Toy Camera Photos and 360 Night Panoramas from the Archives

This blog has been around since 2006. When I transitioned my website to Squarespace last year, I pulled a bunch of older content down for review. A lot of the photography news related posts were ephemeral, but they featured some fun toy camera photos. Thanks to a few rainy days, I've restored some of these posts with the photos only. Enjoy a bunch of Holga, sprocket Holga, Lensbaby, and pinhole photos in the newly refreshed Toy Cameras category.

I also updated and restored four 360 night panoramas. These images benefited greatly from using newer software for RAW processing, stitching, and presentation. Click on any of the panos for a virtual tour.

 Dumbarton Railroad Swing Bridge

Dumbarton Railroad Swing Bridge

 Mare Island Warehouse Fire

Mare Island Warehouse Fire

 Virginia & Truckee Railroad

Virginia & Truckee Railroad

 Desert Center Gas Station

Desert Center Gas Station

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Thelonius Monk Edition HolgaGlo Glow in the Dark Aura Orange Holga

Thelonius Monk Edition HolgaGlo Glow in the Dark Aura Orange Holga -- by Joe Reifer
Thelonius Monk Edition HolgaGlo Glow in the Dark Aura Orange Holga -- by Joe Reifer

I recently received this Aura Orange glow-in-the-dark Holga HolgaGlo 120N as a gift. While I was adding a little bit of gaffer's tape, I decided to customize this Holga by turning it into a Thelonius Monk edition using a beer coaster from North Coast Brewing Company's Brother Thelonius Belgian style abbey ale. The Holga 30th anniversary glow in the dark camera series also comes in Ultra Violet, Infra Red, Solar Yellow, Electric Blue, Fuschia Fusion, Neon Green, and Orange Burst. If you're looking for something less conspicuous, you could always go Commando!

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San Francisco Diptychs: Hipstamatic vs. Film

Six side-by-side photos compare a photo taken with an iPhone 4 using the Hipstamatic app with a photo shot with a 1950′s Franka Solida III medium format folding film camera. Much like last year's experiments with a Holga, I prefer the film images.

The certo6.com site has a lot of great information on vintage folding cameras. The Franka is compact, works perfectly, and looks beautiful -- not bad for a 50+ year old camera. The best part is Jurgen from certo6.com does a full CLA on each camera before selling them on eBay.

The downside of shooting film is the cost -- a roll of 120 plus developing ends up being $12 -- $1 per shot. And then of course you need to scan the film. If you want to make prints, the extra hassle is worth it. Film has a lot more dynamic range than the iPhone. And the 5 megapixel iPhone 4 or 8 megapixel iPhone 4s can't compare to the resolution of scanned 6x6 film. Even on my old Epson 4990 flatbed scanner at the 2400 ppi setting I get a 25 megapixel file from my Franka negatives. Big enough to print a 16" square image at 300 dpi, which is a nice size for these images.

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Holga vs Hipstamatic: Signing Nature

Holga vs Hipstamatic: Owl picnic area -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Owl picnic area -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Orchard -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Orchard -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Fern Dell -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Fern Dell -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Old Church -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Old Church -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Big Meadow -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Big Meadow -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Trail's End -- by Joe Reifer
Holga vs Hipstamatic: Trail's End -- by Joe Reifer

One shot was made with a Holga toy camera loaded with Kodak 400VC film. The other shot is with an iPhone 4 and the Hipstamatic app on the Buckhorst H1 lens setting. As with previous toy camera vs toy camera app comparisons that I've done, the real toy camera wins. Why? The much wider dynamic range of film. The sharp center with the radical falloff to out of focus. The true randomness of the light leaks. Not waiting around for the digital file to "develop." The longer wait before seeing the results. Talking to the friendly folks at my local lab. The only things I don't like about film are paying for it and scanning. You can click any of the diptychs above for a bigger image.

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Holga vs. Hipstamatic: Monkey in a tree

Holga: Monkey in a tree -- by Joe Reifer
Holga: Monkey in a tree -- by Joe Reifer
Hipstamatic: Monkey in a tree -- by Joe Reifer
Hipstamatic: Monkey in a tree -- by Joe Reifer

Holga vs. Hipstamatic: Toy Camera vs. Digital Toy Camera

1. The Holga 120N image at the top has light leaks, is only sharp in the center, and has limited depth of field. The Kodak 400VC negative film handled the harsh mid-day lighting just fine (400VC has been replaced by Portra 400). At $5 + tax for the film and $6 for developing, it's about $1 per shot when shooting with a Holga. Plus scanning time.

2. The second monkey photo was taken with the popular Hipstamatic app on an iPhone 4 using the Helga lens, and has been color corrected and resized in Photoshop. The framing is tighter because that's the only way the iPhone would meter for the subject. I liked the image OK until I got the film back from the lab -- now I much prefer the Holga version. iPhone photography apps are fun, but still haven't replaced toy camera goodness for me. It's a different thing.

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A quiet pinhole photo and the egrets of Bolinas

Quiet -- by Joe Reifer
Quiet -- by Joe Reifer

Worldwide Pinhole Day was Sunday, April 24th. Images taken between April 23-May 1 are eligible for the 2011 online exhibition. This non-commercial event has no entrance fee, isn't a competition, and you keep copyright. The image above was taken with a Zero Image 69 medium format pinhole camera. This beautiful little wood camera shoots 645, 6x6, 6x7, or 6x9. The pinhole is f/235, which requires about an 8 second exposure in bright sunlight with ISO 400 negative film. The image above was exposed for 16 seconds with Kodak Portra 400VC.

The sign is next to the viewing platform at Audubon Canyon Ranch's Martin Griffin Preserve (formerly Bolinas Lagoon Reserve). There are 62 egret nests visible from the viewing platform, and volunteers have spotting scopes available. When the birds stand up, you can see the beautiful pale blue eggs. The chicks will be born in mid-May. Bring a long lens if you'd like to photograph the birds from the platform.

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