see in Adobe Camera Raw there is a lens correction tab. Are you using a certain setting in Camera Raw? Your help is appreciated.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I use Photoshop manually, but I hear DeFish works well.

  7. Ken says:

    I bought this lens and love it. Super fun to shoot video with it too! However, I have a Canon 5D Mk II and because it is a full frame camera I had to do surgery on it to remove the permanent lens hood because it will show up in the photos. Not a difficult job if you are handy with a Dremel; you can find DIY articles on the web on how to do it.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I’ve seen a couple DIY tutorials for that. I don’t know if I’d trust myself to do it, though. How do you like it on the full frame camera?

  8. Just ordered mine and cant wait to start shooting with it : )

  9. Dustin says:

    I picked up one based on your reviews and am very excited to start testing it out!

  10. Josh says:

    I also have this lens and absolutely love it. I’m with you and feel that if this lens is used right the fisheye isn’t a gimmick what so ever. I use it all the time and many people don’t realize its a fisheye I’m using. Great Photos and article!

  11. Florida Mel says:

    This information is fantastic and you have answered a lot of my questions without me having to ask, thank you :-)

  12. Dan M says:

    Which version do you recommend for the D7000. Will getting the chipped A8EM-N version help any or will the auto aperture and exposure not be a factor since the D7000 will work fine with the F8EM-N?

  13. Libby says:

    Thanks so much for this. I had looked at the lens before but assumed it was a piece of junk. I have reconsidered and added it to my future purchase list.

  14. Joe says:

    I am using D5100 with 8mm fisheye Samyang. After setting to f22 and infinite, my camera prompt me something like
    “Lock lens aperture ring, max aperture”
    Please advise.

    • JD says:

      I’m having the same issue and I bought the chipped version… did you solve your problem?

    • JD says:

      Hi… I just solved my problem…. If you have the Nikon AE (chipped version) just set the aperture ring to f/22 before turning on the camera and the just change the aperture just like you were doing it on any other lens :) … let me know if you it works for you

  15. Allcocks says:

    Seriously considering one of these, it’s just so crystal clear and gives a beautiful result as far as your images go!

  16. Melissa says:

    Hi! I just wanted to say that because of this review, I bought the lens. Sorry, I didn’t use your affiliate links because I got a better deal on eBay. Otherwise I would’ve.

    Anyway, this is the BEST LENS EVER! I wouldn’t never known about it if it weren’t for this review. I am a Nikon lens SNOB and would’ve never considered owning a non-Nikkor lens, but your review sold me.

    I just came back from vacation and I shot my ENTIRE vacation in fisheye. It NEVER gets old, but if you use it that much, you can start feeling queasy!

    I’m not even interested in Disney (found your blog by accident) but I think your photography is beautiful and I enjoy your reviews, so I have it bookmarked.

  17. Keith Chaisson says:

    Do you know if anyone has had any experience with the Rokinon HD8M-C 8mm (especially for Canon esp. 7D)? Your reviews have been helpful on several purchases. I can’t imaging what this could do in the new Fantasyland Expansionm.

  18. Todd Breaux says:

    I just picked up this lens for my Canon T2i. One quick question. I have read many reports of the focus being off and people haveing to recalibrate their lens. Did you have to do this as well? Mine seems to be fine but I might not be able to notice the difference in the focus. Any comments about this phenomenom.

  19. Laurie S. says:

    love your photos and blog! I own a D5100 with kit lens and 55-200 lens, and really want to get something new for our upcoming disney cruise. Trying to decide between this fisheye lens, or the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G – would love to get both, but it’s not in the budget right now. how do I decide? they both would be good for a vacation, I would think…any thoughts? I will likely get both somewhere down the line….

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Fisheye lenses are a lot of fun, but the “look” can get old fast. It all depends upon how much you enjoy the fisheye look. If you’re a big fan, go for it! If not, the 35mm f/1.8 is a great lens for shallow depth of field photos.

  20. Remus says:

    Hi Tom,
    Firs of all, great shoots! Could you tell me what (if) used any particular post processing ( aka presets, software filters)?
    Thanks!
    Remus

  21. Thanks for the review. Nice photos (my fav is the teacup ride).

    Thanks for pointing out the differences in AE between D90 and the D7000. I didn’t know that they had changed that when the updated. I guess that makes the D7000/D7100 a kinda mashup of the D300 and D90.

    So the Rokinon is equivalent to a Nikon AI-P/AI-S, or other type of MF lens?

  22. Lance Luther says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I do have a question:

    Tom,

    I have seen a lot of your photos that do not look like they were taken with a fisheye, but the EXIF data indicates that you used an 8mm lens, so I assume it was the Rokinon. So you either cropped in tighter or used “appropriate distortion-correcting software”. I’ve wondered if there is lack of sharpness (akin to a stretching of pixels for lack of a better term) when using software versus using a regular wide angle lens. Any thoughts?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yep, I either do so with the free transform tool in Photoshop, or its Adaptive Wide Angle tool (which works very well). The downside is a loss in sharpness. Sometimes it’s not at all noticeable, sometimes it is very noticeable. It all depends upon how heavily “corrected” it is. Hope that helps!

  23. Donna M. says:

    These are amazing shots! I have a Sigma 10-20mm lens, which I love, but I’m seriously considering getting one of these too because it looks like a fun lens to have.

  24. Bee says:

    So if I am using a D3200 but am always shooting on manual mode, do I need the Auto Exposure chip version? Or can I meter it by myself through the camera like with any other shot I’m taking?

  25. Jason says:

    For your night shots, did you need to use a tripod?

  26. Jay says:

    A friend got one for his D800 and it vignetted so bad he sold it to me for use with my then d7000. It when into my bag without being used. Now I have the D7100 and it meters the lens in manual mode so I’ll be trying it soon. It will be handy in the cockpit of a small plane ..to be able to shoot the pilot and get the plane and the outside view all in the shot.

    Love the photos here and what I’ve seen in searches.

    In my apartment I shoot straight ahead and see down the hall that’s almost 90 degrees to my right and the entrance door 90 degrees to my left. Like …it doesn’t seem to have a DX factor. eg. my 35mm 1.8 generates a photo like a 50mm on a full frame camera but the Rokinon doesn’t seem to behave that way and I don’t understand that. To me it acts like a 6mm. If the darn thing shot any wider I’d be seeing behind me. What’s up with that?

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