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A Case For The 0.5 Lens

The recognisable wide-angle 0.5 lens that debuted on the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10 is becoming an increasingly common way to take and post photos.

Creating a warped, cartoonish effect, the lens constructs momentary, humorous, and candid photos and is being seen more and more in a moment on social media that is prizing these characteristics.

Instagram is moving towards casual, frequent, uncalculated posts that highlight amusement and fun over appearances or a personal brand. This is in direct response to the overly curated feed and rise of the influencer in the later twenty-teens. Candid, creative, and casual posting through the ‘photo carousel’ feature (where you can include several pictures in one post) has been coined ‘photo dump’ in the popular vernacular and is used more and more by users to document, rather than curate, there life online. They usually feature unposed and seemingly random photos of the user’s recent life intending to be authentic. They often feature stylised shots, art, views, and random, out-of-context pictures instead of edited selfies or curated moments (seen a lot on Instagram around five years ago.) They move Instagram towards more of a visual diary of moments and memories. BeReal and its popularity are a direct product of movement.

The 0.5 lens photo perfectly allows this effect to be effortlessly and amusingly pulled off and owes its popularity to the movement.

The lens has a comedic, unserious tone. It warps the appearance of the photo, or the person in the photo, in a still recognisable but comedic way. Enlarging the forehead, the nose, or the eyes mean that people can post a photo without analysing or editing their features; they are already purposefully out of proportion. It gives the subject freedom from vanity and attempted flattery because it deliberately creates a parody of itself. It allows the photographer and the subject to be a satire of themselves, removing themselves from the usually vain and sophisticated act of taking photos, and entering a space where the photo itself can create a fun memory as well as capture one. The created photos are fun and warped and become almost an abstract art form rather than something working towards an aesthetic goal.

We have grown up with the ability to fine-tune, over-analyse, edit, and retake our appearances for the internet. The photo taken with a wide-angle lens, however, is not subjected, and cannot be subjected, to this scrutiny. It is imperfect in its nature. The lens does not try to create an accurate or flattering photo of the subject, and therefore scrutiny, editing, and insecurity are completely dissolved.

Additionally, the lens captures the periphery of a setting along with the subject and focal point. Its wide angle allows it to capture the surroundings and setting. This makes it the perfect medium for casual, visual diary photos. It serves the same purpose as a panoramic video, capturing the world and moments as you see them without cutting out any part of the scene. In the same way, the wide-angle is reminiscent of a fish-eye lens that is seen in cameras such as Go-Pros and security cameras that aim to capture as much of a scene as possible. This creates the desired authenticity of the photographer because, whilst also mimicking the curvature of the eye, it creates a ‘this is what I was actually seeing at this moment’ effect that leaves little out of view.

Taking selfies with the 0.5 lens is seen all the time too. To do this, a photographer must use a camera on the back of the phone as currently, this is the only lens with the function. This mimics the effect of a camera – where the photographer has to flip the device around to capture themselves – rather than a camera phone. The action and feel created mimics the appeal towards the nostalgic popularity of digital and film cameras in recent years – their photos cannot be edited, checked, rechecked, or edited. In the same way that these cameras work, when taking a photo with the back camera, you cannot see the photo until after it is taken. Therefore, the photo cannot be curated or calculated in the moment of the photo, and this often results in a quick snap rather than a poured-over framing of a picture – encouraging the living in and recording the moment as a joint venture. Not being able to see the viewfinder also discourages vanity and the over-analysing of the self that I discussed earlier; you cannot position yourself in a certain way because you cannot see yourself, it captures you as you are.

“Can you take it on 0.5?” will reign supreme for as long as the photo dump, and will continue to encourage us to capture the moment and ourselves prioritising fun, momentariness, and authenticity.