During a previous post, I joked that there are so many cheap plastic point and shoot film cameras available from thrift-shops, markets, yard, and garage sales, that some of them might almost be treated as semi-disposable. Although, in today’s world where recycling is encouraged so much, swapping cheap cameras with friends or giving them back to charity shops is my preferred course of action. I’d also like to think that the ‘disposable’ cameras are being recycled in some way, once they have been returned for developing.

“Disposable cameras are one of the few film camera formats left, where it is still possible to buy brand new 35mm film cameras”.The continued existence of disposable 35mm point and shoot film cameras is intriguing. Looking around the web, it seems that Ilford, Fujifilm, Kodak, AgfaPhoto and, of course, Lomography are all offering various models of disposable cameras. This article is not focussed on reviewing which disposable film camera is best for any particular purpose. Indeed, given the similarities between different disposable cameras, it is probably a personal choice anyway. However, in light of disposable cameras being one of the few formats in which it is still actually possible to buy a brand new film camera, a look at the features of some available disposable film cameras, does seem worthwhile.

What are disposable cameras?

In thinking about the title for this article, I had initially headed the post as a round-up of disposable point and shoot film cameras. However, there have been very few disposable digital cameras, in the same sense of the word as their film counterparts – that the camera is returned to a shop for processing or printing. And so that means that disposable cameras are, by and large, film cameras. Moreover, disposable cameras are, for the most part, point and shoot cameras and, apart from the odd exception, they are 35mm film cameras.

There seems to be some some disparity in what to call each of this type of camera. Ilford refer to their two models as single use cameras, whilst Kodak seem to use the term one-time-use camera. Either way, the function is similar.

Why do disposable cameras have 27 exposures?

One of the quirks of nearly all disposable film cameras, is that they come loaded with 27 exposures. I’ve yet to find a definitive reason why disposable cameras use 27 photographs, as opposed to 24 or 36, which is the norm for rolls of cartridge film. My best guess is that the film length is the same as 24 exposure film and that the disposable format allows 27 pictures to be taken because of the lack of exposure of the beginning of the film to light, as  often happens when loading a non-disposable film camera.

Why use disposable film cameras?

Ilford disposable camera

An Ilford disposable film camera, pre-loaded with HP5 Plus film.

Disposable point and shoot film cameras come with a roll of 35mm film already installed and, this being the case, are perhaps a good way for those thinking about taking up film photography to review the point and shoot film camera format.

Disposable point and shoot film cameras are generally compact and easy to use. They have few controls and generally have a simple viewfinder, a fixed-focus prime plastic lens, and all the photographer has to do is look through the viewfinder and click the shutter. Mind you, this could also be said about many cheaper reusable point and shoot film cameras.

Some disposable point and shoot film cameras come with a built-in flash, whilst others claim to be waterproof. Other differences include the type of film they use; colour, or black and white, and what ISO speed the pre-loaded film is rated at; as well as the aperture of the lens.

Overview of some disposable film cameras

Fujifilm disposable camera box

An Fujifilm disposable film camera, in its box.

The following cameras are just some of the basic models which appear to be currently available and the specifications have been drawn from the companies websites, or other online sources. Bear in mind, also, that the brand-names of some of these cameras appear to be slightly different, depending on where you look. It’s often hard to tell whether this is for region specific branding purposes, or whether the cameras are slightly different models.

Ilford’s two offerings have been available for some time and, being Ilford, are both loaded with black and white film; either HP5 Plus true black and white film, or XP2 Super chromogenic film. The latter can be developed using the ordinary colour C41 process. Both these Ilford films are 400 ISO and both cameras have a built-in flash.

Fujifilm have a range of disposable cameras under the QuickSnap brand-name and there appears to be three varieties of Fujifilm QuickSnap. QuickSnap Flash 400, which comes loaded with Fujicolor 400 ISO speed film; and QuickSnap Flash X-TRA 800 and QuickSnap Waterproof, both of which come loaded with Fujifilm’s Superia 800 ISO film. All, except the waterproof version of the camera, appear to come with a built-in flash.

Kodak’s offerings appear to consist of one disposable camera called a FunSaver, which uses Kodak Gold 800 ISO film and has a flash; and a Kodak Max ‘Water & Sport’ camera, which also contains some form of 800 ISO speed film and is supposed to be waterproof. I also found two cameras from AgfaPhoto, named LeBox Flash and LeBox Outdoor, both of which contain some kind of colour 400 ISO film. The only difference that I can see between the two, is that one has a flash and the other doesn’t. They also have a version that appears to come in a waterproof case, with a crosshairs viewfinder.

So, there’s plenty of disposable film cameras out there. Which is the best disposable camera for any particular purpose, or whether any of them are better than a cheap second hand non-disposable 35mm compact camera, loaded with your own choice of film, is another question altogether.

Posted by P&SFC