Sprocket Rocket Panorama Camera

As a newbie to film photography this year (please see the first blog I wrote for more information on this), I’ve only recently discovered the Lomography company and the ‘toy camera’s’ they do so have been buying and trying them as you can pick some of them up quite cheaply (either never used or hardly used second hand).

I had seen photos on Flickr and Instagram that had sprocket holes on them which I think looked really cool. I knew that some of the sprocket hole effects were achieved by just scanning the whole negative but I was fascinated by how some of them had the whole picture over the sprocket hole.

Once I had discovered the Lomography company I found that they produced a camera called the Sprocket Rocket Panorama Camera which has been specially developed to take pictures with the sprocket holes on them.

As with most of the Lomography camera’s they are very lightweight because they are made out of plastic.

It has a 30mm lens and produces a standard image size of 72 x 33mm (panoramic images including sprocket holes).  There is an optional frame insert that can be put into the camera that produce 72 x 24mm (”ordinary” panoramic images) but personally I think that defeats the whole object of this camera as I would want the sprocket holes to be shown.

The focusing on the camera is 0.6m to infinity which you focus on front of the lens by estimating how far you are standing away from the image you want to take since the viewfinder isn’t linked to the lens. There are 2 x shutter speeds (1/100, Bulb). There are 2 x aperture options (f/10.8, f/16). It takes 35mm film and is best suited to an ISO speed of 400. Another feature that I really love about the camera is that it has a white dot film stopping mechanism to enable you to take multiple exposures.

I initially was hoping to find a second hand one of these cameras as they retail at £69 for the black one and £79 if you wanted a different colour one. Thankfully I actually prefer the black colour.

Whilst looking for a second hand one, I found that not many of them seem to come up for sale like some of the other Lomography cameras and when I recently found a second hand used one for sale without its original box or instruction pamphlets, it ended up selling on eBay  in a bid only auction for over £50 (not including postage). I decided at that point that I’d sooner just pay the full retail price and buy a brand new one directly from the Lomography shop.

Thankfully at the time on deciding this I was actually going to London for the day for a Lomography workshop (blog to follow about this) so I was able to find some time to pop into the Lomography shop in Soho and buy one.

I was also lucky enough to buy the last few rolls the shop had of the LomoChrome Purple film as I wanted to see how this would look on the camera.

Once I took a closer look at the camera when I got it home, I discovered that it’s design was based on the vintage Dick Tracy Camera of the Seymore Products Co in Chicago circa 1947 combined with Lomography’s own design.

I loved how simple it was to load the 35mm film and the fact that it really does encourage multiple exposures as it has a simple operating system of 2 x winding knobs at each end of the camera at the top for moving the film forward and backwards. The white dot stopping mechanism window at the top of the camera enables you to see if you’ve wound on the film to the right spot so multiple exposures match on the same frame.

This camera also does the opposite of the half frame camera in the fact that if you have a 36 exposure 35mm film, you will only get 18 super-wide angle shots on this camera so this means in the long run you would use a lot more film.

On the bottom of the camera is a tripod strap screw which can be removed to enable you to place the camera on a tripod to take long exposed shots in bulb mode.

The shutter button is actually on the side of the lens rather than on the top of the camera and you have to be careful when the camera is in your bag etc not to accidentally knock the shutter button as you could take an unwanted photo!

There is a plastic lens cap included with this camera which you have to remember to move because the viewfinder is not linked to the lens so you could end up happily snapping away and find all your pictures come out black.

The aperture lever is underneath the lens and you can move it to the ‘sunny’ (f/16) or ‘cloudy’ (f/10.8) option.

My first impression of this camera is that it felt cheap and plastic and I wondered how the price could be justified for something that quite frankly didn’t feel like it had any quality to it. I also worried about it melting if I had it out on a hot sunny day!

However, from my research, I couldn’t find any quality vintage camera that could produce the same effect with the sprocket holes so I had to accept the price for what it was if I wanted to produce that type of photograph.

I’ll be completely honest, since I’ve been quite spoilt with my decent quality camera collection where I have the choice of interchangeable lenses and hard metal casing with a variety of apertures and shutter speeds to choose from, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from the camera and in some ways was ‘dreading’ if I had completely wasted my money on this purchase and the photos would be rubbish as I wouldn’t be able to focus the picture how I wanted etc.

I know with lomography cameras that the photo’s aren’t about perfection as quite frankly you wouldn’t be using them if that’s the style of photo what you wanted.

I decided that for my first roll of film I shot, I would get it developed at the Lomography lab (which was around £17 for development and scanned copies only plus postage of the film recorded delivery to Lomography in London).

Here are some of the results:

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I also decided to experiment with the multiple exposure option on this camera because it was so easy to do and here are the results:

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One particular shot I wasn’t happy with was where the sprocket holes go directly across the top of my husband’s head which I didn’t like so I now know for future reference I will need to bear this in mind when taking photographs and change the angle of the shot slightly to take this into consideration:

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Overall, I was really happy with the results. I managed to produce images with this camera that I wanted to achieve and I love the colour the purple chrome film produces. I definitely love the artistic/experimental photos I can create by using this camera.

The main drawback is the cost of getting the photos developed every time which could end up being very expensive due to only having the 18 shots on the film and you would question how regularly you could afford to use it.

