Fisheye lenses always seem to stretch the full bandwidth of price points, which is a good thing if you’re working on a budget. If you need the ultrawide viewpoint of a fisheye lens, then the Altura Photo 8mm f/3 Fisheye can be picked up for under $200. The lens is currently available for both Canon and Nikon camera mounts.
The good news these days is that budget-level optics have been brought up considerably in quality, especially if you dive into a prime lens with fully manual workings such as the Altura. Therefore, let’s have a closer look at this fisheye offering to see if the results are far better than the price would suggest.
The Altura Photo 8mm f/3 fisheye has one purpose in mind without complicating features. A fully manual focusing system has been employed with a manual aperture ring. The textured focus ring is easy to grip and smooth to turn, allowing for accurate pinpoint sharpness.
The clicked aperture ring may only go up in one-stop increments, but as fisheye lenses have such a huge depth of field, the aperture is usually the least of your problems. The widest this lens goes is f/3, which on other traditional lenses may not seem that fast, but on a fisheye lens, it’s no hindrance to low-light capabilities or very low shutter speeds.
The lens comes with a removable petal hood which is respectable for not getting in the way of the corners of the frame. Plus it’s a good way to protect that huge bulbous front element from the outside world. It also includes a large front lens cap and a very cool looking case that is molded to the shape of the lens.
Optically, the lens is made up of 11 elements arranged in eight groups with an additional aspherical element and multi-layer coatings. The lens also features a six-blade diaphragm, which rounds off the simple workings.
At this point, the Altura feels like a solid offering and nowhere near what the budget price point would suggest.
The Altura Photo 8mm f/3 Fisheye in Use
A fisheye lens is always a fun piece of optics to use with the Altura Photo 8mm f/3 being no different. When the lens is used on APS-C cameras, the viewpoint fills the full frame, while on full-frame cameras, the viewpoint is the classic circular fisheye look.
Although full-frame cameras are the usual way to go with traditional lenses, APS-C cameras feel like they provide the most usable images with a fisheye. This provides images with the usual highly distorted perspectives, reaching almost 180 degrees in width that are also easier to correct into a regular image in the likes of Photoshop.
The multi-layered coatings applied to each lens element clearly do a good job of rendering a good degree of contrast and colors. This is especially true when the lens is provided with a good deal of light. But even in low light conditions due to the short focal length, ISO and shutter speeds can be kept to a minimum for the cleanest of images.
Although the lens can be sharp when set to f/3, the sharpest results come in when the focus is set to infinity and the aperture to f/8. As long as you’re working with subjects over two meters away, these were the settings that seemed to work best for the majority of circumstances. With subjects closer than two meters away, you have to deliberate far more over manual focusing.
For images in low-light conditions, such as indoors, the short focal length makes it very easy to capture sharp handheld shots. For the cleanest shots, a tripod is always a good option for the sharpest results, but the use of a tripod is not always a necessity with a fisheye lens.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with the image quality from the Altura Photo 8mm f/3 fisheye. As long as you stick to its most efficient working zone, images will be sharp with a good degree of natural detail that can be enhanced in post-processing.
How Does It Compare?
Although there are a few fisheye lenses in this price bracket, there are only a few notable contenders. One of these is the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye, which just like the Altura is a fully manual lens with an f/3.5 aperture.
The Rokinon also works on both full-frame and APS-C sensor camera bodies, with a circular look on the former and a 167-degree view on the latter. The difference in aperture between the two lenses is so small it doesn’t really count in reality.
As both these fisheye lenses are in the budget arena, the differences between the two are negligible with the Rokinon ever so slightly edging ahead in overall sharpness levels. If you don’t mind a slightly wider view, the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC is also a good choice.
|Altura Photo 8mm f/3 Fisheye||Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye|
|Optics||11 Elements / 8 Groups||10 Elements / 7 Groups|
As previously stated, lenses in this price bracket are so much better than in years gone by. The Altura may not be able to compete with top-of-the-line fisheye lenses, but considering the nominal price, it provides plenty of quality for the money.
When the lens is set to its sharpest aperture point and infinity, images are respectively sharp. As this is a manual lens, it will take a little time to get used to this method of working, but it’s a small price to pay, as long as your subject matter is more than two meters away.
If you need a fisheye lens for occasional super-wide-angle shots or you like the idea of capturing stitched together images or virtual tours, the Altura Photo 8mm f/3 fisheye is a good budget point of entry, with respectable optical qualities and end results.