Sunday, August 22, 2010

Break from digital : A vacation to film land

Lubitel II Set1 - Index

I don't think I've really mentioned it much (if at all) here on my photo blog but I collect old and unique cameras. Every once it awhile I'll put down my digital cameras and pick up one of these to head out for a little film fun.

The majority of the older cameras I have are medium format TLR's and the odd box camera, there are a few 35mm exceptions like my elegant Werra 3 and the low fi Smena 8M.

It is when I have these cameras in hand that I remember how exciting taking photos was when I was a kid. Each frame was precious because you only had a finite number, no erasing unwanted photos or memory cards that allow for thousands of photos. There was always that feeling of anticipation as you waited to get the photos back from the lab wondering "did they turn out?" Or in some cases "I have know idea what's even on this roll" lol. The kids growing up in the digital age missed out on this (I feel old saying that and I'm only 29), don't get me wrong I love what digital sensors have given us in photography but it's also taken something away.

Today reminded me of that era and gave me a glimpse of that old excitement when I saw this camera while surfing the web:
(Photo from

It's the Superheadz Blackbird Fly, a new 35mm TLR that hails from Japan. Other than Seagull I don't think any other company is producing new TLR cameras, sure there was that digital Rollieflex a few years back but at 2MP it was more of a joke than a real camera. These little Blackbird Fly's (aka BBF) are a little pricey at a touch over $100 but are cheaper than the medium format Seagull TLR. I like the fact that they shoot the readily available 35mm film, it's a little easier on the pocketbook compared to spending over $1 per photo with 120 film not counting the film itself. If you're shooting MF because of the higher detail negatives you're most likely shooting on a MF SLR or a higher end TLR anyway so 35mm makes sense for those of us just looking for some fun.

If you are however interested in the medium format route you can get into it on a fairly low budget. The Holga 120N is a cult classic in the field of lomography and can be had for under $50 if you look hard, Diana's (the inspiration for the Holga) are also still available and fit a shoestring budget. Some vintage cameras can be found on ebay or in your local antique shops, the Lubitel II and 166B made from bakelite instead of metal can generally can be had quite cheaply. Lastly, and not to be overlooked, the archaic yet still fully functional Kodak box cameras often sell in antique shops for around $10. The only piece of advice I'd offer when looking for vintage medium format cameras, assuming you want to shoot with them, is to make sure they shoot 120 film and not 620. It is possible to respool 620 onto the fatter 120 spools but its not the easiest process.

Another interesting little camera that is made by the same company is the Superheadz Golden Half which is quite unique itself. This is a throwback to yet another popular genre from yesteryear, a 35mm camera that only uses half a frame per photo netting you twice the pictures! A few years back I was trying to find something similar on Ebay and the vintage versions were fetching prices that were outside of my range. At just over $50 these are still a tad on the pricey side all considering however they are unique and since they're new you don't have to worry about buying one and finding the lens is covered in fungus ;)
(Image from

I ended up ordering an orange Blackbird Fly and a "black mountain" Golden Half, once I get them and put a roll through each I'll make another post reviewing my findings. At one point I'll dig all of my vintage cameras out, take their portraits, and write up a post about all of them too but that'll be down the road.
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