What if you could create Stereoscopic 3D 180° VR video content that immerses the viewer into a scene with the high-end camera system you already understand? With a compatible camera behind it, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens enables that dream.
The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens is different, much different, from every other lens in your kit. With a specified 190° angle of view — from both lenses, this lens can see behind itself.
The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens is the world's first digital interchangeable dual fisheye lens capable of shooting stereoscopic 3D 180° VR imagery to a single image sensor. "The complexities of virtual reality production and the ability to view the content in full capacity are greatly streamlined for seasoned professionals and newcomers to the craft." [Canon]
"The RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is primarily designed for delivering Stereoscopic 3D 180° VR video content. This 180° VR viewing format can be experienced in two ways – 3D with use of a compatible VR headset, or in 2D through use of desktop, or mobile VR viewing platform. Since the functionality of the 2D VR viewing platforms is very similar to the traditional video experience, with the addition of a "scroll-able" interface – a current video shooter should find the experience of shooting VR content new and interesting in many ways, but also somewhat similar as some of their previous video experience in other ways.
Overall, the 3D Marketplace has seen incredible growth, and due to a substantial amount of content being CGI-based, there is high demand for high-quality "Live Action" content captured by a camera – meaning opportunity for someone looking to reach new viewers or share a story in a new way. This is an extremely powerful creative tool, and we know it will empower new stories and content to be shared with an EOS R5, so we're excited to see what the market will create with it." [Brandon Chin, Canon USA]
Brandon's comments are inspirational. Dive into this exciting and growing genre of photography, producing content that differentiates itself.
There are many aspects of this lens you need to understand, but the first is that, at review time, the Canon EOS R5 (firmware 1.5.0 or higher) is the only camera supported by this lens. As this camera is an outstanding performer, this limitation is insignificant — unless the purchase price of the camera is a roadblock.
Overall, as expected for a member of Canon's prestigious L-series, this well-constructed lens performs at a high level, both physically and optically.
The focal length range (or individual focal lengths for prime lenses) is a primary consideration for a lens purchase or selection for use, and few lenses have focal lengths that limit their uses as much as this one does.
As you likely already realized, this lens — or more accurately, these two lenses — see a 190° angle of view that includes subjects behind itself. The view through the lens is as crazy as that sounds. This angle is so wide that the front of each lens is in the other lens's optical path.
Of what use is a double round image? The perspective is unique (fun to shoot with), and stretching the definition, the double circular image could perhaps be considered art. That art concept will get old fast, and as is, the double circular image photo has little value.
However, this image is not intended to be an end result. For final processing, significant cropping along with distortion correction is expected. This processing creates a normal appearing image, albeit with much lower resolution (plan to capture video at high resolutions).
Virtual reality processing is where this image takes on extraordinary value. VR processing enables the viewer to see through a smaller viewport, with the ability to look around the larger image, much like our eyes work.
VR stills and movies can be viewed on a computer display or similar device, allowing panning around a scene, but only a flat 2D view is available.
We have two eyes that enable a stereoscopic view of life. "This lens has two optical paths with a 60mm interpupillary distance, enabling a stereoscopic 3D view that simulates human vision." [Canon] If you hold your head still and look as far left and right as possible, you will realize that your field of view is about 180°. Thus, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens delivers reality.
The dual images recorded to a single frame make virtual reality production considerably easier than piecing separate videos from different cameras together. Note that the right lens's image shows on the left side of the frame, and the left lens's image shows on the right.
Here is a comparison between the two images in the above sample picture:
Notice how the left and right images vary considerably less as the distance increases? Utilize that knowledge when selecting a subject and scene for this lens.
Note that critically framing a scene requires finding center, balancing the difference between the two images.
VR movies come to life when using a VR headset. Canon does not recommend a specific VR headset, but the but the edited format must match the selected model. The Oculus Quest 2 Advanced All-in-One VR Headset is the most popular at review time. Pimax models have extremely high resolution, and B&H has other models available.
