I have never really wanted a fish eye lens as I was sure that I would end up with unusable images, much like the plastic Fish Eye cameras that you find everywhere.
I am sure this camera is really fun to use – but it generates the same pictures irrespective of how far you are from your subject and is so circular that the distortion becomes the image.
The problem I guess is getting a 360 degree image onto a small 35mm negative that has a maximum height of 24mm means your fisheye has to be at best a diameter of 24mm.
There are basically two different types of Fisheye lens;
The first type of Fisheye lens has a 180 degree field of view in all directions and results in a circular image on 35mm film much like the plastic fish eye camera. These Fisheye lenses typically have a focal length around 8mm.
The second type of Fisheye is known as a Full Frame Fisheye and they cover the entire 35mm frame, with a 180 degree diagonal field of view.
Typical horizontal coverage of this type of Fisheye lens is around 140 degrees, typical vertical coverage is around 90 degrees and the focal length is 15 or 16mm on a 35mm body.
So last year I bought a very cheep 2nd hand camera from Australia on ebay that had a 15mm Heliar lens on a Voigtlander Bessa L and although the images were distorted, they were beautifully wide. Heliar lenses are not Fish Eye in design but many people, and myself included, think of ultra wide and fisheye as being very similar animals.
The Heliar lens construction has been a key design for Voightlander for over 100 years and has diagonal field of view at 35mm of 121 degrees – which is substantially less than a Fisheye or Full Frame Fish eye at 180 degrees diagonally.
This Heliar lens and camera has travelled the world with me and remains one of my all time favourites and I have posted so many of the images that these are just a couple of reminders of how versatile the lens really is;
As my camera collection grew and I added a Nikon F2A late last year, I also went wide on a lens choice and found a manual 24/2.8 lens that made the 35mm SLR pictures a bit wider than normal but not too extreme.
The two below are the same view from our flat on the 15mm Heliar and then the Nikkor 24/2.8;
You can see the building on the far left of the image in both pictures is tilting to fairly similar amounts even though the heliar lens takes in much more of the scene with it’s much larger horizontal field of view. It is also worth noting that the building edges are straight in both images and not curved like you will see in a fish eye of either type.
So this journey takes me up to the point where I saw some Zodiak 8 pictures on Flickr and then saw the lens itself.
I have such a love affair going with the Ukrainian cameras since I started to use Medium Format – I knew it would only be time before I found one and an adapter to make it work on my Kiev 60 and 88.
The image below is basically the same view from our flat but with the Zodiak on the front of the 6×6 Kiev 88.
The Zodiak is also a Full Frame Fisheye and so on a 6×6 has 180 degrees of diagonal view and somewhere around 127 degrees both horizontally and vertically – which makes the horizontal field of view similar in width to my Heliar but much more circular.
The lens took hours to fit to the Kiev 88 because the adapter is close but by no means actually that close to the bayonet on the MF Kiev cameras that it is now a permanent fix for the Zodiak 8 and Kiev 88.
The only shame here is that I tend to travel more with the Kiev 60 than the 88 as it is (believe it or not) lighter than the 88 – but I guess I will be selecting traveling companions by lens and not body now.
As a full frame fish eye lens at 30mm with a range from 3.5 to 22, it is really versatile and when stopped right down to 3.5, has a tiny DOF at the minimum focus of 30cm.
I have only had this lens going for a few films over the weekend but I can already see many uses for the distortion – especially as the centre of the image is completely distortion free .
When you put the subject to the side of the image however, you can suddenly see the fullness of the 180 degrees of diagonal view and so have to keep people out of this part of the picture (unless you specifically want them to look short and fat).
Having used a few of the Kiev cameras this last year on 35mm and MF – I can honestly state that these beasts have amazing lenses at all sizes and this 30/3.5 Zodiak is already proving to be no exception.
If you haven’t gone the Ukrainian route yet – then it is about time you did.