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Canon 8-15mm f/4 L
180º Circular and Full-Frame Fisheye

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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Canon 8-15mm f/4

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L (rear gel filters only, 0.5'/0.15m close-focus, 19.1 oz./543g, about $1,360.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama, at Amazon or at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

May 2012    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses

Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye (1987-2011)

Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye (2009-)


Angel's Bar, La Especial Norte

On full-frame at 8mm, 5D Mark III, f/4 at 1/30. Camera-original, full-resolution © file.


Angel's Bar, La Especial Norte

On full-frame at 15mm, 5D Mark III, f/4 at 1/30. Camera-original, full-resolution © file.


Angel's Bar, La Especial Norte

8mm image, processed with secret method for white borders.



Sunstar, 8mm, 5D Mark III, f/22 at 1/200, 220EX flash, processed with secret method for white borders. Original, full-resolution © file.


Ryan at the park

Ryan at the Park. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 8-15mm fisheye at 8mm, 220EX flash, f/20 at 1/200, AUTO ISO 320, 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

This Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L is an autofocus zoom fisheye.

At 8mm on full-frame and 35mm cameras, a circular image floats like a ball in the center of a black frame.

At 15mm on full-frame and 35mm, a curvily-distorted 180º corner-to-corner image fills the complete rectangular frame.

It also works on Canon's 1.3x and 1.6x cameras to give 180º full-frame images, but it cannot zoom out far enough to squeeze the complete circular image inside the smaller sensors.

Therefore, on every Canon camera regardless of format (including real APS cameras like the Canon IX Lite), this clever zoom can serve as a full-frame fisheye, and on full-frame, can fit the circular image entirely inside the frame.

This 8-15mm's sharpness is superb, but so is the sharpness of the earlier Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye. Surprisingly, when set to 15mm, the sharpness and and lateral color fringes of these two lenses match. If you don't need to put a smaller circular image in your frame or need instant manual-focus override, this new 8-15mm lens offers no optical advantage to the previous 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, and the f/2.8 fisheye is a full-stop faster.

To use a fisheye well, you have to get very close. See How to Use Ultrawide Lenses, but beware, just about nothing is big enough to fill the frame of a fisheye — not even the entire sky.

This fisheye has a magic fluorine coating that really works: the glass really does repel fingerprints, which is good, because if it's on your fisheye lens, its in your picture!

Compatibility and Formats

This lens is optimized for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and of course works on all 1.3x and 1.6x Canon cameras.

This Canon EF EOS 8-15mm f/4 works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus 35mm camera made since 1987.

This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark III and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 620 from 1987!

As a full-frame lens, this works on all Canon SLRs, regardless of format. As a full-frame lens, I will be reviewing this lens on full-frame.


Canon 8-15mm f/4

Canon 8-15 2.8. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More



Canon calls this the CANON FISHEYE ZOOM LENS EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM ULTRASONIC.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

L means expensive as L.

USM and ULTRASONIC mean they focus quietly, and that you may grab the focus ring at any time for instant, silent manual focus override.


Optics       top

14 elements in 11 groups.

Some UD (low-dispersion) glass.

Aspherical elements.

SWC anti-reflection coating (same as Nikon's Nano coating).

Fluorine front and rear coatings for easier cleaning.

The front group pumps in and out as zoomed. Internal focus.


Focal Length



Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)

180º ~ 175.5º diagonal.

180º ~ 91.8º vertical.

180º ~ 142 º  horizontal.


Close Focus       top

0.5 feet (0.15m) from the image plane, specified.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top

1:2.9 (0.34x).


Diaphragm       top

Canon 8-15 L

Front, Canon 8-15mm at f/4 and 8mm. enlarge.

7 blades, rounded.

Stops down to f/22.


Focus Scale       top


The ring turns from infinity to the closest focus distance in about 90.º


Depth-of-Field Scale       top



Infra-Red Focus Indices       top

Yes, mark for 8mm focal length, for 800 nm wavelength.


Filters        top

Rear gel slot.


Size       top

Canon specifies 3.1" (78.5mm) diameter by 3.3" (83.0mm) long.

The front group pumps in and out as zoomed. Nothing moves as focused.


Weight       top

19.140 oz. (542.65g), measured.

Canon specifies 19.1 oz. (540g).

EW-77 plastic hood weighs 0.485 oz. (13.8g).

Plastic front cap weighs 1.135 oz. (32.2g).