"What is the resolution per eye when viewing content? When 8K DCI resolution (8192x4320) is selected in-camera, the recorded image per eye is approximately a diameter of 3684 pixels per lens image. After using an EOS VR software solution to convert the image to equirectangular, the exported image can be output as one of the following 2:1 ratio [two square images] resolutions: 8192x4096, 6144x3072, 5760x2880, or 4096x2048. At these output resolutions, the per eye diameter of each would be 4096x4096, 3072x3072, 2880x2880, and 2048x2048. Please note, the "viewed image" in headset is dependent on the resolution capability of that head mounted device." [Canon]
Canon recommends recording at 8K DCI or 4K DCI resolution to gain the widest frame possible. For reference, the Oculus Quest 2 provides 1832x1920 resolution to each eye.
When this lens is mounted on a compatible camera, a VR central resting position magic window compositional aid delineates, per Canon, an approximately 100° horizontal angle of view in the viewfinder. That angle of view matches the spec of 15mm lenses. "The user can magnify at 6x and 15x magnification then also use MF Peaking while magnified (a first for Canon EOS cameras) and additionally can swap between the Left and Right lenses with a simple tap of the [INFO] button while magnified." [Canon]
Let's discuss this lens's incredible angle of view. While far easier than with 360° capture, keeping non-subjects out of the 180° useful frame may be more difficult than keeping subjects in the frame. I often find my hand in the frame when simply holding the camera.
"When viewing content created using EOS VR System with a compatible head mounted display, camera shake, and certain movements can be very disorienting to the viewer." [Canon] Perhaps we need another video rating system – for required motion sickness tolerance.
Tripods are the first choice for steadying a camera, but unless anchored, a tripod requires at least one leg forward of the camera to remain balanced. As everything forward of the lens on a level camera will be in the final result, the legs of a balanced tripod are going to show in the frame.
VR recording is often done at a position level with the primary subject. Unfortunately, the longer the tripod legs are extended, the farther into the frame they protrude, and the closer to directly under the lens a leg is positioned (optimal for support and behind the camera access), the farther into the frame the front leg extends.
Even with the camera directed between the legs of a front-weighted, barely balanced tripod as used for the Christmas Eve sample photo, the legs remain in the optical path. No one wants a tripod leg (or legs) in their frame.
My first choice for moving the camera forward is a rail. Unfortunately, my longest rail, a 7.4" (189mm) long Really Right Stuff MPR-CL II w/ integral clamp, does not position the camera forward far enough to get the first-angle-locked legs out of the frame. A longer rail such as those offered by Really Right Stuff, Novoflex, and Sunwayfoto will likely work.
A tripod with a center column that can be re-oriented as a lateral/horizontal column is a good solution.
Remember that a camera positioned forward of the tripod's center of balance risks the tripod tipping over — a real heart-stopper. While this lens on a camera is not heavy, anchoring or weighting the rear-positioned leg(s) may be necessary.
Camera stands are typically weighted at their base and jibs are typically counterweighted for balance. Both are great options for using the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens. Selfie sticks can be used, but these tend to work best with lighter setups.
Hopefully, you now have the camera support figured out. Now consider how you are going to light the scene. You will likely find ambient lighting a good option.
What are the applications for the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens? This is where you get to be the creator. Start imagining how 3D VR viewer immersion can be implemented within your scope of interest — or branch out to something completely new.
Remember, if there is no movement in a scene, a still image is optimal. Thus, VR movies will incorporate something in motion. But, also remember that too much in motion may induce motion sickness in viewers (sickened viewers leave unfavorable ratings, and distributing airsick bags adds to the production cost).
The 3D VR effect is optimal at a 1.5-6' (0.5-2m) subject difference. In the left-right comparisons above and below, the perspective differences are greatest in the closest objects. Far subjects do not take advantage of the difference, and subjects that are too close will take on an awkward appearance.
The real estate and music video industries are among those adopting VR.
Here is another Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens sample photo.
