Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye for Sony e-mount first impressions

I’ve used the Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye on my Sony a6000 for surf photos and for some test shots which helped me compare it to the Samyang/Rokinon 8mm f2.8 fisheye.

The video shows you my unboxing and some results of my first session and test shots.

I ordered my Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye in Sony e-mount from Amazon.co.uk for £125.99 (currently not available), it took 12 days to arrive from China and I didn’t have to pay any extra duty or taxes.

You can buy them from Amazon.com for $149.99 (the price has now risen to $449.99!) and I expect the shipping time would be very similar, I can’t say about the duties and taxes though.

The best type of fisheye for surf photography

There’s a few types of fisheye lens, I’ll give you a quick run down of the options you have and what’s most popular for surf photography.

I’m going to talk about my Sony a6000, it’s a Sony e-mount camera with an APSC sized sensor, you can apply this info to any other sensor or film size.

Diagonal fisheye – the image circle completely covers the sensor, the widest angle of view is from top corner to bottom corner.

The Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye is a diagonal fisheye on the a6000. it has a field of view of 180 degrees

Circular fisheye – the image circle fits inside the sensor, creating a circular image which includes the widest field of view from edge to edge in all directions.

Fisheye lenses have different image circles

Traditionally a diagonal fisheye is most popular for surf photography. It gives you a wide, distorted image with no black borders, you can print it as it comes out of the camera. I love the Samyang 8mm fisheye, there are several housings with dome ports designed for it and it has great image quality.

So why would you use a circular fisheye?

  1. It’s different
  2. It’s cheaper
  3. Wider field of view
  4. You can make it look like a diagonal fisheye shot
  5. No more wonky photos!
  6. 360 degree photo spheres

It’s different… I’ve said before that I try to only buy new kit that allows me to take photos that I can’t take with my current gear. This is one of those lenses.

The circular image is unique, you can’t get it with a GoPro, which is a pretty decent way of distinguishing you from lots of other people on Instagram.

2: This particular fisheye is really good value, half the price of the Samyang 8mm! So if you’re really on a tight budget it’s a great option.

3: 190 degrees is wider than any other fisheye I’ve shot with, and any other circular fisheye for the Sony e mount, and you get that top to bottom as well as side to side, you can see behind you.

4: With some fairly simple processing you can make your images look very similar to a diagonal fisheye. Obviously you sacrifice resolution, but as I mentioned in my post on long telephoto lenses, that’s not an issue for most surf photographers, including me.

5: Because it’s a circular image you can rotate it to make sure the horizon is level. You can rotate and then process the images so you can get a levelled photo however you were holding the camera.

6: Photo spheres, they’re part of the future of photography and a lens like this will let you take them quicker than any other.

Processing circular fisheye photos

I might go into more detail on this subject in the future, but I don’t want to delay getting this post up. Here’s my simple Lightroom preset that turns a shot from the Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye into a close approximation of the same shot taken on the Samyang 8mm fisheye.

To get this effect I used the built in lens corrections for the Sigma 4.5mm circular fisheye (about $900, available in various lens mounts), then changed the distortion slider to 72.  That gives me a quick and easy correction that gets me pretty close to the field of view of the Samyang 8mm fisheye.

There’s a great piece of free software called Hugin that gives you lots more control over editing this type of photo. Using Hugin is outside the scope of this post but I recommend checking it out if you have a circular fisheye and you want to experiment with different ways of getting a more traditional looking image out of it.

Here’s a similar 360×180 photosphere image to the one in the video that I created with Hugin:

Should I buy the Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye for surf photography?

Maybe.

If you want to get traditional fisheye photos and you haven’t already got a fisheye I’d recommend the following options depending on type of camera body:

For Sony a6000 users specifically I’d probably recommend the Samyang 8mm over the Meike for your first fisheye. It’s got better image quality and the photos coming out of your camera will be in a much more familiar format than the circular ones coming out of the Meike.

But…

If you already have a diagonal fisheye, or if you really want to try something different, then the Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye will definitely offer something new.

You will want to get a housing and port that works with it, I use the Liquid Eye C6000 for my Sony a6000.

You can create images that are impossible with nearly any other lens using the Meike 6.5mm circular fisheye, and the fact that it’s so much cheaper than any circular fisheye available in the same formats is a great reason to try it out.

If you do decide to buy one and you want to get it through Amazon.com I get a small commission if you buy it using my link that goes towards the running of this site:

Meike 6.5mm fisheye

I’m looking forward to using it more and working with the circular images that come out of it. Just finding the best composition is going to be interesting too.