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Nikkor AF 10.5mm f1:2.8 G Fisheye

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

The Nikon AF 10.5mm f1:2.8 G Fisheye Lens is a rather useful lens for cruise photography if it is not overused. Everyone will want to make the obligatory sea horizon photo, but it's real use comes from taking photos of the interior and deck areas of the ship. Why is this called a Fisheye? From the photos shown below, it depicts how the world might look from a bulging fishie's eye, I guess. However, in the photo world, a Fisheye is any lens that has extreme "barrel distortion"; so much so that it is used for creative purposes.

Nikkor AF 10.5mm f1:2.8 G Fisheye Overview

Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye

Lens Type: Fisheye
Format: DX (APS-C)
Maximum Aperture: f1:2.8
Minimum Aperture: f1:22
Focal Length: 10.5mm (35mm equivalent: 16mm)
Autofocus Type: AF
Minimum Focus Distance: 5.5in
Maximum Field-of-View: 180 deg
Filter size: rear lens 2.5"x2.5" gelatin
Manufactured: Japan
Lens construction: Semi-Pro
Street Price: $700


Overview: The lens is single focus-length prime, i.e. not a zoom lens. Other lenses, such as Tokina's 10-17mm fisheye is your best bet if you want a zoom. However, the Nikon lens is a fast 2.8 lens, which is unmatched in the 3rd party versions. Since the lens has a whopping 180 deg field-of-view, a filter on the front is not possible, so you cannot protect this lens with a UV filter. You must use a gelatin filter on the rear of the lens should you need a filter. The lens hood is built-in, so there is no option whether or not to use it (but you cannot lose it).

I classify this lens as semi-pro, as it features a metal mounting ring, manufactured in Japan rather than China, and fairly well constructed. The manual focus ring has bit of a "gritty" feel to it, but I believe that is due to the gearing mechanism required for camera focusing. This lens is AF type focusing, meaning that lower-end Nikon cameras such as the D40, D3000, D3100, D5000 and any other cameras that require AF-S can not focus this lens, as it does not have a focus motor internal to the lens. With those cameras, you need to manually focus the lens.

Use: With a 180 deg field-of-view, you need to make sure that your feet, camera strap, or anything near to you is not in the photo. Like all fisheyes, the horizontal and vertical planes intersecting the lens center are relatively undistorted, with the maximum distortion occurring along the four corners. This can lead to some interesting photos, and you can accentuate or minimize the distortion somewhat for that extra creative photo.

Somewhere in the Caribbean
Having taken the obligatory seascape with the fisheye, I have to think that the field-of-view is not quite 180deg as advertised. This is a perfect example of how a fisheye behaves, with extreme barrel distortion. Still this is an extreme fisheye, and opens up a fun and new style of photo taking. With some composition practice, you will see photo opportunities that you never realized before.

In right photo below, I processed it in Nikon's Capture NX2 by using the Fisheye correction tool. While it does convert the fisheye effect into a super wide-angle, notice that the corners are distorted. My wife in the lower-right foreground is much distorted in the right photo. While this could be considered a poor-man's super wide-angle lens, the fact is that the cost of the fisheye + Capture NX2 is as much as a bona-fide super wide-angle lens!

But this is a fisheye lens, right? If you want super-wide angle lens, don't buy a fisheye.

Capitol Building Rotunda - San Juan, PR

Fisheye correction tool: Capitol Building Rotunda - San Juan, PR

One of the more useful purposes of a fisheye lens is interior architecture, shown by both the rotunda above, and the Centrum to the right. The Centrum is a round area, so the fisheye accentuates the idea that the Centrum is round, and really does not detract much from the photo. The extreme left and right sides of the photo could be cropped to get rid of the distorted walls, and that would also give a feeling of height. This is a good example of how a fisheye lens can open up new areas of photography.

Centrum - Grandeur of the Seas

Horseshoe Curve - Altoona, PA
Another example of accentuating the subject is this photo of Horseshoe Curve. You can tell very well that the mountains on each side of the photo are distorted so that they look much steeper than reality. You can also see both sides of the track, which provides evidence of the horseshoe. Of course, you would not want this to be the only lens you used for this scene, but again, it adds another dimension to the photos you take.

A fisheye is also the perfect tool to capture the tiny size of the typical stateroom. Well, beyond any editorial comment, there is virtually no other lens that gives you a dimensional feeling for interior spaces. There is some vignetting around the lens, but that is due to the light reflection on the bright close-in walls and can easily be cropped out. Vignetting (pronounced vin-yetting) is when the photo has dark corners due to interference of a filter, lens hood, or simply defects in the lens, and is more common in lenses than realized. Methods to reduce vignetting includes closing the aperture, increasing the zoom length (for zoom lenses), removing filters, or post-processing using a photo imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Nikon Capture NX2.

Balcony Stateroom - Freedom of the Seas

Summary: While it should not be over used, for the photographer looking for a different perspective, this lens is a nice distraction. It is probably the best fisheye lens for Nikon-mount DX format cameras, and at a price of over $700, while not cheap - is a worthwhile investment. It's workmanship means it will last for years, and I would suggest that resale would bring a good price. Due to it's small size, it takes little room in your camera bag, and is not a lot of trouble to take into the field or aboard your next cruise.