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Novelty Camera Lenses: Everything You Need to Know

November 25, 2016

One of the best things about photography (as well as any other creative pursuit) is the fact that you can experiment with achieving fun effects to add a whole new dimension to your images. One of the easiest ways to do this is through using novelty camera lenses, but what exactly are these tools?

Novelty lenses are often associated with ‘toy cameras’ (i.e plastic retro cameras including the Diana and Holga varieties, just to name a few) and they give your photographs unique and often distorted effects, such as fish-eye, mirage, soft focus, colored tints, and so much more.

Today we’re going to delve into this fun topic and share everything you need to know about novelty camera lenses, including which models are the most popular and how you can create your own!

jelly lens, Novelty Camera Lenses

Jelly Lens

We’ll get started with perhaps the most famous range of novelty camera lenses – jelly lenses. Although these won’t fit on your DSLR, they are designed for your phone’s camera, as well as tablets, webcams, and some point-and-shoot camera models.

They’re perfect for hobbyist photographers who enjoy snapping light-hearted pictures, along with the more serious photographers who like to experiment capturing images with their phone or other devices from time to time.

mirage jelly lens, Novelty Camera Lenses

The jelly lenses come in a wide variety of effects, including:

  • wide angle
  • stretch
  • 6 image mirage (used in the images featured above)
  • 3 image mirage
  • heart frame / blue filter
  • sepia / star filter
  • polarizer
  • close-up
  • soft lens
  • starburst
  • vignette
  • spark

All of these can be purchased from the official brand’s website or you can also find cheaper but basically identical versions of these on platforms such as Amazon and eBay.

Novelty Camera Lenses

The Multivision Lens Set

If you’ve noticed the popularity of kaleidoscopic photos across everything from fashion editorials to social media, you’re not alone! This 70s inspired trend has made its way to our cameras and one of the most fun ways to achieve this is through Lomography’s Multivision Lens Set which screws on to your existing 52mm SLR lens. Containing three lenses, each with a different kaleidoscopic pattern, this set will infuse your photos with a psychedelic aesthetic that will have you endlessly entertained.

Novelty Camera Lenses

The Diana F+ SLR Adaptor for Canon Mount / Nikon Mount

If you’ve always loved the look and feel of photos taken with a Diana F+ toy camera (but perhaps weren’t a fan of having to use film), then this is the novelty lens for you! It allows you to turn your SLR or DSLR into something capable of taking images with that Diana F+ twist. Lomography explain:

“It brings the world of Diana to your SLR cameras, yielding creative possibilities that were once limited to Diana F+ cameras…Sweeping wide-angles and crazy Fisheye techniques? Bring it on!”

Novelty Camera Lenses

Fisheye Adaptor Set

If you want to turn your regular digital camera into a fish-eye photo-taking masterpiece, then this lens will allow you to do that. It comes in a variety of sizes, including lens widths of 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, or 58mm. Lomography explain: “The results are blown-up circular fisheye images on 120mm film format, and bulging round images on 35mm!”

How to create your own novelty camera lenses

While purchasing novelty lenses can provide you with a lot of fun and the chance to further experiment with your photography, they can sometimes be a little on the expensive side (as with most lenses). The good news is that you can actually create a wide range of unique filters and lenses for your digital camera, all of which are quite easy and inexpensive to make. We’ve rounded-up the most helpful and awesome lens filter tutorials below!

Novelty Camera Lenses

This tutorial found via Lomography Magazine by ‘freakoftheweek‘ will teach you how to create your very own psychedelic filter for your camera using those kaleidoscope style cardboard glasses you sometimes receive at carnivals or in boxes of cereal. You’ll just need a lens filter (such as your polarizing filter or UV filter), along with a short list of products commonly found in your home.


Photojojo contributor Melissa Lawson created a nifty tutorial that shows you how to recreate your own fish-eye lens using nothing but a pair of old glasses and some tape. This inexpensive DIY project will cost you just a few dollars – much cheaper than the cost that you’d have to fork out for a professional fish-eye lens! If you don’t own an old pair of glasses (and don’t know anyone else who does), then you can easily find a pair at your local thrift store.

Novelty Camera Lenses

Bokkeh is often a much-desired photo effect, but how does one achieve heart-shaped bokkeh without spending a small fortune on fancy lenses? Thankfully, Globetrotter Diaries discovered a cheap yet effective way of solving this issue and it’ll cost you next to nothing – we’ll let her photos do the talking (featured above).

We hope this article has not only taught you everything you need to know about novelty camera lenses, but that it has also inspired you to embrace the trend and experiment with your own lenses, filters, and effects. If you want to play around with fun novelty styles on a budget, then we encourage you to create your own lenses by following the DIY tutorials mentioned above.

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