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.
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.
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 😉
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!
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!
I have been led back into the analog (film) photography world by a bit of plastic known as the Diana camera. It happened a year ago when I saw one of these gems at an Urban Outfitters store and was reminded of my very first camera in the early 70s, which was an original Diana. I didn’t purchase the one I saw there, but began thinking about it constantly…I had purchased a book in the 90’s called “Angels at the Arno” by Eric Lindbloom which contained images shot with a vintage Diana camera like the one I had as a child. I dug the book out and was once again in love with the dreamy ethereal imagery created by the photographer with this camera. I had to have one! My husband was nice enough to find a store near us called Bear & Bird at Tate’s Comics in Lauderhill, FL (as we have no Urban Outfitters near by) and we went the next day. I picked up a shiny new Diana F+ and began shooting my expired 120 film which had been residing in my fridge for about 10 years.
My childhood love and my passion for analog photography had been renewed! It has been a slippery slope since then…I’ve been shooting primarily film images and have been developing black and white film in my home darkroom. I have also amassed quite a collection of plastic toy and vintage cameras. Next step…printing in the darkroom!