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Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations?
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Roger Bartlett

Locale: So. Cal
Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 02/13/2014 13:53:17 MST Print View

Hello all, I've been poking around here as I've lately been exploring new photography methods to expand beyond my simple point-and-shoot snaps to this point. I'm no expert, but I know my Panasonic DMC-ZS3 limits my current experimentation in taking VR Spherical Panoramas, and it's also gotten pretty beat up through the years (I'm finding discoloration and sunspots from what are likely scratches on the lens).

Here's a few considerations for what I'd like, any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

*Low weight, obvious given the purpose site. Point and shoot is preferable for this reason, but I'm starting to look at mirrorless for my applications. DSLR I wouldn't know what to do with, and I'm not sure I could justify the added weight and money given my limited skills
*Fisheye lens converter for my VR experimentation; I'm hoping to decrease the number of pictures I have to take from the current ~50 with the wide-angle's a chore but I love the results I've gotten so far.
*Large zoom is preferable, I enjoy the 12X optical zoom on the ZS3
*Price under ~$400 would be nice, if I got a bit above it to get much better results I think I could justify it.

So far I'm liking the Olympus TG-2 for all the above aside from the zoom. I like how rugged it is considering from the ZS3 I know that I have a tendency to beat up on my camera, and the add-on durable fisheye lens would be great for my panoramas. I am a bit concerned about the softness of the pictures as detailed by the reviews, especially if I really get into these VR panoramas it's nice to be able to see details; i feel the fuzziness might detract from the detail on neighboring mountainsides.

Please let me know any thoughts and recommendations for me...or if anyone has a solution to get a fisheye lens onto my ZS3 that'd be the lowest cost/easiest solution. Thanks in advance!

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
RE: "Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations?" on 02/13/2014 19:36:23 MST Print View

Interesting requirements.

If you are really keen on a big zoom beyond the 100-120mm equiv range, then you will struggle to find a compact that also has a better sensor and sharpness. Bear in mind that sharpness has a lot to do with lens, and if you have a superzoom, to get the superzoom, the manufacturer is usually forced to give up on lens sharpness. The only way around that is for them to make the lens massive beyond belief. Personally, I'd question if you need a superzoom...many people think that being able to zoom in and out a long way is a good thing, but most of the time a short range of zoom or a fixed focal length is more than enough. If you are occasionally shooting, say wildlife, then you could be ok with a high-end compact that gets out to around 120mm. Chances are as well that if the camera can take a fisheye conversion lens, then there are also telephoto (eg 1.5x or 2x) conversion lenses too that you can pop on for such occasions. Such converters always lose you some image quality but a good one will be barely noticeable, and for most of your shots you'll appreciate the better lens and camera anyway.

Just my thoughts.

A potential good candidate for the above scenario could be the Olympus XZ-2. Excellent lens and image quality, responsive, etc. Also, there are fisheye lenses available around 0.25x conversion (so that would make it a 28mm*.25=7mm fisheye, nothing to sneeze at!), and Olympus probably makes the best quality tele conversion lenses out there for their compacts. With the B-300 on you end up with a good quality 190mm f2.5, which would cost an arm and a leg to get on a DSLR. Corners a little soft but that doesn't matter when you are using it for that purpose.

Edited by oysters on 02/13/2014 19:42:57 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 02/13/2014 19:50:16 MST Print View

Perhaps there are other options for panoramas with a P & S.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 02/13/2014 20:25:20 MST Print View

I was going to say what Nick said until I got to the bottom of the thread. Are you actually sure that what you want is in fact a fish-eye lens (a pretty specialized lens) or just a wide-angle lens. Fish-eye lenses are rather specialized, and they badly distort the images. I'll give you that if you are hanging from a rope 1500 feet up off El Capitan you could get some great 180 degree shots. But if you just want to get "panoramas" then what Nick said.

Possibly you do have some very specialized stuff in mind you want to do that you haven't mentioned. Funny, I took a nice 360 panorama of my Lawyer's office using my iPhone this afternoon. Yeah, I got bored waiting. Looked much better in the panorama than in real life I think.

Edited by millonas on 02/13/2014 20:38:20 MST.

Roger Bartlett

Locale: So. Cal
Re:Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 02/14/2014 10:57:13 MST Print View

Thanks Adam for educating a bit on the tradeoffs with a superzoom; in reality I'd say a very small percentage of my shots tend to use beyond 4x or so zoom anyway, and perhaps I could go the route of the add-on telephoto lens that I could elect to bring along in trips where I'd expect wildlife to be abundant - perhaps I leave it at home for the Sierras in my backyard, while trips to Glacier NP I would absolutely bring it along.

