Disposable camera
Disposable Cameras

Disposable Cameras Review – Cheap, Fun, and Dependable – by Rick Davy

August 28, 2017

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!

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  • Reply
    August 29, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Nice post! Disposable cameras are just fun to shoot too!

    • Reply
      August 31, 2017 at 6:13 am

      Thank you Dave

    • Reply
      September 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

      they are…

  • Reply
    Andre Domingues
    August 29, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Rick, thank you for sharing your experiences with disposable film cameras. I recently picked up a Fuji variant while on holiday, and hope to try out the offerings from Kodak and Ilford in the near future. I’ve also learned that it is possible to remove the film from the cameras (usually requires breaking them open in some form or another) to develop at home. This will be a great way to get the most out of these fun little devices, as I am finding it increasingly difficult to find local labs that develop B+W, let alone C-41. Where can I see more of your work?

    • Reply
      September 24, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Heh Andre. Im on line (www.rickdavy.co.uk) and further searches will bring up my other published work too. Thanks for the kind words

  • Reply
    August 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Very nice results. I have a bunch that I have to use now;) Noticed a couple of days ago that the (semi-famous) Canadian streetphotographer Michael Ernest Sweet is only shooting disposable nowadays (at least according to instagram: http://instagram.com/disposablestreets )

    • Reply
      September 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

      They’re great to have with your other kit whilst your out shooting. I love to make comparisons once developed between high end film and digi. If you love grain then these are ace.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Disposable cameras offer very good results in the right conditions. My only gripe is they are too sophisticated to throw away, and seem rather wasteful. I assume some components are recycled which mitigates against this, but they look like a perfectly good camera in search of a back door!
    Here’s a disposable camera street challenge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpQw0nD0D7k

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    September 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Good compositions there!
    Yes, when I haven’t a camera at hand I get one of those from time to time. Limited but better than no camera. Well, … taking no photos is for me a good way for learning to see.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Yep.. good point Rick, and lovely minimal shots. Used to use disposables for handing out at parties, great fun!

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