If you’ve read my review you’ll understand that I’m a big fan of the Kodak’s Box Brownie No 2.
This design classic not only is one of the series of simple cheap cameras that helped launch the idea of taking photos to everyone but also gave us 120 roll film.
Millions were made from its launch in 1901 and you can buy a working one for just £1 with luck on eBay. But what alternatives exist for fun basic shooting with a simple box ?
The VUWS as it is affectionately acronymised is 21st century marvel and still made for Superheadz and other clone guises. It’s launch date is shrouded in mystery (first flick shots in VUWS group on flickr date from 2005). What you get is a ultra compact 35mm camera with plastic lensed fixed focus and fixed everything else. No frills or controls bar the shutter button (not even a tripod mount or flash shoe).
But it Just Works.
No other camera I’ve ever held has been such a joy to use. Get the light right and you’ll get all your shots out although getting a finger or strap in shot at some point is de rigeur. A worthy 21st century successor to the Brownie although the days of getting them for a quid are long gone (With luck a fiver on eBay but you can buy a new clone and get change out of a twenty).
Okay you’re not surprised I added a Halina in here but the 1970’s plastic lensed Halina 1000 35mm camera ?
Sure Halina has a long track record of simple fixed focus camera including the Hong Kong Lomo, the Micro 35. But the 1000 and it’s related siblings (Haking made a lot of camera in this ilk including the halina or Ansco 35, Prinz Junior and possibly the Halina 35X Mark II although that may have had a glass lens) probably match the set up of the Brownie best here (bar B mode) and the image quality
You get a simple fixed focus lens (check), a choice of 3 apertures (check) and a fixed shutter (check). Like the brownie you get a tripod mount but you also get a hot shoe. It is a camera styled for its time like the brownie and mines still works 4 decades later. Also you can get for a few quid on eBay.
One of the highlights of the Poundland Camera Challenge was this fixed focus late Kodak 35mm number from the 80’s and arguably a spiritual successor to the Brownie No.2.
At first glance you’d be tempted to discount as there is a light meter. But all this does is warn you it’s low light and you should turn on the flash. In fact the camera will work without batteries quite well. The glass lens is fixed focus, the shutter fixed and the aperture is effectively fixed too (although it changes for ASA so if you shoot at 400 ASA and are in lower light switching the slider to 200 ASA drops the aperture to f/4 (i suspect from f/11-16))
Incredibly sharp with 400 ASA and with a built in but slow flash. It is less good at smaller apertures and does seem brittle.
4. Agfa Click I
Launched in 1958. This bakelite retro sold ’til 1970. Like the Brownie it shot 120 roll film but using a 6×6 mask it got 12 shots a roll. Fixed simple meniscus 72.5mm lens with 3 aperture settings – sunny (f/11, cloudy ( f/8.8) and yellow filter fo B&W (f/8.8 but filter factor of 2 so f/11 effective). Shutter fixed at 1/30.
Incredible retro styling.
Okay you might be thinking I’m taking the michael here.
We’ve got a Pentax with a Flash and metering. But look again – there is no real metering (it just indicates you should manually turn on the flash) and in fact it will work without the batteries.
But this 35mm compact is all manual. You set the film speed and in shooting match the light conditions to a set of weather pictograms.
Perhaps not a fair comparison with a multi-element 1980’s lens but the concept is still pretty basic. Hey and you get a flash !!