Wide-angle lens or a fisheye lens for travel?

When it comes to travel photography, I think a lens with a wide field of vision is crucial, allowing you to capture the rolling hills of Tuscany, the frenzied neon and glass canyons of Tokyo, and the dense stone rooms of Edinburgh Castle.

But a wide-angle lens or a fisheye lens? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past few weeks. After all my gear was stolen last year, I’ve been experimenting with shots, experimenting with different options, and getting shots that are completely different from what they used to be.

But as someone who is primarily a travel photographer, I have struggled to find the right lens with many seemingly incompatible features. I think I’ve found something that works for me, but hopefully, this guide will give you a better idea of what works for you.

1. Fisheye lens

A fisheye lens is a kind of lens with a very short focal length and angle of view close to or equal to 180°, diagonal or horizontal angle of view close to or equal to 180°. The former is called full lattice fish glasses. The latter is the panoramic fish glasses of circular images. Lenses of 16mm or shorter focal length are usually considered fish glasses.

a fisheye lens

For example, a fisheye lens is a short-focal length ultra-wide-angle photographic lens with a focal length of about 6-16 mm. To maximize the camera angle, the front lens of this kind of camera lens has a diameter and protrudes toward the front of the lens in a parabolic shape, similar to the eyes of a fish, hence the name “fisheye lens”.

The biggest function of the fisheye lens is the wide range of visual angles, which can generally reach 220° or 230°, which creates conditions for the close-range shooting of a large range of scenery. Fisheye lens can create a very strong perspective effect when shooting close to the subject, emphasizing the contrast between the near and far side of the subject, so that the picture taken has a shocking appeal;

The fisheye lens has a long depth of field, which is helpful to show the long depth of field effect of photos. Fisheye lens imaging has two kinds, one is like other lenses, imaging full of pictures; The other image is circular. No matter what kind of imaging, the image taken by the fisheye lens is quite deformed and has a strong sense of perspective convergence.

Fisheye lenses are larger in volume, to apply to 35 mm single-lens reflex camera fisheye lens. For example, when the fisheye lens is installed on a small 35 mm single-lens reflex camera on the fuselage, there is a “lens airframe small” feeling. and because the fisheye lens is not light in weight, after the single-lens reflex camera is installed with the fisheye lens, the overall weight of the camera and lens increases, and the center of gravity moves forward.

The photographer should pay attention to holding the camera steady when shooting. As mentioned earlier, the fisheye lens has a large front lens diameter and is thrown towards the front of the lens, so it cannot be fitted with a filter like normal lenses.

The fisheye lens usually adopts a built-in filter. According to shooting needs, the photographer manipulates the filter conversion ring on the lens to convert the required filter to the photographic light path of the lens. The front lens of the fisheye lens is very important in the whole lens because it is thrown to the front of the lens, so the photographer should pay special attention not to collide with the lens when shooting (especially when shooting close to the subject).

In addition, when some old fish-eye lenses are connected with 35mm single-lens reflex cameras, the rear of the lens is inserted deeper into the camera body, the camera’s mirror must be turned up and locked, the camera’s pentaprism viewfinder will not be used, and additional viewfinder needs to be set on the camera to take photos.

2. Wide-angle lens

Wide-angle lenses are also called short lenses. A kind of photographic auxiliary lens. The focal length of the lens is significantly smaller than the diameter of the image field (the diagonal length of the film), about 6 ~ 35 mm; The angle of view is larger than the standard lens, about 53° up to 220°.

The relative caliber is generally small. The wide-angle lens came into being in the 1860s after the appearance of the fast direct light lens and has become an important category of the photographic lens after various evolutions. The modern wide-angle lens mainly has two types of light sets: symmetrical structure and recessive focus structure. Asymmetrical wide-angle lenses can be divided into the positive external lens and the negative external lens. The wide-angle lens has the advantages of short focal length and a large angle of view.

It can shoot a wide range of scenery in a relatively close range, with a more prominent foreground. The depth of field range is significantly larger than the standard lens and telephoto lens, and the picture has a strong sense of depth. Suitable for indoor close-range shooting, and shooting mountains, buildings, crowds, and other scenes. The old-fashioned wide-angle lens has the defect of reduced illumination at the edge of the header field. When using a wide-angle lens, the foreground is exaggerated and can produce serious perspective distortion.

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Images taken with wide-angle lenses can have a wide background while highlighting the central subject and foreground. Can be in a smaller environment, take more scenery, in the same shooting distance, the scene is smaller than with a standard lens. When taking a closer scene, it will produce perspective distortion, and also increase the sense of distance between the scene before and after. Due to its long depth of field, it is easy to shoot both near and distant scenes.

It is generally considered that the focal length of 24 mm and 28 mm lenses are ordinary wide-angle lenses. When using them for photography, if equipped with flash lighting, it is necessary to pay attention to the light angle of the flash which must be greater than the lens angle. Otherwise, the four corners of the photo will be dark, then the application of the flash astigmatism mask, but the effective light efficiency of the flash will be reduced.

