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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity
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on July 21, 2015
Amazing book explaining toy cameras and low-tech photography with plastic cameras. Awesome book on using the Holga and 120 film. The how-to-do aspects of the book helps you develop your skills each step of the way.
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on December 28, 2014
I enjoyed this book a lot.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 9, 2011
This review is for the original edition of PLASTIC CAMERAS published in 2006 (with a yellow cover). I purchased this book in 2008 and read it then and just re-read the whole book so I could compare it to the 2010 release of a second revised edition (with a blue cover).

My amateur photography hobby began in my childhood with a hand-me-down Brownie, then a Kodak 110, then a Minolta SLR in my teens with a photography class my freshman year in college using black and white film and learning developing and printing in the darkroom. I then moved to point and shoot film zoom lens cameras, then digital photos. Sprinkled in the middle were some plastic cameras such as a panoramic and one like the Action Sampler. For almost 15 years I have carried a 35mm camera (first film then later digital) to take photos of daily life and often shot for fun such as city street scenes `from the hip' before ever hearing that people on the Internet were suggesting such things.

I discovered Lomography in 2008 through an article in an art zine and was curious. I started buying vintage cameras such as the Diana and Polaroids and some toy cameras. Buying Michelle Bate's book was part of my plastic camera and vintage camera learning process that year.

My first impression of Bate's 2006 book was the same then as it was on my re-read. First, it is a serious tone book not a fun or casual attitude book. While I liked seeing the photographs in a gallery the fact that they were all from accomplished serious photographers of more traditional photography first then later branched to play with plastic cameras and still received accolades was off-putting to me. I didn't get the feeling that an amateur photographer like me could produce photos that were decent or `worthy'. Perhaps the fact that some of the subject matter was extraordinary (war scenes, third world countries) or themed images (the type exhibited in art shows) that are not a part of my ordinary life aided my impression.

One of the biggest reasons that I felt that images like those featured were not within my abilities was how the image was made. It seemed that everyone was doing their own film developing and further manipulating the image in the darkroom with the printing process. Bates herself describes how much that part of the process is integral to her final images looking the way they do. Some had techniques I still don't understand such as gold tone and doing colored washes. I probably will never do a silver gelatin print.

I was unsure how my images processed by a regular photo lab would turn out. It was unclear how the photos were straight out of the plastic camera versus which parts of what made it a `good' image were tweaks done in processing. Then and still now, I have no desire to have an in-home darkroom. That takes things to another higher level which I'm not going to do. I don't have adequate ventilation in any room of my house, and I fear health risks with exposure to those chemicals.

There is a substantial amount of information on how to adapt the Holga camera with modifications to make better images. I was tempted after reading this book to go buy a Holga. But, I felt I'd invested enough money in the 20+ vintage cameras and newer toy cameras I owned by then, and drew a line in the sand with my spending. Thus, that section was not of use to me. That section is great but it's of no use to any reader who doesn't use a Holga. Also I note that much of the same information can be obtained free on the Internet with a little digging. If you own a Holga and like your information neatly packaged up in a book then this book would be great for you for that information alone.

What put my experimentation with plastic cameras into hibernation (until this month when I began dabbling again, inspired by this book) was the fact that I have been unable to find decent lab processing of the film. The only camera shop left in an hour's radius of my Connecticut home, in 2008, refused to print my Diana's 120 film black and white photos as they said some were double exposed (which was intentional on my part). Some negatives were blurry and they said they were not `worth' printing into a photo. I also paid over $20 for just the developing.

Bathes keeps saying that plastic camera photography is cheap but from my perspective this hobby could add up fast! I tried to salvage them by digitally scanning them and trying to view the images using Photoshop Elements but found that was so time consuming.

My efforts to play with toy cameras hit a dead end again last week (in 2011). I took some color 35mm film from a plastic pinhole camera to a warehouse store's lab and had to ask special permission for them to not cut the negatives along the common cutting line as the images didn't line up perfectly as with automatic film advancing cameras, and some images would have been cut in half. When it came time to print them, they refused, saying they were blurry (as many pinhole photos can be). I asked them to print them anyway and they did but it took one technician a long time as it was a custom job and they really were not set up to do work like that.

Bates does not discuss ideas for getting film developed and printed in this book, she says to process it yourself. (I am still looking for options.)

This 2006 edition book is written with enthusiasm but I felt it came off with a snobbish art-world attitude rather than what I experience when I am on the Lomography site or various plastic camera blogs and Flickr that show great photographs done by amateur photographers having fun fooling around with them. The tips in this book are most helpful for Holga users. The best part of the book is the gallery section, I loved the photos against the dark background.

Books on plastic camera photography are still rare so this does not have much competition. I rate this book 4 stars = I Like It. It is well-written and professionally packaged and seeks to elevate toy camera or plastic camera photography as worthy and good so despite my issues with the book, I didn't feel it deserved a lower rating of 3 stars = It's Okay.

I am nearly done reading the 2010 second edition of this book with a blue cover and in the near future will write a separate review on that edition as there are some differences.
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on December 16, 2010
Excellent primer for those shooting "lomo" or for those interested in finding out what all the fuss is about. Great resource and plenty of images to fuel ideas.
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on September 4, 2010
I first read about these cameras in MoMa's catalog. I was interested and I puchased three cameras along with Michelle Bates' book. As someone who is "camera challenged," I found this book incredibly helpful and inspirational. I would follow her advice to a "T" (especially about keeping the lens cap off as I unfortunately found out the hard way). I'm working my way through the book at my leisure toward the more advanced techniques. Highly recommended. If I can do it, you can do it!
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on July 30, 2010
Here you've infomation about the world of the photographic register with non <<comercial -traditional- lens camera (& SRL or DSRL) >>.

Holga, Lomo, Diana, Pin hole, and their new digital variations.
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on June 3, 2010
As I'm not expert yet on toy photography, this book was great getting me started. It taught me a lot of new and great things and helped me understand my camera and what to expect from it and what it's capable of. I couldn't wait to get out there and start taking pictures. It teaches you the pieces of your camera, how to tape it, where to tape it, what you can do to make it do this or that. Even has a section on developing film. (Which after I take some classes will make a lot more sense to me.) I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone getting a toy camera.
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on March 7, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The opening chapters present shots from a variety of photographers that are inspiring to see. It's refreshing to use a camera that makes images that stand out from all the sharp, clean, images that I get from my high tech cameras. There's a place for all types of photography, and this book has helped me to get better results from my Holga (plastic lens toy camera). This book gives technical advise and suggestions along with many ideas for experimentation.
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on January 18, 2010
Ms. Bates' book is itself a work of art. It includes superb images taken by masters of the toy camera, complete guidance on how to use a Holga, and ideas for more plastic fun and creativity. It is well organized, complete, and a great introduction to a subculture of photography.
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on December 25, 2009
This book has beautiful and inspiring images taken with toy cameras. Aesthetics aside, it contains wonderful tips and tricks to improve your own photographs. Very informative.
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