Today, as part of my on-going obsession with Lomography and Lomo cameras, I’ll be talking about my newest little toy camera, the Lomography Fisheye 2, in this review-ish type of post. As it’s not a fully-featured camera, I cannot follow my usual camera review structure, but as I often do, I’ll simply share my thoughts on this camera here, and talk of how it performs, how it works, and how I find the entire experience of using it to be
By the way, apologies for the lack of new posts the last week or two – the site has been undergoing some changes and updates, and unfortunately these have been taking more of my day, leaving little time to write some of the actual stuff that you want to read. I’m back now, though!
Alright, so the Fisheye 2 is (obviously) a fisheye camera, made by Lomography, or to use their full name, Lomographische AG. It has a nice, big fisheye lens, it uses 35mm film, and is supposed to be the only compact 35mm film camera with a built-in fisheye lens. Maybe it’s the only compact with a fisheye lens, digital or film. Either way, it’s a pretty cool product. Among the users of the Fisheye 2 camera is one Mr. Brad Pitt! Yeah…it’s a cool camera!
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Hmm…what else is there to say about it? Like other toy cameras, it’s very basic, and simple to use. Controls are few, easy to use…and…yeah. It’s turning out to be a bit of a challenge to find things to say about this camera, so I’ll just skip this part and get to the next bit!
Alright, again…not much to list here… but I’ll write down whatever specs I know about this thing, along with whatever (few) bits of info that Lomography’s own site states:
- Body: Compact, plastic (with a bit of metal)
- Lens: Fixed, 170° field-of-view fisheye lens (not sure about the focal length)
- Aperture: Fixed, f8.0
- Shutter Speeds: 1/100 (N), and Bulb (B)
- Focusing: Fixed focus
- Pre-focused distance: Not given
- Macro: It manages close-up subjects pretty well (no more info, I’m afraid!)
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Hot-shoe: Yes
- Optical Viewfinder: Yes, external fisheye viewfinder (included) attaches to the hot-shoe
- Film Advance: Manual
- Film Counter: Yes, auto-resetting
- Tripod Mount: No (!!)
And that’s it. If there’s anything else that you’re wondering about, it probably doesn’t have it. What do you expect, it’s a dead-basic toy camera! But for what it is, I think that’s a pretty decent spec, don’t you think? The only things I find a bit weird are the single aperture/single shutter speed – the Diana and Holga have two – and the lack of zone focusing. However, that makes the simple shooting experience of the Holga/Diana cameras even simpler. Now there’s no zone focusing to think about. There’s no day/night shutter speed/aperture to set. You seriously just need to point and shoot
The other thing I find weird, and quite disappointing is the missing tripod screw. Considering there’s a bulb mode, this is pretty necessary, unless you’re always going for really crazy, streaky exposures! Anyhow, moving on…
Before I get to the build of the Fisheye 2, I think the packaging deserves a mention. This camera comes in a very nice box, which then flips open, to reveal the Fisheye 2 in all its glory, in a fisheye-like bubble of its own! Very attractive indeed! I don’t usually take in-package shots – I generally open everything up before I take my product shots – but this time, I just had to share a few of these pictures. See?
It also comes with an instruction sheet, a little booklet that describes the fisheye philosophy, which is full of fisheye images…and also comes with a large poster that has a large picture of the camera on one side, and a bunch of ideas on how to get different sorts of Lomo-style fisheye images on the other side. Have a look at the pictures above
Build quality? Build quality is good. It’s mostly plastic, but it has a noticeably better feel than my other two true toy cameras, the Diana+ and the Holga 120N. Stronger plastic, I guess. Considering it costs around 3x the price of the Holga, and a fair bit more than the Diana, I suppose that’s expected…but it’s nice to see that you’re actually getting a bit of what you’re paying for. The silver strip that covers the front of the body is (thin) metal, and it adds to the quality feel. I still feel these Lomography cameras (the Diana+ and this Fisheye 2) are a bit overpriced for what they are…but still, they’re cool and take pretty cool pictures…so I’m not really complaining. For $20 though, you really can’t beat the Holga for pure value!
