Fisheye photography is fun. There is no denying this. It might not be big, or clever (as the professionals put it), but it is a laugh. The world looks at you through a funky bubble. Peoples noses get bigger. You can nearly see behind your ears…

This is about the simplest mod you can ever do What’s more it is cheap, assuming you have a Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim, or something similar, it will cost less than a tenner, probably a lot less.

You will need:

Unmodified UWS Camera image for tutorial
Unmodified UWS

1) A Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. These are hard to find, and go for silly prices nowadays, unless like me you find two at 75p each in a charity shop. Yes I am gloating. If you don’t find one, I would imagine some of the clones would do. These still go for silly prices, like all toy cameras nowadays, but they are easier to find. Basically, if it has a reasonably wide lens, measuring less than about 9mm in diameter (note that is the diameter, NOT the focal length) you will be ok.

2) A magnetic iPhone fisheye lens. You can get these for pennies on ebay, of you are happy to wait a few weeks for them to be shipped from China. UK sellers they go for about a fiver.

3) Possibly a small metal washer, and some epoxy glue. Most of the lenses come with a metal ring that is sticky on the back and you can stick straight on the camera. If then don’t you will need to just get a metal washer from an hardware store and bob it on yourself. Do NOT under any circumstances use cyanoacrylate (Superglue). This gives off a vapour which will mist the lens. I discovered this when I tried to refix the plastic plate over my Vivitar 300Z viewfinder, which is now fogged. This is just about bearable, but you don’t want that to happen on a lens. No siree…

How to do it:

UWS Camera with washer installed image for tutorial
UWS with washer

Well, this is where it gets difficult. Seriously. You can mess the whole thing up here. Well, this is actually pretty unlikely, unless you are using glue in which case you need to be really careful not to get it on the lens. To avoid this, use about a quarter of the amount you think you will need.It squidges…

The rest of you can just peel off the backing paper on the sticky washer, and plonk it round the lens. Comme ça.

UWS Camera modified with phone fish-eye lens image for tutorial
Final Mod

My lens came with a little metal plate on a string to keep it safe. If yours does, you can tie that next to the strap.

And that’s all there is to it. Your Vivi should now be looking something like this… See, mine even has a little lens cap.

Tips and Tricks

Fisheye Image of precinct
University Square

Obviously you won’t get the fisheye effect in the viewfinder, but that’s not what it’s all about. The angular field of view on mine is about 135° so you don’t need to worry about missing stuff out. This is also not quite a ‘true’ fisheye, which would be expected to have a have a field of view of 180° but still enough for some pretty wide angle effects.

There is a further discussion of field of view here.

The other thing that fisheye lenses are good for it getting up close and personal. The Ultra Wide and Slim is great for this anyway as the shorter the focal length the closer the minimum focus.

This holds true, even with auxiliary lenses which is essentially what this is.

Fisheye Image of a purple flower
Purple Flower

The UWS has quite a small aperture of f/11  – the hyperfocal distance for this lens is 1.45m, so assuming that the lens is focused at this point (which would make sense) anything from 0.73m to infinity is in good focus.

Calculating from the field of view, I estimate the focal length with the fisheye modifier to be about 7.5mm, which at f/11 gives a hyperfocal distance of 0.17m and acceptable focus from 0.15m to infinity. The aperture value with auxiliary lenses does not change, because the f/stop is a function of the image of the opening as viewed from the front element. so although the actual opening remains the same size, the effective aperture changes, it reduces with the effect of the auxiliary lens. Who said optics wasn’t spooky..?

Please note these are very rough and ready calculations – in reality it is not that simple and has far more variables. But it gives you an idea of how close you can get.

Fisheye Image of student halls taken from below so verticals curve strongly
Charles Morris Accommodation

Another awesome effect is shooting into the sun, contre-jour as they say in La France…

The UWS is pretty cool at this anyway, and adding the fisheye lens takes this to a new level. Lens flare is caused by the light bouncing about inside the lens, and reflecting off the internal surfaces. Quality lenses are coated black inside and have coatings on the glass itself to minimise this, but obviously cheap cellphone lenses don’t get this kind of fancy ass treatment. Also, with such a wide field of view, the chances of getting this stray light in the frame in the first place are greatly increased.

Fisheye image of strings of flags from below

One more groovy effect is from pointing the camera upwards. As with all wide angle lenses this increases the distortion.

Pointing up at the sky, you can get all these effects at once.

So there you have it. A simple fun way of getting a new camera.

And a quick lesson in optics.

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