Shooting Infrared with the Opteka 6.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
For the last year I’ve been playing with the 2016 update of the Opteka 6.5mm f/3.5 Manual Focus Aspherical Circular Fisheye Lens. Once manufactured side by side with the Samyang and Rockinon fisheye lenses in Korea, the Opteka seems to now be coming out of a different manufacturer in China. I’m not going to give you a full technical hardware review with numbers. The internet is full of them and for me, apart from some exceptions, the technical numbers are not what photography is all about. I want an end result that pleases me visually all while stimulating my creativity. That’s something a graph illustrating sharpness, contrast and color rendering can’t do. If you're looking to have a camera body converted to IR or Full Spectrum, read the article I wrote when I got one of my Nikon D300s camera bodies converted : Professional Infrared Camera Conversions
With the most recent model, the 2016 update, you get, the lens, a removable bayonet petal type hood and a lens cap. The lens itself is fairly heavy and it’s aluminum body construction feels robust. Focus is fairly smooth, especially for a lens in this price range. After a year of heavy usage, it still feels new. Overall a very well balanced lens that's fun to shoot with.
The first test of the lens was to shoot visible light imagery with a Nikon D810. Chromatic aberration is very visible on the Nikon D810 but better controlled on a DX body such as the Nikon D300s. Opteka does make the following claim, “Corrects aberrations using a complex aspherical lens.” With a quick tweak in post processing you can easily correct aberrations allowing you to create some fairly amazing visible light images.
The first IR images I took were in winter. Chromatic aberration is not an issue while shooting infrared. However the wide angle of the lens combined with having to focus through live view makes it difficult to judge in any type of photography. It’s a fully manual lens and there is no in-camera focus confirmation. I’ve now learned from experience, under infrared light conditions, focus much closer than you would under visible light to compensate for the IR shift.
Naturally you can’t add an IR filter to the front of your Fisheye lens. Some Old School Fisheye lenses and modern name brand fisheye lenses have a gel filter holder on the back. This lens doesn’t, but with a bit of gaffer tape you can use any gel filter you want. In this image I used white duct tape to better illustrate the IR filter. (I highly suggest you use matt black gaffer tape)
I considered several options of IR filters from a small diameter glass filter to several gel filters on the market. I eventually decided to use a roll of 35 mm Fuji Velvia 50 I had on hand. I had it processed without exposing it, your quintessential DIY IR Filter. (NOTE: When you do get an un-exposed film developed, make sure to request the film back as most labs will dispose of films without any images on them.)
So far the lens and filter combination have worked really well for me. I get my crisp white vegetation without too much contamination. A basic level of false color comes through but it also gives you great B&W IR results.
I combined my Opteka Fisheye Lens with a Full Spectrum converted Nikon D300s. If you don’t have experience shooting with a Fisheye Lens, the most important thing you should know is that the vertical and horizontal center will always be straight, creating a cross in the center of your lens. Once you understand how to use this to your advantage such as keeping a straight and level horizon, you’ll be on your way to creating artistically deformed images that please the eye.
Mastering fisheye shooting means you won’t need to straighten any images in post processing, a basic crop will do the trick. Apart from shooting 360 degree photospheres with a DSLR, I never really had any need for a fisheye. Somehow with infrared, it seems to open a whole new world of possibilities pushing the surreal nature of IR photography one step further. Should you find yourself needing to de-fish your image, let me suggest Fisheye Hemi.
When shooting infrared with this lens, there are very little negative drawbacks. It truly is sharp, not only in the center but corner to corner. I have yet to experience hotspots on either DX or FX bodies while shooting infrared. Adequately focusing under IR is a bit tricky but easily manageable once you’ve experimented some.
For the price you just can’t beat this lens. Solid construction and a removable lens hood allow this lens to perform as well on a full-frame DSLR as it does on a DX body. On a full frame you get a fully circular image that is slightly cut at the top and bottom. As you can see on the image below, keeping the lens hood on will make it visible on a Full-Frame Body. The circular image on a full frame also has a blue halo under natural light conditions and you do see reflections in the lens barrel similar to the Lens Baby Fisheye lens.
The Opteka 6.5mm f/3.5 Manual Focus Aspherical Circular Fisheye Lens is available in the USA, Canada and the UK from 47th Street Photo for several different camera mounts (Nikon, Nikon 1, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, etc.).
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