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It fills the entire film frame with a useful image, unlike the 8mm fisheye which gives just a silly circle in the middle of the frame. It offers all the convenience of through-the-lens viewing and metering, just like every other popular lens. It's also as small as a regular lens, and if you are used to zooms, even smaller than your zoom.
For you math professors, here's the formulae that represent how the subject maps to the image:
f * theta
image displacement on film, mm, from the center of the image
Aperture: f/2.8 - f/22
Diaphragm: 7 blades.
Size: 2.5" around (63.5mm) by 2.4" (62.5mm) long.
Weight: 11 oz. (310g)
It has no ghosts or flare, so feel free to keep the sun in your images.
I found the following performance with a sample bought new in 1994:
nice center, fuzzy on the sides due to coma. Some typical light falloff.
I find a lot of variation in performance sample-to-sample.
The first one I bought in 1984 was sharp at all apertures.
In 1991 I was thrown to the ground by a flying Christo Umbrella two feet away from a woman who was killed by it. Of course you'll probably point out that it serves me right for being stupid enough to be photographing this from so close with a fisheye lens, but hey, this was a natural disaster that hadn't happened yet, and as with all freak accidents (and the Spanish Inquisition) no one expects them to happen. In any case, the front of my fisheye was crushed and the front element fractured. The fact that I was bleeding was irrelevant; I was disturbed that my lens was destroyed.
Golly, it still worked just fine. Even though the front element was fractured clear through, it turns out that the fracture didn't go through any part of the element that was needed for the image. The front element protector, or hood, was also completely crushed. I tested the lens thoroughly and it was fine. I sent it to Nikon USA who sent it to Nikon Japan for a couple of months to replace the front element. It came back looking brand new, but unfortunately the optical performance was now poor. It was fuzzy in the corners at large apertures. I sent it back to Nikon several times who cheerfully checked it ant assured me it was fine, but even though it may have met commercial standards it didn't meet mine. I sold it to a less picky professional photographer and made it clear that I wasn't happy with the corner sharpness, but as the buyer pointed out, that wasn't really important to him with a fisheye lens, duh.
I bought another one in 1994. That one also wasn't too hot in the corners wide open, and I tried to make sure that I always stopped down a few stops. I sold that one, too, for about as much as I can buy a new AF version.
Curvature of field
It seems that the subject field curves farther away as you leave the center. IN other words, focus on something a few feet away in the center, and the distant objects at the sides will be in better focus.
I get sharp results handheld at 1/15. Since it's soft in the corners at larger apertures I use this lens in shutter priority (S) mode at 1/15 second. I set the lens to f/11, so that a superior camera like the FA with cybernetic override will then choose faster shutter speeds once f/11 is reached. If you only have an F4 or F5 you'll have to futz manually with this.
Don't loose the lens cap. Nikon will hit you up for $50 to replace it. When I bought a 16mm in 1984 it came with a nice, tight metal cap. Today Nikon has replaced that with a cheap piece of plastic that neither fits nor keep out dust very well, and they still want $50 for it. Keep a keen eye: I found a plastic one in a junk box at Samy's in LA and it only cost me a dollar. I use little pieces of self-stick felt on the inside of the cap to help them stay on the lens better.
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