First, I have to say: I love the phrase “pancake fisheye”. It sounds like something at a lunch buffet in a Minnesota church basement.
I don’t know diddly about how lenses actually work or what specs for things like resolution, chromatic aberration or distortion really mean. But I’m writing a lens review anyway, because this thing is just so cool. (I have no connection with Pergear and bought the lens on Amazon.)
I’ve always liked fisheye lenses and have gotten some of my best photos with them – especially downtown, where I’m taking in sky, buildings and street. But a fisheye lens is big, heavy, and noticeable. Whereas my aim is to walk around until I see something I like, then do the shot without attracting attention.
The Pergear 10mm fisheye lens (APS-C, f8, manual focus) is amazingly small compared to my Rokinon 8mm f3.5.
A Nikon Z50 with this lens fits in a coat pocket, delivering images way better than a phone but with the great ergonomics of a Nikon. I can easily carry this combination with me, even when cycling. And at 10mm I can do selfies without a stick.
Street photographers want a low profile, so the people in the shot just keep looking off into space. But I also like doing photos inside downtown buildings and skyways – and they’re often patrolled by security guards who just live to hassle photographers. I wrote a post about my strategies for dodging them, but I’d rather just be unnoticed or mistaken for someone with a phone. If I hold my Z50, with with this small flat lens, out in front of me and shoot using the rear LCD, for a few seconds I look like any other dweeb with an iPhone . I grab a couple of shots, and wait… if no guard shuffles over to warn me off, I take a couple more…
The fisheye perspective really works for city shots, where you want to emphasize size and distance – but in a way that creates a mood, not just an optically correct rectilinear rendering.
Oh yeah, the “review” – here it comes:
How sharp is this lens? I have no idea in technical terms, but it’s sharp enough to get a photo that I’m satisfied can be printed big, so that’s that. The DOF is huge at 10mm, so a fixed f8 just means one less thing to think about, at least in daylight. Barrel distortion? Bring it on – I like the surreal feeling, and the way it can work like a vignette to focus attention on the real subject.
The only bad thing about this lens is that it’s seriously over-lettered. I don’t want a big screaming white logo on the front of the camera; and yes, I know it’s a “fisheye”, no need to shout. I may tape over this junk.
It feels solid, mostly metal, surprisingly heavy for it’s size , and it engages the Z mount with just the right amount of friction and a satisfying “click”. It comes with a push-on lens cap that relies on friction to keep it in place. That makes it even quicker to get ready for a shot, although it can come off in the camera bag if it brushes up against something else.
Oh and this lens is cheap – currently about $60 on Amazon. Talk about bang for the buck!