After a fruitless search for a teeny key-chain digital camera with a fish-eye lens out front, Greg Dash decided to design and build his own. The subsequent prototype was just intended for his own use, but when more and more folks asked him where they could buy one when they spotted him snapping photos, he hatched a crowdfunding plan to bring his LoFi-Fisheye Digicam to market.
Thankfully, monster lenses like the one introduced by Nikon at the 1970 Photokina show are something of a rarity. Today's smaller varieties, however, are still a rather expensive addition to a photographer's toolkit, and certainly something that was out of Dash's price range. Of course, he could have opted to add something like a TurtleJacket PentaEye lens wheel to his iPhone, or post-processed images using software or apps for a digitally-manipulated snap, but didn't feel that such things were quite what he was looking for.
"Although apps give the appearance of a fisheye-effect, they're unable to replicate the true 170-degree image due to the limitations in the hardware," he told us. "Snap-on attachments can suffer from low quality construction, can fall off, can break and can be device specific."
He wanted an easy-to-use, pocket-friendly digital camera that had a quality fish-eye lens, was able to record in HD, and included features like time-lapse – criteria that were satisfied in his (roughly) Chobi Cam-sized LoFi-Fisheye Digicam.
Dash, who works and studies at Aberystwyth University in Mid Wales, told us that the reference to Lo-Fi in the camera's name relates to its simple, uncluttered style and the distinct lack of bells and whistles of the design itself, rather than an indication of anything lacking in image quality. In fact, the camera's onboard sensor can record HD video and grab images at up to 12 megapixels.
Pressing and holding the power button on the top brings the camera to life and it goes straight into HD video mode (indicated by a red LED on the back). Next to the power button, there's another which allows the user to choose between video and photo (green LED). A microphone on the rear picks up and records audio and the button on the front of the camera activates the camera's time-lapse feature. The front is also home to that desirable 170-degree glass fish-eye lens. -ASV