Fisheyes are more than a gimmick.
A recent post discussed the choice of fisheye lenses for 4/3 cameras, particularly the Panasonic f3.5. The comment was made that these lenses are mostly a gimmick because of the severe barrel distortion. That is true in many instances. These lenses do not work for portraits, for example, unless you want to show someone with a really big distorted nose. I would not take a fisheye to walk around a city.
But I have found a fisheye an indispensable lens for shooting some landscapes, especially wide open desert vistas in southern Utah. Some of the best shots are those that capture as much of the whole vista as possible and a fisheye, used correctly, is the ultimate wide-angle lens. Here are some examples.
This is an early morning shot from an overlook at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. It takes in a nearly 180 degree view. Island in the Sky is a 6000′ elevation mesa with the Colorado River on the east side and the Green River on the west. Both sides of the mesa have 1000′ cliffs dropping to a level of concrete hard white sandstone named the White Rim. From the White Rim a maze of canyons drop another 1000′ to the two rivers (which eventually converge at the southern end of the mesa). This view is to the east. The mountains in the distance are the second highest in Utah at over 13,000′. Capturing all of this in one shot is key to depicting what is so spectacular about this region. The secret to getting the shot without distortion is to put the horizon in the middle.
There are three iconic arches in this area. Two are in Arches National Park (Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch) and the other is in Island in the Sky, named Mesa Arch. It is a spectacular sight at any time but especially on a clear morning when the sun hits the cliff below the arch and reflects up making the bottom of the arch glow a brilliant orange as if it were on fire. There are thousands of photos of Mesa Arch but virtually all show only a portion of the arch. The best shot shows the many formations that can be seen through it down to the White Rim but you have to stand close to get it. Only a fisheye can both capture the full arch and the scenery below it. Shot straight on a fisheye makes the arch appear like a big mouth but off to the side it works better than any other lens to capture the whole scene.
This is a shot of the goosenecks of the San Juan River near Bluff, Utah. Again, the most spectacular feature is the whole scene, the number of meanders the river takes through this section. Monument Valley is in the distance. Only a fisheye can capture this whole scene in one shot. A very wide-angle like a 14mm would only get three meanders. The fisheye gets all four. Another option would be a series of stitched shots but sometimes you also want the foreground and the sky with the sun. This is not that spectacular because it was shot mid day but that is the only time to see the details down in the canyons.
This final shot is of a place named The Citadel in Cedar Mesa, near Bluff, Utah. This was a defensive site accessible only across a very narrow neck leading to a rock outcrop surrounded by deep canyons on both sides. These 600 year old Anasazi ruins cannot be seen from the neck and there is very little room to back away from the ruins for a shot. I wanted to get the ruins and the canyon next to it so show how precarious this site is. Again, only the fisheye would do the job. A 35mm lens would only capture a portion of the ruin and none of the canyon to the side. My son is only about 4 feet from me when this shot was taken.
Obviously a fisheye is not a take everywhere lens but at times it is the best lens for the job.