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.
10 Holga 135BC
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
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
8 Lomography 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
7 The DIY TLR
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’
6 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
5 Halina 1000
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
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
2nd joint Lomography Diana F+
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
2nd Joint Holga 120 series
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
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
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