Perhaps you want to create virtual reality movies that make kids feel like they are driving large equipment.
Here is the left-right view:
Remember that the 190° angle of view spec exceeds what is needed for 180° VR, and the extreme periphery of the image circle is discarded for this use.
At review time, compatible Canon R-series cameras are not available in APS-C sensor format. Obviously, a 1.6x field of view crop factor will not provide nearly a 190° viewing angle.
From Canon USA and Europe:
Simplify your workflow by eliminating the need to sync and stitch multiple video files. Canon's EOS VR Utility software can easily convert footage from dual fisheye to an equirectangular file that can be exported in various file formats and resolutions. For Adobe users, the EOS VR Plug-in allows for equirectangular conversion to be done within the Adobe Premiere Pro application. Now, conversion, editing, and color grading can be done without leaving the Adobe ecosystem.
What is a basic overview of the workflow using Canon’s dedicated software?
While the use of Canon’s dedicated software is not a requirement, it is HIGHLY recommended for most VR creators. The basic workflow of the Canon VR system is:
Capture your footage with a compatible camera, which is currently the EOS R5 camera with updated firmware version 1.5.0 or greater. For the highest image quality utilizing 8K DCI 29.97p ALL-I with Canon Log, or Canon Log 3 enabled is recommended; however, processing speeds will vary based on the user’s computing power. If faster processing speeds are desired, recording with a 4K DCI resolution video at IPB or IPB Light quality can be a solution to consider. Overall, depending on the nature of the content being filmed, there are situations where 59.94p may be desired, and it is available at 4K DCI resolution. High-frame rate 119.88p video is also available at 4K DCI resolution; however, it should be noted that audio is not recorded with this framerate. Please note, HDR PQ is disabled with this lens.
After recording, the files are brought into either the Canon EOS VR Utility application or into Adobe Premiere Pro with the Canon EOS VR Plug-in installed. Download of the software and still image processing are free, but use of the software to process movie clips exceeding 2:00 minutes in length requires a paid subscription.
If using EOS VR Utility, choose if you are working with Stills or Movies, then open the folder on your computer where your VR files are saved. After choosing a file, a corrected equirectangular image is displayed. You can now choose clip start and end points, adjust parallax and horizontal correction, apply a LUT, preview the conversion, as well as export the clip to multiple file types, and if recording in 8K, the choice of various resolutions are available.
In order to properly experience the 180° VR footage or still image through a VR headset, the order of the left and right eye images must be switched and an equirectangular conversion of the two circular fisheye images must be performed. This equirectangular conversion requires the use of Canon’s EOS VR Utility and effectively 'de-squeezes' the two circular fisheye images into two side-by-side 'square' images (a standard format for 180° VR image files), ready for viewing on a VR headset or editing in a compatible software application or NLE system.
If using the EOS VR Plug-in for Adobe Premiere, simply import the file into your project. The file will automatically convert to equirectangular. Then, drag it into your sequence. From here, you can edit and grade your timeline like any other video.
Note that shooting in RAW is possible, but EOS VR Plugin and EOS VR Utility do not support RAW files.
The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0) increases or decreases the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor).
Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length, the focal length must be considered when assessing how wide a lens's aperture can open. At 400mm, f/2.8 is a massive opening, and overall, f/2.8 is a relatively wide aperture. However, in a 5.2mm lens, f/2.8 is a tiny opening, and this unique lens design features two f/2.8 diaphragms.
Wider aperture lenses allow more light to reach the sensor. That additional light permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and allows the use of lower (less noisy) ISO settings. The shorter the focal length, the smaller subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered, and the less still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the cause of motion blur. A 5.2mm lens renders all but extremely close details small in the frame, and the f/2.8 opening is adequate for capturing low light action, especially at the relatively long exposures used for video recording.
