Lens: Plastic meniscus, f/11 or f/8?
Shutter: fixed speed, 1/150
Sold for $10 USD (Camera only) $30 (JP Magazine bundle)
Purchased for $12 (2020)
While I've mostly treaded the straight and narrow for film cameras, I found myself getting bored. Only venturing out at 2-4 for the best golden lighting, overexposing color negative film by a stop for better shadow detail in post, focusing on which camera gives me the quickest, sharpest results. It gets tiring, like the sensation of going through the motions in a familiar videogame. There's no novelty, only rituals of efficiency.
Then you hop over into japanese twitter and you have an abundance of these conventionally amateuristic, but creative photographers who seem to be genuinely be enjoying themselves, like the thought process behind a rainbow-colored LEGO MOC. Generous amounts of underexposure, filters smeared with vaseline, it was strange and unfamiliar yet seemed right. I tried to block Lomography out of my view for a long time, mostly out of contempt for hyping and raising used camera prices. The plastic fixed-focus cameras and repackaged film they peddled had the hallmarks of a shallow moneygrab, the foundation built off the fleeting backs of casual shooters easily separated with their money. Meniscus lenses on Bessas, $10+ a roll film into toy cameras, it seemed like an expensive, contradictory way of enjoying film photography. But I get it now, the type of images they're in pursuit of. And with that sentiment, I went to find a camera I can have fun with, be spontaneous and feel a bit more unrestricted with.
I settled on two cameras: a Fuji disposable and this plastic twin-lens reflex camera. The Fuji, despite having a plastic meniscus lens, takes shockingly good photos. To counteract this deficiency, I plan to extensively focus on flash photography and reload it with grainy higher-speed film. For this thing, the photos it takes are genuinely shitty. Plenty of distortion, CA, and vignetting - I'm beyond excited for the photos it's capable of.
It's a $10 camera. Under those parameters, the designers did really well. The viewing lens and taking lens are coupled with a small gear, as it should be. The shutter release is on the right of the camera, double action so no need to cock it just like a Holga. My main concern lay within the bits that are occupied with the film advancing through this box of melted down dinosaurs. Early 120 folding cameras have no double exposure prevention or overwind protection, making every shot feel like guesswork. Those two features add bulk and complexity, surely something incompatible with a DIY plastic camera. The insides are basically a dumbed-down disposable camera, with one sprocket cog and a take-up spool handling the entire thing. Instead of overwind protection, there's a clever notched rotating indicator on the outside of the camera that shows you exactly when to stop winding. One bit I am concerned about is the lack of a proper pressure plate, compounded with the lack of any strong film tension by the lackluster film advance mechanism. A curved film plane is a no-no.
There's a fair bit of latitude in shooting styles as outlined in the supplementary magazine. The fixed aperture ring is removable and can be placed in front, behind the meniscus lens or omitted entirely: doing so gives you an extra stop of light, something absolutely vital in a fixed-everything camera like this. As the shutter is double-action double exposures are very easy. You can also tape a pressure plate for a flat film plane, something I didn't expect to see written down.
The shutter opens photos when you let go of the release, this is something that needs some acclimation. Camera shake is a real concern.
3/21/2020This thing is hard to use. The X-axis in the viewfinder is reversed when peering into it, making composing a bit fiddly. Camera shake is inevitable without a camera strap.
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Lens: Plastic meniscus, 27mm f/8?
Shutter: fixed speed, 1/?
Production: ~late 90's
Purchased for $10 (2020)
Film photography in 2021 is reaping the decades of chemical engineers' work but it is starting to show its cracks. The one great big aching pustule, the one great big anticipation everyone is holding their breath for is low-light color emulsions. With the discontinuation of Natura high-speed film is largely dead. As a whole in-body flashes are reserved for consumer cameras and split-prism focusing aids and autofocus dithers past 5pm. Not many easy answers for those wanting to shoot past 5pm but maybe that niche can be filled with a camera like this.
These nameless film cameras were everywhere in the 90's, our house had at least 2 circulating around. Usually branded in some way, these things are a step up from (technically reloadable) disposable cameras while retaining the shitty, shitty goodness.
Zero exposure controls, you're relying on the film's latitude to get any images. Don't use expired film like I did, use at least 200 ISO film for acceptable results, 400~800 would be best. The flash is toggled on with a switch on the front of the camera, takes around 20 seconds for the capacitors fully charge up. There is a flash ready indicator at the back of the camera, modern fuji disposables have it beat in legibility.
It's small and pocketable, closing the clamshell cover shields both the plastic lens and switchess off the flash. It makes for a very conveient take it everywhere camera.
It takes fine photos, nothing deliberately shitty like an LC-A or that TLR back there. Some vignetting, corner distortion, heavy chromatic aberration. Beats the shit out of any consumer digital camera from 2002 by resolution alone.
I'm quite fond of it. It's a cute, creaky little camera. Just wished I wouldn't have to worry about it shattering in my pocket.
9/3/2021: good god the barrel distortion is ridiculous. straight lines are the enemy
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