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    35mm Lo-fi Camera or DIY 35mm in a 120 camera?

    From the kinds of questions I've been getting from people trying to shoot 35mm film in their Diana+, F+ or Holga cameras, it is apparent that many of them are looking for low cost alternative to shooting 120 film.

    DIY 35mm is not the easiest or cheapest way of getting into lo-fi photography. It is difficult because advancing the film correctly is complicated and you have to unload the camera in complete darkness. Most 1-hour labs will not be able to make prints from the non-standard negatives.

    DIY 35mm is for the adventurous experimenters and those who want to get outside the box of traditional photography.

    For those of you looking for the simplest and cheapest way of exploring lo-fi photography, start with a 35mm lo-fi camera.


    1. Lower cost of film. You get more frames per roll, and if you are a beginner, the way to get good at shooting with film, is to shoot lots of it. I find that when beginners use 120 film, the higher cost of film and processing keeps them from shooting because they are very much aware of how much each shot costs. 35mm frees the mind from counting each shot.

    2. Easier to find. 35mm film is much easier to find than the 120 film used in the Diana or Holga 120 cameras. I see it in the drugstores, as well as few grocery stores (although that is becoming a much rarer experience).

    3. Easier to get processed. Most drugstores and large big box stores like Target or Walmart still have 1-hour labs, but only for 35mm film. You will have to find a local lab to process your 120 film, or send it out.

    4. Lower cost of processing. It cheaper to get your 35mm film processed. If you skip the prints and just get the roll processed and put on CD, you can cut the cost down even more. Tip: If you want prints, then you only pay for the ones that came out. This keeps the cost of processing down.

    Take a look at one of these 35mm cameras: 
    Holga 135 or 135BC Similar cheap lens and operation as the Holga 120 cameras. 1 aperture setting (yes, the camera has 2 settings, but they are identical), 2 shutter settings, N (1/100 sec) and B (Bulb setting) tripod mount, cable release socket If you want the corner vignetting like on the larger format camera, get the Holga 135BC. 

    Sample photos: http://www.flickr.com/groups/holga135bc/ 

    Superheadz Black Slim Devil 
    This is a clone based on the popular vintage Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. It has no exposure controls and no flash option, but with it's wider than normal lens (22mm) it is capable of taking some outstanding photos. 

    Sample photos: There really isn't a good Flickr group for these cameras yet, so the sample photos are from the Vivitar UWS http://www.flickr.com/groups/57074580@N00/ 

    The Diana Mini 
    Lomography took the Diana camera, and shrunk it down to 35mm format. The Mini, while it lacks the interchangeable lenses of the full sized Lomography Diana+, is still a feature packed camera (at least compared to the Holga and Black Slim Devil). The frame format is unusual. They stuck with the square format of the Diana camera, but it is centered on a standard 35mm frame. The reason for floating the square on the 35mm frame is that be using a standard 35mm format, most 1-hour labs will be able to more easily deal with making scans or prints, since they are set up for regular 35mm film. You can also set the camera to half-frame 35mm, which is 2 vertical 24mm x 17mm images. This translates to 2 images on a standard 35mm frame. Currently a favorite of mine, it lives in my camera bag so it is handy where ever I go. 2 aperture settings, 2 shutter settings, N (1/100 sec) and B (Bulb setting) tripod mount, cable release socket This camera is unusual in that it offers square format,24x24mm on a standard 35mm frame (24x36mm). It also offers a half frame option, 17x24mm frames (it doubles the number of exposures you get on a roll of film) 

    Diana Mini sample photos: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1232275@N22/ 

    The Diana Mini is nice, but I find that unless I am working close and with a flash, the images tend to be on the softer focus side, to the point of being blurry. You might want to consider the sharper lens of the Superheadz Slim cameras (Black Slim Devil, White Slim Angel or other variant, all the same camera in diff colors). Take a careful look at the sample photos on Flickr to help you make a decision.

    Whichever camera you choose, remember that the point of lo-fi photography is to have fun and don't sweat the details! 

    Reader Comments (6)

    Can the Black Slim Devil do multiple exposures?

    June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen

    Carmen, the Black Slim Devil can't do multiple exposures, because the shutter cocking mechanism is built into the film advance winder.

    June 11, 2010 | Registered Commenterkaiy

    I just got a diana mini and i cant seem to be able to get to images on one frame on the half frame format. Do i only do half turn? or am i right in turning it a whole turn and its just the lab i take it to?

    June 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

    Even I have been tempted to step back to 35mm over the past few weeks, just because of the lower costs and the ease of getting prints.

    I have my eye on the Diana mini, and I'm pretty certain (however upsetting this may be) that it could make my Holga redundat. that along with my Vivtar Ultra wide and slim that is.

    Its a damn shame that 120 is so expensive, but as a result it makes 35mm so much more sensical!

    I think my last ditch attempt to really stick with 120 is to look into shanghai film, its just so cheap. I've read of its terrible quality already though.

    I'm just hoping my local lab processes it, because it will make using my Holga so much cheaper.

    Great post, thanks!

    July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDurkin

    Heeyyy i just bought a diana mini!! AND i put a 36mm film into it not realizing it only accepts 35mm.. it seems to be working though!?! will it break my camera? or is there a chance the film willl ruin??
    XX thaaanksss

    August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexia

    I think the Smena 8M is the perfect 35mm camera to complement the Holga. It can do multiple exposures and has it's own quirky and challenging faults...eventually you grow to love it!

    January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

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