Mike Tolan , Nov 30, 2002; 07:26 p.m.
Carina, I cant recommend any books, but do remember seeing some decent pics. I can address some of your questions, but the answers depend on which device you have. Are you sure it is a 180-degree device? There are 2 other devices it might be: (1) Aspheric full-coverage mirror lens, which is actually 210+ degrees. This, too, produces a circular image, with a blocked-out area in the center due to the presence of the mirror cone; this was sold as the Birds Eye by Spiratone, and as the World View by Kenko and others. It is a tube-like unit with mirror inside that attached to your prime lens, and does not have its own aperture. (2) A doubler such as the curvatar (Spiratone name) or widestar (Samigon / Kenko name) lens, which simply make any lens you attach it to, twice as wide (makes a 28mm lens, 14mm, etc.). If your Kenko lens has an aperture, and it sounds like it does, and has the following number on the barrel (0.16), then it is a true 180-degree lens.
Describing how to use it and why it is designed the way it is, would be a VERY long post; I will do this if you still want the information after reading this. If you post here that you have the 180, and dont have other access to information, I will provide general how-to stuff. As for what you want to do, I would say yes it is possible, BUT... These lenses are great to play around with, but can be tricky to use when you want a publishable final picture. Here are some difficulties or at least obstacles: (1) 180-degree is actually TOO much coverage for most photographers. You cant use many tripods, because the legs show up in the pics! (2) Shadows are a nightmare, and so can be the sun; often, the direction which looks best for a pic is opposite the sun, but then the shadow from your body is in the photo; if you turn to far to the left or the right, flare is obvious. Though you can incorporate flare into your pic, this is hardly something you want to do on a regular basis. (3) These lenses require a special mount. Most were sold with a 52mm or 55mm adaptor. So, if this isnt the filter size of your lens, then your must use step rings, which can be a problem as they increase the distance between the front element of your prime lens and the fisheye, which changes the optical relationship. Finding other original adaptors for these lenses is somewhat of a challenge. (4) Filtering with your normal filters poses the same problems as the use of step rings. You cant filter the front of the fisheye for obvious reasons. Although you can filter the rear of the fisheye, these are almost surely 22.5mm filters, which are also hard to come by. (5) The slightest tilt to the cameras body results in curvature of subject; a greater tilt, results in extreme distortion. Most people doing macro work seek replication of reality. If a plant stem grows straight, they want it straight in their pics; if an insect head and body have a size ratio of 1:2, most macro photographers wouldnt make a shot that didnt preserve this ratio. It would be almost impossible to maintain such a standard, using the 180 and a normal lens. If you want creative pics, sure, this could be fun, but if you want to document anything, you would be far better of doing more traditional macro photography.