Review: Nikkor 8-15mm F3.5-4.5 E ED - Part 1

July 09, 2017

In May 2017 Nikon released the Nikkor 8-15mm F3.5-4.5 E ED fisheye lens. It’s an FX lens predominantly aimed at full frame cameras, but it will also work very well on DX (D500, D7500 etc).

 

On FX cameras it creates a full circular image in the centre on the frame at the 8mm end that encapsulates a full 180-degree hemisphere. Zoom in to the 15mm end and you have a more usual 2:3 ratio rectangular fisheye image covering 180 degrees corner to corner diagonally.

 

Put this lens on a DX camera such as the Nikon D500 and you a great fisheye zoom from 15mm down to 11mm, if you go wider than 11mm you get a heavily vignetted image in the corners as the sensor size is too small to capture the full circular fisheye effect. 11mm will also give approximately 180 degrees of view corner to corner on DX sensors.

 

I’ve used mine on a couple of dives now so I thought I’d put a small review together to let you know how I’ve been going with it and how it’s performing. In Part 1 I will review the lens on my FX Nikon D810, part 2 will be on the DX Nikon D500. Both reviews will be using both my Aquatica Digital 9.25” & 4” glass ports. I’ll take this opportunity ahead of time to mention this lens has a minimum focus distance of 16cm in front of the sensor plane. That works out to be just a couple of cm in front of the front glass element. i.e. Very close!!! It should work well inside the 4” port.

 

Test 1: 8mm End in 9.25” Aquatica Digital Port

So dive number one was using the 8mm end of the zoom behind my Aquatica Digital 9.25” glass port, my rig was set up as shown in the image below.  9.25” Glass port with port shade removed.

 

This is a 9.25” Glass port with port shade removed.  It is necessary to remove the shade because it will otherwise be included in the frame! No port extension, Aquatica zoom gear and inward strobe lighting on short strobe arms.

The reason for the inward lighting is because you will need to be very close to your subject, almost touching, to get a frame filling shot. To light it you literally need to direct the strobe light through the glass port whilst being very careful not to get the strobes in shot. You will also need a very clean port inside and out, that strobe light will be very unforgiving at highlighting dust and smears.

I have to say that I was very impressed. I didn’t think I’d like to full circular effect in my photography but it actually became very addictive on subsequent dives. I’m being very careful not to over do it now!

The selfie picture of the rather frisky octopus below shows the effect of the full frame fisheye and highlights the use of the inward lighting. The suckers were gripping my port and were lit quite nicely. Exposure was 1/15th sec, F13, ISO 64.

 

 

Looking at the 100% crop below from near the centre of the frame shows great sharpness and detail. The image below has no post sharpening and is a straight conversion from the .NEF file using Adobe Camera Raw 9.10.1.

 

 

A 100% crop from the edge of the frame is still very good in my opinion. There is a little chromatic aberration evident in the back scatter as shown below, but that is only to be expected with such an extreme lens.

 

 

Using the “Remove Chromatic Aberration” function in Adobe Camera Raw very quickly removed all the aberrations and left the image with good edge of frame sharpness. With a little post process sharpening my final image was crisp all the way across.

 

 

 

Test 2: 15mm End in 9.25” Aquatica Digital Port

 

 

In my next test the set up was slightly different. I had slightly outward turned strobes on short arms, because I would be close to my subject but not as close as before and the lens is set to the 15mm end of the scale. It’s handy to say here that you probably wouldn’t use this lens on a FX camera at any of the zoom range between the 8 and 15mm ends as all you get is heavy vignetting in the corners of the frame. You’d go either full circle at 8mm or full frame at 15mm and that is all really.

 

The image below of a colourful sponge garden is again free from any post process sharpening or lens correction at this stage. Lens performance is still great, nice and sharp all the way across. Exposure was 1/80th sec @ F22, ISO 250

 

 

The 100% crop from the bottom left of the image below shows a little chromatic aberration around that sponge head right at the edge of the frame but it’s quite negligible and will be easily fixed.

 

 

Again checking the “Remove Chromatic Aberration” box in Adobe Camera Raw and a little post sharpening and any evidence of any aberration at all in the crop below has vanished in a couple of seconds. That’s an impressive fisheye lens in my book!!

 

 

Test 3: 15mm End in 4” Aquatica Digital Port

 

 

In this test I was still using my Nikon D810 and the lens is set to 15mm in an Aquatica Digital housing but this time I switched out the 9.25” port for the 4” glass mini dome. I also added a 16.5mm (0.65”) port extension because that was the smallest extension I could use to fit the lens in without hitting the inside of the port. Aquatica haven’t released or recommended an extension for the lens yet (as of 8th July 2017), I will continue to play around and update this review if I find anything better. This fisheye zoom is a little longer than a prime fisheye.

My lighting was switched back to inward because I knew I would be getting close again.

 

 

Above is an uncropped seahorse image with no sharpening or lens correction. The centre of the frame is nice and crisp. Exposure 1/125th sec @ F29 ISO 160.

 

 

A 100% crop of the bottom left corner shows a noticeable increase in chromatic aberration from the 9.25” port, but it’s still very far from terrible and given the extreme lens in a small port I find it quite acceptable. Added to that this may not be the best extension port in use.

 

 

Again Adobe Camera Raw has almost eliminated any aberrations and given me a sharp image across the frame.

So there you have it, a summary of my findings so far. Not a fully comprehensive test by any means, but this is an on going review so I thought I'd share my thoughts with you up until now.  In part two of this review I will be testing the lens with my Nikon D500 DX camera.

I think it’s a great lens with lots of potential. It’s certainly very sharp for a lens of this type and it holds it’s own when pushed to extremes. And the great thing is it replaces my Nikkor 16mm F2.8, Nikkor 10.5mm F2.8 and 1.4 teleconverter in my kit back making for much lighter travel. I’d call that a win.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at info@mattysmithphoto.com

 

Cheers,

 

Matty Smith