The Joys of Plastic Cameras

plastic camera
Vignetting and smeared colors are part of the plastic cam appeal - I won a photo contest with this plastic cam pic

In these days of high precision digital cameras with 35mm sensors and computers with more processing power than the was in the space shuttle, many photographers are making a show of going retro with the cheapest plastic cameras they can find. These cameras are a long way from magnesium-alloy frames with advanced weather seals, many of them boast about light leaks as a selling point. Some models will allow you to roll film both directions; double exposures aren’t an accident, they’re part of the fun. There are a few that require the addition of rubber bands to keep the back from falling off. You’d think with specs like that these cameras would be turning up in the bargain bin of your local garage sale, but you’d be surprised. Welcome to the world of plastic camera photography, where cheap lenses, vignetting, smeared colors and bizarre exposures are the norm and a well composed and exposed picture gets quickly tossed aside as boring. When it comes to plastic retro cameras, there are many great choices.

The sprocket rocket
The Sprocket Rocket - Rolls film both directions

One of the more popular is the Sprocket Rocket that features a wide angle lens and sprocket gears. The exposure area doesn’t waste any film, including above and between the sprocket holes. Other popular models among plastic camera enthusiasts is the Diana, produced in the 1960s by the Great Wall Camera Company in China, they used to be the free gift you’d get for subscribing to Reader’s Digest. They can still be found on eBay for around $30 USD or you can get a newer Lomography Diana for around $80.

The Diana with flash attachment
Another popular camera is the Holga, another medium format toy camera manufactured in China. The Holga is popular because you can get one with a Polaroid back for around $200. No waiting for your film to come back from the lab.

In these days of precision optics and computer controlled everything, it’s sometimes fun to take a step back in time and go plastic.

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