Review: Sony VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Conversion for the 16mm f/2.8 Lens (Sony NEX)

For every camera I’ve ever owned, I’ve always wanted to get a fisheye attachment for it. I just never did. Whether it be the cost of the lens or just sheer laziness on my part, I just never got around to getting a fisheye converter for any of my cameras. That changed after I the Sony NEX-5N. I figured if I was getting back into photography, now would be the perfect time to get something that I’ve always wanted but never had. I looked into many options and in the end, I ended up getting the Sony VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Conversion Lens for my NEX-5N, but I also had to purchase the 16mm f/2.4 prime lens in order to use it. Why would I do that instead of going with a simpler solution? Read on for my reasons.

First off, there are tons of fisheye screw on lenses you can buy that fit the 49mm thread on the Sony NEX-5N 18-55mm kit lens. These are okay if you just want to have a bit of fun, but I do not like the way that these generic screw on attachments have a huge circular black border around all the photos you take. It makes the images you take look a bit cheapish and you’d have to majorly crop them to get rid of the black borders. I did not want that.

My second option was to go with a dedicated fisheye lens such as the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens for the Sony NEX. This is a dedicated super wide angle fisheye lens that is made for the e-mount. I’ve read that it is a really nice lens with great optics. The only downside is that it is a full manual lens and I’d  have to make a few setting adjustments in order to use it properly. Aside from that, it is one of the better options out there but it is a huge lens. Plus, I knew in the near future, Rokinon wwill be releasing a much smaller 8mm f/2.8 lens for the NEX cameras so I ended up not going with this either.

Instead, I went with Sony’s own VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Conversion Lens which must be paired up with the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens. Why did I do this? With this combination, I am essentially getting 2 lens setups. I am getting a fast, wide angle 16mm lens that I can use for landscapes and outdoor scenes and with the VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Conversion Lens attached, I am getting a super wide fisheye lens that was made to seamlessly integrate with the 16mm f/2.8 lens. As you can see from the images, the fisheye attachment blends in perfectly with the 16mm lens and doesn’t even look like an attachment. The fisheye lens attaches on like a lens hood and fits pretty snugly. There is a bit of wiggle to it, but only if you’re really trying to wiggle it.

Size wise when combines, it’s not bigger than the 18-55mm kit lens. What I really love about this combination is that if I don’t want to use the fisheye lens attachment, I can just remove it and I’m left with a very compact 16mm prime lens that makes the NEX-5N very portable. In terms of price, it was a bit more than buying a dedicated fisheye lens like the Rokinon, but in the end, I think the ability to separate the combination into 2 pieces is a big plus.

In terms of image quality, I couldn’t be happier. The images are crisp and clear although there is a bit of softness at the edges, but this isn’t that big of a deal. The lens features a 180º diagonal viewing area and unlike those cheap fisheye attachments, this combination yields a full frame fisheye image with no border. That too is a huge plus in my opinion. If you want to check out some sample images I took with this combo, you can check them out here at my Tamron My Photo Exhibits page: http://tamron.myphotoexhibits.com/exhibits/6154-fisheye-conversion-lens-test

Specs

Optics/Lens

  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 15mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Lens Groups-Elements : 4 groups, 4 elements
  • Magnification : 0.62

Weights and Measurements

  • Dimensions (Approx.) : 1 3/4in (44mm); diameter 2 5/8in (66mm)
  • Weight (Approx.) : 5.3oz (150g)

The VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Conversion Lens retails for $149.99 although you can pick one up for much less than that. The 16mm f/2.8 lens retails for $249.99 and again, I’ve seen it for cheaper than that if you shop around. In fact, I purchased my combo for $300. If you want to go with this setup, you may find the 16mm lens a bit hard to find as it seems to be sold out at a lot of online stores. I was lucky enough to find one on Ebay but even then, you’ll have to look around.