See your world from a different angle

Out of all the camera lenses, a fisheye is one of the most interesting. The short, stubby lens gives you a perspective that is more than 180 degrees. You’re not wrong if you think that it sounds the same as the panoramic function on mobile phones.

But with a fisheye lens, the final image is somewhat hemispherical, with heavy distortion on the edges. Straight objects are bent out of shape and content often has a vignette effect. Applying different effects to it, the lens can transform drab landscapes into surreal environments.

A fish eye by another name

The name is derived from the eyes of a fish, as it has a visual angle greater than 180 degrees. So even though its eyes are on the side of its head, it can still see what is in front of it. 

The term “fisheye” was in wide circulation among photographers, but in recent years the more professional-sounding “ultra-wide-angle lens” is the preferred name. However, when you search for fisheye lenses online, you’ll find exactly what you need. Just don’t forget to keep all your lenses safe in a camera backpack.

A vision of the pop-culture generation

While the lens is a popular option for creating dramatic cityscapes and disproportionate crowd shots, it found the most success in an unlikely medium.

Physicist Robert W. Wood invented the fisheye lens back in 1906, and it became a staple in the mass-produced mid-’60s. With the introduction of Nikon’s Fisheye-Nikkor lens, photos using the technique were seemingly everywhere. From Apollo missions training to political rallies and conventions, the fisheye lens captured some iconic moments.

And an interest in the weird perspective was brewing in an improbable corner of the entertainment industry. Photographers realized that the fisheye lens gives a sense of greatness, and toward the end of the decade, hugely popular acts like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the first Woodstock music festival were captured that way.

Shortly after that, bands started to use fisheye lenses for music videos and album covers. You’d be hard-pressed to find a musical act that hasn’t used them in some form over the last six decades. Because of the connection to hard rock and rugged lifestyles, the lens quickly made its way to extreme sports, too. Even today, it is a must-have aesthetic for any skateboarding or snowboarding video. 

Best fisheye lenses

Top fisheye lens for mobile phones

Olloclip 3-in-1 Essential Lens Kit

Olloclip 3-in-1 Essential Lens Kit 

What you need to know: In addition to the fisheye lens, the kit also includes a super wide-angle and macro lens.

What you’ll love: The Olloclips are hugely popular with mobile photographers, and the lens kit easily clips onto your phone. It works with all camera apps and is suitable for 360-degree and panorama photos.

What you should consider: Since the camera lens placement is different for various iPhone models, this lens kit is only compatible with iPhone 11.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top mobile fisheye lens for the money

Kingmas 3-in-1 Universal Fish Eye Lens

Kingmas 3-in-1 Universal Fish Eye Lens

What you need to know: In the handy carry pouch, there is a fisheye, wide-angle and macro lens.

What you’ll love: The clip fits easily over your mobile phone’s camera lens. You simply unscrew a lens if you want to swap it out for another.

What you should consider: Don’t be alarmed when you only get two lenses in the box. The macro and wide-angle lenses are combined, and you must unscrew them to use them individually.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth considering

Alilusso 180-Degree Fisheye Lens

Alilusso 180-Degree Fisheye Lens

What you need to know: This affordable fisheye lens is compatible with a variety of mobile phones.

What you’ll love: The fisheye lens is attached to a plastic clip that fits over your phone’s camera. The clip has a unique sliding system, letting the lens move up or down to conform to where the phone’s camera lens is. 

What you should consider: While it is compatible with the newer iPhone 13, some users found it difficult to line up the lenses correctly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top fisheye lens for digital cameras

Nikon AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15-Millimeter Fixed Zoom Camera Lens

Nikon AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15-Millimeter Fixed Zoom Camera Lens 

What you need to know: This is the first fisheye lens that can zoom and it’s also the widest fisheye angle for any Nikkor lens.

What you’ll love: The 15-millimeter lens can capture images in full 180 degrees or you can get up close to half an inch for a fisheye image with a macro effect. It’s perfect for both still photos and videos.

What you should consider: The steep price will put it out of reach for many photographers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top digital camera fisheye lens for the money

Altura Photo 8-Millimeter f-3.0 Professional Fisheye Lens

Altura Photo 8-Millimeter f/3.0 Professional Fisheye Lens

What you need to know: The lens has a manual focus ring, and when you remove the bayonet-style hood, it can capture 180-degree images.

What you’ll love: Compatible with all Canon APS-C cameras, it comes with a custom hard-shell lens case for added protection. It is constructed from a hybrid aspherical element and multi-layer lens coating for crisp photos.

What you should consider: When used with a full-frame camera, it will produce a more spherical 360-degree image with black vignette borders.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth considering

Meike 8-Millimeter f3.5 Ultra Wide Angle Fisheye Lens.jpg

Meike 8-Millimeter f3.5 Ultra Wide Angle Fisheye Lens

What you need to know: An affordable fisheye lens, it comes with a removable hood and a carry pouch to keep it safe.

What you’ll love: This lens needs a minimum focus distance of 13 inches. It has a  multi-layered coating to reduce flare and ghosting and manual aperture control.

What you should consider: The lens can only be used on Canon cameras that have a manual (M-mode) or “release without lens” setting.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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