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Background: I'm an amateur photographer who wants to start taking pictures with a fisheye lens, my gear is a Nikon DX D5100.

I would like to buy a fisheye lens, I know the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye Nikkor Lens is reat but it cost arround $700 which I can't afford expending right now, I got 3 other options but I just don't know which is best:

Could I get an advise in terms of quality, perfomance, or in general?

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5  
Is there anything in particularly you are looking for that a review site can't tell you better? We generally shy away from equipment recommendations and focus on answering more specific questions about what parts of comparisons apply to a particular situation. Also, didn't you ask this same question the other day? What happened to the previous version? –  AJ Henderson Aug 28 '13 at 15:24
3  
Note that the first two are the same Samyang lens under different label. –  mattdm Aug 28 '13 at 16:25
    
Wait, actually, the third one is apparently also the same lens, but they've arbitrarily knocked 1.5mm off of the nominal focal length -- the optics are actually the same. –  mattdm Feb 25 at 21:35

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Based on the reviews and sample images, the Bower and Rokinon seem pretty comparable. The Opteka is a wider field of view, but also seems to distort far more significantly. (This may be a good thing or not depending on what you are looking to do with the lens and your stylistic choices.)

I don't know if there is truth to it, but it is worth noting that one of the reviewers for the Rokinon claims that it and the Bower are actually the same lens and that both are made by Samyang. One of the Bower reviewers also mentioned that it is made by Samyang, so there may be some truth to it.

It's a cheap lens, so it will have cheap quality, but if just getting your feet wet in fisheye lenses is your goal, honestly, any of them would let you do it cheaply while none of them are going to be the greatest quality.

Personally, I would probably save for a better lens, but if you want to buy in that price range, I'd probably go with either of the first two based on the better available price, though I'd make sure to get the AE version to get focus confirmation, just for ease of use.

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7  
By and large, Bower, Rokinon and Samyang lenses are identical, since they are all manufactured by Samyang Optics. Roger Cicala from lensrentals.com tends to refer to them as RokiBowYang lenses in his blog. –  Chinmay Kanchi Aug 28 '13 at 16:05

This is actually all the same lens. Samyang makes them and they are sold under different brand names. The identical nature of the first two is kind of apparent from the specs, but actually the "6.5mm" is too — and apparently there's also a Vivitar 7mm. (See this web page for more.)

All of these companies have names which were historically legit camera gear manufacturers which went out of business and sold their names to more-shady companies that import and relabel generally-junky low-budget junk. However, sometimes there's actually a good deal to be found, and the good news is that Samyang lenses are generally well-regarded for the price, particularly for build quality. See this review of the for-Canon version from photozone.

Because these companies are shells, you won't really get good support from any of them — so, if the lens looks interesting, just pick the cheapest label.

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I have the Bower lens and use it on a Nikon D90. It's extremely sharp edge to edge, and the color rendition is amazing. Despite being fully manual, its dead easy to use and produces pictures way beyond its very cheap price tag. The construction is solid, and the only real issue I have with it, is that the distance dial rotates a little too freely. Not really a big deal most of the time because it always seems to be in focus, but it can creep off infinity if you don't check it often.

Initially I was a little concerned getting a fully manual lens, since I've never used one before, but its really dead easy when its this wide angle.

I've bought a few Samyang pieces this year, including this lens, flash and wireless flash triggers. I've been very pleased with the operation, quality and features of all of these products for a very low price.

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As others have mentioned, the Bower and Rokinon are exactly the same lenses and were manufactured by a South Korean company named Samyang.

Also, keep in mind that all three of those lenses are manual focus fisheye lenses. If you're getting the Bower/Rokinon/Samyang, look at getting the one with the additional CPU (usually contains the letters AE in the name). With your camera, I'd certainly recommend getting one with the CPU contacts as it'll help with metering.

I'd also highly recommend looking for a second hand copy of that Nikon 10.5mm fisheye. You can find some decent samples on keh.com half the price of buying brand new.

Here's a link that shows the lens with the CPU contacts - http://www.dpreview.com/news/2011/11/25/samyang8nikon

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There aren't a whole lot of choices in the low-cost fisheye world, but you do need to ask yourself the following three questions; you'd ask the first two contemplating any fisheye purchase, the third one is where the "cheap" bit comes in:

  1. Do I want a circular or a diagonal fisheye?

  2. Do I ever plan on shooting full frame?

  3. Am I willing to put up with the inconvenience of a manual-only/adapted lens?

Circular or Diagonal

There are two main types of fisheye lens: circular and diagonal, and they deal with how big the image circle of the lens is vs. the sensor/film frame. A circular lens projects the lens's image circle completely within the frame (so you get a circular image on a black rectangle); while a diagonal lens projects a circle large enough to encompass the entire frame (i.e., you get a rectangular image with corner-to-corner coverage, hence "diagonal").

The angle of view of circular lenses is larger than that of diagonals, often encompassing 180° across the circle, but the image is much more unconventional. Diagonals typically do not have 180° coverage, and if you read the specs of diagonal fisheye lenses closely, you'll note most manufacturers will say 180° diagonal coverage--that is you only cover 180° from corner-to-corner, not across the frame.

Full-Frame vs. Crop

The question of frame coverage gets further confused by the issue of whether the lens is designed for crop or full frame.

A circular lens designed for crop (like Sigma's 4.5mm DC lens) becomes a tremendous waste of sensor real estate on a full-frame body. A circular lens for full frame (like Sigma's 8mm f/3.5 DG lens) becomes a not-quite diagonal on a crop-body camera--exhibiting dark corners. And a diagonal fisheye designed for crop (like the Samyang 8mm f/3.5, Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8, or Sigma 10mm f/2.8 or Tokina 10-17) might mount on a full frame body, but will vignette and not cover the entire frame.

And then there are the oddball lenses like the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom, which is designed for full frame, but is circular at one end of the zoom range and diagonal at the other.

The (as Roger Cicala terms it) "Rokibowyang" 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens is a common choice for those who want a lower-cost fisheye. It's certainly a great improvement optically over the previous budget choices, the cheap Russian-made Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 (diagonal, full frame), and Peleng 8mm f/3.5 (circular, full frame) lenses. But it is designed for a crop body, so it becomes less useful if you plan on moving to full-frame in the future, and possibly the Zenitar 16 or the Peleng 8 might be worth it, if you're willing to take the image quality hit.

The Samyang is actually a really good performer with the added benefit of mapping stereographically rather than equisolid (it's a little less fishy and more natural looking than your typical fisheye).

Manual-Only Lenses

But all three of these lenses, the Samyang, Zenitar, and Peleng, are manual-only lenses. That's why they cost so little. There are no physical/electronic linkages to the camera, so they must be manually focused, the aperture must be manually set on the lens (aperture ring). You can't shoot in any modes other than M or A (because the body can't control the lens's aperture setting. And you won't have accurate metering (you need a D90 or higher end body to get accurate stop-down metering with a non-CPU lens). And the lens EXIF information will be missing. You might add an AF-confirm chip to the lens to get AF confirmation and some limited EXIF input, but it will not equate to the convenience of using a lens designed for electronic mount communication.

Footnote: the APS-C dSLR version of the Samyang 8mm fisheye is NOT the same design as the mirrorless NEX/Fuji X 8mm f/2.8 (or micro four-thirds 7.5mm f/3.5) fisheye. The mirrorless versions map equisolid and are considerably smaller.

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