As far as the fisheye lens piece, I realize it's an odd requirement. I've been stitching panoramas with software for a few years now and love the results I can get to detail the expansive mountain views that I work so hard to obtain. Recently I discovered the benefits of VR 360x180degree panoramas that you can maneuver around in with software easier than I had been used to, which for me make navigating and appreciating the vistas much easier from a computer where I enjoy most of my photos anyway; they give a full perspective of the place where the photo is taken rather than a 'flat' image of a portion of a certain space.

At least from what I've read, a much wider lens (especially a fisheye that approaches 170degree coverage) allows software to stitch the same quality photo with much lower quantity of shots...for instance I've taken upwards of 50 photos with my current wide angle ZS3 to capture the full scene, while with a fisheye this could be 6 or less. This is important for me considering that with less photos required I'd likely take them much more often; it has to be really worth it to take the time away from putting on mileage to take ~50 photos currently.

Thanks for the recommendation of the XZ-2, I'll take a look at it and compare back to my previous leaning with the Olympus TG-2...any other recommendations or thoughts are much appreciated!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re:Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 02/14/2014 11:35:55 MST Print View

OK. Yeah, I suppose also depending on how sophisticated the mapping software is then you could even in principle fix the distortion to a large degree.

I'm sure you are probably aware of this, but as Nick implied, there are many P&S cameras (probably the one you have now I assume as well) that integrate a single shot panorama. So if you are worried about time/memory/power usage then these might be a good quick and dirty backpacking solution for you. Thus, point camera on panorama mode, click trigger, then pan around 360 degrees. Total time expended a few seconds. Camera will construct the panorama automatically and save a single image - time/memory/power expended totally minimized - number of panoramas you can take on the spur of the moment during the day - priceless. If you have a wide angle lens you would get almost everything. You might miss out on your feet and the sky directly overhead.

Of course full 4 pi solid angle spherical shots like you mention are another thing. The coding to do that in a single shot should be a straightforward extension of the rotational code, but I'm not as sure how many cameras would have this added functionality. Some day probably digital cameras will be able to run 3rd party apps. Until then I'm guessing for most camera then this will have to be done offline.

You should post a link to some of your panoramas if it is possible to integrate the viewer in a web page - I would love to see your results.

Edited by millonas on 02/14/2014 13:31:24 MST.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Telephoto on 02/23/2014 05:18:05 MST Print View

Being smarter about when you carry your telephoto is a good idea. I'm not surprised you've hardly ever used beyond 4x (which is probably about 150mm tops). Plus, taking telephoto shots is never actually easy. The longer the zoom, the more stable you have to be. Once you get beyond say 400mm or so you are getting into monopod/tripod territory in lots of cases. Picking a camera with a VR (vibration reduction) capability is very handy in this scenario. Find one that is optical, not digital (very small Nikons often have digital VR), its far better.

If you are walking in places where you want to get animal shots, having the telephoto mounted as much as possible is crucial. You don't want to have to get out both the camera and the lens and then mount the lens...animal gone. Pain though when you want to take a landscape shot, though you could always carry a second camera/camera body for that like the Pro's do :-)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Telephoto on 02/23/2014 08:09:19 MST Print View

It is far better to have the vibration reduction capability in the lens, not in the camera body. That way, the capability is tuned to the focal length of the lens. You don't need the same capability in 50mm as in 500mm.

Yes, walking around with the telephoto lens mounted is important for wildlife since you only get a few seconds to snap it. It is OK to change over to a short lens for a landscape shot and then change back to telephoto again. The landscape won't mind waiting for 30 seconds for a lens change.


Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Perspective on 02/23/2014 09:12:00 MST Print View

Bear in mind that the wider angle a lens gets the more the foreground is magnified with respect to the background, so you may take fewer shots to get your panorama, but it won't look the same. The most extreme example of this is a true fisheye lens (180 degree field of view) - take a look at some fisheye landscapes and see if this appeals.

If you want a "natural looking" panorama you would want a focal length which approximates the field of view of the human eye - this is a 40-50mm lens in full frame equivalent. This will unfortunately increase the number of shots required, but there are physical laws involved here, so as far as I know there aren't any shortcuts unless you want to use in camera panorama functions (which generally use the lower resolution video mode) and stitch the strips together - probably a low-quality option.

Of course for top quality you could always go for an automated tripod system, but you'd be looking at a lot of money and weight.


Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: Looking at a new lightweight camera with fisheye lens capability, any recommendations? on 03/16/2014 14:22:01 MDT Print View

The Pentax Q has an optional fish-eye lens. Great little cameras.