Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 USM L Fisheye - Review / Test Report
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Review by Klaus Schroiff, published September 2011
The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 USM L Fisheye came as a little surprise. Fish-eye prime lenses have seen quite a revival in recent years but few people had a zoom lens which such specs on the immediate radar.
The Canon lens is a rather unusual being in a couple of aspects although it is not the first fish-eye zoom lenses ever. The now discontinued Pentax F 17-28mm f/3.5-4.5 earned the glory of being the first full format fish-eye zoom lens and during recent years we've seen the introduction of the Pentax DA 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 and Tokina AF 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X DX. However, the 8-15mm f/4 is the first native Canon fish-eye zoom lens and unlike its remote cousins it offers both a circular- as well as a full-frame fish-eye view at 8mm and 14-15mm respectively. In between these two extreme focal length settings you will have to live with a hybrid view thus dark (black) corners and a "cropped" image. We can't really think of a meaningful application for this so its probably best to think of it as a lens with two modes rather than a "zoom" lens which is usable across the range.
Another surprising point is the "L" designation so Canon is positioning the product in the professional segment. That said, it is not excessively expensive at around 1300EUR/1500$ which is comparable to the rectilinear Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 USM L II.
The build quality of the Canon L lens is, of course, great thanks to a metal body and smoothly operating control rings. Due to the use of a linear focus extension system the lens extends/retracts a little bit during zooming. The immense, slightly protruding front element prohibits the use of front filters but this is typical for all fish-eye lenses. However, it is possible to use gel filters via a holder at the rear.
The 8-15mm f/4 is a full format lens but naturally it can also be used on APS-C DSLR. You will loose the circular fish-eye view though so it's not quite as attractive as on a full format DSLR. Canon also implemented a zoom limiter for APS-C users which stops the zoom action at 10mm, the widest setting without corner darkening in this scope. APS-C users can also take advantage of a little lens hood which is not compatible to the full format image circle.
Fish-eye lenses are especially prone of producing flare so Canon decided to use the new subwavelength coating to minimize the problem. Additionally a fluorine coating keeps soiling, smears and fingerprints to a minimum. Interestingly this is actually an approach which has been introduced by Pentax.
You don't really require an autofocus for a fisheye lens due to the exceedingly big depth-of-field but Canon incorporated its fast and near-silent USM drive with full-time manual override (FT-M). A floating focusing system is supposed to optimize the image quality in close focus situations.
|Optical construction||14 elements in 11 groups inc. 1x aspherical and 1x UD element, floating system|
|Number of aperture blades||7|
|min. focus distance||0.16m (max. magnification 1:2.5)|
|Hood||petal-shaped, bayonet mount, supplied|
|Other features||Rear Gel Holder (accepts up to 3 pre-cut gel filters), zoom limiter (for APS-C users), subwavelength & fluorine coating|