0.42x Fisheye Adapter Review.
Copyright © 2000 NK Guy.
Id been interested in playing a bit with wide-angle fisheye photography. But since I wasn't sure if itd be any more than a gimmick, I didnt want to spend any money.
For some reason fisheye lenses tend not to be all that common on the used market, and seem to hold up their value pretty well when they do appear. Presumably people tend to buy fisheyes only if theyre fairly serious about wanting one, since theyre a pretty specialized and expensive sort of thing. So when they buy them they usually hang onto them.
So I decided to buy one of those cheap .42x semi fisheye adapters - simple toys that you screw onto the end of your lens using the filter threads. Theyre $50 US, which is kind of a lot of money for a hunk of plastic, but approaching zero when it comes to real lenses.
I wasnt able to find much information about this specific product before I ordered it, so I thought Id write up my notes on the thing for anyone else who might be considering picking one up. However, I no longer have this adapter as it was stolen with a number of other items of mine, so I cant offer any more information about it than Ive written here.
I purchased the adapter mail order from Adorama Camera in NYC. (http://www.adorama.com/) As expected I had the normal abrupt and curt NYC treatment over the phone, but the package came without incident. One note if youre Canadian, though: Adorama will ship to your credit card billing address, or to a residential address in the US, but not to a business address in the US if it isnt the same as the billing address, for some reason.
Porters in Iowa (http://www.porters.com/) sell what sounds like exactly the same thing, but they want twice as much money. I dont know if their version is any better than the Adorama one. (eg: like the Soligor one, which looks in photos like it might be made of metal, though I dont know for sure) Ive seen apparently identical ones to this one sold under the cheesy brand name Titanium. Extra cheesy because of course there isnt a picogram of titanium anywhere in the product - the whole damn thing is plastic!
The adapter is a cheap plastic thing, labelled ProOptic Deluxe (sic) Super Wide Macro 0.42x AF Lens, Made in Japan, that comes in a small vinyl tie-string bag. The barrel is low-grade black plastic (sort of like bakelite), with an ill-fitting ribbed rubber grip ring around it. Theres a rudimentary lens hood at one end - a low plastic ring that slides back down the barrel slightly when not in use, to accommodate the lens cap. But its such a low ring that I doubt it does very much at all. (Of course, fisheye lenses have to have rather minimalist hoods owing to their great field of view, so this isnt very surprising) There are soft plastic caps for both the front and rear of the adapter, but they tend to fall off when the adapter isnt in its storage bag.
The lens glass of the fisheye section itself appears to be a single lump (possibly two) of moulded plastic, and is uncoated. Theres a tremendous amount of flare and reflection - when you look at the surface of the lens and move it around in your hand you can see pinpoint flares moving. To make things worse the surface of the lens isnt entirely smooth and flat as it should be - its got slightly recessed patches, presumably caused by low pressure in the injection-moulding process. Were not talking Fabulous Quality here.
At the rear of the barrel is a macro adapter lens that you can unscrew and use as a simple low-quality macro (closeup) adapter by itself if you want, though its fairly useless since its working distance is extremely short. This is a metal ring with one lens element and a Series 7 (ie: 2 inch or 50.8mm) thread. You then use simple step (adapter) rings to attach the macro ring to your lens filter thread. Adorama sell the adapter pre-packaged with a variety of rings for common lens filter sizes. (eg: 58mm, 52mm)
Clockwise from the left: the vinyl carrying bag, the fisheye adapter resting on one of the lens caps, the other lens cap, the macro adapter that fits on the back of the fisheye adapter and a Series 7 to 58mm adapter ring.
I ordered two step rings for my lenses from Adorama with the adapter, both sold under Adoramas house brand. Unfortunately, theyre junk. Theyre made of metal, but they arent very precisely machined - a simple visual inspection reveals pretty wobbly threads. Im used to the way Hoya and B+W filters thread smoothly onto the lenses - these Adorama adapter rings are difficult to get started, tend to thread on wrong, often get stuck, etc. This is obviously a bit irritating when youre trying to attach the adapter, but more to the point I wonder about what sort of long-term damage might be inflicted on the filter threads by unevenly-machined adapter rings grinding away the plastic lens mounts. Oh well. I dont plan on using this thing very often, so its not a huge deal. Or maybe Ill just always attach the fisheye adapter to a UV filter and not the actual lens.
Optically the adapter is pretty lousy. You can see the poor quality just by peering through the viewfinder - it gets extremely soft and blurry around the edges and theres a lot of uncorrected chromatic aberration. I tried shooting at 2.8 to see what it looked like, and it was pretty awful - you really want to stop down as far as you can go with this. The same goes for the removable single-element macro ring - you can use it for cheap macro photography, but with very narrow depth of field and a lot of distortion.
On a 28mm lens the adapter projects nearly a full circle onto the negative, with the characteristic bowl-shaped fisheye look. With longer focal lengths - 40, 50mm - you get an image that fills the whole negative. Ive tried it with my Canon 28-105 zoom for flexibility, though I think Ill generally use it with my 28mm prime, in order to squeeze what little image quality I can get out of the thing.
As with all super wide-angle lenses (or facsimiles thereof) the close focusing is really close. Theres a huge depth of field.
Note that if you use the adapter with a telephoto lens - say 105mm - you lose the fisheye effect and just get a soft image in the centre with a lot of heavy blurring and stretching as you near the edges. Which can be interesting if you want to make photos from your expensive Canon EOS camera look sort of like those produced by a Diana plastic camera, I suppose.
So. The adapters optical quality really sucks. Am I disappointed? Not really. Fifty bucks US and Ive got an amusing toy that I can use to take goofy pictures I wouldnt be able to otherwise. Like photos taken with a plastic camera they look just fine at 4 by 6 inches, but they dont survive being enlarged much further.
Do I recommend it? If you want to play a bit for fun and want to spend the bare minimum, go for it. Just dont expect marvelous quality or anything. I dont recommend the Adorama step rings, however. Theyre not very well made.
However, keep in mind that for around $150 US or so you can get a real fisheye lens made in Russia or Belarus (the Zenitar or Peleng lenses - 16mm and 8mm respectively) that offers considerably higher quality than a cheap plastic screw-on affair. Thats not much of a price differential. And thats what I did, in fact - get a Zenitar full-frame 16mm fisheye lens instead.
Heres another sample image, taken at Lighthouse Point in West Vancouver BC. Note the ton of flare from the sun. The photo was taken using my Canon 28mm 2.8 prime, and you can easily see the pentagonal flare points. Theyre shaped thus because of the 5-blade aperture diaphragm on the lens.
Here a third one taken, like the first image, on False Creek in Vancouver.
Heres a closeup of the maple leaf on the top of one of the boats. Note that, even though its near the centre of the frame, its really badly blurry. Though to make this scan useful I really shouldve taken another photo at the same time with an unfiltered lens for comparison. Oh well.
- NK Guy, PhotoNotes.org.
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