In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening provides a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). The low magnification provided by the 5.2mm angle of view is disadvantageous for blurring the background regardless of the aperture. This image illustrates the maximum background blur this lens is capable of:
Wide apertures are not always needed, especially in the ultra-wide-angle focal lengths. While disadvantageous for blurring the background, the tiny focal length is advantageous for keeping everything in the frame sharp, even at wide apertures.
This lens does not have image stabilization, and the Canon EOS R5's IBIS features is disabled when this lens is mounted. As mentioned, a 5.2mm lens renders all but extremely close details very small in the frame, negating the need for image stabilization.
A Canon L series lens is expected to produce remarkable image quality, and when cropping deeply into an image for the normalized viewport, significant resolution is lost. Thus, it is paramount that the remaining pixels be critically sharp. Fortunately, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens lives up to that expectation and requirement.
Testing this lens required leaving the standards behind as no flat test chart can contain the necessary 190° angle of view.
At f/2.8, this lens produces excellent pixel sharpness throughout the needed 180° angle of view. Where that last 10° of the specified 190° angle of view starts and stops is vague, but any minor image quality issues seem to be in that outer portion area and insignificant.
Next up are sets of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured using a Canon EOS R5 with RAW files processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to 1 on a 0-10 scale.
Photographers are free to select their aperture for reasons other than sharpness (until the effects of diffraction are encountered at narrow apertures).
Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. Typically, this area is found in the full-frame corners. With the RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens, there are two image circles, and the entirety of both circles is contained in a single image.
These images are very sharp up until the point of transition into the hard mechanical vignetting.
Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue for this lens.
In addition to the complete mechanical shading, you likely noticed some peripheral shading within the image circle clearing in the narrower aperture examples in the last sets of results. As we don't have a way to test vignetting to 190°, the examples in the vignetting comparison tool are from the left-center of one of the right image circle (the left lens). Noticeable shading is present in the periphery at f/2.8, and significant improvement is seen (only) at f/4. Some peripheral shading is present even at the narrowest apertures.
One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame.
Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.
With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.
Let's look at a worst-case example. The image below is a 100% crop from the left-center of the left lens.
Obviously, strong color shifting to blue shows at the transition to complete mechanical shading, but in the usable image circle, minimal color separation is showing.
Bright light reflecting off of lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image are variable, dependant on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings.
With a 190° angle of view, it is difficult to keep bright lights out of the frame, especially when shooting outdoors on a sunny day. Fortunately, Canon's SSC (Super Spectra Coating) and SWC (Sub-wavelength Structure Coating) combined with a relatively low 12-element count (for each lens) result in few flare effects.
Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality. High flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.
With two circular fisheye lenses, the RF 5.2 lens has extreme barrel distortion.
As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the amount of blur a lens can create, and extreme-wide-angle lenses are inherently disadvantaged in this regard. It seems silly to even talk about 5.2mm bokeh, but here is a 100% crop example captured at f/8 (for diaphragm blade interaction).
A 7-blade count diaphragm, or two of them in this case, will create 14 point sunstars from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and despite the low magnification, this lens can produce nice little sunstars.
The example above was captured at f/16.
No, that lens design is not for binoculars, and safe to say you have not seen a lens design like this one before. Quad prisms shift the optical path inward to project a complete image on each half of the imaging sensor.
The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens delivers excellent image quality — designed for a specific use.
Accurate focusing is critical to optimizing camera and lens image quality. Featuring only manual focus, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens leaves that task up to you. That said, 5.2mm magnification results in significant depth of field, even at f/2.8. The deep DOF makes focusing easy, though focus peaking lights up when the tiny details are not completely in sharp focus.
The left and right lenses focus simultaneously. Should the two lenses become out of synch, one can be adjusted independently using the provided 1.5mm hex key wrench.
The rubber-ribbed focus ring is very smooth and is optimally damped. A 90° turn imparts a full extent focus distance adjustment. The extents are marked with a dot, and the ring is travel limited, permitting distance marks to be set and hit. This is a front focusing lens that extends slightly (0.11", 2.8mm) at the minimum focus distance.
