Despite the rise of digital photography, disposable cameras never went away, even if their function has largely been replaced by smartphones. But if you want the true analog vibe for your snapshots, and don’t want to deal with buying a secondhand 35mm camera or fiddling with controls, take a look at the Lomography Simple Use Film Camera Color Negative 400 ($16.90). It won’t deliver the images you get with a vintage Leica or Nikon, but if you love the grainy results you get from a plastic lens and color negative film, it’s worth trying out.
The Simple Use Film Camera is a pocket-sized shooter with very basic controls and features. It’s made of lightweight black plastic, with a sky blue sticker identifying it as the Color Negative version. Lomography also sells the same camera preloaded with
All three versions of the camera measure in at 2.5 by 4.5 by 1.3 inches (HWD) and weigh a few ounces. The lens is a 31mm with a fixed f/9 aperture and fixed focus from about 3.3 feet (1 meter) to infinity. The shutter always fires at 1/120-second, so you should have no problem freezing motion, but you’ll want to use the flash in any situation save very bright days.
There aren’t a lot of controls of which to speak. The flash is charged by holding a button on the front—and it must be charged before every shot.
The Simple Use is sold as a disposable camera, and you can certainly drop it off the photo lab and have it disposed of after you finish the 36-shot roll. But you can reload it and use it again and again if you want to—it’s just a tricky
You’ll need to open the camera by slicing open a sealed sticker on the bottom. A latch on the side releases a
There is a small plastic notch on the take-up spool, which you’ll need to match up with a sprocket hole on the film leader. After that, turn the spool with your fingers until you’re confident that the film has caught onto the spool, close the camera, and use the winding lever on the bottom to move all of the unexposed
Image Quality: Grainy and Gritty
The Simple Use is loaded with Lomography’s ISO 400 color negative film. It delivers good saturation, but does show a lot of grain. Couple this with a wide-angle lens with a sharp center and very blurry edges and you get images that are vastly different from
Everything is in focus, assuming it’s far enough away from the lens. You’re not going to get any bokeh with a 31mm f/9. It adds to the ease of use—what you see through the viewfinder is what you get, as long as you’re not trying to focus on something that’s too close to the lens.
You can add a bit of color to your shot using the gels that are attached to the body. You can go with a single color—magenta, cyan, or yellow—or use two gels together to change up the color. Cyan and yellow will make green, magenta
Getting film developed can be a challenge, depending on where you live. In Manhattan it was simply a matter of walking a block and paying $8 for a develop-only service—I scan negatives at home using the Plustek Optic Film 120. But we don’t all live near a major city. Your local drug store has likely dropped its C41 (color negative) film processing at this point, so make sure you have a convenient location for film processing before you jump in and buy a 35mm camera. If you develop at home, the black-and-white version is likely a better fit, unless you’re experienced with the temperature control required to properly home develop color film.
Conclusions: Fun, Cheap, Easy
It says a lot that the most difficult aspects of using the Lomography Simple Use Film Camera Color Negative 400 are finding a place to get your film developed and, if you want to save some money in the long run, reloading it with a fresh roll of film. It’s a fun camera that you can pass around at parties, throw into your pocket for a walk through the city or park, or hand out to guests at a wedding.
If you like the aesthetic of