Are Fisheye Travel Pictures Useful Or Annoying?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel Technology

Over the weekend I wrote about the new toy I picked up — the Olloclip iPhone 6 lens. It’s basically a lens you can put on your iPhone, which takes both wide angle and fisheye photos.


I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the lens, as I find it to be especially useful for taking pictures in fairly tight spaces, like hotel rooms…


…and even airplane seats.


While it has been really fun to play with, I’m trying to figure out how useful the iPhone lens is in practice. Obviously I don’t want to get to the point where every picture is using a fisheye lens, but in general I’m curious about the following (and I’m sure I’m not the only one, as these iPhone lenses become more common):

  • Are fisheye lens pictures useful in trip reports, or do they just look too “amateur?” If they are useful, under what circumstances?
  • How about on Instagram? Does the type of picture which is acceptable differ between Instagram and a review on the blog?

While I realize the “curves” of a fisheye picture can be annoying, it really is sort of awesome to be able to get an entire area into one picture, like of the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment:


Previously the best types of pictures I could get of Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment were as follows:



One thing I’ve also found surprisingly useful is the wide-angle lens. The contrast isn’t nearly as great as with a fisheye lens, but can still make quite a difference. For example, here’s the best picture I was able to take of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque without a lens on my iPhone:


Meanwhile here’s the best picture I could take with my iPhone using the wide-angle lens:


As you can see, it doesn’t have nearly the level of distortion of a fisheye lens.

I’ve also loved the wide-angle lens for taking pictures out the window of planes, especially of wings. For example, here’s a wing picture I was able to take with the wide-angle lens:


And another one:


Without the wide-angle lens I wouldn’t have been able to get both engines into a single picture with room to spare. And I don’t think it’s that obvious.

Bottom line

I’ve been loving the Olloclip iPhone 6 lens. Regardless of whether or not it’s useful for trip reports, I’ve just been having so much fun taking pictures with it.

But I’m curious what you guys think — is there value in posting fisheye pictures on the blog, or is it better for Instagram? Or not at all? What about the wide-angle pictures instead?

  1. Keep using it! For the blog and Instagram. Like you said it’s great for tight spaces and allows us to see much more.

  2. I’ve been using one of these for years. I find that if I crop the image a little, it gives me the extra wide view that I need, but eliminates the fish-eye effect. You might want to consider cropping.

  3. I agree with Craig. Cropping to elimate the bulk of the curvature would be best. In photography, a fish-eye lens is used extremely rarely, usually for landscapes or to tell a very specific story.

  4. I think the fisheye lens pictures are perfectly appropriate for a review. For example, not that you often find yourself staying in small hotel rooms, but if you did, such pictures would be very useful there — I recently stayed in a very-nice-but-very-tiny standard room at the (SPG) Great Northern Hotel in London and tried to communicate to a friend by pictures just how compact it was, and it was really hard to do — this lens would have been perfect.

  5. I think that the wide angle lens is great for your reviews, but the fisheye lens should probably only be used for Instagram (where I think it’s fine). I think that you should take most pictures normally, but use the wide angle when necessary and the fisheye if you can’t get a picture otherwise.

  6. The fish-eye is annoying and useless. Wide angle or panorama shots are more than welcome and quite helpful, however.

  7. Wide angle? Yes. I use them all the time and think they are great.

    Fish eye? Use it *very* sparingly, otherwise it does get tiresome pretty quickly. And with all the distortion, it’s not like you get a real sense of what the space is like anyway.

  8. Fisheye can get annoying easily. I also think it is actually rare that they are helpful to get a feeling for the size of a room. The distortion makes it sometimes hard to estimate distances. But for the Etihad Suite it was a good choice. I tend to use the wide angle lens for pictures with longish items in it, if I want to highlight that part.
    To get all on the picture in small rooms (like bathrooms) I would suggest the wide lens. The fisheye is nice to add in another perspective from time to time.

  9. I recently bought the same lens as you and I think a panoramic picture looks way better in most situations. I say that because you can see the whole area without the curving in the corners. However, the one downside of taking a panorama is that everything looks flat (but it’s free!). But I do find certain situations where the fish-eye lens is better than a panorama, so it is still useful.

  10. I vote for “annoying” (as I said on the other post).

    The wide-angle ones are OK. In the case of the mosque the distortion in clearly visible because of the vertical towers, in others it is harder to see. But even when it’s visible, it’s at a tolerable level.

    Photo editing programs should be able to remove or minimize distortion (but this will increase the time it takes to prepare a post). For the wide-angle, the result would probably be quite good, for the fish-eye, they’re probably beyond repair.