The focus ring is relatively small (0.47", 12mm), with the flared lens design inhibiting access somewhat. Extra effort is required to keep a focus adjusting hand out of the frame while recording. A set and forget focus strategy can often be employed with this lens.
Normal is for subjects to change size in the frame as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a moderate change in subject size through full extent focus distance adjustment.
With a minimum focus distance of 7.9" (200mm), this lens has a 0.03x maximum magnification spec. That number is less than half that of the next-lowest maximum magnification spec in our database of over 500 lenses.
|Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens||7.9"||(200mm)||0.03x|
|Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Lens||5.9"||(150mm)||0.39x|
|Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.16x|
|Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens||7.9"||(200mm)||0.38x|
Making subjects large in the frame is not what this lens is useful for. However, this lens can contain the largest flat surface in the world in the frame at minimum focus distance.
The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.
While the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens looks like no lens before it, those familiar with Canon L-series lenses will immediately recognize this lens's heritage, denoted by the red ring. The L designation assures that this lens has professional-grade build quality and reliability required by those who must bring home the assigned imagery.
This lens has great looks, and the fit and finish are excellent.
Toggling between the minimum and infinity focus distance product images above will show the slight front element extension. Otherwise, the already described focus ring and the focus adjustment port are the only moving parts.
The shape of this lens is quite unique (attention garnering), with the flared side encroaching on grip space. While I have not found the lack of space to be an issue, my fingers sometimes inadvertently touch the lens.
This is a weather-sealed lens.
Overall, the RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens is compact, at least in two dimensions, and lightweight, aiding the camera support challenge.
|Model||Weight oz(g)||Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)||Filter||Year|
|Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens||12.4||(350)||4.8 x 2.1||(121.1 x 53.5)||n/a||2021|
|Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Lens||19.1||(540)||3.1 x 3.3||(78.5 x 83.0)||n/a||2010|
|Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens||41.7||(1180)||4.3 x 5.2||(108.0 x 132.0)||n/a||2015|
|Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens||19.1||(540)||3.3 x 3.9||(84.1 x 99.8)||77||2021|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.
Here is a visual comparison:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens
Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Lens
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens
Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens to other lenses.
This lens is unable to utilize front-mounted filters, but "a gelatin filter holder is located at the rear of the lens allowing optional gel filters to be used similarly to previous ultra-wide angle Canon lens offerings." [Canon]
The extreme angle of view prohibits the use of a lens hood, leaving the two objective lens elements exposed to impact. As mentioned, it is not hard to get a fingerprint on these. Fortunately, a fluorine coating makes cleaning easy while resisting water, dirt, and other contaminants in the first place.
All lenses ship with a lens cap, but the Canon Lens Cap for RF 5.2mm f/2.8L Dual Fisheye 3D VR Lens is unique, and fitting for a 3D lens is the three-dimensionality of this cap.
When the top and bottom releases are squeezed, four hooks retract from groves in the top and bottom of the lens, releasing the cap.
Significant structure, including six protective pads, is seen in the back view.
As a rule, Canon includes a case with their L-series lenses, and the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens comes with the Canon LS1014 padded nylon lens case.
This is a relatively expensive lens. If we consider that it is really two lenses, the price per lens, especially for L-series models, is quite reasonable. Those serious about creating VR movies will find this lens a great value, especially in light of the eased workload.
As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens will mount on all Canon EOS R-series cameras. However, to take full advantage of the functionality of this lens requires specific compatibility that is, as of review time, limited to the Canon EOS R5 at firmware 1.5.0 or higher. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.
The reviewed Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens was online-retail sourced.
If shooting 3D virtual reality, get the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens. There is no alternative lens.
If looking for an extremely wide fisheye view, get the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Lens, able to produce a single circular image. R-series cameras require the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R for EF lens compatibility.
The question is not whether or not 180 VR will become a niche — it already is. The question is — How big will that niche go?
While this lens has a niche capability, that niche has the potential to go huge. Are you ready to jump in?
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