The Internet has decreed the third Saturday in October to be World Toy Camera Day (#WTCD2014.) I have had this one in process for a few months, so this week seemed like a good time to finish the roll.
At first glance the SnapSights is not very interesting. It’s a plain blue rectangle with one shutter speed, one aperture, and a plastic 30mm lens. What makes it fun is this:
It has a diving bell! The finished product is waterproof to 25 feet. It has a flip-up sport finder on top. The knob on top both advances the film and triggers the shutter.
I picked it up 2 years ago on vacation. It cost $6 in the camp store and came with its first roll of film. I didn’t expect much, but it took amazingly good photos in and around the pool. For the current roll, I took it canoeing with Beth and kayaking on the Rowley River on two different occasions.
Das Auto und Das Boot
There is something attractive about a house in the middle of the marsh. I’d miss modern conveniences like electricity and running water though.
This week’s images were shot on expired Rite Aid film which was further abused by riding around in my hot car all summer and then developed in my kitchen with my Unicolor kit. Scanned on the Epson V700 and slightly color corrected in Corel AfterShot Pro.
I wasn’t very impressed by the Snapshooter. As a toy camera to encourage photography, it fell short. Part of this is due to the limitations of 126 film in the modern world, namely the need to load your own cartridges. Once reloaded they must be handled with care. Even with factory film however, the experience could have been better. The camera uses elastic bands to assist in holding the film cartridge in place, but without them the front face is also prone to falling off. When it comes apart, the shutter falls out in a small explosion of springs. Framing is done with a simple plastic square, but the alignment is WAY off. Many of my images were cut off at the top.
In an era when cameras like the Instamatic X-15 were available, the Snapshooter was just a bit too unrefined. Still this blog is about the experience of shooting various vintage cameras, and it was not a completely bad experience. I made a fair number of ‘keeper’ images. I just don’t plan to carry it around with me as it’s too fragile and fiddly to use.
This week’s toy camera is one of the most toylike I’ve used. The Snapshooter from the Plastics Developmemt Corporation of Philadelphia, PA was marketed as part of a club. It came with a 126 format cartridge of black and white film, although color was also available. Users were encouraged to return the film to PDC for processing, but the instructions did note that your local lab could also develop it.
It consists of a fixed focus, fixed aperture lens attached to a single speed shutter. This arrangement clips onto the film cartridge which also forms the back of the camera. Mine is held together with elastic bands as an added precaution.
My example came with a cartridge which had expired in 1974. I tried it anyway, but the results were unusable. I’ve reloaded it with modern Fuji 200 color, and I will be carrying it for the next few days.
The second roll came out much better. The Meikai has a lot of lens flare, and in some conditions it has a very soft focus spot in the middle of the lens. Cricket and I took it to Fort Constitution in Newcastle, NH on the day after Thanksgiving. We were unable to access the fort itself, as the Coast Guard had the gates locked. I’m not sure why; according to the signs it should have been open. We will try again on a warmer day.
The Meikai is a cute little camera. As toy cameras go, it was quite nice. It has a lot of metal and a relatively substantial feel to it. The flash sync actually works.
On the negative side, the viewfinder is tiny and difficult to use for framing. The counter is odd, skipping numbers and being nearly impossible to read. The cold shoe would not properly seat my flash. The shutter release sticks and requires excessive pressure to release. Once past the resistance it fires with a soft double click.
My first attempt this week involved an expired roll of Kodak Gold 400, respooled redscale. The results were disastrous. I’ve reloaded it with non-expired film and headed out again. I enjoyed shooting with it, although it wouldn’t be my choice for important photography. Did I mention the light leaks?
This was one of only 4 recognizable shots on a 24 exposure roll. I know the Meikai can do better.
Update: I shot a fresh roll of Portra and the results were much better. Due to a bit of silliness involving iPhoto and Time Machine they were slightly delayed but are up now.
The Meikai EL is a Japanese toy camera c.1963. I was initially undecided whether to classify it as a toy camera or merely a cheap one. You will notice the plastic around the viewfinder made to look like a selenium light meter. If it has fake features, it’s a toy in my book.
The EL features a fixed focus “Tuogodo New MK lens” which appears to be glass, mounted in “Metsunii instant shutter.” Part of the lens turns like a focus ring, but this is in fact aperture adjustment. There are sunny/cloudy pictographs but no numbered apertures. Internet reviews state it has a single shutter speed, yet mine has a switch under the lens barrel which seems to indicate two speeds. It is marked with sun and cloud/flash icons. My iPhone Shutter Speed app times them at approximately 1/100 and 1/50 respectively.
Film advance is via a lever on the top plate. It travels for slightly more than one stroke per frame. There is a PC flash socket on the front of the body and a cold shoe on top.
My example came from eBay. I don’t remember exactly what I paid, but it wasn’t more than $5. I loaded it with a roll of Kodak 400 respooled redscale and carried it for a few days last week.
eBay – As of this writing there are only a few listed. Prices are a bit on the high side, although I note there is a deluxe ELX version with a hot shoe, and another version with a flash cube holder. Thrift stores might still be a better bet.
The Plastic Filmtastic is a nice, light toy camera. The shutter is easy to fire with a nice click, and it lends itself easily to artistic double exposures. I was impressed with the performance of my old roll of Lomography CN400. I left the film edge with identifying marks in some of my images.
I need to come back to this camera in the future and shoot some 35mm sprockets.
I'm impressed with the detail from this toy camera.
This week I felt like a toy camera, yet something large. I chose the Film Photography Project's 'Plastic Filmtastic 120.'
According to the folks at FPP, this camera was made in an unknown factory overseas years ago and was recently discovered in a warehouse in upstate New York. It has a 60mm f8 plastic lens, a single shutter speed, and two apertures labelled with sun and cloud pictographs. Focus is accomplished via zone (guess) using pictures on the lens ring. It also has a nice hot shoe for flash.
It is designed to make 16 6×4.5cm exposures on 120 roll film; but 35mm can easily be loaded with a few reversible modifications, allowing easy sprocket hole photography.
I loaded mine with an old roll of Lomography 400 color 120 and took it on a rail car trip.
You can buy them new from FPP for the whopping sum of $19.99. If you've never tried medium format photography, this is a cheap and easy first experience.
The Spinner 360 is another novelty camera from Lomography. It uses 35mm film and takes 360 degree panoramic photos. I loaded mine with Portra 400 and took it on a trip to the White Mountains.
Shooting is incredibly easy. A switch on the side of the lens selects between two apertures. A pull of the ripcord causes the camera to spin about its axis in slightly more than one full circle. 6-8 exposures fit on one 36 exposure roll of film. Mine came with a manual explaining how to create multiple different effects, but I haven't experimented with it that much.
The Cannon Mountain summit and tram made great subjects for the Spinner, but the wide images don't fit very well on the blog. Click them to see the full-size versions at Flickr.
The Action Sampler is a fun little camera, but it is a toy. The viewfinder is a simple flip-up affair, and framing is a guess at best. I used a roll of expired 400 ASA color, and the images were merely adequate.
Interestingly one of the fixed focus lenses, isn’t. The bottom right quadrant of each image is just a bit blurry.