52 Cameras diversion – the Pdexposures challenge

The crew at the Pdexposures podcast have issued a challenge for the month of June: You have $20 to spend. Make it look good.

Full rules are available at the link above, but in a nutshell you have to

  • Buy a film camera
  • Buy a roll of film
  • Shoot
  • Develop

for a total of $20 or less. There are few restrictions, but the cooler the camera the better. I thought it sounded like fun, and Beth was up for tagging along.

We worked things backwards to figure our budget. The first step was film. The cheapest local source is Walmart: $2.94 for 24 exposures of Fuji 200 ASA color. We each bought one. 400 ASA is only $1 more if you want it.

Developing was a little harder. My first stop was the local drugstore mini lab, only to discover that it was removed last month. (I never cared for their quality anyway. Its loss was a self-fulfilling prophecy.). Unfortunately it was replaced by a mail-order service which returns a CD instead of my negatives. Don't ask me why. They won't be getting my business.

That left mail-order. The cheapest service from Old School Photo Lab is $11 with shipping included. I love them, but that would only leave $6.06 in the camera budget. Eventually I discovered that Dwayne's Photo, the guys famous for being the last lab to process Kodachrome, could do negatives only for $8.49 on my doorstep. That would leave us each a slightly better $8.57 for a camera.

I am fortunate to live in the same town as one of New England's premier flea markets. In fact my parents live only a 5 minute walk away. Beth and I stopped at a local cafe for iced tea and fresh doughnuts, left the car at Grampy's house, and set out on the hottest Sunday morning of the year to stalk and capture our prizes.

Some days the market is full of vintage filmy goodness, others are a bust. We got lucky. We added numerous cameras to my collection, and we came home with three challenge candidates. I chose a Kodak Pony 135 for $8, and she landed an old Mamiya rangefinder for $7. The Mamiya has no markings on it, but research leads me to believe it is a 35EE variant. The third option is a Tower 55B if either of them fails.

I've already shot my film and shipped it to the lab. I confess I've also exposed a few frames in the Mamiya just to get a feel for it.

The challenge runs until the end of June, so it's not too late to have some cheap film fun. Go buy an old camera and start shooting!

EDIT: see the results