The new Nikon 8-15 fish-eye
According to recent expert reviews (see: review1, review2,review3) the new Nikon 8-15 fish eye lens seems to be a must for full frame UW photographers. The lens produces exceptional sharp images, great colors and offers a fully circular 180 deg image at 8mm (floating in a black background) as well as a rectangular 180 deg diagonal view at 15 mm. A drawback might be that zooming in between 8mm and 15 mm will show a cut off circle with black corners. Furthermore, a circular UW image may not be not everyone’s favorite, but it does promise spectacular creative images, for example when taking over under shots of a sunset above a coral reef.
Left: Tokina 10-17 and Nikon 8-15 fish eye's
Interestingly, the new lens is a 'hybrid' that can also be used on DX cameras. On the zoom ring there is white marker placed at 11 mm, indicating the recommended zoom range for cropped sensors: at 11 mm it will produce a 180 diagonal view and at 15 mm a 110 deg diagonal view (which is about the same range as the Tokina 10-17). At values lower than 11mm the image will show a cut off circle with black corners. That's because the DX sensor is 1.5 factor smaller than that of a full frame FX camera. So 10mm and 15 mm on a DX camera would be equivalent to 15 mm and 22 mm on a full frame camera respectively.
The question that remains if this new lens is worth the big investment of around 1000 Euro. DX users might say: mmm.... maybe, but only if it will yield superior pictures on my DX than the Tokina 10-17. The ‘Tok’ is a much cheaper fish eye that for many years has been the workhorse for many cropped camera fish-eye adepts. Being one of those adepts, I am really looking forward to some comparative tests of both lenses on the D7200.
Another point to consider is the minimal focusing distance. On the D7200/Tokina combo I use a 5inch Precision dome (virtual image about 18 cm) that focuses on small objects at 10-15 centimeters in front of the dome. Which is a must for those that like to take CFWA or WAM shots. On my back-up 4/3 Olympus camera with a 4 inch dome (virtual image 15 cm) the 8mm fish eye lens (and small dome) even allows me to get as close as 2 -5 cm to an object. While still preserving a nice view of the background scenery. I am not sure if a full sensor camera equipped with the new Nikkon fish-eye lense and a larger dome can match such close focusing distances.
A more general question of course is if the advantages of more expensive new generation UW systems with high resolution cameras, advanced expensive lenses, and a full frame sensor will outweigh those offered by older systems with low(er) resolution cameras, cheaper lenses and a cropped sensor. The quality of future UW pictures will give us the answer.