Last year I blogged about my camera collection, focusing on the vintage cameras I own. At that time, I counted fifty nine cameras in my collection. I've just done a re-count and I now have sixty cameras. I'm not completely sure which is the newest addition... it could be one I acquired from my Granddad, but I'm not one hundred per cent sure. I've got another on the way too, coming from a friend's dad, so it will soon be sixty one. At this rate, they will need their own room.
Today I am going to talk about my plastic cameras, which are sometimes known as 'toy cameras'. I have numerous toy cameras in my collection, but I'm just going to talk about my favourites in this blog. The first plastic camera I bought was a Holga. The Holga is a medium format camera made in Hong Kong, known (and prized) for it's imperfections, such as light leaks, vignetting and softness.
It was designed to be an affordable camera for the mass market in the 1980's and has since gained cult status. It has a fixed focal length and a zone focusing system, which uses basic symbols to indicate focus. Most models have two aperture settings (labelled sunny and cloudy) and two shutter speeds (marked N for normal or B for bulb). So, it's a pretty basic camera, with only minimal controls. The camera has two fames which slot into the back to determine the size of the image (and the number of images available on one roll of film). One produces twelve square images (the classic Holga format) and one produces 16 rectangular images.
The Holga can be somewhat unpredictable, although you get used to the unique characteristics of your own model the more you use it. It's a fun camera to use and is the more authentic version of adding an Instagram style filter.
The next toy camera I got was my Diana Mini. This is a smaller, 35mm version of the original Diana camera which, like the Holga, was a plastic camera manufactured in Hong Kong, although much earlier (during the 1960's). The Diana (or clones of the original) was often given as a promotional gift by many companies and used 120 roll film. My version is a newer 'copy' of the original; this one is much smaller, as it takes 35mm film as opposed to 120 format. Like the original, it produces square images, but the mini also has an option to shoot half frame images, meaning you can get 72 rectangular shots from a 36 exposure 35mm roll! You can switch from square to half frame format mid roll too.
I love this camera, as it's really small, so it's easy to throw in your bag. Like the Holga, it is a zone focus camera with minimal aperture and shutter controls. Being 35mm, it's much more economical than the 120 version too, especially on the half frame setting.
Another camera with half frame capabilities is the Golden Half camera, produced by a company called Superheadz. It comes in numerous different patterns; I have the Red Trees version. I picked this camera up in an art/book shop in Brooklyn NY and it's a really fun camera to use.
The only settings on this camera are three aperture settings for sunny, cloudy and flash; the shutter speed is fixed. Like the Diana Mini, this camera shoots 72 rectangular images on a 36 exposure 35mm roll of film. I like to intentionally shoot two images at a time, which work together, like this:
Because the half negative is small (and the lens is plastic), the quality is never going to be great, but it's a toy camera... It's for fun, not quality, right? As toy cameras go, this one is pretty sturdy and I don't worry about throwing in my bag.
Next on the list is the Kumo san, also known as the Wide and Slim (because it is basically a copy of the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim), another Superheadz camera. My mum bought me this camera and the reason I love it is because of the wide angle (22mm) lens, which captures so much!
The Kumo San is a point and shoot camera - there are no aperture or shutter speed controls at all... this means it is really easy to use, but it also means that it has a tendency to under or over expose...
Last for today, but by no means least, is the Oktomat camera, made by Lomography. Now, this camera is definitely fun over quality; it feels flimsy and like it could break any second but it is great fun to use!
The Oktomat is a fixed (f8) aperture, fixed focus camera. It has eight (yes, eight) lenses, which fire sequentially over 2.5 seconds, creating a strip of mini images which capture movement in your subject.
The downside to all of these cameras is that they need a lot of light, so they are summer cameras (although most do have a hot shoe/flash connection). But summer is on the way and I am stocked up on film, so time to get out and play!
I have many other plastic cameras, but I'll leave it there for now. What are your favourite toy cameras and why?