I’ve been a fan of low-fi plastic cameras since before the days of Instagram. The square shape, the medium format 120 film, the light leaks, and the graininess together make for a truly creative experience and–once in a while–a work of art to feel proud of.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my DSLR. I love my iPhone. I love Instagram for capturing daily life. But…digital files on a screen leave me weary at times; overloaded by data and missing the true experience of anticipation. I’ve become numb by the ability to see every shot instantly on a screen. I sometimes need a break from the perfection of pixels.
I was able to try a Diana F+ recently. If you don’t know what a plastic camera (aka Toy Camera) is, here is a quick explanation: lightweight, made of plastic, plastic lens (usually) takes 120 film (though some have converters to use 35mm film as well), deliberately allows light leaks, has strong vignetting around the edges, extremely low-tech, deliberately promotes distortion.
Here is what she looks like:
The setting options are very simple:
- “N” for normal shutter speed
- “B” for longer shutter speed (you can hold the shutter open for a long exposure)
- Aperture settings: Cloudy, Partly Cloudy, Sunny
- Focus settings by distance such as 1-2 m (as indicated by the stick figure) up to 4-infinity m (as indicated by the multiple stick figures with the mountain).
How straightforward is that, right?
You can control some of the distortion by using something to steady the camera as well as black electrical tape to block light leaks out. However, you can’t control it all and you may not want to even try. A plastic lens makes things soft and little blurry. The joy is in the surprise.
Two other features:
- The ability to shoot as a pinhole, which I didn’t try.
- A flash, which my review model did not have.
You can either shoot 12 full-frame square pictures or 16 small pictures. You choose that option on the counter window on the back of the camera. Through this counter window, you’ll see what number exposure you are on and you’ll manually advance your film until you get to the next number. The counter window is a smidge hard to see, but don’t worry. Circle markers on the paper side of the film show you that the next number is coming soon.
- Developing 120 film can be costly.
- This isn’t the camera for you if you are looking for crisp, perfectly focused images.
- Creativity without boundaries.
- You are not inhibited by technology – you can do anything you want from multiple exposures to more advanced things like panoramas.
- You have to take pictures with intent. There is no firing off tons of pictures, hoping that one will be great and you can dump the rest. You only have 12 or 16 chances, so it forces you to SLOW DOWN and think about your shot.
- The glorious anticipation of waiting to see what you’ve created.
- Beautiful vignettes and saturation.
- The camera itself is inexpensive ($89)
- A certain quality–that I can’t put into words–you only get while shooting film. You’ll just have to see what I mean.
Here are a few shots taken with the Diana F+ using no flash and Lomography Color Negative 400 ISO 120 film. This particular batch of film showed the numbers and dots from the other side. I’ve never had that happen, but I wasn’t disappointed. I actually liked the effect.
You can purchase a Diana F+ HERE.
* all product shots are used courtesy of Lomography.