03 Nikon 8-15I’m a Virgo. I fret about stuff that’s not quite right. Errant apostrophes, for example. My toothpaste tube is squeezed from the bottom, I fold fitted sheets, my garden hose is tangle-free. So I don’t own a fisheye lens; I couldn’t tolerate a lens without a lens cap and how do you fit lens caps to the convex glass at the business end of fisheyes?

Nikon obviously has a Virgo on the design staff. It has unveiled an 8-15 mm f 3.5-4.5 fisheye that, despite the outwardly curving glass that lets the light in, can be capped. Sort of. First you must attach the lens hood and then slip the cap onto that. Fussy? Yes. Too fussy for me.

But there’s much on the plus side. With ultra-wide lenses the usual choice is between a full-frame image or a circular one. The circular image lets you go really, really wide but… it’s circular. So it’s useful when your creative juices are running like a flood. It costs a lot and probably won’t get used much. A full frame lens offers a lot more flexibility but the trees/buildings/goalposts at the extremes do tend to lean into each other. Again, creativity rules.

But like Canon’s 8-15 introduced some years ago this new Nikkor gives you both. Go to maximum wide and you’ll get a circular image, but zoom from there and it goes to full frame. On a Nikon FX format body (with the 35 mm sensor) it reaches full frame at 15 mm, with DX format and the smaller sensor it gets there at 11 mm. Maybe Nikon reckons you’ll only buy this lens if you’re serious, and if you’re serious you’ll have an FX format body. Or at least a reasonably contemporary DX. The lens won’t work with older digital models like the highly popular D90, for example.

The image quality is brilliant for such a wide lens, right out to the extremities. There’s excellent brightness and colour, and surprisingly little flare. There are the normal ultra-wide traps of course, like keeping your feet out of the image, keeping your shadow out of frame when the sun’s behind you (just about impossible) and not bumping into the subject as you move in ever closer.

You’ll get only five cents change from two grand, but if you’ve always wanted an ultra-wide lens this is a ripper. For non-Virgos anyway.

Originally published on smh.com.au as ‘Nikkor 8-15 review: creativity rules with Nikon’s ultra-wide lens’ April 2018.


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