The following text is an Essay first, it’s something new and something weird. I am going to write a review of my new old, old new, Sigma 16mm fisheye lens. It’s a weird little fisheye lens, with a small UV filter inside it. You can take off the front element which unveils this new element in which you can place a different filter. Sadly, mine only came with the UV filter so I have nothing to say about any other filters. Honestly, I find it hard to tell a difference in photo quality between photos with or without a filter anyway. It’s a bit like the coffee my girlfriend makes for me: there must be a difference in taste between this blend and that blend, but I never notice it.
I use this lens on my Nikon F5. This is one of my favourite cameras ever, and I bought it not too long ago when I started missing my Nikon F100, the F5’s little brother. I am a sucker for fancy gear that I don’t need, and the F5 is definitely more a weapon than a gadget. It’s heavy, my hands hurt when I use it on a session, my back hurts when I carry my backpack around, but man does it feel nice. It has a double grip which is cool for doing portrait oriented photos. I mostly shoot portrait oriented photos because that’s how smartphones have programmed my stupid little brain. This stupid little brain will never stop needing to buy more cameras and more gear and thus, I will probably buy another camera this year too. [Ed: a new fisheye lens was purchased in between the writing and publishing of this article.]
Because I buy before I think, I didn’t know film was stupidly expensive these days. The F5 is a film camera and I didn’t have any film in the fridge. So far I have shot three rolls with it, of which probably 66% using the Sigma 16mm fisheye lens. The first roll was a bit shit, but still a good learning experience for this lens. The other rolls were better; you can see the results of those in the photo gallery of this magazine.
The lens is nice and gives a good, classic fisheye distortion. It’s easier to focus than a digital fisheye lens but I still managed to fuck up a lot of times. The aperture ring moves easily too, so when you’re shooting you may find yourself shooting at f2.8, which will leave you angry at the spot and even angrier when you’re sitting behind the scanner, wasting your time on vague photos and knowing you wasted even more money than time on these photos. Or maybe the time thing is a bigger issue than the money thing, that depends on how fast the skater landed the, let’s say, backside smith stall.
One sort of funny thing about this lens and camera combo is that it looks like a digital camera. The average skater doesn’t recognize this as a film camera and that’s why you will find them asking me to show the photo on the spot, leaving me with the answer that I cannot show it: I shoot on film. Film is a dead medium and so is print, but I still use it because I like to hang on to things that were invented before I was made. I sometimes wonder when the time comes that skaters will rediscover blogspot sites, that will be the best day of my life. Blogspots are so much better than stupid skateboard media outlets who repost the same clips of the same video at the same exact day. Give me unique content! No red bull marketing plans, just blackberry photos of some weird little farmish skateboard video premiere that somehow has a part of Money Mitta.
Another funny thing about this lens is that when you photograph someone doing a switch crooked grind on a curvy ledge it chops of their head.
Because this camera and lens combo is so heavy it makes you move slow. This is not handy when you have to shoot a photo while the skater is doing a wallie backside lipslide, this requires a photo where the skater is hanging in the air, somewhere between wallie and slide. At the same time, you have to prepare to move back quickly so you’re not in the shot of a famous Dutch VX filmer, who is lurking from somewhere behind you. I always think I move quickly but that’s never really the case. I am a slow, tall-ish, and possibly farmish guy of who the brain moves way faster than the body. I could never do a wallie backside lipslide.
Another thing I cannot do is a slappy up a knee high ledge, then frontside grind it, and then not fall off my board. I am able to use the distortion of the 16mm fisheye lens, mounted onto my Nikon F5 analog film shooting camera and chop of the arms of a skater doing a slappy frontside 5-0. And since I am not this one particular American photographer shooting every skater with half of their body outside the frame, I was lucky that I had another frame with more of the skater inside.
One of the weird things about cameras is that you can enjoy some cameras and absolutely hate some other cameras. Sometimes, when I know a heavy hitter is joining the session, I borrow my girlfriends Nikon DSLR because I feel like this is the perfect camera for heavy tricks. It has this stigma or feeling that you have to shoot proper tricks on a proper camera. Ty Evans isn’t going to film a trick down Hollywood 16 on a dad cam, is he? Why do skateboard media people lug around a suitcase full of camerastuff? Because they use the best shit. But when I start using the DSLR it feels wrong. It’s plastic and weird and what am I even seeing through the thing? No, give me either a brick of a camera like the F5 or give me something light and small that still somehow makes sense. Like my little Fujifilm camera, which nobody really takes seriously, until they see my masterpieces coming out of it. This is a camera that does what I want, sees what I see and, not relevant for this magazine, I can carry it on my back when I do a little cycling trip.
What else can I tell you? I like to talk, no, write about myself, shoot stupid photos of my friends doing stupid skateboard things, I like to spend the money I earned walking around a warehouse on old photography gear that will probably fail on me soon, and I hope this review of some sort inspires you to pick up a shitty camera too, to photograph tricks that make you feel like the tricks in this article made me feel, and then to hopefully send those photos to our Essay Dropbox so we can publish them. Sort of like making the circle round again, as round as the fisheye I was supposed to talk about.