When I started down the analog photography path, I kept seeing articles and listening to podcasts talking about “Lomo this” and “Holga that” and wondered, “What is so special about these cheap plastic cameras?” I figured if you wanted light leaks and distorted photos, you whip out your iPhone, shoot some photos, and run them through VSCO! Why bother with film and these defective plastic cameras if you wanted to take imperfect, “retro-looking” photos? I had to know what the buzz was about, so I bought one!
Enter the Film Photography Project’s PlasticFilmtastic Debonair 120. A mass produced Chinese all-plastic camera (lens included) with a fixed f8 aperture, 1/100s (sunny) or 1/60s (cloudy/flash) shutter speeds, a hotshoe for a flash, and 3 focus settings (one guy, two guys, mountain). A bare-bones, no-nonsense camera whose sole purpose was to provide Chinese families with simple tool to capture treasured moments on film.
Simplicity. That’s the best thing about this camera. No need to adjust much, if anything related to exposure. Simply compose, focus (debatable on whether or not the focus ring does anything substantial enough to notice) and fire. I’ve put three rolls of Lomography’s 100 ISO color film through my camera and I love the results so far. Lomo’s color film is pretty great in the harsh Florida light, and did an excellent job giving me a kind of retro/expired film looking vibe, which fits perfectly with this camera. This film, coupled with the camera’s penchant for subtle, unpredictable light leaks makes this a perfect blunt-force photographic tool for capturing a lo-fi lomographic look that I happen to like. This camera is also a great way to dip your toes into the multiple exposure pool!
If you are a perfectionist and must have precision tools to do precision photographic work, this camera is not for you. However, if you’re looking for a fun camera to throw in your bag before heading to the beach or an outing with friends, I cannot recommend the FPP Debonair enough. It makes photography fun! When I’m shooting with it, I don’t worry about nailing my focus or exposure, I simply focus on the moment and the scene I’m trying to capture. It brings me back to why I started photographing in the first place, the sheer joy of taking a picture! If you don’t own a toy camera, do yourself a favor and grab one, whether it’s from the kind folks at the FPP or wherever you purchase your camera gear. You won’t regret it, and with any luck, you’ll have as much fun with yours as I do with mine!