Top 10 Plastic-fantastic Cameras

If you like lo-fi photography or want to give it a go at some point you’ll end up with the desire for a plastic lensed beauty. Here’s a list of ten of the best both available new or widely available second hand.

Glasgow Botanics, 2015. Superheadz Wide and Slim (aka VUWS) with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 400

10 Holga 135BC

Holga 135BC
Holga 135BC taken with an instagram filter

First appearance for the now defunct Holga. The 135BC is an evolution of the more harder to source 135 with the only difference is it has a mask to give a more pronounced Vignetting (i.e Black Corners BC). Sturdy Holgas do vary in reliability. Has a clssic Holga look to images and you gain easier film format and cable release. I’m yet to use a working one  so buyer beware

9 Halina Panorama

Halina Panorama
Halina Panorama a fixed focus 35mm simple camera

Haking are no strangers to making budget plastic cameras  . The panorama has acquired a bit of a cult follow. The camera is fixed shutter, aperture and focus. It shoots ordinary 35mm film but uses a panorama mask (basically the top and bottom of a standard 36x24mm frame are cut off). Images have a lovely soft granularity to them and it can be picked up for a quid. Read more here

Devorgilla Bridge in Snow I
Dumfries 2015 with Halina Panorama and Expired Kodak BW400CN

8 Lomography Diana Mini

Diana Mini
Diana Mini

Modelled on the Diana cameras this takes 35mm and  shoots 24x24mm square images or half frame 12×24 strips. A choice of apertures and rare for the class a proper cable point for timed release. I have a love hate relationship with this camera – when it works you can get lovely results but I find a lots of shots go duff. See more

2 Shots on a Diana Mini
2 Shots on a Diana Mini


Recesky DIY TLR
Recesky DIY TLR a full 35mm TLR for less than a tenner!

Yes you can buy a fully working focusing TLR that you build for less than a tenner. Originally this was a freebie  on a magazine cover but is now sold under a gaumet of names around the tenner mark (Often called the Recesky DIY TLR or camera). Here are some on amazon.

Enjoyable fun and a good way to learn about camera mechanics even though the lens is poor, it’s prone to light leaks and the  viewing screen ain’t great. However it does work and there is something pleasing in the ‘I made this’

Here’s my more detailed review

6 Goko UF

Goko UF
Goko UF

Rare Japanese flash compact from a brand you never heard of but features the first iteration of a universal focus lens (here in glorious plastic) whose technology went onto grace loads of other companies fixed focus cameras. The lens is incredibly good and you could be mistaken for thinking you had a glass one – Perhaps too sharp

The flash is a bonus and the camera is essentially fixed focus, aperture and shutter.  Read more about this rarity here

Chevy to the levy ?
Goko UF with AVP200. Dumfries 2014

5 Halina 1000

Halina 1000
Halina 1000 35mm plastic camera from the 1970’s

Second appearance by Haking here with a 70’s number that now looks cool retro styled.

Fixed focus, single shutter speed but a choice of apertures.  The lens is actually not bad (better than some of Haking’s glass numbers) but still gives a retro chic.

The camera is best thought of between a more practical alternative to the Diana mini and the 135 holga series. Read more here

Aristocratic Playhouse
Dumfries 2014. Halina 1000 with expired Truprint FG+ 200

4 Branded Disposable Cameras

By unit sales these are still the biggest selling cameras. Oddly they are partly responsible for the survival of many high street film mini labs as they remain popular (often used where people would be worried about loosing a more expensive camera or a fun thing to do at weddings etc). Named brand seem notably better (Kodak IMHO the best for colour followed by Fuji. Ilford also make for B&W including a XP2 version that can be processed in any lab). Usually for under a tenner which if you think of the cost of a roll of 400-800 ASA film by a main manufacture isn’t that pricey. The lenses aren’t bad and are capable of reasonable shorts in the usual 3-5m sweet zone. There is also a modding community for re using

On the wall III
Birdoswald Roman fort, Cumbria, 2014. Kodak disposable FunSaver camera.

2nd joint Lomography Diana F+

Diana F+ Edelweiss Variant
Diana F+ Edelweiss Variant

Tough one for next two places so I’ve tied it. In some ways not surprising as very similar cameras using 120 roll. LSI launched their Diana series as a homage to the 60’s Diana which itself was a homage/rip off of the Agfa Isoly series. One also suspects the success of the Holga in the 80’s to 90’s must have been an influence.

On the plus you get a retro styled camera now available in a multitude of hues which has multiple accessories and crucially is a interchangeable lens camera. It can also be used as a pinhole camera out of the box and has 3 normal f-stops in routine use. It is let down by the propriety flash mount and weaker build quality. See more

Five to Seven
Dumfries, September 2014. Diana F+ with Kodak Porta 400 NC

 2nd Joint Holga 120 series

Holga 120N
Holga120N, a film camera captured ironically by instagram

Holga ceased production last year meaning we are witnessing the slow gradual death of the Holga as a New camera. Holga became the iconic in production Lo-fi camera at the end of the 20th century right at the rise of the lo-if movement. Its simple lens has inspired a host of digital filters with that classic Holga look. Whilst it doesn’t have an interchangeable lens a skew of variants have been made.

Like the Diana F+ a host of accessories are available. More robust than the Diana it too comes in a series of hues. Read more here

1 Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim

Superheadz Wide & Slim
Superheadz Wide & Slim a current clone of the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim

The VUWS is a tiny 35mm fixed focus, shutter and aperture plastic camera was originally produced as a freebie. However given its cult following it often goes for double figures and you can still buy new rebranded versions such as the superheadz wide and slim. The killer feature is the fantastic wide plastic lens. There are no frills here not even a tripod or flash mount.

But the shots are amazing and have their own signature. The fact that it is so titchy means it is a carry everywhere camera. See more here

Fixed focus Equinity V
At the Kelpies, Near Falkirk. 2015. Superheadz Wide and Slim (aka VUWS) with Agafphoto Vista Plus 200

What didn’t make the cut and why

Didn’t see your fav camera listed. Well there a few reasons. Obviously this a subjective list and I’m biased to cameras I have had contact with. Secondly I’ve excluded a fair few cameras like the Lomography sprocket rocket and fisheye series as although they can be fun they are too niche for general use. Likewise the Lomography Konstructor although plastic and DIY is a full SLR camera and just too good to be in this list (you might however argue that some here including the VUWS are sharper)

Some cameras were just pipped off the the list like the Color Optical lens numbers (just too brittle).

Please discuss if you think something is missing

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