Most of the cameras used to take the photographs you see on The Plastic Lens take medium format film. Some use Polaroid instant film, either packfilm (peel-apart) or integral. It is my understanding that not all of the cameras actually have plastic lenses. The Diana and Colorflash certainly are all plastic, but the “G” in the GFN of my Holga stands for glass, I’m told. The Empire Junior has a glass lens also, I’m not sure about the lens on my Fujipet, some had glass lenses, most plastic. Where glass is used it is of such questionable optical quality that it may as well be plastic. What matters to me is that not one of these cameras produces what anyone would call predictable, pristine photographic results and I think that’s the great part of their charm! I also have a few cameras used on this site that have considerably sharper optics than their stablemates, however, in the case of the Polaroids in particular, the nature of the film used has its own unique qualities and often render surprises of their own.
This camera is one of the many clones of the original Diana camera. I’m not sure where it was made or by what plastics company but it looks passingly like the Diana but missing a few features like the ‘B’ shutter setting and any aperture choices. It does allow estimated distance focusing. I obtained two of these cameras and they bot produced the most profound light leaks I almost gave up on them, but I finally determined where the leak was coming from (through the bottom of the viewfinder into the camera) and fixed that, which showed this camera can produce some lovely soft images. The Asiana pictured still has the price on it (which I bargained down as it had a sticky shutter) from the Camera market I found it at.
The BBF (blackbird,fly)
This camera is possibly one of the biggest things since sliced bread. Not that it’s big physically, it is actually quite compact. By big, I mean it’s generated a LOT of interest in toycamera circles (and elsewhere) Designed by Superheadz this Twin Lens reflex camera takes 35mm film has a choice of 3 different image formats and has two apertures f11 (sunny) & f7 (cloudy) It has a shutter speed of 125th sec as well as B and estimated distance focusing. The blackbird,fly pictured here is of the prototype model sent to me to trial whilst the camera was still in research and development phase. There are also versions with blue and orange faces, as well as a few extremely rare yellow, white and brown versions.
The Colorflash Deluxe
The Colorflash Deluxe is a clone of the Diana Deluxe camera.
This camera was generously donated to me by a nice guy in Sydney named Andrew when my original Diana Deluxe clone’s shutter froze. I have no idea when & where it was originally made, probably Hong Kong in the 60′s. It has a cheesy plastic lens (I love the Plasicion label on the lens rim) that produces some really nice soft results. Like many other toy cameras it takes medium format film and produces 12 square 6 x 6 exposures from one roll of 120. The camera has a hot shoe for low light and/or indoor flash photography. As an added bonus Andrew had adjusted the hotshoe trigger to work accurately with a modern electronic flash. Thank you Andrew!
Made by the fantastic-plasticly named Great Wall Plastic Factory of Hong Kong in the 1960′s, this camera has turned out to be one of my favourite toy cameras to shoot with because of the great, soft focus results it gives. Thought by some to be THE “toy camera” there are a few variations of the Diana model and plenty of clones. Every Diana camera has slightly different optical characteristics, vignetting, idiosyncratic areas of focus etc, like a unique fingerprint. For these reasons (and more) they are well loved by toy camera afficianados worldwide. There’s plenty to be read about Diana Cameras elsewhere (like here) on the internet, so I won’t re-invent the wheel too much here.
The Diana + and the Diana F+
The Diana + (plus) and the Diana F + are clones of the original Diana and Diana F cameras, made by the market savvy (some would say cynically so) lomographic society. This version reproduces the style and characteristics of the original cameras quite well, the plus of these cameras is the option to change inner mask sizes to give a choice of 6 x6 (12 shots on a 120 roll), 4.2 x 4.2 (16 shots) or 4.65 x 4.65 cm negative sizes. The latter mask gives joined ‘panoramic’ if the film advance window is set to 16. Other ‘pluses’ include the ability to remove the front lens barrel for pinhole photography, the pinhole aperture (Pinhole setting f/150) being selectable on the bottom of the lens as an additional choice to the Cloudy setting (f/11), Partial Sun setting (f/16), Sunny setting (f/22). There are also alternative lenses (such as wide angle) that can be attached due to this clever design.
This is one of the great advantages of this particular camera and one reason I use it more than any of my other toy cameras now. The ability to shoot pinhole and ‘normal’ plastic camera shots on the same roll of film in the one camera is great! Other pluses include tripod mount and a simple device to hold the shutter open for long exposures – the last two features needed for steady pinhole or low-light shots. Speaking of shutter – the shutter speed, “N” is approximately equal to 1/60 second and “B” Bulb mode (open)
The Diana F + has two sockets to accept a retro looking Flash powered by 1 x AA battery. The flash is (once again) modeled on the original Flash that came with the Diana F from the 60′s. You are supplied with a couple of adapters that allow you to use standard hot-shoe flashes on your Diana F + or the Diana F + flash on another camera (although why you would want to do the latter apart from the novelty factor is beyond me)
The Empire Junior
This sweet camera came to me courtesy of an online raffle held by the lovely Susan Burnstine at the wonderful site outafocus.
