Review: Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 Fisheye EX DC HSM (Nikon F-Mount)

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I am not a fan of fisheye lenses, but I like to challenge myself. When I was asked to check out the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM lens, I looked at some sample images on Sigma’s site, and I thought I would give it a go. It’s an awkward lens, but that isn’t a bad thing. It is honestly a funny looking little thing. The lens was designed to be used with cropped sensor DSLRs, or a Nikon DX camera in my case. It may seem like a novelty at first but this lens actually seems to have a lot to offer.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Light and easy to put away

Fast and can really create some arty images

Sharp

Cons

It’s easy to over expose with the lens. I kept a negative exposure compensation

There is a lot of wasted/Negative space in the image

Steep Learning curve

Gear Used

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Edited in Lightroom 5.2 using lens correction.

I used a Nikon D700, My D90 and a Nikon D5100. I use my Ultrapod II when I wanted to do a long exposure. Lightroom 5.2 in post.

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from B&H’s listing

Performance
Focal Length 4.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Format Compatibility Nikon DX
FX in DX Crop Mode
Angle of View 180°
Minimum Focus Distance 5.3″ (13.46 cm)
Magnification 0.16x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:6
Groups/Elements 9/13
Diaphragm Blades 6
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread None
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.0 x 3.1″ (7.62 x 7.87 cm)
Weight 1.03 lb (470 g)

Ergonomics

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The lens was very simple in its construction. The focus ring is an okay size for paws like mine. The distance scale on the lens is nice and clear, but barely used due to just how wide this angle is.

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There is a simple AF/M switch that is also situated on the side of the lens. That’s really all there is to it.

Build Quality

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The lens is not too big. It’s easy to grip. There is a nice coating on the lens as well. The lens was very light and easy to store.

Autofocus

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The autofocus is fast. I found to best to focus in the center and to compose around that. The focus ring is a decent size, but in real life practice, I found autofocusing was just easier to use. Manual focus was not really needed. It is funny see your autofocus points curve in your viewfinder due to just how wide the angle is. In low light the camera took a little more time to autofocus.

Ease of Use

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You have to be careful where you focus and point the camera or you will end up in the shot. When using the lens, I had to make sure I angled the camera a few degrees upward to keep myself out the image. With this lens, it can be a bit tough to use it when applying the rule of thirds–as leading lines are very important. If you find a line that was straight in your image. It was decently composed. It gave someplace for your eyes to go even though everything around it was warped. To learn this lens it takes a lot of experimenting.

Image Quality

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This is a fisheye–so the most interesting part of this lens is the image quality. Overall, even with all the distortion, the Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 Fisheye was actually very good.

Bokeh

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Take me to your coffee and bacon

Getting bokeh with this lens was an interesting challenge. The bokeh was weak to put it plainly. This lens, however, was not meant to produce bokeh due to its design.

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Because of its fisheye qualities, you have to get your subject extremely close. My cosmic Russian ninja bear of awkwardness got rather intimate with this lens to get this shot.

Sharpness

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This lens is sharpest in the center. Everything else was warped–especially up close. Having the world uber exaggerated in the image made things interesting. If you use Lightroom’s lens correction, the image is only sharp in the center.

Color Fringing

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Along the diameter of your shots there tended to be a blue ring at times. It is not something you can just edit out either, cropping was an interesting task with this lens. Closer to the center and away from the edges of the image, everything is fine.

Distortion

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Cropped

Yes.

Nuff said.

Colors

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Surprisingly the colors were good even with all the distortion. I expected more issues with along with the distortion. I was surprised that there weren’t any.

Conclusions

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Working with it was a bit trippy however it was not as bad as I thought it was be. It is a specialized lens and you have to treat it as such. It’s not something you would use every day as well. What would you use it for? Well that would be up to you. It could be used to create interesting shots at weddings and events or to capture some interesting landscapes. You would never carry this lens alone. It’s meant for the moment where you have a break and want to do something a little different. The Sigma 4.5 F2.8 is not for everyone. You need a bit of imagination with this lens.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.