Toronto with an Orphan Camera – By Brian Nicholls

It was the end of our Christmas 2008 holiday in Canada. My wife and I along with our son and his family – a party of six had spent the time with our other son and his extended Canadian family at a large cottage on Canning Lake, Ontario. I had moved from film to digital having spent a meagre Christmas bonus on a Panasonic DMC-LC80S digital telephoto compact and a handful of memory cards.

The camera had received rave reviews and sported a Leica lens so, I decided to dip my toe into the digital waters. Literally hundreds of images of all the touristy hotspots and family Christmas festivities in and around Haliburton County were captured and now all the memory cards were full and awaiting uploading to my computer. My love affair with film was well and truly over, or so I thought!

Our son kindly offered to take us the four hour journey to Toronto in plenty of time to get booked into our hotel and chill out before before the long haul back to the UK the following morning. Toronto is a very vibrant city throughout the year especially the downtown waterfront district and this was our fourth visit with the best part of the afternoon and evening to enjoy it. Throughout our visit there had been plenty of snow with temperatures dipping to well over thirty degrees meaning that sensible clothing was not an option – including gloves which are not conducive to fast handling photography.

Once refreshed, we set out to see a bit of down town life in the York Quay district, get something to eat and purchase a few essentials for the homeward bound trip – especially for two very young children.

After York Quay, we visited the PATH underground shopping mall in Yonge Street and very warm it was too.

My wife commented on the well-lit mall, festive street lights and general Christmassy feel about the city and, ”what a pity we don’t have a camera with us”. My son said that he knew of a camera store in the mall so, “why don’t we pick up a couple of disposables?”

We split from the group and headed for the store,“Have you got a couple of single use cameras with inbuilt flash please?” we enquired of the most obliging shop assistant. ”Erm, sorry sir we’ve completely sold out but, may I suggest a reloadable brand new 35mm point and shoot compact for around the same price?” – He’s joking, right…? I said that surely no-one is still making 35mm compacts in 2008 but OK, I’ll at least take a look.

He placed two identical cameras on the counter and both had virtually the same spec apart from the $22 model which had autofocus. Neither camera had a brand name which under the prevailing circumstances, I didn’t give a damn.

Now In my experience, autofocus doesn’t really do anything for a 26mm wide angle point and shoot compact so I settled for the $12 fixed-focus option which in 2008, equated to £6.50 in English money. Nice try though in attempting to ramp up the sale I thought.

So, here’s what what I got for the $12 spec:

  • Fixed focus 26mm f6 triplet lens.
  • Focusing range 1.35m to infinity.
  • Auto film loading, winding and rewinding and mid-roll rewind switch
  • 10 second self-timer and tripod bush.
  • Three-way auto flash with red-eye reduction. Recycles in 3 seconds
  • DX. ISO 100/400
  • Photo Dating.
  • Auto exposure.
  • Night Scene mode. ¼ sec at f6
  • LCD display.
  • Operates on 2 x AAA batteries.

”Need any film sir?” commented the sales guy,”no thanks” replied my son pulling two spare rolls from his pocket. I immediately stuffed a film into the camera and it wound on very quietly to the first frame. Ideal for candids I thought and I was very keen to try out the night-scene mode in the Mall and on the Toronto street lights.

Shopping done and dusted we retreated to ‘Johnny Rockets’, an American retro-style diner, for a good tuck-in. This was a great family experience which we have since often reflected upon. The staff were great and so was the 1950s-style music to which they regularly broke into a dance routine as I snapped happily away for posterity. It reminded us of the Happy Days TV series, but the only thing missing was The Fonz. Who would begrudge these guys and gals a decent tip? On our way back to the hotel I tried out the night mode.

Regarding the ‘no brand’ aspect of this camera the only clue to its provenance is on the bottom of the box which states ‘Imported by LEI Electronics Inc, Barrie, Ontario L4N8Y1’ The date imprint window is set at 98. 2. 26 (26 February,1998) and since I purchased it in December 2008 I can only surmise that it was ‘old new stock’ and perhaps an intentional promo camera to which corporate customers would attach their own promotional logo. Try as I may, I can’t find any evidence of its origin on Google, but all I can say is that it is extremely well made, the all plastic construction is precision moulded and for what it is, it’s packed with useful features – certainly better than many a ‘name’ compact. If you happen to see one of these on ebay, Buy It!!

I’m happy with the results and also the orphan camera itself, I feel that it has captured the essence of the visit perfectly so from the two aforementioned rolls I have included perhaps the best samples below.

Thanks for taking the time to look.

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18 thoughts on “Toronto with an Orphan Camera – By Brian Nicholls”

  1. Nice to see film images of Toronto, the city I live in, from back in 2008, as well as to read your account of where you explored. I also appreciate seeing what the camera was able to deliver. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your appreciation Henry. Indeed, a captivating City. These are amongst the most precious I have taken.

  2. Excellent article. Makes me re think my move from my Rollie 35 with the 40mm Zeiss-Tessar lens and a built in light meter to a Canon FTB ( as heavy as a brief case- vs. a wallet) with a 50mmF2.
    What a mistake I made.
    I moved to digital about 10 years ago. Since I am strictly a rangefinder loyalist, I much admiration for those who use film, particularly with the manual focus and F settings so to really let the glass do its best for my finished products. Your Website is Excellent, and your articles nearly always teach me something.Dave T

    1. Thanks for your nice comment Dave. I too have had great fun with rangefinders from the 1960s to 1980s – a truly intimate experience compared with SLRs in my opinion.You see, I do not like bulk when I’m making pictures.

  3. Thank you! Just the article I needed to read after the surreal events of yesterday here in the US. Fun photos of enjoying life and family.

    1. Thanks Peter for your appreciative reply. Proof positive that fun photography is a therapy eh! Family photography adds value as the years pass, but at the time you can appear tiresome to younger subjects, Just look at Lottie’s expression in the last photo. Speaks volumes!

    1. Thanks Gorka, It’s all down to the camera! All I did was to ‘like’ the scene and press the button. I wish I could find out who made the damn thing, because it performs well above its price.

    1. Thanks for your comment about the low light performance Tom. Gorka (above) is also of the same opinion so, I reckon I’m on to little gem here. Shortly after the Canada trip in 2008 I just took the batteries out, put it into a drawer and forgot about it. You’ve both given it a new lease of life. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Ivan. I totally agree with your stance on simplicity and ‘humble’ cameras. Virtually all my photography these days is about the pursuit of precious memories for which I need to get the camera out of the way. Thanks for the link to the Fuji Clearshot S. Yes, that’s the one my ‘Orphan camera is related to – right down to the small carry bag.

  4. I have the exact same camera, though mine wears a “Werlisa Compact Sport” badge. I found it in a local charity shop for 50p and it’s an excellent handbag camera. It goes most places with me, usually loaded with Ilford HP5.

    1. Thanks ‘J’ It seems from the comments that mine has done a decent job here – especially with the ‘Night Shot Mode’
      I ‘d love to see some of your results with the ‘Wersla Compact Sport’.

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