The camera looks very good. Doesn’t it? Yeah, it does. It’s got a classic look about it, with that external viewfinder attached on top, nice lines, and all that – very good-looking indeed. The only thing that ruins the looks…and really, really ruins it at that…is the cheap, pale blue, soft plastic lens cap and wrist strap. It’s quite ghastly. No idea why they picked that color. I wouldn’t have minded the quality of it (which isn’t all that bad when you think about it) if it were of a better color. I mean, they make that really cool black and silver body, and then add this toy-like blue lens cap/strap? Argh! The only reason I don’t change it is because…well, two reasons: firstly, I cannot find a replacement lens cap that fits as well…and secondly, the lens cap is attached to the wrist strap, which is well designed, and easy to use. But still…I hate it!
Overall, being the most expensive of my cheap toy cameras, it is also the best built. Second only to the much more expensive Lomo LC-A. It also looks the best. And it’s the most compact (again, after the LC-A). Impressive
Super basic, right? Let me go through them quickly. The top has most of the controls. There’s the shutter speed switch, which selects between L (shutter lock), N (normal, 1/100 sec) and B (bulb). There’s the shutter button. There’s the film counter. There’s the film rewind crank all the way on the left side. And there’s the hot-shoe, which will hold either the viewfinder, or an external flash
On the back, there’s the Multiple Exposure switch (read on for more on that), the film rewind wheel, the flash-ready lamp, and a film window that looks through the back of the film to remind you what film speed/brand you’re using
The bottom has the battery door, which takes the single AA battery needed for the flash, and lacks a tripod screw mount
The front has an On/Off switch for the flash, and the flash itself
The left side of the body has a release switch that opens the film back. And that’s it. Not many when you really look at it. Super easy to use
The Fisheye Lens: Of course, this is what the camera is basically all about! The very interesting, 170° field-of-view fisheye lens! Unless you’ve used a fisheye camera before, you will be surprised at how wide the field-of-view really is. It’s unlike anything else. If your hair is too long, make sure you hold it back, or it’s going to show in front of your viewfinder! That’s how wide it is! It really captures everything your eye can see. However, it’s not for everybody. It takes the super-wide-angle, fisheye-distorted, circular images. If that’s not your thing, this is not your camera. I think that should go without saying, but some people might be taken away with the looks of this camera, without realizing that it takes one kind of pictures. If the fisheye-style isn’t your thing, look for something else! Have a look at the sample pictures that this camera takes, and decide for yourself
Built-in Flash: Yes, it’s got a built-in flash. It works fine. I’m not sure about the range, but it works well with close-ups, and that’s pretty much what you should be aiming to do with any built-in flash! Note that the flash is super slow to recharge, though. I don’t know if my battery was weak or something, but it takes around 15-20 seconds to charge/recharge the flash…and that’s super slow. So although it’s very useful, and is probably alright for average shooting, the wait between flash exposures can be quite annoying
Hot-shoe: If you want to attach an external flash, you can. Via the hot-shoe. A very useful feature. When you get the camera, the external viewfinder is already attached, but that can be removed to attach any manual flash. I have my little Holga flash, but I wasn’t comfortable shooting without a viewfinder (I never am), so I didn’t remove it to fix the flash. However, this opens up a lot of interesting possibilities, if you’re up for it, the coolest one being using the flash when shooting using the new Bulb mode. What this does is, it fires the internal flash as you press the shutter…then, after you hold the bulb exposure for as long as you want, as you release the shutter, the external flash fires. That must make for some interesting shots. Especially if you have some color filters for your flash. Nice
External Fisheye Viewfinder: This one, like I just said, is attached to the hot-shoe, and makes shooting much easier. It’s one of the few improvements that the Fisheye 2 has over the original Fisheye, and I think it’s a pretty significant one. It’s very nice to use, and although it’s obviously not 100% accurate, it most importantly gives you a feel for the fisheye effect, and makes you compose the shots in a way that I find would be very difficult without it. If you’re deciding between the Fisheye and the Fisheye 2, I’d definitely get the Fisheye 2, mainly for this ‘finder (along with some of the other features!)