3. Difference between a fisheye lens and a wide-angle lens

A general wide-angle lens can only take a wider picture at the same distance without distortion, while a fisheye lens is an ultra-wide-angle lens with a 180° angle of view just like a fisheye. Therefore, fish glasses have a wider view than wide-angle lenses, but the deformation around them is severe. Fisheye lenses are different in shape from other lenses. The front lenses bulge out like fish eyes.

4. The Basics

The short version is at the same focal length (” mm “number), and the fisheye lens should provide roughly the same field of view as a conventional wide-angle lens at the same focal length. The difference is that the fisheye curves sharply outward from the center of the image as if you were looking through a peephole in the door.

Depending on the wide-angle lens you get, it may also have some “barrel distortion,” but it won’t be as noticeable.

While it would be easy to dismiss the fisheye lens as a novelty, that’s not the whole story. Barrel distortion is one of the easiest aspects of restoring an image in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, allowing you to eliminate the fisheye “look” with just one or two clicks.

Double-check any fisheye lens you are considering to make sure it can achieve the effect you want on your camera.

5. Aperture and speed

Making this even more challenging are the widest angle lenses, which tend to be a bit “slow” unless you want to spend a lot of money on them. In this case, that means they have a relatively high maximum aperture, so they don’t let in a lot of light. Therefore, you need to use a slower shutter speed, a higher ISO, or both to get a properly exposed image. For the scenery, that’s no big deal, but without a tripod, interior design can be a challenge.

Fisheye lenses are usually prime lenses. They also tend to have a better maximum aperture, making it easier for you to shoot in low light.

apexel wide lens

6. Size

There are small wide-angle lenses and small fisheye lenses. Not many big fisheye lenses, but a lot of wide-angle lenses. Prime fisheye lenses tend to be quite compact and, like any prime lens, come in handy when you’re traveling and don’t want to carry a lot of kits.

The extra lens components needed to make ultra-wide-angle lenses can also make them quite heavy. This is especially true for higher-end, faster ultra-wide-angle lenses.

7. The price

In general, you can spend more on a wide-angle lens head than a fisheye lens. But that’s probably because there are more wide-angle lenses available. Fisheye still tends to be more niche. Each lens company produces one or two, producing many wide-angle and wide-angle zooms simultaneously. So there is a wider variety of wide-angle lenses to choose from and a corresponding price range.

8. Edit and crop

As I mentioned earlier, with some post-processing, you can get a fisheye that looks like a normal wide-angle lens. Straightens the curved lines. For many fisheye lenses, Photoshop can automatically correct them. So, with a single click, you get a photo in a straight line.

However, this is an additional step. It will also zoom in slightly on your photos. In my tests, you lost about 15% of the image width and height. This makes the lens “width” slightly smaller than its focal length implies. It’s not much, maybe a millimeter or two, but if you want the widest possible lens, that’s a bit regressive.

9. Appearance

I’ll save this for the end because it’s so subjective. The unedited fisheye lens creates a unique “appearance” for the image. Used properly, it can add a surreal side, or emphasize your subject crazily. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not for every situation.

That is since you can remove the fisheye from the image afterward, the fisheye can somehow merge the two lenses into one. However, getting the composition right is much more difficult because you can only see the curved image in the viewfinder. So it’s a little harder to get it right because standard wide-angle lenses show you almost exactly what you’re getting.

10. Conclusion

Fisheye lenses may be more portable, more compact, and potentially give you the option to shoot in lower light. Wide-angle is more like “once and for all”, doesn’t require additional post-processing, is easier to get from camera to social media images, but maybe larger and perhaps heavier. However, if you like the “appearance” of a fisheye lens and think it’s cool for some photos, it’s a good choice, especially since you can easily remove the fisheye later.

My best advice is to find a local camera shop. They may cost the same as online, and you can test the lens yourself on the camera.

apexel wide lens


What is a fisheye or wide-angle lens used for?

You can show full scenes, tall buildings, and large groups of people without curved lines or image distortion. If a creative perspective is your goal, a fisheye lens will achieve all the same things as a wide-angle lens. But it will also create an interesting and unique look with curvature and distortion.

Is a fisheye lens the same as a wide-angle?

Fisheye lenses also fall under the wide-angle lens category, but the difference lies in the barrel distortion. A fisheye is an ultra-wide-angle lens with an angle of view of around 100 to 180 degrees that produces a circular rather than a rectilinear image due to the visual distortion created by the lens.

Which wide-angle lens should I get?

Lenses in the 24-35mm range are considered wide-angle, 18-24mm are ultra-wide-angle, and anything wider than 18mm generally falls under the category of a fisheye lens. For most traditional applications, consider using a wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle option.

What angle is fisheye?

The angle of view of a fisheye lens is usually between 100 and 180 degrees while the focal lengths depend on the film format they are designed for. Mass-produced fisheye lenses for photography first appeared in the early 1960s and are generally used for their unique, distorted appearance.

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