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Which lens should I use for a 360 panorama? Fisheye lens comparison chart

Fisheye lens comparison for full frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds
Fisheye lens comparison for full frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds

If you want to take a 360 photo with your DSLR or mirrorless camera, but are not sure which lens to get, then this chart will help you.  This chart shows some popular lenses and what kind of coverage they will provide on a full frame, APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensor, and thus let you know how many photos you will need to take.

Step 1: Decide how many photos you want to take per 360 photo.

Option 1: 4 shots, with lower resolution: look for a circular fisheye. For the panoramic head, you can use a multi-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja 3), or a single-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja R1)

Circular fisheye image circle
Circular fisheye image circle

Option 2: 4 shots, with higher resolution: look for a cropped fisheye. For the panoramic head, you can use a multi-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja 3), or a single-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja R1).   Reader Ludwig suggested that this lens can also be shot at a higher quality with a multi-row panoramic head if you shoot 4 around, plus 1 zenith to get a clear zenith, such as for places with ornate ceilings.  Another option he suggested is to take 6 shots instead of 4, which will improve the image quality because you will be using images from the middle of the frame where the lens is usually sharpest.

Partial / Cropped fisheye lenses - image circle
Partial / Cropped fisheye lenses – image circle

Option 3: 8 shots, with even higher resolution: use a diagonal fisheye. For the panoramic head, you can use a multi-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja 3).

Using a full frame fisheye on a ring mount panoramic head
Using a full frame fisheye on a ring mount panoramic head

It is possible to use a single-row panoramic head (e.g. Nodal Ninja R1) with 8 shots if you tilt the camera but there will be a star-shaped hole in the nadir.

Nodal Ninja R series nadir when used with full frame fisheye
Nodal Ninja R series nadir when used with full frame fisheye

Step 2:

Choose a lens, looking at the column for your sensor size and narrowing the choices based on how many photos you want and what kind of coverage you need (from Step 1)

LensPrice (estimated street)Manual focus ring? Aperture ring?Full frameAPS-CMicro Four Thirds
7artisans 7.5mm f/2.8139MF, apertureCropped? (haven't shaved mine yet)Diagonal<180
Canon 8-15 f/41249MFDiagonal at 15mm
Cropped at 12mm
Circular at 8mm
Diagonal at 10mm<180
iZugar MKX22 f/2.5 (220deg fisheye lens)$499MF, fixed apertureCircularCircularCropped for Z Cam E1 4:3
Circular for GX80 4:3
Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5299MF, apertureCircularCircularCropped
Meike 6.5mm f/2139MF, apertureCircularCircularCropped
Nikon 8-15 f/3.5-4.51095MFDiagonal at 15mm
Cropped at 12mm
Circular at 8mm
Diagonal at 10mm<180
Nikon 10.5 f/2.8772MFCropped if hood is shavedDiagonal<180
Opteka 6.5mm f/3.5 (similar to Samyang 8mm 3.5)120MF, apertureCropped with hood removedDiagonal<180
Peleng 8mm f/3.5289MF, apertureCroppedDiagonal<180
Samsung 10mm f/3.5299none - electronicno adapters foundDiagonal<180
Samyang 7.5 f/3.5219MF, apertureCircular if hood is shaved completely; conversion kit requiredCropped if hood is shaved; conversion kit requiredDiagonal
Samyang 8mm 2.8 II269MF, apertureCropped if hood is shavedDiagonal<180
Samyang 8mm 3.5 (removable hood)199MF, apertureCropped with hood removedDiagonal<180
Samyang 12 2.8399MF, apertureDiagonal<180<180
Sigma 8mm f/3.5899MFCircularCropped<180
Tokina 10-17 f/3.5-4.5479MFCropped up to 12mm if hood is shaved
Diagonal at 14.5mm
Diagonal @10mm<180
Tokina 10-17 f/3.5-4.5 NH (no hood)499MFCropped up to 12mm
Diagonal at 14.5mm
Diagonal @10mm<180
Yasuhara Madoka 7.3mm f/4200MF, apertureCircularCircularCropped

Panoramic head tutorials

Here are tutorials if you want to learn how to use a multi-row panoramic head, or a single-row panoramic head.  If you want to know more about the Nodal Ninja family see here.

What about video?

The fisheye lens image circle comparison chart above is only for photos.  For videos, the image circle could differ dramatically from camera to camera, and even within the different modes within the same camera because some video modes use a full sensor readout while others don’t.  To see to the image circle in video mode for some popular cameras, check out Entaniya’s page or iZugar’s manual for the MKX22.

About the author

Mic Ty

10 Comments

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      • My favourite camera is Nikon D850 (and cheaper D810), so personally I love the shaved Nikkor 10.5mm, but with the more expensive 8-15 mm you have some additional options. For example in some outdoor scenes you may shoot cylindrical single row panoramas at 15mm to get the max horizontal resolution, as nadir and zenith are not always interesting.

  • It could be added that for option 2 using a multirow head a photographer can make 5 shots (4 round + 1 Zenith) for not more resolution but much better image quality when the zenith is the center of attention (churches for example).
    Also in option 2 with a single row head a 6 shot rather than 4 shot method would increase not the resolution but the quality, and really the time increase is not that significant.
    I hope this helps.

  • Hi Mic, I have just read this article carefully and want to thank you for your suggestions.

    Just one thing isn’t clear to me:
    I am wondering if on a 5d MkIII (Canon FF) the Samyang 8mm f/3,5 (that you put in the “OK for single-row pano) would be wide enough to actually cover a full spherical image with just a single-row pano, since I read on Samyang website that for Canon APS-C it covers just 167° and not 180°, while it seems it does cover 180° for other APS-C cameras
    https://www.samyanglensglobal.com/en/product/product-view.php?seq=335

    but maybe where they say 167° they mean “without black vignetting (so covering the entire frame) on APS-C”, without considering that if mounted on a Canon FF the angle would turn to be 180°.

    Does it make sense?

    Could you suggest which would be the best between the 2,8 and the 3,5 version?

    Thank you

    • Hi Marco. It should be possible. i think the reason it may be 167 on APS-C is bec Canon’s APS-C is 1.6x crop. Unfortunately i don’t have a Canon to test. better to buy it from Amazon if possible (so that you can return it if it doesn’t work). I have the Samyang 8 2.8 and I like it but it’s only for mirrorless — not an option for your 5dIII