Canon 8-15mm F/4L USM Fisheye Review with sample images

Full frame fisheye lenses have always typically been primes.. then Canon came along with this beast and shook the market up. Coming in at £899 it’s not cheap by any means, especially for such a specialist lens. However, you get both 8 and 15mm in a single lens with the beauty of being able to zoom between them… oh and a red ring and weather sealing!

I took this lens on tour with THECITYISOURS, I thought it would be a great way to test it out and put it through its paces through varying conditions.

I reviewed the Sigma 8mm f/3.5 fisheye about a year ago (found here), I really enjoyed using that lens. I own both full frame and APS-C bodies, so i could get both the full 180 degrees on full frame and when i wanted less extreme fish eye effect, I would put it on my 7D body. Although this did get a bit annoying, so this Canon lens should be the perfect all rounder for fisheye…



Above you can see the difference between 15mm and the full 180 degree 8mm on full frame. This gives great versatility, especially when working in tight areas. 


The first issue with any fish eye lens is the bulbous front element and this lens really does stand out. This leads to the problem I have with this lens, the fact the lens hood has to be removed once you go past 13mm, otherwise the hood will show up in your shot - this then exposes the expensive front element and can easily be damaged.

  • Above - 15mm through to 8mm with hood attached. As you can see, at 12mm the lens hood becomes very obvious.

If you’re buying this lens, it’s for the versatility of a zoom (or the weather sealing and the red ring…?) so the lens hood is a bit of a problem. I shot most of the time at 13 - 15mm, so this wasn’t *TOO* much of a problem, although pretty inconvenient - especially shooting live music which can be very fast paced. I had to consciously take off the hood when I wanted to shoot 8mm shots. 

Above you can see the lens hood in the top part of the image. It’s not too bad due to the lighting, but still a bit annoying.

The build quality of this lens is great. It has a plastic exterior although I’m pretty sure it’s just a plastic coating and the rest of it is metal, considering it weighs a pretty hefty 540g for such a small lens. Fun fact, it’s the shortest Canon zoom lens to date!

It comes with a large plastic lens ‘cap’, which clips onto the lens hood and a protective soft pouch (which I have never used on any of my L lenses and don’t know of anyone that does) A criticism of the lens cap is that it’s extremely easy to accidentally knock off, this is hugely inconvenient with a lens with such a bulbous front element.

(Update: On a recent wedding shoot I did in fact lose the lens hood as it came unclipped… sigh)

This lens also features a ‘limit’ switch on the side which stops the lens from zooming out past 10mm. This is where the image starts becoming circular. On the barrel is also shows where it becomes circular on full frame, APS-C and APS-H.

This lens also has a slot for rear gelatin filters.

Image quality is truly fantastic with this lens. Very sharp across the frame, even wide open, and the contrast in all situations that I’ve experienced has been very good. Colour fringing, aberrations and flare are all very well controlled even when pointing it straight at a light source, which is easily done with 180 degrees field of view.

The only time I experienced slightly messy image quality was using my flash setup I use for gigs. The flash is seen in the top of the image, thus flaring the lens slightly. The big front element attracts dust and these little specs show up clearly due to the huge depth of field of the lens, although this was only ever a problem at 8mm and with flash.

Also something to note, unlike the Sigma, the Canon doesn’t suffer from a glow inside the barrel. Frequently with the Sigma (although they did notify me that this isn’t a problem on newer models) the black edges became soft and experienced a heavy golden glow due to light inside the barrel. The Canon shots always remained jet black, no matter where the light source was.

The focusing is fast and accurate using the ring type USM motor. With it’s small travel, it’s very quick to lock onto focus. Even in low light it’s accurate. 

A heavy lens, both for your wallet and your hand. This lens feels unbalanced on my 6D because it’s a light camera body,  most of the weight of this lens is at the front, pulling the camera downwards. This however feels very well balanced on the 5D and 7D series cameras, this isn’t too much of a problem but something to note.

The F/4 aperture isn’t a problem either. With such a wide lens, your shutter speed can be taken down very low before you notice any blur. In fact I shot some images at 1 second exposures of the sky and it looked fine! 

Above - F/16 example with lightroom correction. This can give some truly fantastic landscape shots showing the flexibility and appearance of an ultra wide angle. Even with profile corrections, this lens is still very sharp! 

Example of sunstars that can be achieved with this lens at F16. Click to enlarge.

One thing I’d like to point out that is often overlooked on lenses is the ability to clear moisture on the front element. Some lenses are easier to clean than others - this lens is super easy to clean, helped by a Flourine coating  (front and rear elements). This is really noticeable when cleaning and REALLY REALLY appreciated when going from cold to warm environments. 

I was shooting some candid shots outside with the band and went inside the venue and this lens steamed up straight away, however, it cleared very quickly. Probably the quickest I’ve seen and made a huge difference when shooting in practise. Great job Canon! 

Even though fisheye lenses give dramatic curved lines, you can carefully place horizons in the centre of an image and get much less distortion, almost to the point you de-fisheye it! This makes much more versatile. 

You can literally place objects on the front of this lens and it’s almost in focus. As with all fisheye lenses and ultra wide angles, objects appear much further away than they really are - so care needs to be taken to not hit the front element!! 

Below - The first image was shot about 1cm from the front element. The second showing a rather close call with the front element! 

Overall, I really love this lens. In fact, I’m probably going to be buying one as soon as possible (Update: I ended up buying one shortly after completing this review) I changed the way I shot and absolutely love the outcome. The versatility of the zoom is just truly fantastic along with the weather sealing (which for a music photographer and festival shooter is pretty important!) 

Apart from the inconvenience of the lens hood, this is one of my favourite lenses I’ve used. Sharp, accurate, versatile and in a small package. Considering an 8mm and a 15mm lens would set you back around £450 each, this lens is good value for money. If you would only shoot at 15mm, then maybe the Sigma 15mm 2.8 would be a better option, although for those looking to venture this lens is amazing.

Below are some simply images shot with the Canon 8-15mm

This review and images featured are the sole ownership of and is not to replicated, downloaded or modified. If you wish to use any images found in this article or website, seek permission before hand.

Using Format