It’s Not The Photographer, It’s The Camera!

I enjoy reading the high end DSLR discussion boards on the internet. Those gearheads go ape over minute differences in “chromatic aberration” and “barrel distortion”. They peep at pixels in Photoshop to see if their lens is able to give them a sharp image blown up to the size of the side of a barn. But all they seem to ever shoot pictures of is brick walls and cans of soda at varying distances lined up on their dining room table!

I think if you are going to make a fetish over camera equipment, it should be junk store cameras, not DSLRs. There’s something about a fifty year old scratched up plastic lens that makes magic happen. The proof is on exhibit at

Marcy Merrill, a professional photographer, has been accumulating cameras at swap meets and thrift stores and running rolls of film though them to see what comes out. She has captured some remarkably atmospheric images and each one is accompanied by a photo of the two dollar plastic camera that took it. Check it out…

[ Marcy Merrill’s Junk Store Cameras via boing boing ]

Update… Gizmodo picked this up, too. You go, Marcy!

Another toy camera – Meikai EL

This is a Meikai EL, circa 1963. Bought on eBay, I was the only bidder!

As toy cameras go, this one feels pretty solid. The body is metal and plastic and the leatherette makes it feel like a “real” camera. The film advance is smooth, and there’s an indicator to let you know when the film is properly advanced. The lens looks like it’s made of glass. The door latch is solid.

The fake light meter surrounding the viewfinder give it away as a toy camera, and the fixed focus, fixed shutter speed lens adds to the toy camera gestalt.


The camera has 3 aperture settings – f/8, f/11 and f/16. If you’re not sure which direction stopping down is, the BRIGHT and DULL labels should help to match the weather conditions to the aperture settings. There’s an Instant and Bulb shutter setting next to the aperture setting.

The Meikai EL has an accessory shoe and a PC socket for flash. The instructions recommend using the Bulb setting for flash shooting – flash bulbs need a a slower sync speed, like 1/15th sec or so.

The Meikai EL only has one lug for attaching a strap, so you’re stuck with a wrist strap. This camera CALLS OUT for a two-lug thin leather tourist-ey neck strap.

The pictures I’ve seen on the net have the simple lens elements, soft focus, toy camera look. I’ve shot a roll of 5-year-old Jessops 200 speed film on my lunch hour and should get it back from York Photo in a week.

Somewhere in my garage I have an old Vivitar 16M flash with a PC cord, I’ll have to dig it up tonight.


Meikai Links: