We live in a “disposable” world these days – as such something so simple and throwaway as a disposable camera can, and does get over looked. Like many of us, I came across these simple little preloaded, ready to shoot, light and easy to carry cameras as a child. I loved that fact that I could effectively become an instant photographer – no training needed. The excitement of opening the shutter, capturing all I could see and then sharing those images with me family; an instant hit on the fun front!
There’s nothing elaborate about a plastic box with film in it, which is effectively what a disposable camera is. But the marketeers of the world cleverly packaged them in such away that they became visually attractive. This combined with their low cost, incredible ease of use and dependability meant that over the years they sold in their millions!
A bit of history
Disposables were first developed by Fuji back in 1986. The concept was simple – use it once, and then dispose of it. These cameras came with a fixed focal length of 30mm f/11 and a single shutter speed of 1/100 – ideal for snapping away on those sunny summer holiday day trips!
Fuji led the market for a while but Kodak soon became the key player in volume. Over the years several versions were produced to include the use of an added flash and underwater versions too. Kodak was also quick to add choices in film speed. They all ran at 100 to start with but soon you could purchase both 400 and 800 versions. Clearly Kodak was of the opinion that further variations in their disposable camera product base would only lead to even further growth in the market.
An interesting note here. The disposable market is currently on the up. Back in 2012, Ilford fancied cashing in on that market with the introduction of their B&W offerings. It just shows how dependable and still relevant they are today… (Hamish posted about his use of an Ilford disposable camera here)
Rediscovering the disposable camera
More recently I’ve started to come across disposable cameras whilst searching the car boats and charity shops of the world for film related stuff. The more I found and bought, the more I thought about how I could transfer my establish skills as a photographer into a project that involved them. In fact, I soon began to just carry one with me where and whenever I went out shoot. They might be simple but their results can be quite rewarding!
In terms of a choice of subject matter for these cameras, I didn’t really need to give it a huge amount of thought if I’m honest. I live where the light is like no other – Cornwall – and from previous experience shooting film here I knew that colour was at a premium. This suits my style, and these disposable cameras, so transferring that knowledge into my disposable finds came easy!
I often chose a coastal related topics and sometimes run a digital camera shot for shot in addition to make comparisons. That cheap little plastic box with its 100 asa film in it delivered almost every time with lovely grain and sharp vivid colours. Yes, failures happen, but searching out the right light and colour really gives me some great results that put the digital images to shame in terms of the overall feel of the photo.
It’s not always about being pin sharp and perfect through having and using the best glass possible… the plastic lens of a disposable camera can quite readily prove that point!