What Is a Fisheye Lens? 

What Is a Fisheye Lens featured photo

If you want to capture a wide photo, you know it can be difficult to achieve with a telephoto or zoom lens. You must stand far away from the scene to capture the entire view. Fortunately, the task is easy when using a fisheye lens.

A fisheye lens is a type of wide-angle lens that captures a broad perspective up to 180 degree view. It lets you shoot extremely wide photos with a dynamic and distorted feel. 

Fisheye lenses have many uses in both photography and film, as we will explore later. This article also covers the different types of fisheye lenses and considerations when using them. But first, we will teach you more about the definition of this lens type.

What Is a Fisheye Lens?

A fisheye lens

Also known as an ultra-wide lens, a fisheye lens is a specialized lens that offers an extra wide perspective. It has a short focal length of 8mm to 10mm in 35mm sensors and around 15 to 16mm on crop sensors (more on these later). As for its angle of view, it can capture scenes up to 180° at its widest point.

A fisheye lens also features a curved glass surface. It can bend and refract light to give your photos a highly distorted and abstract feel. Depending on the lens type, fisheyes can even produce hemispherical or circular images.

The term “fisheye” used to be an exclusive trademark of Tokina, a popular lens manufacturer. However, today, the word describes any lens with extreme wide-angle views and intense visual distortion.

What Does a Fisheye Lens Do? 

A fisheye lens is a wide-angle lens with a convex shape. It offers an extremely broad angle of view popular in architectural, landscape, and sports photography.

A fisheye lens also creates round images with 180 degrees view and magnified center. It delivers a unique and immersive perspective of the subject.

Moreover, this ultra-wide-angle lens can distort reality and exaggerate the scene. It makes objects appear larger or smaller than they really are.

Fisheye lenses can even produce artistic and dynamic visual effects. These include curved horizons, elongated lines, and distorted shapes.

Overall, fisheye lenses have many capabilities that suit different applications, as we will explore in the next section.

What Is a Fisheye Lens Used For?

A fisheye lens is mostly used for capturing panoramic shots of expansive landscapes and architectural interiors. Due to its distorted visual effect, it can also shoot other wide-angle scenes, such as large groups of people in a plaza or the sky.

A fisheye lens is also popular among action and extreme sports photographers. It gives a unique, immersive perspective that shows the athlete’s view and surrounding environment. So whether you are biking, skateboarding, or surfing, expect this lens to record all the exciting action.

Fisheye lenses can also create virtual tours of real estate properties, museums, and other indoor locations. They easily provide a 360-degree view of the area.

Finally, fisheye lenses are useful in films, music videos, and other types of videos requiring special effects. These super-wide lenses introduce an artistic and dreamlike feel to various videos.

Types of Fisheye Lenses

Fisheye lenses are available in two different types. Each gives you a unique effect suitable for a specific application.

Circular Fisheye Lens

The circular style fisheye lens can capture 180 degree viewpoint. As its name suggests, it produces a circular shaped image without any edges.

This extreme fisheye lens can shoot unusual landscapes, cityscapes, and architecture. It is also suitable for creativity like recording movies and extreme action.

However, circular fisheye lenses give a noticeable black border around the circular image. 

Full-Frame Fisheye Lens

A full-frame fisheye lens offers the same 180-degree field of view but only along a diagonal direction. It covers the entire area of the camera sensor. The result is a rectangular frame without black borders or noticeable cropping.

Full-frame fisheye lenses are ideal for traditional landscape and architectural photography. 

The only downside is that they don’t provide a complete 180-degree view.

What Factors Should I Consider When Using a Fisheye Lens?

When used properly, a fisheye lens gives you artistic and dynamic photos. However, the opposite could happen if you simply point the lens towards the subject without regard to other external factors.

Below, we will cover the factors to consider when using a fisheye lens to capture great photos.

Focal Length

A fisheye lens has a focal length between 8-10mm for a 35mm sized sensor, whether digital or film. However, a fisheye lens with a 15-16mm focal range is also available.

