When I was studying photography it seemed like everyone was buying a Lomo camera, shooting a couple of roles of film on it, and then forgetting about it. I was no exception, and my camera of choice was the Lomo Fisheye No. 2. The honest truth is these cameras are fun, but shit. Everything that's cool about the lens is held back by the crappy camera body it's married to. And they don't shoot video!
For almost as long as I've owned the camera I have wanted to liberate that quaint fisheye lens from its restrictive film body, mount it on my DSLR and actually use it. I've been especially interested in using it to shoot video, and have its characteristic look in mind for a particular short film I'm working on.
So after six years of shelf time, I tore my Lomo Fisheye No. 2 camera to pieces, smashed the Lens off it, taped it to a filter ring and screwed it onto my digital SLR. The results were awesome.
Check out the video above to see exactly how I did it, and to see a bunch of fun test footage that I shot with the lens. Then keep reading this article for more details and sample still images.
As you can see from the stills on this page, the lens has a bunch of really fantastic characteristics. Most obvious is the warped ultra-wide field of view, but the lens also features a really intense and natural vignette - the sample images in this post aren't photoshopped. You can leave this vignette as is, or if you're shooting RAW you can recover those shadow details and really show off that warped fisheye perspective most prominent at the edges of the image.
There's also heaps of chromatic aberration. It's like a National-Geographic-Stereoscopic-Dinosaur-Special-Edition. You could possibly try and wrangle that in your RAW processor, but I'd rather just call a crappy lens crappy and go with it! Finally the focus is all over the place in a very cool, impressionistic way.
These characteristics may sound undesirable to a discerning cinematographer or photographer, but with this Lens they come together to create a really honest, impressionistic look. I say embrace the funkiness. Nobody is putting a Turner or a Monet through Lightroom and adjusting it into a Jeffery Smart, and nor should they be. Not everything has to be sharp all the time - leave a little room for the imagination.
At the moment I'm shooting on a Nikon DSLR, so I have my modified fisheye screwed in front of an old school Nikkor 28mm Prime. To get the best results with the fisheye I have the Nikkor wide open at f 2.8. This is for purely aesthetic reasons and is not based on any technical reasoning whatsoever. But the more you stop down the lens the more the vignette closes in on the image.
I'm sure the field of view, vignette, colour reproduction and depth of field will all vary depending on what lens you mount the fisheye in front of. So some experimentation would probably be worthwhile.
I repurposed (read: smashed up with a hammer) a Hoya filter for the mounting system, so that may not be the most versatile option if you're thinking of moving between lenses, as filter sizes are far from universal.
Now, I know what you're thinking... "MAX YOU'RE SO STUPID! - Lomo make a fisheye lens for DSLRS you wasted so much time... HAHAHA". I know. I've known that for ages. I knew that before I did this. I knew it before you were born. Shut up. I wanted to do this, so I did it.
The whole lens adaptation took less than an afternoon to accomplish and was well worthwhile. I turned a camera/toy that I never used into a tool that I'm going to use a lot, and had a lot of fun doing it. If you enjoy tinkering and have one of these cameras to spare, check out the video up top to see exactly how I did it, then give it a shot yourself.