Hood       top

Canon EW-77 hood

EW-77 hood.

Plastic bayonet EW-77, included.


Case       top

LP1219 sack, included.


Caps       top

Capped Canon 8-15mm

Capped Canon 8-15mm. bigger.

Big plastic cap to cover the hood.

No cap for just the lens; you must reattach the hood and then the cap if you're using it at 8mm.

Standard EOS cap rear.


Quality       top

Made in Japan.


Price, USA        top

Box, Canon 8-15mm

Box, Canon 8-15mm f/4.

2012 May: $1,360.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Breathing   Projection   Ergonomics   

Falloff    Filters     Flare     Lateral Color Fringes

Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

The Canon 8-15mm f/4 is a super-sharp fisheye that gives us the convenience of either a frame-filling or a smaller circular image with the flick of a zoom ring on full-frame, as well one lens that serves as 180º frame-filling fisheye on any of Canon's various sensor-size cameras.


Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is fast, quiet and exact, no surprises here.


Auto/Manual Switching

Just grab the focus ring for instant manual-focus override.

You never need to touch the AF-MF switch unless you want to lock-out autofocus.


AF Speed

AF is fast.


AF Accuracy and Consistency

AF accuracy is fine on my Canon 5D Mark III.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy; just move the ring.


Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

The image of the Canon 8-15mm f/4 gets smaller as focused more closely. If you can see the black image edges, they contract as focused more closely.


Projection     performance      top

Fisheyes ought to follow the formal projection where the image position away from center is the same for every degree of subject angle away from the center (r = fθ equidistant (equal-angle) projection.)

Most compact fisheyes squash the sides too much, and bulge-out the center too much. They distort from the proper projection. This Canon does this, which most people prefer. The 1960s Nikon 8mm f/8 has less distortion, that its, objects are less squished around the edges and not so huge in the center.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 8-15mm f/4

Canon 8-15/2.8. enlarge.

Shooting ergonomics are great; the zoom and focus controls are moderately damped and easy to grab.

The bayonet hood has to be removed for circular images.

There is no front lens cap! The big plastic cap covers only the hood, so you must attach the hood and then the cap if you're using it at 8mm.

The cap stays on the hood, and the hood's release is designed well so it's pretty easy to remove and attach both of them together from shot to shot.

The focus ring feels great, not that you'll ever need it.

The zoom likewise feels great. It's perfectly damped, and easy to move with a fingertip.


Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

There is some minor darkening of the edges at f/4, and otherwise there isn't any falloff.

There is no lens correction data available for this lens from Canon, so in-camera peripheral illumination correction won't work.


Filters, Use with     performance      top

There's no way to attach front filters.

Gels can be cut and slipped into a slot over the rear element.


Flare and Ghosts     performance      top

The 8-15 has just about no ghosts if you get the sun in your image.

The worst you may see may be a few very small dots, but they're easy to spot out, unlike larger blobs.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

There are green-magenta fringes towards the edges.

No Canon camera has any lens profiles or other ways to correct this.

I use DxO Optics Pro software if I need to rectify this.


Macro    performance      top

For you crazy Dutch, Norwegians and Germans, this fisheye focuses even closer than other fisheyes, which is more than way too close.

Canon 8-15mm macro

Canon 8-15mm at 15mm at closest-focus-distance on full-frame at f/7.1.


Canon 8-15mm macro

Crop from above image at 100%, 22 MP Canon 5D Mark III.

Shot on Canon's smaller-format 1.3x and 1.6x cameras, the effect will be even closer.


Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 8-15mm f/4

Rear, Canon 8-15 f/4. enlarge.

The Canon 8-15mm f/4 is well made, but more plasticy than the previous Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye (1987-2011).


Hood Mount



Fore Barrel



Focus Ring

Metal, covered with rubber.






Seem like metal.


Zoom Ring

Metal, rubber-covered.


Zoom Cams

Feel like metal.


Moisture seal at mount




Chromed metal.





Serial Number

Bottom, Canon 8-15mm Fisheye

Bottom, Canon 8-15mm Fisheye. bigger.

Laser-engraved into the bottom of the barrel.


Date Code

None found.


Noises When Shaken

Mild clicking.


Made in

Japan, for the hood and caps as well as the lens.


Sharpness     performance      top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

The 8-15mm is always super sharp at every aperture from center to edge.

Lateral color fringes at the edges or diffraction at small apertures will be your biggest limitations.

