Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Want a Wide Angle Lens for Your Flip?

One common complaint about Flip camcorders is that they don't have jacks for external mikes, so you have to hold them extremely close to your subjects if you want to get good audio. Other common quibbles are that they have limited 2x digital zoom, and that without image stablization, most handheld shots can look wobbly.

You don't often hear Flip shooters yearn for a wider angle lens, but that's what Russ Roca wanted, and that's what he got -- by figuring out how to attach one himself.

Southern California-based Roca, who combines his passions for bicycling and photography, reports:

The lens on the Flip is about 38mm by most reports. It’s a pretty boring/normal focal length. Not quite the length for narrow depth of field and not wide enough to make dynamic feeling wide shots. I’m a photojournalist at heart and I see everything wide. If I could live with one lens it would probably be a 24mm.
So Roca hacked the Flip to better accommodate his needs.

I bought a cheapie Sunpak wide-angle lens adapter kit made for more sophisticated camcorders. It came with a series of step-down rings. I took one of the rings and roughed it up with sandpaper (from a patch kit) and superglued it to the front of the Flip. (Be sure to glue it so you can still remove the battery cover!). This gave the front element some threads so I could screw on the wide angle lens!

Now you have a Flip Ultra that can shoot a “normal” focal length that you can convert into a wide-angle action machine. It gives your footage a bit more dynamic feel and it also mitigates the small camera shake quite a bit! I used this setup for my recent trip and it worked great.
Here's his demonstration of the difference between the lenses:

And here's a cycling video he shot with his self-designed Flip wide angle:

UPDATE: Roca is on an extended bike tour of the U.S. with his girlfriend, "with the goal of connecting with, and collecting the stories of, people who followed a calling to live their lives in unique ways."

Through photos, interviews, sketches, hand-bound books, and an extensive web presence, Laura (an art jewelry maker) and Russ (a photographer) will compile example after example of lives less ordinary – independent artisans and makers, small business proprietors, community activists and more.
Roca's ingenuity and curiosity should carry him far. You can follow his adventures on his multimedia blog, The Path Less Pedaled.

(Tip of the cyberhat to "Advancing the Story" for the link to this story.)

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