My personal rough start with the plastic 35mm TLR that became a pleasant dream come true… A true lomographic experience, from start to finish, as you literally have to build the camera first.
I’m not going to lie, it was hard and stressful, and I felt like quitting a couple of times… It should have been easier though, going by the few reviews I was able to find online… I got it done in the end, had to use a bit of glue here and there… and voilà: I had my own personal plastic TLR camera, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It was worth every pain… To be fair I think part of it was a bit of clumsiness on my part, and my amazing ability to get stressed with the most simple of tasks. Also, I honestly believe I got a faulty kit because the easier part of the assembly, screwing in the lenses, became a nightmare. They were too tight and weren’t screwing in properly (I got blisters on my fingers trying to fit them so much). By the time I got to this point I had already had to use glue, so I wasn’t getting my money back, I thought ‘whatever’ and spend a good hour and a half sandpapering the lenses outside screw indentations, and went as far as using lubricant (the cuisine type) to get it to slide in properly. It took effort, but again: It was worth it.
After all the hassle of assembling the camera I had lost my entire Saturday to the thing (with several breaks in between to get my nerves settled a bit) and I had no idea how I could test it without film easily available on a Sunday. I eventually found a much overpriced store that had the 400 ISO film the package recommended and, with my fingers still a bit sore from the previous day, I went about testing the little beauty that had pained me so.
I tried focusing it close, and I tried it focusing it to the infinite,
I tried multiple exposure, and I tried it at dusk. I was blown away with the results. It was my first analogue film experience in a long time and I seriously wasn’t expecting such good results. The 400 iso colours surprised me a lot because they were so vivid, and I had just bought whatever had been available. The lens blurriness on the edges, along with the black corners on close ups.. It was everything I had hoped for and then some. It made all the pain totally worth it.
The cameras’ ‘do it yourself’ kit is available at a very cheap price on e-bay (I chose a British distributor to avoid trouble with customs). I spent around 18€, shipping fees included. If that isn’t a bargain for such a lovely little toy than I’m not sure what is. And I honestly believe that in most cases the assembly is easy and without trouble.
You would think that with such a cheap camera you wouldn’t have many options except point and shoot, but that isn’t the case here. The twin lenses aren’t just for show, as you can easily focus objects from a 50 cm up to 3m and then infinity range. Below you can see the viewfinder and how the picture looks very sharp when at the correct distance. There’s a little thing that isn’t obvious in the instructions but that is very important: both lenses must be aligned to make sure that what the viewfinder shows is what you actually get. There are two very small dot marks in each lens that must be aligned before screwing them in. I realised this almost too late (i got in on time though).
Also you can experiment with multiple exposures as the film sliding is all manual. There are also a few twists you can add by either using what they call the ‘twist plate’ or not using it, and depending on its position regarding the lens. They are subtle changes but that can be easily explored. I read somewhere that taking out this twist plate changes the regular aperture of f11 to f5. The shutter speed doesn’t change though. It’s approximately 1/125 (although you can twist it slightly to bulb by holding your finger in the right place. It requires some training though.)
There are also some neat online tutorials about little extras you can add, such as an actually working flash hot shoe (YouTube) or a cool DIY lenses’ cover (lomography site) that can be seen above on the bottom of the picture of the camera. (I really tried putting links in place but I couldn’t make them work. I’m open to suggestions on how to write them properly.)
I got so happy with it that I’m also completely obsessed with this little girl’s sister: the Recesky 3D Stereo Pinhole camera, also DIY (although this one looks a lot simpler to assemble due to its boxy and non-complex structure.) As soon as I have it tried I’ll be sure to leave a review and examples of it in here. One of the things that bothers me is how there is so little attention bestowed upon it when it looks so ripe with possibilities. It’s pinhole, which is in itself great, but not only that but it allows for panoramic views, and…. I’ll let you know more as soon as I have it with me 🙂
This is about the TLR though so here I’ll leave the rest of my Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 film for you to enjoy. As you can see most pictures turn out to be vertical as it isn’t an easy fit to shoot a horizontal picture and still know how it will come out.