Monday, April 30, 2012

The Same Yet Different - Toy Cameras

Those of you who know me well know that I never really grew out of my childhood.  I read comic books, I still watch cartoons, I occasionally eat ice cream for dinner, and I still like to play with toys.  I do have a few children's toys lying around (He-Man figurines, etc.), but the majority of the toys I spend time with are in camera form.  I am not speaking about all cameras here.  Although, every camera I shot for this project could be considered a grown-up toy.  No, I mean actual toy cameras.  Cameras that are a crappy piece of plastic with some sort of lens on it and it takes pictures on the film you have loaded (or, at least, you hope).

Toy Camera Gear:
Lomography Supersampler
Holga 120N
Kodak Disposable
Lomography Fisheye No 2 Ripcurl

Molly with the Supersampler
Stacy and I have a picture on our wall that has four pictures in sequential order on a single shot.  I have always wondered what the camera was that our wedding photographer used.  A few months back I figured it out.  It is the Lomo Supersampler.  I was psyched to finally find it and even more psyched that it was only $50.  That seems like a small price to pay for awesomeness.  This camera takes four pictures using four separate little lenses over the course of about two seconds.  It is a super fun camera to shoot while you are out with friends doing active stuff.  With this particular camera you don't even have a viewfinder.  You just kind of point it toward your subject and hope they are in the frame.  Seriously, order one and shoot a roll.  You will be glad you did.

The team with the Holga
The Holga was my first toy camera.  Stacy bought it for me for my birthday a few years back and I still keep it in my camera bag almost all the time.  It was actually my first Medium Format camera, too, but this camera is different.  This is a piece of plastic loaded with 120 film with the world's worst camera back system.  I don't think I have shot a roll with this camera where the back has not fallen off at some point and overexposed a section of my film.  Case in point, see Molly's picture above.  The back fell off after advancing to the next frame and made half of her picture completely exposed.  Oh, well.  That is one of the things I love about this camera.  The lens sucks.  The body leaks light like it is its job.  You only have two light options - sunny and cloudy.  Your focusing options are one person, three people, group of people, and mountain.  Seriously, what is there not to love about this?  Every time I shoot a roll of film on this I can't wait to get it back from the lab to see what gems are on it.

Ryan with the Kodak disposable
Disposable cameras were a staple in personal photography when I was growing up.  If I were going on a camping trip, vacation, to the pool with friends, whatever, we would have one of these with us.  They were perfect for capturing a moment and telling a story.  They really do kind of suck at taking pictures, though.  The bonus about this particular disposable was that it had been in Ryan's glove box for the past five years and have a few exposures left on it.  The lights we were using weren't quite bright enough for this camera and the flash only fired on the shot of Ryan, but you still get the idea.  Keep some film in a hot car for several years then take some pictures with it.  The shots will have a look straight out of 1970 and you will be able to post to Instagram without adding a filter.

The group shot with the Lomo Fisheye
This camera was new to me.  However, it was fun to play with.  I think this one would be best outside, as well.  Probably in the water, having your subjects get super close to the lens.  Yeah, that would be the right place for this camera.  It is interesting to see the reaction for my models here, though.  Just pulling out a silly, brightly-colored toy camera brought out a different reaction in all of them.  Awesome.

I don't think any of these are the right cameras for studio portrait photography, but the beauty of toy cameras is that none of that matters.  They are just supposed to be fun.  Go shoot whatever you want with them.  They are toys.  They are meant to be fun.  I actually do see some commercial opportunities here with these cameras.  This type of look, feel, and attitude would fit well with a lot of brands.  I would love to be hired to shoot an entire campaign on toy cameras.  That would be a blast.  Then if they could also pay me to watch some Scooby Doo with my son and read the latest adventures of Swamp Thing I would be able to get back at all those who have told me to grow up over the years.  Toys 'R' Us was right.  Growing up isn't something one should want to do.

*Thanks to Ryan Wells and Jimmy Bunting for the camera loans

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