For some reason throughout my collecting of film cameras, I have been constantly intrigued by ridiculously lo-fi plastic cameras. These cameras range in form from the freebies that were given with magazine subscriptions and bank accounts to the purpose made Holga and Diana plastic beauties. The nice thing about the supremely crappy ones is that one can pick them up for a dollar or two at local thrift stores. I will run through my favorites of these plastic gems in somewhat chronological order as I obtained them.
Time Magazine camera as I received it
The Time Magazine 35mm film camera. I picked this one up in the local Animal Aid thrift store. I believe it was 2 or 3 dollars. It was a cruddy and dirty mess, but I had seen some nice results so figured it would be worth cleaning up. Heck, it even had a hot shoe! It features the 50mm Kinetic Optical lens…sounds great, huh? Settings include the “Diana-ish” sunny, partly sunny, partly cloudy, and cloudy for aperture and one guy, multiple guys, or landscape for focus. I have enjoyed using this camera and have had fun with a flash on it.
Joel DaSilva's pedal board as seen by Time Magazine camera with flash
Ansco Pix Panorama with case and user guide
I believe the second camera of this genre I picked up was the Ansco Pix Panorama. I had a very similar camera in the early 90s and really liked it, but I think I broke the rewind lever on it…go figure on an all plastic camera ;-) This one is panorama except you can remove the “mask” that goes over the film frame, which I did. I used it for a while this way and just guessed through the viewfinder until I hacked it up to resemble the full 35mm frame view. This is an uber basic camera with only a lens cover, shutter button, film winder, and film rewind. I truly love the simplicity in shooting this offers…no doo-dads to fiddle with…just pure composition to think about. I now have two of these, one with the mask removed and one intact…although I have yet to really use the intact one for panorama style images…think I prefer to just shoot “wide angle.” And on that topic…I did try a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim and actually preferred this model…it’s not quite as wide, but also does not feel as though I am going to crush it in the pressure of my hands
"Heaven's Gate" shot with Ansco Pix Panorama
The third camera I will mention is my latest addition, the “no name” blue and black “Sports” model 35-55 zoom 35mm camera! Just got this for $2 at a new Goodwill store I just found. Haven’t run film in it yet, but will soon. Its controls include a manual zoom ring on the lens that even zooms in the viewfinder…how high tech!
Newly acquired "Sports" zoom camera ;-)
If you are dabbling in film at all, I highly recommend this type of camera. It’s great when you are feeling overwhelmed with f-stops and shutter speeds and all of the other decisions to make when shooting. It brings photography to its purest form of light/shadow and composition. And as I like to say, it’s not the camera that takes the photo, it’s the artist behind it!