Peep-Hole Lenses part 1

Awhile back I found myself reading a message board in which someone had asked about building a peep hole lens.  The reply he got was “Why would you want to?” Why indeed!

Why put a $10 hardware-store lens on a camera that cost more than a few hundred? Why indeed! This "Crystal Ball" shot was taken with the now-broken peep-hole lens

For ten years, I’d been playing with a peep hole myself, creating the magical floating worlds you see on this web site.  I sighed when I read the post.  My lens had recently broken and I’d spent a month trying to find a suitable replacement.  After another month and a total of six attempted replacements, I finally found the optics that I needed.

I wanted a lens like the old one, that had shining halos that ere unique like fingerprints to each picture.  I wanted one that warped the edges into swirls.  What I was getting was solid rings, no distortion and sometimes nothing at all in focus.

Although every lens I've tried had its own character, this one was close enough to continue my series without radically changing the character of the images.

Finally, two months later, I found something close.  It came from e-bay in a dingy package that looked like it had been sitting in a warehouse for decades. There are subtle differences that give it its own character, but I can definitely continue my series now without radically changing the way the pictures appear.

Truth be told, most peep hole lenses are much better for your front door than your camera and most of the pictures I’ve seen from them reflect that.  But, hey, it’s a toy lens after all.  Next week, I’ll tell you how to build your own  peep-hole fish-eye and post some of the variations I’ve had in testing replacement lenses.

About heather

A third-generation, informally trained photographer, Heather Siple has been taking pictures since she was old enough to hold a point-and-shoot steady. Her work has appeared across the US and internationally in museums, galleries and publications. Siple is the founder of the photo group ArtLane PCG .
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