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Technical

September 2011

When I first saw the specifications of the new Canon EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens last year, I thought what an interesting lens this could be. Previously the widest lens that I had used on a wedding shoot was the Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and, while that is an exceptional wideangle zoom lens, I always felt that for some pictures it wasn't wide enough.

© Jeff Ascough

A happy couple leaving a church after their marriage ceremony. Shot on the EOS 5D Mark II with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, the exposure was 1/100sec at f/4, ISO 800.

As a wedding photographer it's often a requirement to show the environment that the wedding takes place in. Often it's a case of using the widest lens available and looking for a decent viewpoint to show the venue. Sometimes I've been left with a sense of anti-climax when seeing the images after the wedding day.

I have often played with the idea of shooting with a fisheye lens, just to add some interest to the shot, but the only one previously available to me was the EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye. That, unfortunately, isn't an L-series lens and that factor is important to me. I like the superior build quality and optics of the [Canon] L-series lenses and, as I'm quite hard on my gear, I like the feeling of robustness that comes as standard with these lenses.

The EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM is definitely an L-series lens. It is beautifully built, with a rubber gasket around the bayonet to seal the lens against the camera body. The lens feels robust, but is not particularly heavy, and is a joy to use on my usual Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera body. Optically the lens is breathtaking – try as I might I could not induce flare into the lens.

The detail and sharpness that the lens gathers is fabulous and very important when you consider that in many cases important detail could be a very small part of the frame. Admittedly the lens' widest aperture is f/4, but when it comes to actually using the lens, its size and weight and the fact that the field-of-view is so wide, means that hand-held shutter speeds of half a second are achievable with practice.

© Jeff Ascough

Wedding cake at a wedding breakfast venue. Shot on the EOS 5D Mark II with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, the exposure was 1/40sec at f/4, ISO 800.

Canon has introduced a 'LIMIT' [zoom-lock] control on the lens barrel. In normal use, the lens will produce circular fisheye images at the wide end but, in the 'on' position, the lens is restricted to 10-15mm which only allows a horizontal fisheye look to the picture. I'm not completely convinced of why they [Canon*] wanted to do this, but if you aren't a fan of having the full-on fisheye effect, then it makes sense to use this 'LIMIT' control.

I've had this lens for a month now and, so far, my user experience has been very positive. There are a couple of things that you have to be aware of when using the lens. The first is the actual lens element is huge and collects fingerprints very quickly if you don't use the supplied lens cover. The lens hood is both a help and a hindrance when shooting. It helps to keep the lens element safe, but you have to remove it if you want to use the mid- to wide ends of the lens.

When shooting it is essential to make sure that any elements that you don't want to be distorted are in the middle of the frame. I've used the lens in various situations, mainly at the 15mm end. There is some distortion to the edges, but I feel that this adds to the effect. It is certainly a lens that can add interest to many situations but the temptation to overuse it is very strong!

I am very pleased with the lens, and it was well worth waiting for. It is now the first lens [put] into my camera bag and has replaced the EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM as my widest lens.

* Technical note: For use with Canon APS-C format DSLRs the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens has the option of a zoom-lock mechanism to ensure that photographers get the best possible full-frame view without unsightly vignetting around the edge. 'C' and 'H' markings next to the zoom operation ring of the lens indicate the wideangle zoom position for APS-C and APS-H format DSLRs where vignette-free shooting is possible with either sensor, thus allowing for optimum results with any EOS DSLR body.

Biography: Jeff Ascough

Jeff Ascough

UK-based wedding photographer Jeff Ascough has been shooting portraits and weddings since 1989. He is best known for his documentary style approach to weddings and this style has, to date, won him over 170 awards for his work. A Canon Ambassador since 2008, Jeff’s reputation has spread across the Atlantic Ocean and he received a ‘Lens & Light Honor’ in 2010. In 2011 he was described by Newsweek as: “One of the planet’s most evocative wedding photographers,” and has had some of his photographs displayed at the Getty Images Gallery in London.



Showcase

Wedding breakfast. Shot on the EOS 5D Mark II with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, the exposure was 1/15sec at f/4, ISO 1600.