Fun with the Fisheye Lomography Camera

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Nowadays my phone is my most-often-used camera, which is unfortunate because of its lack of quality but advantageous because I always have it with me. When I want to take ‘serious’ pictures, i.e. pictures that look halfway decent, I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ2—it ran me about two hundred bucks four years ago, and it takes sharp images with vivid colors with a compact 6x zoom lens. I hear the newest Lumix brand cameras are really nice too.

But I’ve also enjoyed shooting film over the past few years. Just 35mm, sometimes black and white. If you have a dark room, it’s fun to make prints directly from black and white projections onto light-sensitive paper, but that’s not my favorite part of the process; I wasn’t very good at it! It is neat to see the images appear in the chemical baths, though.

I prefer shooting color transparent slide film. The disadvantage to slides is that it’s difficult to get good scans; inevitably there ends up being a lot of post-processing to attain what they ‘really’ look like, when I hold the slides up to the sunlight and squint at the tiny frames. They’re also relatively expensive.

With all this in mind I purchased a Fisheye Lomography camera. A lomo camera is one typically made of plastic parts, with a plastic lens; the inaccuracies of the camera result in compelling images with bleeding colors. With an SLR you might be trying to get a sharp, real-to-life image, but lomography allows for dream-like surreal scenes that appear to be from another era.

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It’s a neat camera for about fifty bucks, and this model takes 35mm film. Usually I enjoy using zoom lenses to capture small slices of a larger scene, and to make myself invisible to the subject. I chose the fisheye lens, though, because it is essentially the opposite of a zoom lens and it would be a challenge to use.

The fisheye lens squishes a whole scene into a small space, which means a close-up subject become surprisingly small. You practically have to put the camera against someone’s nose if you want them to take up most of the frame! In fact, the lens has a crazy depth of field that ranges from about three inches to infinity— you can’t adjust it, and the whole scene is in focus.

Since I don’t like people to be aware of the camera, this makes photography with the lomo difficult! You have to be really sly to take a picture three inches away from someone without them knowing— or at least, without them reacting in the picture. This would be a good camera to takes pictures of friends, however, I really only carry a camera when I’m by myself.

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The other interesting thing about this camera is that you can’t adjust the exposure, so sunlight is a must. I haven’t experimented with the flash because I prefer daylight. These shots are from 400 speed film and some were underexposed, surprisingly.

The other big thing is that you can’t see what you’re shooting! There’s a semi-functional viewfinder that approximates the fisheye lens, but it’s entirely perfunctory. Instead, you just use your eyes and your gut and you point and shoot. I often shoot from the hip. It’s fun, in contrast to all the buttons and switches of most SLRs. Then again, film is unforgiving and irrevocable so a lot of shots are wasted.

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These pictures are with high quality Fuji film, color transparent slides. Almost ten bucks a pop, with about thirty photos on a roll. I don’t remember what their brand is called. Kodak stuff is great too, but a little more expensive. The colors really shout, but like I said, it’s difficult to get good digital scans. People often use cheap grocery store negative color film in lomo cameras, anyway;  of course the cost is appealing but I haven’t tried it yet.

The long and short of it is that it’s a fun camera for the price, but I still use my digital camera if I want sharp, clear images.

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