Student and photography buff Greg Dash was inspired to create his own tiny fish-eye camera after finding his budget wouldn’t stretch to a pricey new lens.
Now the Welsh PhD student’s university debts look set to become a distant memory – with orders for the 25-year-old’s miniscule gadgets pouring in from as far afield as Taiwan.
Mr Dash said he has sold 290 of his £65 cameras – which measure just over 4cm long and 2cm high – since he began taking pre-orders last month, all but wiping out seven years’ worth of student debt in just four weeks.
His Lofi Fish-Eye camera – which Mr Dash has billed as the world’s first digital fish-eye lens – has become a hit thanks to its ability to produce expensive-looking photographs despite having just 12 megapixels, one button and no LCD screen.
‘I’ve always been a fan of photography from a young age, but only ever used film cameras,’ said Mr Dash.
‘A friend bought me an SLR camera a few years ago, and I wanted to get a fish-eye lens for it.
‘However, as they cost hundreds of pounds and me being a student I had virtually given up on the idea.
‘But then I thought instead to make my own one using old camera parts.’
The Aberystwyth University student, who hails from Mountain Ash in south Wales, was inspired by lomography – the growing analogue camera movement – in developing his own tiny creation, which has no viewfinder or screen to view photos.
It can shoot high-quality images and HD video, and has a built-in lithium battery which can be charged via a USB port.
Miniscule: The student’s tiny camera measures just over 4cm long and 2cm high, but still produces expensive-looking photographs
‘One of the things I first loved about it is that it doesn’t have an LCD screen to preview images – so you have that element of surprise when you come to look at the photos you have taken for the first time,’ Mr Dash said.
‘That’s something I love about using film cameras, but being a hard-up student I couldn’t always afford to develop rolls.
‘So that’s where the idea about making it digital came in.’
When friends saw the results of his labour – and the photographs the camera produced – Mr Dash found himself bombarded with requests.
He launched his camera via the fundraising website Indiegogo in February, limiting production to a run of 500.
‘Element of surprise’: A photograph of a chimpanzee taken with the Lofi Fish-eye camera
Mr Dash, who obtained undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Swansea and Cardiff before deciding to study for a doctorate, added: ‘Since taking pre-orders a month ago, 290 people have put their money down for the Lofi Fish-Eye.’
That amounts to almost £19,000 worth of pre-orders in a little over a month.
‘I’ve even taken one order of a batch of 50 from Taiwan – which is amazing considering the camera has only been promoted via word of mouth.
‘I’ve also had a lot of interest from airplane enthusiasts and extreme sports fans, who are looking for a cost effective way of capturing their adventures.
‘I’m hoping the camera will be just the start of things,’ the fledgling entrepreneur said.
‘But for now, my main focus is getting more orders processed, begin manufacturing and ultimately it’s then about getting the product out there.’