A fisheye lens is a very specialized lens that allows you to capture nearly 180 degrees in a single frame. However, in order to do this, there is a fair amount of distortion throughout the image. The stereotypical use for fisheyes is “artsy” photography and skateboarders. To me, a fisheye is often very cliché and I don’t like using it for normal photography. That being said, well executed images can be spectacular as the optical construction of the lens allows you to get incredible depth of field and focus extremely close.
I use the Nikon 16mm Fisheye lens primarily for creating interactive spherical panoramas. These panoramas consist of 8 images stitched together to create an interactive image that simulates someone standing where the camera is and looking around in every direction. Without getting into the technical details, I use the 16mm fisheye for these images as the super wide field of view allows me to create these images from 8 individual frames. This is exponentially easier than when I was using a 24mm lens for panoramas, requiring 24 individual frames.
I should also mention that the other really wonderful use for fisheye lenses is underwater. The distortion typically isn’t an issue underwater as there is no horizon. Also, the ability to focus so closely and still keep a huge depth of field, allows photographers to minimize the amount of water between the lens and the subject. This improves color, lighting, and minimizes backscatter. While I do very little underwater photography at this time, the fisheye will be one of my main assets when I make the plunge.