This week, the folks over at Lomography have announced the release of a new Fisheye No.2 camera: the Fisheye No. 2 Caspian, a very nice looking white and gold version of the Fisheye No. 2 model. As the name suggests it isn't the first model in the Fisheye range of cameras and supersedes the original Fisheye camera which is now known as the Fisheye One. HOWEVER! Long before the Fisheye No. 2 was ever a thing I owned and used an original white and silver version of the Lomography Fisheye.
The Lomography Fisheye was one of the first 35mm film cameras I ever used, given to me as a present in 2007, but unfortunately the film winder mechanism snapped on it at some point around 2012 and I haven't put a roll of film through it since then. But there was a point in time when it was a camera that I used in heavy rotation.
Aside from the obvious protruding lens poking out of the main body of the camera, there is little else in the way of features in the original Fisheye to talk about! It does utilize a built in automatic flash powered by an AA battery (yup, just one) which, depending on the angle of the camera can sometimes be obscured by the massive protruding barrel of the lens, but otherwise is a welcome feature given the lack of hot shoe mount, and thanks to the fixed f8 aperture and fixed 1/100 shutter speed, you might sometimes need to rely on that flash to give you some help. There is also a viewfinder prism that sits just above the lens but again, aforementioned protrusion renders it almost useless but it is there to at least give you some help in framing a shot.
Not that you would need any help that is...! The 10mm fixed focus lens shoots an incredible 170° field of view! Basically point it at something and chances are it's going to wind up in your shot. Lomography encourages you to get a close as possible with the Fisheye and in my experience I found the focal depth to be quite narrow, it was only when I got as close as 10 - 15 cm that I found subjects got blurry. But the 10mm focal length was great for squeezing things in frame, and the wider the angle the greater the barrel distortion.
The camera is totally manual, apart from the aforementioned flash which triggers with the shutter, but there's nothing in the way of options to adjust. It's fixed shutter, fixed aperture, fixed focal length, you just point it and press the little button to take a photo! Very much an early instigator of the Lomography mantra: "don't think, just shoot." It's also completely plastic and I suspect the lens assembly is probably also fully plastic. It's certainly evident in the photos with a slight soft focus and magnification in film grain that you would expect when swapping out glass lens for plastic. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The Fisheye was never intended to be taken seriously and it's whole point is to be artistic and quirky. The addition of imperfections is something that adds to the charm of the photos. This is a camera designed to take on-the-fly shots or to 'shoot from the hip' with rather than apply too much consideration to light and composition.
Barely clocking in as a 'Compact Camera', that massive lens sticking out the front makes is difficult to easily stash the camera, but if you have big baggy pockets on like a jacket or something, you might be able to conceal it in one of those? Failing that it does come with a rubber wrist strap, coupled with rubber lens cap that is actually a god send. A sheet of plastic sits at the very end of the assembly; scratch that and you are going to have marks on your photos for the rest of it's life, and believe me when I say it's very easy to scratch the end of that lens! It sticks out enough! So you are going to need that lens cap. It's threaded into the wrist strap so it's not easy to lose.
I got some real enjoyment out of using my Fisheye. With it basically being a point and shoot camera with a wide angle lens there was very little to worry about other than making sure you had film in it and making sure you had wound on from your last shot! It was compact enough and lightweight enough to be carried out in a jacket pocket or in a bag, and lightweight enough to leave it hanging from my wrist when I couldn't be bothered to take a jacket or a bag! But it is plastic, and because of that: fragile. Mine took some bumps and scrapes along the years but continued use over time eventually wore out the insides till something gave up.
Probably the biggest issue, aside from being slightly fragile, with the Fisheye is that it's gimmicky and by 2012 when mine finally packed up I'd about reached the end of what I could do with it creatively. Hence why I didn't replace it or buy another. But looking back on it, I took some really cool photos and had some fun with it, and it seems I only ever ran colour film through it? No cross processed films either? So maybe one day I'll go back to Fisheye and maybe invest in the new 110 version or the upgraded Fisheye No. 2? You can have a look at a gallery of every single photo I kept and shared over the course of 5 years by clicking this long line of underlined text that will take you to a dedicated page.