Crop Factor

The crop factor describes how the sensor size affects the lens’ angle of view. It changes the effective focal length of a lens but not its actual or physical focal length.

Full-frame or 35mm cameras have a large surface area. As such, they offer a wider perspective than cameras with smaller sensors. So if both cameras use a 10mm fisheye lens, the full-frame model provides the same 10mm focal length. In contrast, crop-sensor cameras have a more narrow angle of view. 

Angle of View in a Fisheye Lens

A fish eye lens lets you capture 180 degrees of view at its widest point. However, more extreme fisheye lenses can go wider, sometimes up to 220 degrees, for special effects.

If you want to record the whole scene around you, you can stitch a single fisheye image with another one using Photoshop. You can produce 360-degree photos with abstract compositions.

Depth of Field

Using a fisheye lens gives you a deep depth of field. That means a larger area is sharp and in focus. It also ensures a detailed foreground and background. Hence, it is ideal for architecture and landscape photography, where you must keep everything crystal clear.

However, a fisheye lens cannot isolate the subject from the background. Keep this in mind if you want to capture artistic portraits to avoid distracting surroundings.

Image Distortion

Fisheye lenses create noticeable barrel distortion. They can make the subject of your photograph appear larger or stretched. It also leads to straight lines curving.

In general, these issues are not a problem for most photographers. That is because they use fisheye lenses to create creative and unnatural photo distortions.

That said, knowing this distorted effect is essential when deciding whether to buy a fisheye lens or not.

What Is The Difference Between Fisheye And Wide-Angle Lenses?

A fisheye lens is a type of a wide-angle lens. It has a focal length of 8mm to 16mm.

A fisheye lens also captures a 180-degree perspective with noticeable distortion. It can make objects in the frame appear larger or smaller than in real life, depending on their position. Fisheye lenses are suitable for extreme landscape panorama and other creative shots.

In contrast, a wide-angle lens features a focal length of 16mm to 35mm. It offers a broad field of view that captures an entire scene beyond its center. It provides a distorted perspective, but image editing software makes this unwanted effect easy to correct.

Wide-angle lenses are ideal for capturing architecture, landscape, and group photos.

Fisheye Lens Use in Movies and TV Shows

Fisheye Lens Use in Movies and TV Shows

Besides still photography, a fisheye lens is also popular in film and TV shows. It produces a distorted and exaggerated perspective to emphasize a scene. It also creates a specific artistic feel for the scene. And when done correctly, a fisheye lens makes the viewers feel like they are part of the movie.

A popular example of fisheye lens usage is depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Nikon 8mm f/8 fisheye lens played HAL 9000, the AI villain in the Stanley Kubrick film. It gives an ominous feel to the movie as the lens can seemingly see all the things the crew does.

Another movie that uses a fisheye lens is The Favourite. It mainly follows two characters who vie to be the court favorite of Queen Anne. The film features several scenes shot with a fisheye effect to heighten the characters’ emotions. It also confuses viewers because you never know the true allegiances of the characters.

Fisheye Lens Examples In Music Videos

Fisheye Lens Examples In Music Videos

The fisheye lens effect is also common in music videos. It can bring attention to the face of the singer. It can also give a psychedelic mood to the scene. Plus, this super-wide lens can show how small a subject is compared to its surroundings.

Busta Rhymes is a famous artist known for his music videos shot with a fisheye lens. He used this lens type on Gimme Some More, Dangerous, and Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.

Missy Elliott also recorded a music video with a fisheye effect for her debut solo entitled The Rain.

And through his album artwork, Harry Styles paid homage to the use of fisheye lenses in music videos.


Photographers and cinematographers use a fisheye lens to achieve abstract and dynamic photos and videos.

A fisheye lens is a super-wide-angle lens with an 8mm to 16mm focal length. It captures an extremely broad perspective up to 180 degrees. It is ideal for panorama landscapes, architecture, and other creative photography.

Do you have more questions about fisheye lenses? Feel free to send a message on our contact page!