Credit goes to Hamish at 35MMC.com for the inspiration behind this post and project.
Hamish is running a photo competition to win a Leica M4, the idea is to buy or use a camera worth less than £10 and produce an image that transcends the camera's value and stands up as a 'good' image. He's yet to judge the competition but I'm certainly happy with some of the images from my £8 camera; enter the Canon AF35J/SPRINT.
So, what does your £8 buy you?
A boxy little 1989 Canon point and shoot, with very few bells and whistles but in pretty much perfect condition is the answer. It fits well in a jacket pocket and is nicely self contained with the on/off switch also operating a cover for the lens and focusing lens, so no case is required.
The top trumps stats are as follows: the lens is 35mm F3.5 - F11, minimum focus distance of 0.9m or 0.45m with forced flash, shutter speed of between 1/40 and 1/250. It will accept DX coded film of either 100 or 400 ISO. That's about it, no self timer but can be attached to a tripod with plastic thread in the base. Oh yeah, and the strap is 45cm long, letting you judge your close focus distance to perfection, low tech but useful. I shot three rolls of 400 ISO film through it, two Kodak Portra 400 and one Kodak Tri-X 400, most of the better shots were in subdued light or low evening light but it worked fine in bright sunlight too. Film loading, wind on and re-wind are automatic and motor driven, it's not the quietest motor ever but not intrusively loud either.
Focusing with the horrible squashy shutter button means focus / recompose technique isn't the most confidence inspiring; there isn't really a distinct half press position and the focusing is silent so it's hard to judge if it's working. That said I don't think I took one out of focus shot over three 36 exposure films so it must work reasonably well!
The specification is truly nothing special and were it not for the challenge criteria I would have never bought this camera, it just looks bang average on paper and in use apart from the horrible shutter button it's pretty average. And this averageness is it's greatest strength, with no knobs to twist or controls to think about you are free to concentrate on the real crux of photography; composition.
I've not shot a lot with a 35mm focal length before so that is new but apart from that I am used to getting good results from most camera's I've used but looking through my scans (thanks filmdev.co.uk - great scans!) I found a far greater proportion of keepers and had far fewer repeats of similar shots with different settings than is normal for me.
I shot at locations I've been to many times before and shot subjects I've shot before and yet, somehow, ended up with a load of unique shots. Weird, who would have thought this uninspiring camera could be so inspiring.
Simplicity isn't something that I've ever looked for in a camera, in fact most of my camera's are massively more complicated that this dull little plastic brick, but the little Canon AF35 takes a pretty reasonable photo!
Free yourself from thinking about one hundred settings and the process of taking a picture changes, it's more contemplative and it's more fun.
So now I'm sure you'll be interested to try it for yourself, this little Canon AF35 is going on a trip, I've loaded a roll of Portra 400 and she's ready to roll.
She's going to travel the world one roll of film at a time. (I hope!)
If you're interested in getting involved with this travelling camera project then please get in contact, I want to send it on a trip and I need you guys to get involved to make it work.
If you want to be the first recipient of the camera let me know your address and I'll forward it on, shoot the whole roll and replace it with another 400 ISO roll of your choice then send it to the next address on the list.
Once you have developed the roll I want to send me your best three shots from the roll and any comments about your experience with the camera which I will them publish here.
How does your photography change when you concentrate on composition and timing alone?
Update 01/07/16 - Thanks for everyone that has got in touch to be involved so far. The camera has 13 recipients planned so far.
Where the camera has been:
- Gavin Wares - London, England - gavinwares.tumblr.com
- Dimitri - London, England
Where the camera is going:
- Hamish - www.35mmc.com
- Mal Pryde - Fife, Scotland
- Rob Edgerly - Bern, Switzerland
- Tina Kino - Berlin, Germany
- Michael Francis - New York, USA
- Ritchie Greenhill - Dundee, Scotland
- Aimee Smith - Fife, Scotland
- Mikael Carlsson - Gothenburg, Sweden
- Sarah Mears - Mulgrave Vic, Australia
- Theo Panagopoulos - Sydney, Australia
- Dan Polacek - Farmington MO, USA