The NISI 15mm f4 is an ultra-wide angle lens designed for full-frame mirrorless cameras. With a price tag of R9 999, it is an incredibly affordable wide angle lens, with similar lenses retailing for at least x4 the price. NISI are well-known for producing exceptional quality lens filters, but just how good is this budget-friendly piece of glass? There are a number of technical reviews online, but below is my hands-on, jargon-free, non-technical review. The images were captured on a Sony A7riii, both handheld and on a tripod. With the exception of a NISI Natural CPL lens filters were used, and post-production has been limited to basic shadow and highlight adjustments.
The NISI 15mm f4 is compact and lightweight, yet solidly constructed. It is all metal and feels robust - a lot like old film lenses. Despite being a super wide-angle lens, there’s no bulbous front element, which makes attaching and using lens filters far easier. No need for extra-large filter mounts; the thread diameter is 72mm, a size shared with many other lenses. The lens hood is included and is detachable. The markings on the lens are printed on and are bold and clear. As someone who’s rather rough on his gear, I never felt that I had to be gentle with the lens.
Functionality and ergonomics
This is a manual focus lens, with a large focus ring that turns through 100° from the minimum focal distance (20cm) to infinity. This means with a single twist of your fingers you can move across the focal range. Nearer to the base of the lens is the aperture ring, rotating from f4 to f22, with a subtle click into place at each f-stop. Although being a compact lens, I found the rings easy to operate and not too close together. I usually shoot on Sony glass, and when focusing in manual mode the camera automatically zooms in to assist with finding focus. The NISI 15mm lens doesn’t trigger this function, so I had to manually magnify the focal area to check sharpness. After a while, this became second nature. (This is not unique to this lens, and would be the same with any manual lens.) Another (potentially petty) gripe I have is that the lens secures to my camera in the opposite direction to my Sony lenses.
NISI are new to the lens game, so my expectations for image quality were tempered. I’m happy to report, however, that I was impressed with the results. Sharpness is decent across the frame, though nothing too remarkable. I found the lens to be sharper nearer to the minimum focal distance and softer toward infinity. I shot a few focus stacked images, and I was pleased with the results. Can it compare to a Sony G-Master 16-35mm? No. But then again, it doesn’t cost R45000 either. The colour cast was in the images I shot was minimal, but lent more to the cool side in my experience. Interestingly, I noticed an apparent boost in vibrance to the colours when compared to my Sony 24-105mm. I also noticed slight vignetting, which is expected and easily corrected. This was more prominent when shooting at f16 than at f4. I did not specifically shoot to test chromatic aberration, and the CA that appeared was corrected with a single click in Lightroom.
A quick Google search will reveal that the NISI 15mm lens is marketed very much around its ability to produce sunstars. When shooting into the sun with a wide-angle lens, an attractively rendered sunstar can be a pleasing part of your composition. The NISI 15mm f4 delivers on its promise. From f4 through to f16, the lens produced sunstars that my Sony 16-35mm f4 lens would be jealous of, though not quite as crisp as the iconic Canon 16-35mm. If you’d like to read more about sunstars and how to create them, check out this article by Erin Babnik. During my test, I photographed both natural and non-natural light sources and was pleased with both. For architectural photography, this a plus too, as lights on homes or buildings will be rendered beautifully.
The NISI 15mm retails for R9 999, making it a highly affordable wide-angle lens, and at that price, a stellar performer. Comparing it to prime Sony glass is simply not a fair comparison. So who is this lens for? Well, for landscape photographers looking to add a wide-angle lens to their kit - without taking a bond to do so - I think the NISI 15mm f4 is a great purchase. It’s well built, compact, affordable, ergonomically easy to use, and it produces images that will shine in your portfolio.