Since the collapse of film camera manufacturing in the mid-2000s, only a few companies managed to keep film bodies in production.
Nikon still produce their flagship F6 SLR (recently the subject of a minor recall), though it’s an outlier at the top end of the market. Canon’s last EOS-1V rolled off the production line in mid-2018, bringing to an end Canon film camera production. Cosina’s Voigtlander range of R-brand rangefinder were kept in production from the early 2000s up to 2015, when the entire remaining line-up was axed.
The gradual end of the professional end – autofocus SLRs and high-end medium format cameras – and consumer cameras has meant current film camera production now mainly takes place in three different camps: Leica’s last film rangefinders, modern large-format bodies and plastic-heavy novelty camera from the likes of Lomography.
And recently, a new trend has emerged in this camp. Amid rising resistance to throwaway plastic, a bunch of cameras have recently been released which replace the use-and-lose traditional disposables. These “simple cameras” are pure point and shoots – focus-free, a single shutter speed and aperture and a flash. But the fact that they can be reloaded with different films and use them again makes them not only more environmentally friendly, but also more flexible photographically.
Lomography recently released a series of reloadable disposable-style cameras, as did Ilford-maker Harman, which pairs its simple camera with Kentmere-branded films. Now there’s a new rival, and it comes from Barcelona: the Dubblefilm SHOW.
Dubblefilm is an experimental film brand run by Adam Scott, who used to be part of Lomography’s UK operation. Dubblefilm’s roster of pre-exposed colour films are strongly influenced by the cross-processed Lomography ethos which became such as craze in the 1990s. Lomography’s aesthetic meant pictures didn’t have to be pin-sharp, properly focused, or on factory-fresh film. In the age of Instagram, Dubblefilm’s tinted emulsions are even more in tune with the zeitgeist.
The SHOW is an all-plastic camera, right down to its lens, just like many million of others churned out over the last half-century. But looks-wise, it’s a great deal more stylish than most. The HSOW comes in the choice of two colours – bright pink-and-blue or classic black. Give it a lick of silver and grey paint, at a distance you might mistake it for a Contax T2 or a Leica Minilux. The SHOW’s clean uncluttered body even includes a leather-look panel adding a touch of tongue-in-cheek class.
Any misapprehensions that the SHOW is something more serious than a step-up from disposable plastic end when you pick it up: it’s very, very light. The SHOW barely hits 100g empty. No surprise, because in picture taking terms it’s about as simple as it gets.
Metal and glass add weight, but the SHOW has very little of the former and none of the latter. The tiny pieces of metal inside are used for the battery connection and in the integral flash. The SHOW’s lens, meanwhile, is a plastic meniscus lens similar to one you might find on a disposable camera. These lenses suffer massively rom fall-off and distortion when the apertures are wide, but acceptably sharp when they start narrowing down to f/8 and beyond. The SHOW’s lens appears to be f/11 for normal operation and f/8 when the flash is turned on (more on that later). There’s no fiddling about with aperture s– or indeed shutter speeds, because the SHOW only has one of those – making it the very definition of point-and-click simplicity. Just like a disposable, you don’t have to focus either, the
The SHOW comes packaged in a gaudy semi-transparent case and with a single page instruction manual from Spanish designer Jose A Roda. A dayglo-bright strap is already attached, meaning that the camera can be loaded with film and shooting in mere seconds; you don’t even need to load the battery if you’re not going to shoot with flash.
This is most definitely a camera made for those who normally take a smartphone with them. Its no-fuss operation suits the most casual of film photographers, and the fact the camera can be reloaded again and again gives it some ticks on the sustainability front as well. Chucking plastic film containers is bad enough – who wants to add a camera on the landfill aswell?
The camera loads quickly; push down the catch on the left of the camera (as seen form the back, and the hinged back opens. Pull up the rewind crank handle and pop the film in just like you would any other 35mm camera. Stretch it till it meets the take-up spool, pop the back closed, and wind-on with the film advance while on the top right.
Do so and you’ve already missed one of the camera’s hidden little secrets, an array on ridges on the inside of the back door that curve the film within the camera, intended to keep distortion from the 32mm plastic lens to a minimum.
Here’s a good tip from Canny Cameras’ Alan Duncan: as outlined before, the SHOW has in fact two apertures, f/11 when you’re shooting without flash and f/8 with flash. But this is a purely mechanical mechanism, akin to the sliding aperture on an old Kodak Brownie. Take the AAA battery out of the camera and you can still use the f/8 aperture. Hey presto: two apertures instead of one.
So what’s like to shoot with?
The SHOW is essentially a Sunny 16 camera. In bright sunlight, its shutter speed means 100-ISO film is the best match. In intermittent sunshine it will be ISO-200 film. In overcast skies, or in shaded streets on sunny days, you’d best be loading ISO 400. Looking like it was going to be one of the last sunny weekends for a good few months, I loaded up the SHOW with original Agfa Precisa CT100 (some of the stash bought from Dubblefilm earlier this year) and headed into London.
The first film I shot on Precisa in late afternoon light. It was just on the cusp of enough exposure wise, but the extra grain you see here is partly down to the fact the film was cross processed; that boosts the grain as well as the contrast. Bearing in mind this is old film that’s further been fooled around with development wise, the pictures are impressively sharp.
The 32mm lens is no accident, that’s exactly the same focal length as the lens found on the Lomo LC-A, the camera that kickstarted the Lomography craze. The pictures remind me not so much of the LC-A as Lomo’s Smena range of simple compact viewfinder cameras.
Here’s some image from the first roll:
The original Precisa is one of my favourite colour films to shoot, so the next day I shot another roll around the South Bank of London after meeting a friend for lunch. It was much sunnier, and so the contrast from the cross-processed film is much starker. (Worth a shout out here to West end Cameras, who are a really good mail-order London lab if you’re wanting to cross-process slide film).
Here’s more examples from the second roll of Precisa:
Before crossing from the South Bank to Westminster, I loaded a roll of Fujicolor C200 print film to see how the SHOW lens dealt with something a little less dramatic contrast wise. To be honest, the results are a lot better than you might expect from a disposable-level lens. There is only a touch of the characteristic fishbowl distortion from disposables in the corner of the frames. It’s most noticeable when you have something light or very dark in the corner of the frame like you can see in the pictures below:
Like any good plastic-lensed camera there’s characteristic flare when pointed at the sun – it always reminds me of detergent bubbles. This is always going to look less controlled and attractive compared to the flare on a coated glass lens, but it can still be used to creative effect, like on the image below.
The SHOW advances crisply and the shutter button is a quiet click. Bear in mind the SHOW’s shutter won’t activate unless there’s a film loaded) and the rewind is exactly as you’d fine on an analogue-era film camera – press the button on the underside of the camera and turn the crank handle on top of the film chamber on the left hand side. It works without a hitch, and that’s not something I’ve been able to say for every proper film compact I’ve used.
Some have complained online about the SHOW’s price; it’s not quite double the price of the Kentmere-branded camera (and doesn’t come with two rolls of film) and significantly more expensive than Lomography’s offering. Part of that extra cost is down to the case; but the SHOW is more flexible than it might seem at first (the curved back door is a nice trick to deal with distortion, for instance).
This isn’t a stand in for a secondhand Spotmatic, or even a Canon Sure Shot but a possible sunny-weather gateway into the world of film for younger photographers shooting on smartphones.