Top critical review
53 people found this helpful
cute, nice feel, but some very real problems for the photographer
on November 30, 2009
Background: My experience is as a professional photographer and designer with more than 20 years of experience, and a lot of experience with "toy cameras". The "toy" camera movement (Diana, and Holga) is a well established avenue of art photography as well as just plain fun photography. Using cheap simple cameras with fuzzy lenses one can create some absolutely beautiful images. I've spent a lot of time working with Holgas (I have 4) and Hasselblads ( I have 2). Each of my Holgas were acquired for $15 or less... new. The most expensive accessory was a polaroid back that is remarkable and great to use. I started working in medium format with a Yashicamat 124G which i still have and cherish. If you are looking to get into medium format the Yashicamat is a great place to start and you can find them cheap on ebay. I love TLR and vertical view cameras because of the ground glass "backwards" viewers and their square format. Once you get used to that kind of set up you will always want such a viewfinder.
that viewfinder is what caught my eye when I saw the Blackbird... along with the nice styling, great colors, and good feel of the plastic.
REVIEW: there's a lot that is lacking in the experience of using this camera. The blackbird's viewfinder is not ground glass, it's a quasi optical finder with mirror. This kind of finder one can also see on old Argus TLRs (also available on ebay for cheap). But the viewfinder of the Blackbird is really messed up and hard to see through. If this camera cost $15 or $25 I'd consider it, but it's not. No one should pay over $100 for a camera like this, it's just not worth it and this ridiculous price flies in the face of the "toy" camera movement. People bought the holga and the diana because they were cheap AND they made interesting images.
Overall the controls of the Blackbird are fine. They give you a very good range of manual focus from 0.8 meters to infinity. The shutter is smooth and crisp. The overall look and feel of the camera is very nice. (not $120 nice, more like $20 nice!)
For those who want to get into medium format cameras, forget about this one. The film format is 35mm and the viewfinder sucks. If you want to do 35mm toy camera work there are a lot of toy 35mm cameras out there that will be easier and more fun to use. Medium format does make a difference and having a good clear way to frame a photo means a lot to getting a good composition - even in toy cam land.
I did not buy one of these partly because I have not seen one cheap enough yet. I tried out a Blackbird that was loaned to me for evaluation. If I ever find an orange version of the blackbird selling for under $25 I'll very likely pick one up for myself, but it will be with some reservations. And aside from the bad viewfinder the other reservations are due to the 35mm film format. Yes I understand you can get this processed at a lot of places. And yes I get that you can use frame inserts to change the format from beyond 35mm to a cropped 24mm square, but that's not going to yield the same kind of results I would get from my holga shooting fuji instant film or 120 film. The holga also allows the photographer to use external flash and/or studio strobes. The holga is not as designery cute as the Blackbird, but if you want really cute there are a lot of old cameras on ebay that are seriously cute, seriously cheap, and which will be a lot more fun to use. Look for an old Argus, Voigtlander, and Yashica.