Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pocket Camera...

So, as a big fan of always having a camera with me that's not my cell phone, I've spent the last few years with a succession of tiny digicams, the two most recent being a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W650 and now a Nikon Coolpix S6500. It was therefore pretty much inevitable that, once I got my toes wet back in the film photography pool, I'd start looking for a little camera to complement the SLRs; something I could one-hand while bicycling on the Monon or dangle from a wrist strap instead of hanging around my neck.

Unlike more substantial SLRs, the vast majority of point-and-shoot 35mm cameras were pretty ephemeral. Whereas a Canon AE-1 was likely to be put in the attic when it was no longer in use, a Snappy 50 was a lot more likely to go in the trash or get handed to the kids to play with. Combine that with the fact that most of these cameras were both highly automated and yet built to a price point, and it makes functioning survivors from the more affordable end of the market scarcer than their vast production numbers and fairly recent chronology would have you believe. The biggest difference between a "single-use camera" and a $50 blister-pack P&S from the early '90s is that the former made no pretenses as to its disposability.

On the other end of the price curve, there are plenty of high-quality small point-'n'-shoot 35s still around, but be ready to do battle with fanbois on eBay, because you will be fighting with film hipsters over pocket jewelry like the Ricoh GR1 or Minolta TC-1.

Contax TVS
The Precious, yes! We wants it, Gollum, and now we has it!
The Kyocera-built Contax minis are right up there, with the least expensive of them being the basic TVS, which can be had for ~$100 with a bit of luck. Given its initial retail price and Porsche Design-influenced titanium curves, this is a relative bargain. The newer TVS II and III will run double or triple the money, but I was plenty happy to score a regular TVS from a seller in Japan.

The TVS is bigger than the diminutive Coolpix, but still tiny compared to an average-sized SLR like the Canon A-1.
Of course, even a small film camera is going to be big compared to a current pocket digital. First, you have to accommodate a 35mm film cartridge and its takeup spool, which sort of dictates your base dimensions. Then you need a battery with enough juice to drive the focusing and film transport motors, and you've got to put that somewhere in the camera. The TVS is small compared with even small film SLRs like the Olympus OM, but compared to the Nikon Coolpix, which will almost rattle around in a cigarette pack, it's a bit large.

Still, I'm looking forward to shooting some film with it, hopefully on warmer days, strolling through the city. (And those looks... I'm not going to even pretend I'm immune to the Contax's pretty face.)