All I can tell about it is that it was made in Hong Kong, it takes medium format 120 film and has some limited controls for focusing distance and exposure (bright, hazy and cloudy) It has one shutter speed probably about 1/60th sec, but I’m not sure. Once you make sure any joins and seams are taped to prevent light-leaks and that the body is secured with a couple of rubber bands so it stays together you can start shooting. It is very compact for a medium format camera and easy to tote around in search of photographic possibilities. I love it and it has great sentimental value to me because it introduced me to medium format photography and most importantly to toy cameras.
Known by some as the Thunderbird toycamera because of the cool retro 50′s sci-fi look it has happening (I mean just look at that viewfinder!) this is a pretty nifty camera. The Fujipet camera was made in Japan by Fuji Photo Film Co. from 1957 to 1963. It takes 12 6 x 6 images on a roll of 120 film and is unique and very cool to hold and use, having a two step action one to cock the shutter and the second to release it. Mine has a grungy lens that gives a very toy camera fingerprint to the shots I have produced with it so far. The Fujipet is a bit hard to find, having been released only in Japan. There are a few variations on the colours, mine being a green one. There is a very good site related to the Fujipet here, complete with maintenance, tips & tricks and links.
The Holga camera is many individuals first introduction to toy camera & medium format photography thanks to its affordability and potential for user modifications. A few variations of this camera exist, the “GFN” illustrated has an inbuilt flash powered by two “AA” batteries.
As with the Diana camera, each Holga has slightly different optical characteristics. It can take 12 or 16 shots on a roll of medium format film depending on the mask used inside the camera. Unmodified it has one aperture (even though it looks like it has two) and two shutter speed options (normal and b) The Holga also accepts adapters for filters & cable release as well as having the capability to accept a Polaroid back. You can read more about the Holga on the numerous sites that any web search for Holga will provide.
The Holga Pinhole
This Holga has a pinhole aperture instead of a plastic lens. Like the Holga, it can take 120 film (or 35mm with simple modifications) or a Polaroid back (which is why you will sometimes see Pinhole, Holga & Polaroid in the categories below an image) The camera pictured is Randy from Holgamods original prototype ‘Pinholga’ – I was fortunate enough to buy it from Randy when he recently offered it for sale. (I also have his prototype ‘slide’ pinholga as well. I’m planning on starting a Holgamods prototype museum!) The original prototype pinholga had to be modified slightly as the placement of the pinhole plate led to some drastic clipping of the image edges on the final exposure.
The Lubitel 166B
The Lomo Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex camera is made of bakelite but it’s optics are glass, making it one of those borderline contentious contenders for the title of a ‘toy cameras’ Also it has quite extensive aperture and shutter speed options, so personally I wouldn’t class this as a ‘toy camera’ but a mainly plastic one it sure is. Along with not exactly up to spec optics and a propensity to leak light (well mine does anyway) it fits well here. Taking 12 square images on a roll of medium format 120 film, this particular fin, as I mentioned, leaked light like a sieve on it’s first couple of rolls, but that can be controlled somewhat by judicious (and generous) application of black tape.
The Polaroid SX-70
The Polaroid SX-70 is a unique Single Lens Reflex camera. The SX-70 was the first instant SLR and the first camera to use Polaroid’s new SX-70 integral print film, which developed automatically without the need for intervention from the photographer. The SX-70 was also notable for its elegant folding design (read more about this camera here). Most Polaroid cameras have auto-exposure, and classics like the SX-70 have glass lens elements, which exclude them from a toy camera classification, but the quirky nature of the lenses in various models (such as the cheaper colorpack cameras) and of the nature of instant polaroid film itself leads me to (rightfully I think) include Polaroid photos into the plastic lens repertoire. The qualities of the chemistry of Polaroid film include unique colour, tone and just what I would call a ‘special feel’ – not very scientific, I know, but let’s not try and take things too seriously here! The weird and wonderful surprises generated by using expired film just add to the uniqueness.
The Seagull Twin Lens Reflex camera is not plastic and it’s optics are pretty damn sharp, but I like it so much that I wanted to include some of its images in theplasticlens and their square format suits the site. Taking 12 square images on a roll of medium format 120 film, using this TLR really makes you slow down your style of photography to frame and focus your subjects accurately, not the least of which is because the image is reversed in the waist level viewfinder, so if you move left, the viewfinder image goes to the right. Fun times. This version is a ‘limited edition’ (not sure how limited that is!) sporting sexy red leather with yellow metal trimming on the metal bits!