  11. As a photographer I find fisheye photos to be tacky and useless. There are some instances that they can be used correctly but it has to be in moderation or only used for a single shot.

    Wide angle is a different story though. A 16 or 17mm will result in excellent landscape or close up shots of larger objects. Over my travels throughout the last few years I’ve found 16/17 to be more than sufficient for most of those tourist attractions you can never fit in a standard shot. I actually prefer to keep any distoartion (like that shown in the mosque picture) because I feel it gives the viewer a sense of the objects size.

  12. Several properties I’ve looked at on airbnb and homeaway are using them, and I won’t rent those places, because I can’t get a good idea how large the space it. I don’t like them for those reasons.

  13. Fish eye is very annoying and not useful because it distorts the entire picture. Would rather have two pics or a wide angle/panaroma picture.

  14. Fisheye distortions is very annoying.Extremely. For artistic shot, sure. For a regular picture (or, worse, multiple pictures), hell no.

    Wide angle sparingly. While it does capture a bit more, any sign of distortion is just as annoying as fisheye (such as the tower bending in the mosque picture) – an iPhone panorama does much better in these cases.

  15. I think they’re annoying, but I’m also tired of seeing fisheye pictures of hipster dance parties posted by my friends on Facebook… So, maybe I’m just soured on them?

    I don’t know if this is any better or different, but I noticed that on my Nexus 6 I can shoot something called a “Photo Sphere” where it captures images in 360 degrees on all three axes and then produces an immersive-feeling image that you can scroll around. It’s pretty cool for getting a feel for what a given space is like. Might be something you’d want to use for the blog?

  16. Poor Ford, hang in there. @Sheldoncooper (LOL and what a great screen name)

    I agree that the fish-eye has it’s value & the Apartment is it! love that pic 4A/4K 🙂

    Safe Landings in the New Year to you. Ford, & All!

  17. Having taken photos of building interiors for well over 25 years, the lenses to use for accuracy and authenticity is a wide angel lease. The fisheye is a carnival / funhouse lense other than distorting an image just for the fun of it it serves no purpose.

  18. If you do use the fisheye lens, please, please, please could you use the Adaptive Wide Angle filter in Photoshop to undo the distortion. That way we get to see the whole image but don’t have to be subjected to the awful curves on everything.

  19. I don’t like it even in DLSR machines but it’s my personal opinion. In fact the most important thing is to register the moment and that’s why I always use a photo machine instead of cell phones in my leasure trips.

    By I might agree your pics were very good.

  20. Fisheye has its place. Be careful with the wide angle lens, particularly around the edges / corners. For instance, in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque wide angle photo, you will notice that the left minaret has some serious chromatic aberration (left edge blue, right edge yellow), and the minaret as a whole lacks detail that is otherwise there in the iPhone photo without the extra lens.

  21. I don’t like the fisheye which is why I got Oclio’s other lens set with a zoom and wide angle. I find zoom the best addition.

  22. The olloclip produces a below average image. I have the same lens and I don’t use it much anymore because of the inferior image quality it produces.

  23. you should be able to de-fish the image in software.

    Even the wide-angle has a fair bit of distortion but if you shoot with a level horizon that should also be correctable in software.

  24. The wide angle photos are great.

    The fish eye ones look pretty crap to be frank. Stick with the wide eye. And keep the filters off – the photo of the mosque without the filter looks way better than with the filter

  25. Fisheye gives a much bigger field of view than a standard wide-angle lens. If you use photoshop or another post processing program to get rid of the distortion you get the best of both worlds. A super-wide angle without too much of the ugly fisheye distortion

  26. fisheye lens is gimmicky and annoying. Wide angle is great in certain situations – just be careful of distortion

  27. I’m a professional commercial photographer. Fisheye is tacky garbage. Please at least try to shoot something of quality.

  28. You should talk to Andy Luten of Andy’s Travel Blog. He does some of the most amazing travel photos I’ve ever seen in the blogosphere.

  29. I like the wide angle lens for when you’re trying to capture something like your seat, or out the window. It’s useful and gives the reader a great view. For landscape and monuments and the like, I think the shot gets too distorted unless you have a really good wide angle lens (for a DSLR or what not).

  30. I like both. I don’t get annoyed by the fish eye because it really does give a sense of what’s in a space (even though it’s warped). It’s kind of fun. The wide angle can cover so much more and gives an idea how a lounge or a certain scene looks like. Keep up the good work.

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