The high price of a fisheye lens often discourages a lot of potential buyers. A quick glance online will show that even cheap Russian lenses with conversion mounts are $300 or more. For amateurs, the fisheye lens is usually nothing more than an interesting gimmick; if that’s the case, the price seems difficult to justify.
In lieu of a fisheye that clears out the bank account, bide your time with one you can build with just $10 and a thirty minute trip to the local hardware store. All you’ll essentially need is a combination of PVC pipe, electrical tape, and a door viewer or peephole for this task.
The fisheye made in this article is intended to fit onto my Nikon D50’s f/3.5-5.6 18-55mm lens. This is the stock kit lens for most of Nikon’s D-series. The same methods here will work on any camera lens, but requires a bit of flexibility considering the sizes of many lenses vary. I suggest you bring your camera with you to the store to find the best fit possible.
What To Buy
First off, we’ll want to grab a door viewer, as this is what creates the fisheye effect. The larger the viewer’s opening the better, since your camera has to zoom into it. While the 200-degree viewers may create a better fisheye effect, the opening is typically smaller. I ended up settling on a 160 degree door viewer that was about ¾” in diameter.
Afterward, head over the PVC aisle where you’ll have to play around a bit. The goal is to keep the door viewer as close to your lens as possible. I grabbed a 2” coupling, where the inside of the larger end is threaded and allows it to sit snugly on the end of my lens. At this point, I recommend you attach a UV index filter if you’re worried about scuff marks, though I did not have any problems.
Inside the coupling, you’re going to want to place a PVC bushing. The bushing may not fight tightly, so you’ll want to get a bushing that is a bit smaller rather than larger. It’s easier to increase the circumference of the PVC bushing uniformly with electrical tape than it is to decrease with sand paper. I used a 1 ½” x 1” bushing. The inside of it has a small lip, about a millimeter thick, halfway down that prevents the next piece you’ll need from fitting in. A Dremel tool is the quickest way to get rid of it, but you can also just use a piece of sand paper.
The third piece is what connects the door viewer to the PVC pipe. I used a ¾” pipe that is a bit longer than the door viewer. When the lip of the 1 ½” x1” bushing is removed, this will fit firmly into it. Grab some electrical tape on the way out.