To be honest I didn't really have "the need" for the fisheye lens. However even being a hobbyist photographer I figured it would be interesting to add fisheye lens to my lens arsenal. After all perspective and ultra wide angles are fun to play with not only in architecture and landscape photography, but also when working with subjects like knives, kukris and such. In short it doesn't have to be huge to use fisheye lens on it :) Therefore I decided to buy one and experiment with it. That was easier to say than actually doing it. Average Japanese fisheye lens worth anywhere from 400$ for el cheapo models from Sigma to 4000$-5000$ precision models from other vendors. Either way I didn't feel like spending that much for the lens that I would use rather rarely. And here's where Peleng and in general Russian made lenses come in. In various places you can buy Peleng fisheye lens from 100$ to ~220$ USD. I've seen it on eBay for around 100$ and official dealers sell it around 200$. I ordered mine through rugift.com. Yes, they are located in Russia and shipping would take relatively long time, but I figure it was worth it and the lens for that price was the best bang for the buck. Besides that place had a reputation of reliable dealer, so I was not worried about that aspect. So I placed an order. Few more weeks and the package arrived :)
Peleng- As for the Peleng itself - front view including cap, front view with no cap, view from the rear, then we have rear view with mounted M42x1 adapter ready for Canon :) Peleng is now made in Belarus, not in Russia, while both were part of USSR. Obviously it's easy to buy it in Russia too. Maker, hmm donno how to translate, factory named after famous scientist S.I. Vavilov. Some sources refer to that place as BelOMO, but that's not what is says on the manual, which literally would be GP MMZ of S.I. Vavilov. No idea. I am not that good at abbreviations :) Although, the website, BelOMO's site that is does look like some kiddie was doing it and then forgot about it at all. It's quite a shame for them to have a site like that.
IMHO Peleng is quite unique lens. For one there are not too many fisheye lenses available out there. Second, I already mentioned the prices. for 250$ that it cost me, which included the lens, M42x1 mount for Canon and shipping from Russia the deal was exceptionally good :) And third, the focal length, very few of them have such short focal length, 8mm. Sure there are even shorter ones, but the price... Thus, in the end I think Peleng an excellent choice for amateur or even pro photographer. Price/performance ratio is really hard to beat. Of course when you need those last 10%-s of performance that costs 80% of the price you have to get that, but otherwise I think Peleng will do just fine.
THe only downside is that the lens is completely manual. Which means no AF for you. You focus, don't forget to close the diaphragm after you do that and then shoot. For those spoiled with point and shoot cams this might be annoying for a moment :) Especially when you forget to close the diaphragm and overexpose picture.
General -Initial visual inspection didn't reveal any damage or apparent issues with the lens. Of course the packaging is done in good old fashioned soviet style. You'd never think there is a delicate optical instrument inside that cardboard box without any pictures or markings. Could be a door knob packaging just as easy. Anyway, packaging aside there was were no complaints from my side, and knowing the quality of USSR made lenses I couldn't care less about the packaging. Although average western buyer may and probably will turn his/her nose away just because of the box. Well... To each his own. Admitedly, Russian, Ukrainian and Belorusian lenses do not have the look and feel of the modern western counterparts, but in many cases performance either is just as good or better, at least not too far behind. Plus, what bunch of folks do consider as a plus here is that those ex-USSR made lenses have all metal construction, no cheap plastic in there. As Boris dodge the bullet said in the Snatch movie: Heavy is good. Heavy is reliable. If it does not work, you can always hit him with it. Peleng sure can do some damage it used in such manner. It weighs quiet a bit and all metal plus some glass.
In case you are interested I suggest you read this article discussing the quality of Russian optics. Obviously I can't say that's the best there is, and they do have quality issues because some workers don't really care about their work, but overall it's much better than you'd expect, especially considering the price.
Speaking of quality. As a self respecting modern lens, Peleng sports multi-coating, to reduce reflection and glare. And interestingly enough my copy of Peleng has similar issue with the one described in this review. Take a look at these three pictures - 1, 2, 3. Same unevenness of the coating? I have hard time believing it is done on purpose ;) At least it's consistent isn't it ;)
Package Contents- That included the manual(very short one), leather pouch with the lens, 3 filters, M42x1 ring for Canon, Nikon adapter ring and two different caps for the lens rear. Adapter ring for Canon mount was already screwed in place. Photo of the contents can be viewed here.
As you can see on the photo Peleng has clear filter mounted on it. If you need another one, there's three of them at your disposal - light red, light yellow, dark yellow. Here's another picture showing Peleng with filter removed. For the stats, filter diameter is 26.5mm.
I've already mentioned the manual. Some people are getting two copies of it, Russian and English. Apparently those who buy fm US dealers get lucky like that. Since I got my lens from Russia directly I got Russian manual only. Frankly, that manual is not much of a help, so you shouldn't worry about it in case you picked up your Peleng with only Russian manual. All there is about the lens is half a page explaining that you should focus with opened diaphragm, then close (or lock) the diaphragm and that's all. The other half of the page tells you to store your Peleng away from extreme temps, don't drop it and things like that.
Operating- I've already covered operating above, but I decided to write a paragraph about it. One, some reviews warn you against using Peleng on EOS 20D or Digital Rebel 300, as those have shorter gap between the lens rear and the mirror. Don't worry, it works just fine. Your camera and the lens will be just fine. Second, some reviews mention focusing problems and leave the impression that you can't focus even through the viewfinder, which is not accurate. You do have to focus manually, yes, but you can use viewfinder just fine. There's another point to remember, which is very short focal length of Peleng, 8mm. At that focal length depth of field is real long, so focusing is easier and more forgiving, unless you want very shallow DOF, but then you're in trouble with 8mm lens anyway :). For example, take a look at this graph for 8mm lens with APS sensor digital camera, focusing on the subject from 1 meter. Sharpness limits near and far are 31cm and infinity respectively. That's a lot as you can see. So, to take a picture after you mount your lens on the camera open diaphragm, focus, close diaphragm and take a picture. That's all to it.
Test pictures- I didn't have too many opportunities to take lots of pictures so far. But just for the taste of it here's a few:
As you can see and you would expect fisheye produces a circle, with dark corners. Pictures were scaled down, no major processing. Taken outdoors, cloudy day, ISO 400, F8. Fisheye distortion itself is interesting, and definitely can be used in pictures as is, just some cropping to cut of dark corners. However in other cases you can or may have to de-fish the images.
De-Fishing software- I am sure there are lots of tools that will do that, professional and free soft, both. For now I am using Panorama Tool by Helmut Dersch and RectFish by Kjeld Olesen.
can be found here.
DXO- As far as I am concerned DXO Pro does de-fishing as well. Considering that DOX has dedicated module per lens obviously the results will be better when available, and they have no module for Peleng as of today, so there you're out of luck with DXO :).
To be continued...