Bulb Mode: Another feature that’s new on the Fisheye 2 is this bulb mode. Having just one shutter speed (1/100 sec), this bulb mode gives you a lot more flexibility, especially for night shots, where it’s not just about the flexibility but where it’s absolutely necessary. You can get some nice light streaks and movement and all that stuff, although I do wish they included a tripod mount on the body, to get some steadiness into the shot. I like light streaks, but I also like my photos to be steady and fairly sharp! Camera-shake isn’t an option for me. I need to find a level surface and a way of composing my shot from that surface every time I shoot bulb. Anyway, it’s a good new feature
Multiple Exposure button: The last (I believe) of the new features of the Fisheye 2 compared to the original Fisheye is the MX (multiple exposure) button. It’s a simple switch that does a basic job: it readies the shutter without having to advance the film. So you shoot your first frame…slide the MX switch…and shoot again. Repeat if you want triple exposures or 4x exposures. Easy. And a great feature to have if you want to go a bit extreme
And that’s all the special features from this camera that I can think of. That’s quite a lot actually. If I had to go through the Holga 120N or the Diana+, I doubt I could’ve listed that many. Yeah, this camera is pretty impressive…isn’t it? I’m really starting to like it
Performance (Using the Lomography Fisheye 2)
I’m not sure why I’m writing a performance bit on a toy camera – probably because it fits into the format of my previous reviews and it’s a place where I can write about the experience of using the Fisheye 2 – but I’m doing it anyway. Here goes!
There’s hardly any mechanical or electronic parts to talk of, other than the flash – which I already mentioned is pretty poor in terms of speed – so I’ll just get down to the operation of the camera before I wrap it all up. Alright
Setting up the camera is easy enough. Slide the switch on the side to pop the back. Loading film is like any other 35mm film camera. Nothing more to add there. Once you shut the back and wind up to the first frame, you’re ready to shoot
No zone focusing to worry about, no apertures to think of…just flick the shutter speed switch from the L (locked) position to N (normal), point the camera at the subject (you can compose through the viewfinder) and press the shutter. That’s about as easy as any camera gets. There’s nothing simpler. Advance the film using the film advance wheel, and repeat
If you want to use the flash, switch it on (the switch is found on the front, beside the lens), wait till the flash-ready light illuminates (which can take around 20 seconds), and go through the same process again. Again, super easy
If you want to shoot multiple exposures, I already mentioned it above, but if you skipped the Features bit, this is simple too. Just shoot your first frame, but without advancing to the next frame, slide the MX switch to the right, which readies the shutter…then click again, and you have your second exposure on the same frame of film. Repeat if you want more than two exposures on the same frame
And that’s about it, really. Once you’re done with your entire roll, lift the film rewinding crank, and rewind the film. There’s no film release button to worry about. There’s hardly anything to worry about, really…as I said before, it is as basic as a camera can get. But it just works well – and apart from the slow flash recharge, I really have no complaints. The pictures it produces…well, that’s for the next bit…
Alright, so when I say image quality, I’m not referring to the quality of images in regular terms. There will be no sharpness tests. No color tests, no distortion tests, no tests for vignettes and color fringing. No, none of that. This is simply where I discuss the unique quality that can be found in images taken by many Lomo cameras, like this Fisheye 2, and the unmistakable type of image that they take. Full of little imperfections and interesting traits, these toy cameras have this awesome signature that is left behind on every image they produce, and the Fisheye 2, being one of these unique Lomo cameras, is no exception, and that’s what I’m going to talk about (briefly) in this part
Alright, so apart from the Fisheye lens, and the look that comes with it, the images produced by this camera are very similar to other Lomo cameras…and that’s a good thing. I love the look that these toys produce, and I’m glad to see the same thing going on here. I’m not surprised, but I’m glad it doesn’t try to do anything new. Colors are bright, contrasty, very saturated and vibrant. Vignetting isn’t noticeable due to the fisheye view, but overall, it has the fantastic, beautiful look that Lomography is all about. Very satisfying
