Blogposts,  gear reviews,  Landscape photography,  Sweden

Wide angle landscapes at Arild with the NiSi 15mm f4

Just recently I got a new lens, a 15 mm f4 NiSi prime wide angle. I have never previously owned a wide angle lens, so I´m very pleased to try this one out. A wide lens is the go-to for many landscape photographers, but of course you don´t need one to create dramatic panoramic landscapes, it just helps a lot.

My standard Canon ef 25-105mm f4 IS USM has been my favourite and most used lens for over ten years, but lately I started feeling I wanted to grow my landscape photography a bit. To do a really wide landscape with this lens, I have to take several photos and them stich them together. I have used this method for years, and so I am used to it, but thought it would be nice to get a wide picture straight out of the camera.

One way to do this was to prioritize the lens I use, and also the filters, i.e.. Neutral Density and other filters that go in front of the camera. But I will discuss filters more in another blog post.

Another reason for feeling this way, I think, is that since I upgraded my camera a couple of years ago, I had yet to get any new lenses that fits the Canon RF, and was (and am) still using my ef-lenses with an adapter. This is fine, as there are many great ef-lenses, both by Canon and other brands, but I think to get the most out my RF, I have to, gradually, focus more on the quality of my glass.

”They” always say that the glass is more important anyway, but my trusty 5d mk II is now an outdated camera and the same probably goes for some of my ancient lenses, ha! As I am not a ”gear person”, i.e. someone who gets new stuff every week/month/year whatever (who can afford that?!), I spend a lot of time contemplating before buying new stuff, and upgrade my camera very seldom. But as the NiSi 15 mm was very affordable and looked like a great lens, I thought this one would be a good piece of kit for my camera bag, and maybe help me progress (?). And to try it out for the first time, I went to Arild.

The Canon eos R with the NiSi 15mm f4

As the evenings get warmer and buds are springing through the still pale grass, it has become a little more attractive to go out and take pictures. Arild on the northern coast of Skåne in the south of Sweden, is one of my current favourite locations for landscape photography. The area called Kullabygden, as a whole, is very picturesque and peppered with locations for photography and hiking. There are several protected parks with plenty of wildlife and cute fishing villages, all along the coastline. Kullaberg is the large national park at the tip of the peninsula, and famous for both golf, swimming coves and the lighthouse that sits at the top. Arild and it´s cliffs is tucked away just southeast, at the bottom of Kullaberg. The rugged coastline along this little village has ancient looking, steep cliffs which seem like something from out of space. The perfect place to try out some wide angle landscape photography!

The Village of Arild in Sweden

The lens

If you´ve ever checked out my YouTube channel or read this blog before, you might have noticed that I haven´t really done gear reviews in the past. The simple answer to why that is:

  1. There are a thousand-and-gazillion gear reviews, on YouTube especially, and;
  2. As previously mentioned, I don´t often buy new stuff. Kind of difficult to do reviews when you only buy a new camera or lens every five to ten years.

But as I do enjoy some of the technical aspects of photography, I will be doing some more stuff like that. But my blog or channel (good lord, that thing has been inactive for ages anyway, as I couldn´t really travel during the pandemic..) will never become a ”gadget show”, that I can promise! But as an avid photographer, and also a member of the local photo club, some discussions on gear do occur in my daily life. At times those discussions can get pretty heated! So I can´t really escape it completely. And of course as a photgrapher I find it interesting too, in moderation. But, If it´s very in depth technical info you´re after, I suggest looking at the before mentioned gazillion vlogs and blogs about the topic! But if you´re not in to that many details, but want some and to see some photos, here is my honest, real life not-sponsored-in-any-way – review! And as I haven´t used a decent wide angle for ages, this is also a blog about my own discoveries.

The lens and some filters on my camera in the field, from a terrible angle!

So what did I actually think about this new wide angle lens from the company that previously only made lens-filters? Well, I have to say, for the price (around Є479) I am really impressed! It was sharp throughout, especially from aperture f8-11, which seems to be the sweet spot for this lens. I would say that up to f16 the pictures were nice and crisp. Between f18-22 there was some softness in the corners. If you´re wondering what a sweet spot is, it´s basically the range of aperture where the sharpness and focus is the best. Most lenses have a fall out point at the lowest and highest apertures. This tends to be especially noticeable on zoom lenses, where you would normally also have to factor in the zoom range.

Build quality feels great, with its all metal casing it appears very sturdy. I do wish that it was weather sealed though, as shooting landscapes often means drizzle and waves from out of nowhere! And something tells me I might not be so happy with the all the metal when I take the lens out during winter time!

The lens does not have auto focus, only manual, which I´m normally terrified of, as I tend to have shaky hands. Thankfully, my camera has a handy focus guide (the area in focus lights up), which turned out to be very useful with this lens. Most of my landscapes are done with a tripod though, so that kind of reduces the need for auto focus anyway. But I probably wouldn´t use this lens for walking around without a tripod, but that´s just me! As this lens is completely manual, so it isn´t possible to find out the aperture that was used after the photo was taken, only the ISO and shutter speed information is viewable as these are set in the camera itself. So I had to make mental notes of the aperture to able to post them by each photo here.

The max aperture of f4 was and is large enough for me. Some people consider smaller apertures of f2.8 and lower a necessity, but I know from using my 24-105 mm for over a decade now, that I don´t really need it, or miss it. At least not when photographing landscapes, as I rarely go below f8.

The photos I took on this day did not have much noticeable distortion, only if I tilted the camera very close to the ground whilst in portrait mode, which of course accentuates the very wide angle of the lens. In some lenses, 15 mm would be considered almost a fisheye. But unlike the extreme angles and unavoidable distortion on a fisheye, the NiSi lens is very good in correcting any leaning angles. Some vignetting, where the corners go dark, was visible, but I expected that, and I usually just fix it in post processing. However, as the lens is so new, there is no lens profile available in photoshop, for these kind of corrections. But I just used one of the existing profiles (for the canon 15-35), that worked well with the look I was going for. So it wasn´t really a problem either.

Canon eos R with the 15 mm at f16, 4 & 5 second exposures

The wide angle creates some compression of things that are further away from the camera, so that is definitely something I will take in to account in the future. As an example, in the photo on the left above, and in the photo below, I was standing quite close to the little white hut in the background, but it looks very small and far away!

Canon eos R, 15mm, f18, 4 sec

At the opposite end of the lens, the compression made everything near the lens seem very large. This is clearly visible in the photos of the boulders and the water pool below. I really love this effect, which was made possible by the fact that the NiSi 15mm can focus as close as 20 cm away, which is pretty close! This means that you can create some cool effects if you focus near the foreground, as the low perspective means that even small features in your landscape stand out. The composition becomes more dramatic the lower the lens is tilted, because much more of the foreground is included in the image. So you definitely want to be mindful of your composition and make sure you have an interesting subject and leading lines that carry your eyes up towards the rest of the image.

Including plenty of foreground creates and interesting image | Canon eos R, 15 mm f16, 30 & 8 sec

What do I think about this lens

Obviously I have to spend some more time with my new lens to really get to know all of it´s quirks, but so far I am very pleased with it. I am happy with the results of this session of landscape photography, and managed to create some images that I feel are very close to my preferred photography style. That last statement alone makes me think that this lens will be a standard bit of gear in my camera bag from now on! What did you think?

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