Posts Tagged ‘fish-eye’

Shooting Cityscapes

Vancouver Center from the 7th floor of the Hilton Hotel, Vancouver, WA EOS-R w/ EF-70-300 L @70mm f/5.6

Cities can be interesting subjects. Some cities have definable skylines with famous structures like Seattle’s Space Needle or San Francisco’s Trans-America Pyramid. But even with out the landmark buildings, a city can offer photographers an opportunity for an interesting study. The very same city can have dramatically different looks shot from different angles, often just changing a couple of blocks can render an entirely different scene.

One thing a photographer may want to try is to get up high. Not necessarily the highest building in town, but up off the street a few floors, maybe between 3-7 stories up or in a really large city 15-20 stories up. The typical cityscape is often shot looking up at tall buildings. This can lead to converging lines and awkward looking shots with distortion. Sometimes that itself can make for a fun shot, but is can get old fast. Structured parking garages are a good way to get up high in a city.

Portland, OR MAX train arrives. EOS 5D mk II Sigma 8mm

Fish-eye lenses can be very effective for an abstract urban scene. I find fish-eyes to be more effective with taller buildings rather than short mid-rise structures. Fish-eyes and ultra-wides also seem to work better in tight spaces with several buildings close together. Another tactic with fish-eyes and ultra-wides, is having foreground objects up close to the lens. This creates a bit of a scale variance that adds an interesting look to the image.

At the opposite end of the focal length spectrum, long lenses can compress the view creating a dense urban feel even in cities with modest skylines and short buildings. This can be done from a faraway location across a river or up on a hill. It can even be done in close to the city for a real dense city dynamic.

Reflections in glass can create amazing results in cities. Look for structures with a lot of glass and find reflections to capture. Bodies of water can work as well.

Downtown Vancouver, WA from a 4th floor office. 3 horizontal shots, stitched with ICE. EOS-M5 w/EF-M 22mm f/2 @ f/8

Cityscapes can often benefit from a panorama. This doesn’t have to be done with a special mode on your camera. There is software that can stitch images together to create a panorama. Microsoft offers Image Composite Editor (ICE) for free. This allows one to take a series of images slightly overlapping and the software uses AI and algorithms to stitch the images into one big panorama. Be advised if you have a high resolution camera your file sizes can get really large. I like using the camera in vertical format allowing lots of space top and bottom and then making lots of images overlapping at 30% or so. This requires a lot more images, but helps keep the exposure smooth across the completed frame and if not using a tripod offers wiggle room for uneven alignment. Be mindful to keep the camera level as images are made. When exporting the panorama play with the different projections for some interesting dynamics to the image.

Downtown and the Waterfront, Vancouver, WA. 24 stitched images. Exported in ICE using a rotating motion and a spherical output. EOS-R w/EF-70-300 L @116mm f/4.5

Play around with angles and vantage points. You will get a lot of round file shots but you can get a nice mix of images to create an urban study. You don’t need a super expensive camera or even a fancy lens, many of the images in this post were taken with rather common focal lengths. I took some with my phone!

Edinburgh, Scotland from the Edinburgh Castle. EOS M5 w/ EF-M 55-200 @ 55mm

Downtown Vancouver, WA from the 5th floor deck at main library. Google Pixel 2 XL phone

Vancouver Center, Vancouver, WA EOS-M5 w/Samyang 8mm

Jet skier on the Columbia River, Downtown Vancouver in background. EOS 10D w/ EF 200 2.8 L. This is an oldie geez a 10d!

Downtown Seattle, WA from 73rd floor of Columbia Center. Canon EOS M3 w/ EF-M 11-22mm @11mm

Interstate 405 approach to Fremont Bridge, Portland, OR. EOS M5 w/ Samyang 8mm

Columbia Center and the Municipal Tower, Seattle, WA. Canon EOS M3 w/ 11-22mm @ 11mm

Butte, Montana. Canon EOS M5 w/ EF-M 55-200 @135mm

Esther Short Park, Vancouver WA from 3rd floor of Parkview Condos. EOS R w/ EF 16-35 L @35mm f/4

Victoria BC, Canada from the back of the Victoria-Port Angeles Ferry. Canon EOS-M5 w/ EF-M 18-55mm @44mm f/5.6

Downtown Vancouver, WA from the 4th floor Murdock Plaza. Canon EOS R w/ 16-35 L at 24mm f/5.6

Downtown Vancouver, from 5th floor of 500 Broadway. Canon EOS 50d w/Tokina 11-16mm @11mm f/2.8

Downtown Vancouver from the 9th floor of Viewpoint Condos. EOS M5 w/ Samyang 8mm

Lower Main Street, Vancouver, WA from the 11th floor of Viewpoint Condos. EOS M5 w/ EF-M 55-200 at 55mm f/6.3

Vancouver WA waterfront, Grant Street Pier. EOS M5 w/ EF-M 32mm @f/1.4

Space Needle and Downtown Seattle from a seaplane tour. EOS M3 w/ EF-M 11-22mm @15mm


Portland, OR Pioneer Courthouse Square. EOS 5D mk II w/ Sigma 8mm

Chinatown, San Francisco, CA circa 1985. Canon F1 w/FD 200/2.8 on Kodachrome 64

Market Street, San Francisco, CA circa 1985. Canon F1 w/ FD 28/2.0 on Ektachrome 100

Urban Patterns, San Francisco, CA mid 1980s. Canon F1 not sure which lens. On Kodachrome 64

Reflection, San Francisco, CA early 1980s Canon A1 with 50mm 1.8 lens on Ektachrome 100

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I decided to take a shot at a full frame fish eye lens and utilize the Adobe lens profiles in both Photoshop and Lightroom to correct the heavy barrel distortion prevalent in fish-eye designs. Years ago I had a Canon EF 15mm 2.8 full frame fish-eye. When I jumped to DSLRs I initially had APS/C crop sensor bodies. The 15mm made little sense on those bodies but performed well with my EOS film cameras. A few years ago I had all but abandoned film and have been shooting mostly with 5D variants which are full frame DSLRs and with the little EOS M series cameras for travel and fun.

