In photography, a fisheye lens is a wide-angle lens that takes in a broad, panoramic and hemispherical image. Originally developed for use in meteorology to study cloud formation and called “whole-sky lenses”, fisheye lenses quickly became popular in general photography for their unique, distorted appearance. They are often used by photographers shooting broad landscapes to suggest the curve of the Earth. Hemispherical photography is used for various scientific purposes to study plant canopy geometry and to calculate near-ground solar radiation.
The focal lengths of fisheye lenses depend on the film format. For the popular 35 mm film format, typical focal lengths of fisheye lenses are between 8 mm and 10 mm for circular images, and 15–16 mm for full-frame images. For digital cameras using smaller electronic imagers such as 1/4″ and 1/3″ format CCD or CMOS sensors, the focal length of “miniature” fisheye lenses can be as short as 1 to 2mm.
All the ultra-wide angle lenses suffer from some amount of barrel distortion. While this can easily be corrected for moderately wide angles of view, rectilinear ultra-wide angle lenses with angles of view greater than 90 degrees are difficult to design. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view by forgoing a rectilinear image, opting instead for a special mapping (for example: equisolid angle), which gives images a characteristic convex appearance.