Let's start with the basics first.
My Opinion on Super Wide Lens is that you at least consider one for your photo bag! Yes, If you are a photographer I do suggest you invest some funds for one super-wide that you will fall in love with! Just like a telephoto or macro lens a Super Wide offers some dramatic advantages for your imaging.
Using a Super Wide lens can be fun and at times challenging.
What is a Super Wide? In my opinion, a super-wide is a lens beyond 24mm on an fx sensor. Once you drop below 24mm your photography begins to take on a different perspective and requires a good eye for composition to take advantage.
FishEye Diagonal or Circular? At the far extreme of the super-wide, you have the fisheye lens, these lens come in two variants, one which show an image 180 degree diagonally or a circular 180 degrees. Below are two examples.
| Lens Type
- Better usability
- Doubles as a Super Wide
- Less distortion
- Extreme Wide Angle
- Some Distortion
- Sun feet/tripod shadow in the shot
- Front element exposed (no front filters)
- Difficult to use in mist or rainy weather
- Extreme Circular Coverage with Unique Look and use
- Captures everything
- Great for high lighting main subject (move in close)
- Limited use - signature look; shots may look similar
- Your feet / Shadow in shots
- Sun in shots
- Front element exposed / easy to damage
- Difficult to use in mist or rainy weather
Catch 22 when using a fisheye Using the diagonal or circular fisheye may present challenges, such as including your shadow or body parts in the photo. Due to the extreme Field of View (FOV), this lens may un-intentionally include your feet, shadow, or other body parts in your final images. Using a wireless remote can allow you time to move outside the view, but your tripod shadow may still remain, the only option is post-processing edit. I would not allow the catch 22 to get in your way of fantastic image capture.
Perspective: The super-wide provides an extreme field of view thus for landscapes can be breathtaking. One should remember when using this lens to isolate a subject I recommend you move in close. Normally the closer the better to bring emphasis to your main subject. To some extent the super-wide can be used for portraiture you must be careful not to exaggerate body parts. In nature, these rules are subjective and tilting the camera may bring emphasis on your subject.
Pitfalls of the Circular Fisheye: As much as I enjoy using the fisheye they are a specialized lens that leaves a tale-tale sign of their use. This "signature" look may be repeating after long term use, as the images will have a similar appearance. Not many people use a fisheye on a regular basis, I use mine a couple of times a year. Thus investing a grand on a super-wide or fisheye vs some other photographic accessory does create thought.
Fisheye vs Super Wide: In my opinion, if you don't already have a lens wider than a 24mm - invest in a normal 14mm - 20mm lens vs the fisheye. After you take the time to master the wide-area, I recommend you then add a fisheye.
Two Nikon Fisheye Lens side by side
One Nikon Fisheye Lens and a Sigma Circular Fisheye this image was taken with a Sigma Circular Fisheye
Diagonal vs Circular: I never answered this question earlier. My most used fisheye is diagonal. For your first fisheye, I highly recommend the diagonal fisheye, such as the Nikkor 16mm fisheye. The diagonal is similar to a wide-angle but has distortion which can be emphasized by tilting the lens up or down.
Care and Feeding: Regardless of which extreme wide you choose, the front lens element is normally more prominently exposed than a normal lens. On all fish-eyes, circular or diagonal the lens elements are susceptible to dust, dirt, water, and scratches. Careful handling is required when in use and carry. The best bet is to leave the lens cover on until ready for use and always carry with the lens cover securely attached.
The diagonal fisheye has characteristics similar to a super-wide except the FOV of a Fisheye is much wider with obvious barrel distortion present. The photo below is a bridge span taken with a diagonal fisheye tilted to emphasize the span. Diagonal fisheyes are also useful for some wide landscapes making for dramatic scenes.
Fisheye or Super Wide? I recommend a 20mm or the 16-35mm Nikkor Zoom as your first venture into the ultra-wide for an FX camera body or a 10 or 11mm for the DX camera body cameras, and when the wide bug bites - go for a fisheye!