I have a Sigma 8mm circular fish-eye that produces a full 23.5mm circle inside the 35mm frame or full frame sensor. This lens is similar to the Canon EF 15mm on the little APS/C cameras with slight vignetting at the very corners. I still have that lens but trying to shoot real estate photos with an 8mm lens and then using the distortion correction to get a full frame flat field photo is asking too much. First of all a 23.5mm circle crops away about half of the full frame. My 23 megapixel sensor is only using 11.5 mp with the 8mm. 11.5 mp is adequate until you start asking software to manipulate the pixels.


Samyang 12mm shot with Canon S110

Although most of my images are fun and made with my EOS M3, I do shoot professional grade photos of all my listings and the listings of several other local Realtors® in the area. For that, I use my 5D Mk II and a series of lenses including the amazing Canon 16-35mm 4.0 L IS. (reviewed here). I really want to buy the Canon 11-24mm 4.0 L. But honestly at $3000 clams it is a big pill to swallow. But that 11mm low distortion is amazing! I decided to consider a Canon EF 15mm 2.8 or another maker’s wide-angle lens with the intention of using the distortion correction in Lightroom to flatten out the field. Along the way as I searched for lenses I stumbled across an ad for the Samyang 12mm 2.8 full frame fish-eye lens. I had to check three times to make sure it was a full frame lens and not a lens made for APS/C. Sure enough it was a full frame lens! I had never seen a 180 degree full frame fish-eye with a focal length wider than 15mm.

This lens is much wider than the 15mm. Even though both lenses use optical barrel distortion to cover an identical 180 degrees at the corners, the 12mm Samyang has a wider horizontal and vertical coverage as it is in fact a 12mm lens. This also indicates that there is less barrel distortion and thus should be easier and sharper when corrected. I decided to try it out. It is not a cheap lens by any means, but it is less money than the EF 15mm 2.8 by a fair margin.

This lens directly mounts to any EOS camera body but does not offer any electronic coupling. But seriously if there is any lens you have to manual focus, a crazy wide fish-eye is the one to use! The depth of field even wide open is about 3 or 4 feet to infinity. The real question is: “is it sharp”? Well my friends, yes it is, very sharp. In fact this lens is noticeably sharper than my old Canon EF 15mm 2.8. The lens is very crisp right to the ragged edge of that 180 degree corner. When correcting the distortion you do lose some resolution, but compared to the 15mm Canon lens it is night and day. The Samyang just kicks ass.

So now I have a lens that makes full frame fish-eye shots with all that crazy barrel distortion which can be loads of fun in cities and dense forests, and I have a lens that offers similar, possibly wider, “straight line” ultra wide-angle coverage to the Canon 11-24mm. All for about $500 give or take. In all fairness the Canon 11-24mm L lens is superior, especially when making the distortion correction, but the Samyang 12mm performs better than any fisheye I have ever tested and I have owned a FD 7.5mm, FD 15mm, Sigma 16mm FD, Sigma 8mm FD, Canon EF 15mm, Sigma 8mm EF and this Samyang 12mm. The Samyang is the best, it’s just that good.


Samyang 12mm on 5d Mk II at f 8.0 ISO 400, closest leaf is 2 inches from lens, focus set to @8 inches.

What I understand about this lens is that they use a “stereographic” projection rather than the typical “orthographic” projection for the fish-eye effect. This lens does not have as much of the crazy fish-eye look as a Nikon 16mm or Canon 15mm. But it is sharper right out to the edges than either of those lenses.

I took a couple of quick shots in the living room to showcase the 12mm lenses coverage. Now there are a few caveats, first I had to hit the room with a flash pop as it is a dark room and I did not want to drag the shutter and blow out the windows. For the shots taken at 16mm, no worries as the flash diffuser covers down to 14mm. The 12mm both corrected and full 180 has some strong vignetting. This is flash vignetting, not lens vignetting. The lens it self only seems to lose about 1/2 to 1 stop wide open at the corners which is easily correctable and barely noticeable on film. I did attempt to correct the flash vignetting as best as possible. Also I haven’t downloaded Adobe’s updated lens profiles as I need to update my copy of Lightroom. I used the Canon EF 15mm lens profile for the distortion correction. It is good but tends to slightly overstretch the image near the edges, but with the new Samyang 12mm profile it will be much better!

So here are the shots taken in the living room, just quick snaps although mounted on tripod to keep camera in fixed location. The Canon 11-24mm lens offers 126 degrees of diagonal coverage at the 11mm setting. The 16mm setting shown below offers a touch over 108 degrees. The Samyang 12mm uncorrected yields a full 180 degrees corner to corner. I am not sure what the diagonal coverage is when the distortion is corrected but it is much wider than the 16mm and it is wider than 14mm because the flash still vignettes.


Canon 16-35mm 4.0 L IS at 16mm f8.0


Samyang 12mm at f8 distortion corrected


Samyang 12mm at f8 uncorrected

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