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