Obviously, we all love point and shoot film cameras. Or, at least, we like them enough to come and look at (or write for, in my case) a website like this. But in their development over the years, some compact film cameras evolved in more ‘elegant’ ways than others. What follows is a, subjective as ever, list of annoyances that some of these little beasts can put us through.
- Inability to turn the flash off. This has to be top of the annoyance list. And includes some of my favourite point and click film cameras, for example the Ricoh FF-7/FF-9. Obviously, there are cost reasons for this – the fewer the features, the cheaper the camera. But it can be infuriating when you just know that there is enough light to take a shot and the pesky camera insists that it knows better. And often this happens in surprisingly bright environments. Even amongst cameras that do allow you to disable the flash, most of them revert to default after they have been switched off and on again.
- Power saving mode. So, you have just finished messing about with the awkward little buttons to set your compact camera up just as you want it and are wandering about looking for that perfect photo opportunity, when the camera decides to go into sleep mode. In doing so, all your settings revert back to default (yes, including the pesky flash). This seems to mainly affect the more modern point and shoot film cameras, from at least the late 1990s, if not the early 21st century. For example, this affects the Fuji DL Super Mini/Tiara as well as the Pentax Espio 60s. Worst of all, there doesn’t appear to be a way to disable power-saving.
ISO settings with DX codes. This one is a bit of a combination whinge, most of which revolves around the way in which most of the later point and shoot film cameras auto-detect the ISO speed of the 35mm film canisters and adjust their settings accordingly. Obviously the early film cameras, such as the Yashica Auto Focus and the various Canonets, have to have the ISO manually set. Auto setting ISO speeds, using film DX codes can be quite a handy feature. But it is the inability to override these settings manually which can be a nuisance. For example, you may want to shoot a 400 ISO film at 320, or even 250 ISO, but this is not possible. The other problem is that if you use film which does not have DX codes marked on the canister, or worse if you are using an ISO film speed which the camera does not recognise, then most point and shoot cameras will revert to a default speed. This is usually 100 ISO, which is not a lot of use if you are using Ilford Delta 3200.
- Noisy cameras. I recently reviewed the Canon Sure Shot Zoom S, which was almost comically loud and a candidate for the World’s noisiest camera. But many point and shoot cameras can be annoyingly noisy. And not just zoom cameras, where this is to be expected to some degree. The Fuji DL Super Mini/Tiara, which is on the way to being a premium point and shoot film camera, is noticeably noisy when the lens extends and retracts, as well as when winding the film on.
- Squinty viewfinder. I have complained about a few compact film cameras that have small viewfinders. Usually these have been some of the more modern zoom cameras, such as the Ricoh RZ-735. But some of the prime lens compact cameras can also be quite bad. The Olympus mju II / Stylus Epic is an example, although it is such a tiny camera, that it can probably be forgiven to a large degree. Point and shoot film camera viewfinders also mean that, not being SLRs, the view is likely to result in a less accurate photographic portrayal of the ‘original’. (Although, alongside the subject of originality, this article about photography and creative practice discusses how photography can be about more than just photographic authenticity).
I’m aware that many of the above complaints are here because this website deals predominately with compact cameras at the cheaper end of the spectrum. High end point and click film cameras, such as the Ricoh GR1 and so on, are often able to overcome many of these issues. But these cameras usually come at a premium cost also.
At the end of the day, we have to treat these cameras as what they are. Often cheaply made, mass produced and of their time. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a good old moan every now and then.