The fisheye look adds a lot to the style too. It maybe a bit different to the kind of fisheye photography you might know, though…as the photographs taken on this, as you will see in the sample images, are basically circular images in the middle of a black frame i.e. it doesn’t use up the entire 35mm frame. You may know that this is the case, but if you don’t…that’s how it is. You can always crop out the central part of the frame if you wish…but I like how it is right out of the camera. The fisheye effect is nice. It really is
However, all this that I speak of is characteristic of the shots that turn out well. And to be honest, after shooting my second roll of film with it, I can’t say that I’ve captured many real keepers with this – as can be seen by my very few sample images; definitely not as many as I’d get from a roll shot with my Diana, Holga, or LC-A. Looking back, I don’t find this too surprising as the Fisheye 2 has got just the one exposure setting, apart from the Bulb mode, whereas the Diana and Holga has two or more possible exposure settings, and the LC-A has full automatic exposure. However, I was still more than a bit surprised (and very disappointed) upon scanning these negative strips and seeing the results on m screen. Yes, the recommended film speed for the Fisheye is ISO 400, and I, unable to find ISO 400 film, had to settle for ISO 200, which explains the severely underexposed shots that I got, but even some of my flash exposures in low indoor lighting looked dark. Shots taken in bright sunlight, as you can see in a few of my sample shots, look fine, and it’s from more than a few shots like these (and seeing the shots taken by others online) that I come to my conclusion of the Fisheye’s signature image quality; but the exposures taken in other circumstances just didn’t work for me. It always takes a couple of rolls for me to get used to a film camera and how it works, so I’m sure the next couple of rolls will yield better success – I’ll update you guys once I try out a couple of ISO 400 rolls – but until then, have a look at my sample images below, as well as some of the ones posted by others on the Lomography website. As you can see there, this camera is definitely more than capable
And that’s about all I have for you regarding the quality of images that the Fisheye 2 takes. Colorful, punchy, contrasty…with a serious circular fisheye effect…in a very Lomo way. Just as expected. But you, like myself, might have to work a bit harder than usual to get this type of shot. When you do, it’s extremely satisfying
Sample Image Gallery
Sorry that I do not have more – I didn’t get many keepers with my first couple of rolls – but as usual, if you want more, check out the images shared on Lomography’s own website
Product Image Gallery
Well, there’s not much to not like about this camera. It comes in a beautiful box. It looks fantastic. It’s built better than most (or all new) toy cameras. It has a built-in flash. It has a hot-shoe for external flash units. It comes with a fisheye viewfinder. It has a great little 170° field-of-view fisheye lens. It makes multiple exposure photography very easy. It has a bulb mode. It takes great, toy-camera-style fisheye pictures. It’s SUPER easy to use. What more convincing do you need? The only negatives are the slow flash recharge, and the price, which is always a high for a toy camera…and of course, the fact that (so far) I’ve been finding it a bit tough to get the good results that this camera is capable of. But with a bit of work, you’re going to get some very nice fisheye images, as you can see by the loads of images found on Lomography.com (and here too, if you keep a lookout for the updates), and that’s great. So yeah…now you know my views on this camera. It’s one of the most fun toy cameras I’ve used – then again, they’re all really fun to use – and once you figure out how to get the most of it (use ISO 400 film unless you’re in bright sunlight!) it’ll give you a lot of satisfaction
Compared to the original Fisheye, it’s pretty similar, except that it includes a hot-shoe, and that all-important external viewfinder, as well as the Bulb mode and MX feature. Apart from these (three) aspects, it’s pretty much identical, in looks and performance. However, I regard all three of them pretty big improvements, so if you’re buying a Lomo Fisheye camera today, I suggest you spend a few dollars more and get the Fisheye 2
And after writing way more than I expected I would – I surprise myself – I am done. Please leave a comment with any thoughts or questions you have on this camera. If you own one, let me know if you’d like me to share some of your own fisheye lomographs. Or just let me know your thoughts. Until next time
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By Heshan Jayakody All text and image content here is my own, except where note
- Lomography Horizon Kompakt (pcmag.com)
- Lomography film scanner lets you share 35mm film from a smartphone (pocket-lint.com)
- 5 Ways to Get Creative with a Fisheye Lens (digital-photography-school.com)