A new TLR for less than a Tenner ? I kid you not.
This is one of a several 21st century DIY camera kits and one of the cheapest undercutting it’s obvious rival the Blackbird Fly by 80%. But is it worth a tenner or are you better saving up ?
Lets be clear this is very much a toy camera made almost entirely of plastic. The camera is sold under various names (Gakkenflex, Recesky, Fotodiox etc) but looks identical from knob placement and and hood logo. The Recesky & Clones are available at Amazon for under a Tenner and can be found on eBay or similar sites. However check as some are described as pinhole cameras with no lens. Historically the Gakkenflex was a camera which was a cover freebie on a Japanese camera magazine, the Recesky was arguable a clone that itself was cloned.
Mines came as a Xmas present from the other half in Hayes manual guide. The only metal parts are the screws and the shutter spring (mines also came with a screwdriver). There are variation in how good the kits are. Mines had instructions were easy to follow and I stuck it together with my daughter in around 30-40 minutes and it came with a a frosted (abet poor) screen. Others have more wonk instructions and some have clear screens
Do head warning about over tightening screws as we did blow one socket. Be careful with the spring too. Some models have small dimples inside each lens the gear rings which you should try to line up when screwing the lens in. Mines didn’t 🙁 but tried to get even and seemed to work
Recesky TLR Specs
- Lens: Plastic 50mm
- Focus: TLR
- Aperture: Fixed f/11 ¹
- Metering: None
- Shutter: 1/125 *
- Filter-Thread: None
- Recommend film : 200-400 ISO
* probably 1/100-1/250 region
¹ removing the aperture mask allows for f/5.6 according to some
The camera is indeed a mini TLR for 35mm but it’s cheapness does show through. My main gripe would be the plastic focus screen which was pretty poor and makes focusing my Lubitel 166U a piece of cake.AS there are no marking on the lens for distance you can’t even shoot scale focus size. Exposure is fixed at f/11 and somewhere about 1/125 (I’ve seen a blog describing tolerability of 1/50-1/250 ). You can remove the aperture mount to shoot at f/5.6 but that will hamper depth of field which might be your friend given how awful the screen is). Like other TLR your image is reversed in viewfinder which can be disconcerting at times.
The manual recommends 27 exp or less and I wouldn’t go above as the winding is fiddly as it is. On my first roll, the frame indicator didn’t always move and I ended up with a measly 9 shots. Slight pressure on rear while winding helped on second roll although it’s rare I take 20 shots on a roll. I see from posts that I’m not alone with the problems (others count the wind)
In use the shutter button is solid and firm increasing the risk of shake. Light leaks seem common but many tape theirs to prevent. The screen can be hard to use in direct light.
The shots taken leave you no doubt you’ve been handling a plastic camera, focal plane is not even and it shows but there is a certain retro charm. I’d shoot 200 asa with it as the exposure and film speed latitude will work well enough in most daylight circumstances.
But for various reasons this isn’t as anywhere as reliable as a VUWS.
At under a tenner for a TLR it’s hard to argue with the economics. The Blackbird Fly is it’s obvious rival but sells for 5 times the cost. Granted you get flash socket, a choice of masks and some setting option but reading reviews it has similar build quality flaws. A better DIY choice might be Lomography Konstructor (~£30) but that’s a SLR. Worth noting you can get the poor man’s Rolliflex in the form of a lubitel 166 series for around £30 second hand and use that with 35mm film with some convertor pins for a fiver off ebay
- Probably the cheapest non disposable in existence
- A TLR for less than a Tenner
- Uses 35mm
- Retro images
- Made by your hand
- You get what you pay for
- A disposable has a better lens
- Poor screen
- Rubbish number of shots per roll
What I paid and got
- Unknown, present
- Came with box, manual and screwdriver
- Blackbird Fly – More expensive 35mm TLR
- VUWS and clones – mini 35mm plastic wonder
- Lomography Konstructor – The DIY SLR from Lomography
- Lubitel 166 series – Poor man’s 120 TLR
- Gakkenflex v Recesky v Blackbird Fly discussed at lofico
- Recesky DIY TLR review at DIY photography
- Recesky DIY TLR review at Lomography
- Recesky Manual at Recesky TLR Blog
- Recesky Group at Flickr