Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Doing a Lomo Happy Dance—Scored My First Lomo Camera for $5

Last week after finishing reading one book about plastic cameras, I decided to explore some thrift shops to see if I could find some old plastic junky cameras, preferably a Diana or a Holga (one can have high hopes). The idea was hatched on the morning that we had to go to another city that I usually never go to, for a doctor’s appointment. I wanted to check a Goodwill up there and see if there were any other thrift shops in that city. I barely know anything about that city and have only been there three times in my life (despite living in Connecticut my entire life).

I did a search online and found that Google maps does a search to tell you the names, addresses and phone numbers of all businesses in a category and it lays out the points on a map. I took down some phone numbers to input into my new car navigation system (which I am still learning to use).

The trip was botched though. The navigation system didn’t think that some of the phone numbers existed, so I couldn’t find my way to them with just the phone number. I should have written down the street address. (This is yet another shortcoming of this navigation system.) Then I put in two destinations after the doctor’s visit was over and the Goodwill was supposedly ½ mile away (fantastic). Somehow though it didn’t direct me there but a roundabout, longer way to the other one that was three miles away. I asked it to route me from one to the other (seems pretty easy doesn’t it). I got annoyed when I realized I had somehow gone by the first stop without the system telling me I had. This was traffic-y driving and it was hard enough to keep my eyes on the road and get into the right lanes so I could not look at every sign in the wall-to-wall strip malls I was driving past. Frustrated, before getting to the farther away store and I declared the journey over when I was going by the on-ramp to the highway so just jumped on it to head home.

On the ride home I was disappointed because I really wanted to see if anyone had any toy cameras. So when closer to home I stopped in the Goodwill which is one town away from me (not using the navigation, just using my brain, thank you). I had never looked at cameras there before and did find them in the back, thrown onto a shelf. I didn’t find anything except some digital cameras and some battery operated automatic 35mm cameras, so I headed out. I stopped at the glass cases by the cash register which are kept locked. I peered in and saw to my surprise, a Lomography box, it was a fisheye camera! JACKPOT!

I have wanted a fisheye camera forever as I just think they are fun! I asked to see it and it was in perfect looking condition with all of the booklets and directions intact. The box was just ripped when the person tried to open it the incorrect way. It was $5. I bought it on the spot and held it like treasure while I waited in the long line to pay.

Upon getting home I read the directions and realized they’d never been read before, they were way too crisp. When I went to load the film in (which I already had on hand from past uses of 35 mm film), I discovered the silica gel packet inside and realized the camera had never been used! This is a special edition camera made for Urban Outfitters and the original price sticker says it was $38. It is all white including the very edges of the barrel (is that what it is called?) and pretty cool looking.

I went outside and began snapping shots. I had a homeschool meeting to go to and so had to stop playing with it (darn). I almost took some shots while at the coffee shop but I figured the ladies would think I was off my rocker for playing with a fisheye plastic camera so I didn’t do it. (If they read this blog they’ll find out about it though.)

The next day I took it to the homeschool park day with me and snapped more shots. I finished the 24 exposure roll by dinnertime and ran to the drug store to get it developed. I couldn’t wait to see how they came out!

Here I am with a self-portrait, taken in my driveway, the day I bought the camera. (I now know I should have used the flash even though it was sunny outside, becaues the sun was behind me.)

Things learned about the Lomography Fisheye Camera:

1. No matter how bright it is indoors, you do need the flash.

2. My camera leaves odd black shapes in the corners when the flash is used. This might be my shadow; I’m not sure, as it is only on the left side.

3. It works best in bright sun.

4. Even when the sun is overhead (at 1:30pm or 2:00pm) when I try to take a shot looking straight forward or slightly up the sun is in the shot.

5. Even when close to the subject in the center of the shot, (3 feet) the thing appears far away. In photos of my son riding his bike he looks 10 feet or more away when he was so close to me that he almost was going to hit me.

6. You can get very close in, such as 1-2 inches and the shot comes out.

7. Close-up’s of faces get distorted.

8. There is a fine line between getting a very close shot that has enough light versus using the flash and having the close thing overexposed and whited-out.

9. My white camera sometimes leaves a white ring around the fisheye. I see that the regular Lomography fisheye camera has a black area (barrel?) around the lens which leaves a sharp black outline around the circle of the fisheye. The black looks better. Note the black camera is sold by and goes for $50.

10. The flash is malfunctioning. Sometimes when it is on and the light is on, it does not go off. Sometimes when the flash is shut off, the light is still on and the flash does go off when I don’t want it to. Other times no light is on and the flash goes off anyway. I am confused!! Even with a $38 camera I expect the flash to be working right. This tells me then that the Lomographic Society is overcharging for their cameras which truly in the end are as some call them “crappy plastic cameras”.

11. The top and bottom of the circle are cut off. If you desire a true round fisheye, they do sell a fisheye adaptor lens for the Holga camera.

12. The viewfinder is ‘normal’ and you don’t really know how your image will come out, which things are included or not included in your shot. You have to just aim and shoot and what comes out in the end is a total surprise.

Already wishing for more…

1. My camera is the first generation of fisheye camera that Lomo made. You cannot do a double or multiple exposures. There is a new model “Fisheye No. 2” which has a lot more features such as allowing for multiple exposures, having a shoe for a second flash that can be used for longer exposures, has a true fisheye viewfinder, and comes with one pack of film for $70.

2. Lomo also sell an additional product that makes the camera waterproof for underwater shots!

3. They sell a special cutter to quickly and smoothly cut the circle shape out.
I am already thinking that I should start using this camera not just for fooling around but such as for taking shots when doing tourist-y things. How fun would it be to have more typical tourist photos but done in fisheye view?

Fisheye microsite at

Fisheye Camera exclusive edition for Urban Outfitters (the one I now own)

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