Here are Canon's rated MTF curves:

Canon 8-15mm MTF at 8mm
Canon 8-15mm MTF at 15mm
Canon 8-15mm MTF at 8mm
Canon 8-15mm MTF at 15mm


Sunstars     performance      top


Sunstar, 8mm, 5D Mark III, f/22at 1/200, 220EX flash, processed with secret method for white borders. Original, full-resolution © file.


Ryan at the park

Ryan at the Park. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 8-15mm fisheye at 8mm, 220EX flash, f/20 at 1/200, AUTO ISO 320, 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger.

With a somewhat curved 7-bladed diaphragm, sunstars are muted, and only visible at the smallest apertures.

This sample is the best I could do. Don't expect much.


Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Canon 15mm and 8-15mm Fisheyes compared

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 and 8-15mm f/4 L fisheyes. bigger.

Surprisingly, at 15mm, each offers identical sharpness and the identical color and strength of lateral color fringes. The only visible difference is that at f/4, the 8-15mm has some light falloff, while the faster f/2.8 lens is stopped down and no longer has any falloff.

Set to 15mm, the zoom has exactly the same view as the fixed 15mm lens when compared head-to-head. On full-frame, I can cheat and set the zoom at 14mm, and get even a little more in with no vignetting!

Maximum aperture
Front cap
Anodized billet aluminum
dinky plastic
permanent metal
removable plastic
Manual focus
move switch
grab ring
11.3 oz. (319g.)
19.1 oz. (543g.)
Color Fringes
AF noise?
Whizzy motor
Price, 5/2012

Compared to any of the Nikon fisheyes made since the 1960s though today, either of these has far superior edge sharpness, but has more lateral color fringes (Nikon DSLRs correct lateral color fringes, while Canon DSLRs cannot).

Canon makes superb fisheyes, while Nikon lags behind. That's OK, since Nikon makes far superior ultrawide zooms, while Canon lags far behind Nikon in ultrawides.


Usage       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More


Watch the front!

Finger on front element

Rockwell's finger touching front element.

People die every year when they get too close to airplane propellers with fisheye lenses. I haven't died yet, but I've been doing this since the 1970s — my mom's a pilot.

Looking through your viewfinder, things look a lot farther away than they actually are. People die when they get too close!

Be careful.

Even if you don't die, it's easy to bang the front element on your subject; objects are still reasonably in-focus even if they're touching the glass.

On that note, keep the front clean and don't ever scratch or nick it, because unlike with normal lenses, whatever's on the front of the glass will be visible in your pictures.


LIMIT Switch

Canon 8-15mm zoom limiter

Canon 8-15mm Zoom Limiter. enlarge.

The LIMIT switch prevents the lens from zooming any wider than 10mm.

You have to have the lens set longer than 10mm to engage the switch.

If you do, this will prevent you from getting any dark corners when shot on 1.6x cameras.


AF - MF Switch

Leave this in AF.

Set it to MF only to deactivate autofocus.


White Borders

This lens makes black borders.

This is great for slide shows in dark rooms, but when shown on a white page as I do here, I prefer white borders.

To do this, I:

1.) Crop my full-frame images to a square: CMD-OPT-C, and enter the vertical pixel dimension into the horizontal dimension box.

2.) Select the circle: use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), and drag it from top left corner to bottom right. Hold the SHIFT key to force it into a circle, and choose the exact lower-right position to make the circle just the right size.

2a.) Move the circle if you need to.

2b.) For a softer edge, set FEATHER = 20 pixels or so.

3.) Select the black corners, instead of the circle, as SELECT > INVERSE.

4.) Press DELETE, or IMAGE > FILL, and fill with white, or any color you like.

5.) To curve your copyright notice, select your text, and hit the WARP TEXT option (the crooked-T half-circle cattle brand along the top bar), select STYLE > ARC, at about -10.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

This 8-15mm is a very popular fisheye lens. It offers the added conveniences of being two lenses in one, and instant manual-focus override, over the older Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye.

The older lens offers solider build quality and identical optical performance, at half the price with a more convenient metal lens cap, but it requires moving a switch for manual focus and can't make a smaller circular image in the middle of your frame.

If you need a fisheye for Canon, your have two choices for full-frame, but for 1.3x and 1.6x cameras, this new 8-15mm is your only choice for a 180º fisheye.

If you've found the time I've spent sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama, directly to it at Amazon or at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.




More Information       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Canon's 8-15mm page.


Help me help you         top

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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