However, because I’m taking so many photos with different cameras right now, I’ve been able to justify purchasing my own film scanner (which I’m currently awaiting delivery of) so in the long run I will save money. Plus I get to have more control of the quality/colour/shade etc of the image that I’m scanning from the negative.

I’ve since taken some normal colour photos with this camera which I got developed at my local photo lab for £5 (and will be scanning them in myself once I receive my scanner).

In view of this, I will definitely be taking a lot more pictures using this camera and feel that the purchase for me and the use I will get out of the camera is worth every penny.

I’m going to be loading this camera with 400 ISO black and white film next as I’m really interested to see how the sprocket hole effect will look in monochrome.

UPDATE: I’ve since discovered that this camera has now sold out on the Lomography website (and they only had a couple in the shop when I bought mine) so I’m really happy I managed to get one when I did. Fingers crossed for anybody else out there looking to buy one that Lomography will hopefully get new stock of it soon.

Leica Sofort Instant Camera

Following on from my recent blog where I was discussing my Polaroid Snap Shot Instant camera that I’d owned for the past couple of years and the issues I had with the print quality of the photos, I decided I was due an upgrade.

I felt I could justify an upgrade of instant camera as I do use it regularly, especially when I’m out with friends or family.

Whilst I appreciate the cost of film can be quite pricey I do tend to use it carefully and for me personally, I tend to buy instant film every one to two months so the cost isn’t too expensive for me. My basic rule is that I try to shoot quality over quantity with film camera’s.

My upgrade came about when I discovered the Leica Sofort Instant camera for sale in the UK. Whilst I appreciate all camera’s are ‘tools’ I couldn’t help but fall in love with the look and design of this camera.

Since it’s a Leica, this obviously comes at a higher price compared to a lot of instant cameras out there. In the UK the cost of this camera ranges from £200 – £250 and that is for the basic camera. That doesn’t include the cost of the case, film or cool orange, mint and white camera strap.

The camera is currently sold in three colours….white, orange and mint. Personally for me, I absolutely love the orange one.

It uses the fuji instax mini film and also the leica version of this same mini film which is produced by fujifilm.

Whilst the camera isn’t fully manual, it does have a built in flash and has several shooting modes:

  • Macro
  • Bulb
  • Automatic
  • Self timer
  • Party and People
  • Sport and Action
  • Double Exposure
  • Selfie

So far, I’ve mainly shot in standard or party and people mode. I’ve found the photos of people to be very flattering and many of my friends have commented about how the photos make them look younger which they obviously love.

The instant film is easy to load and there is a digital counter on the back which tells you how many photos you have left in the camera which I find really helpful. The film comes in packs of 10.

I find the camera lightweight and very portable. It is slightly bigger than my polaroid snap so doesn’t always fit into my smaller handbags but the cool strap enables me to wear it over my shoulder like a handbag.

There are two colour cases available for this camera in black and brown with a white canvas section on the side parts of the case. Again the cases aren’t overly cheap and retail for around £19 in the UK. However, I was pleased with the quality of the case.

I bought the brown case as I felt this colour complimented the orange shade of camera I owned.

The camera comes with a black Leica neck strap but I didn’t feel this colour went with my orange camera and didn’t look anywhere near as cool as the orange, mint and white strap. I therefore purchased the other strap for around £15 in the UK.

I was very impressed at how quickly the photos came out of my camera in comparison to the Polaroid Snap. The quality of the pictures are a million times better than the zinc  printed paper in my opinion and I’m very happy I decided to opt for an instant camera with this type of film.

The downside to this type of instant camera is that you cannot choose between colour and black and white photo modes like I could on the Polaroid Snap. To do this, I either have to load the camera with colour photos or black and white photos then use up 10 shots before I can change the colour. I can also only print one photo at a time as it doesn’t have different style modes, like the Photo Booth option on the Polaroid Snap. However, the picture quality more than makes up for this.

I tend to use the Leica colour film over the own named fujifilm. There have been many arguments that they’re exactly the same, just with Leica noted on the back of the film prints instead of fujifilm. I personally have found that the Leica film produces a warmer colour picture which I prefer.

However, on the black and white photos, I actually prefer the fujifilm brand over the Leica one because I think the photos are slightly cooler in tone which I personally prefer.

I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me about the difference in the film quality but I’m going from my own personal experience of shooting with both of these brands of films.

I tend to buy my Leica colour instant film online from Harrison Cameras as they currently sell a pack of 20 (2 x packs of 10) for £16.00. I can buy my black and white normal fujifilm from any local camera shop since I prefer the own brand of that to the Leica one.

I won’t deny it, this camera was definitely a luxury treat to myself and I’m sure the fujifilm camera’s take just as good photos for the fraction of the price of this camera but I have to be honest and say the look of this camera was what I loved.

I also loved the fact it was a Leica (admittedly not a German produced high quality Leica) but then it would have cost even more if it had been produced in Germany with all metal casing etc.

Ultimately this camera is great fun, is a great conversation point at a party and I’ve had much fun taking photo’s with it. I love the cool retro design and the fact it’s not too bulky to take out with me like a full size Polaroid camera would be.

I certainly don’t regret my purchase and can see me using this camera for many years to come.

Here are some instant photos I took at a family party this year:

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Here is an instant photo I took of the steering wheel of my friend’s 1965 Mustang:

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