Tag Archives: gear

Gear review: Life through the eyes of a penguin

I was thinking about how I might get some more people interested in this blog. And I realised that the best way to do that would be to write the most useless gear review ever.

The Penguin-Cam

Wildlife producer John Downer demonstrates how he and his team went about making a documentary about penguins.

In order to get close to them he deployed 50 special cameras disguised as rocks, eggs and penguins. — BBC News

Well. Alright. Not that penguin-cam.

This penguin-cam:

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The pingo camera is:

  • A 35mm film camera
  • Fixed-focus
  • Fixed-exposure
  • Shaped like a penguin

The shutter isn’t quite silent – it makes a little “poing” noise as if a plastic coil has sprung itself. Still, it’s pretty quiet – so good for leaving those penguins undisturbed.

It also appears to be very relaxed, so I thought it might have a good influence if I used it for some street pictures.

In fact, I spent a whole hour walking up and down the street with this camera only to realise that the wind-on mechanism is completely pingo’d. I actually managed to ruin two cheap rolls of film (one chucked, one blank from the lab – who graciously didn’t charge me) before quite figuring out what was wrong: the film does advance, but not every time and not all the way. Much of the time it merely gives the sweet illusion of having wound on.

Still, I figured, in for a penguin – in for a pound. I put another roll through it.

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Well I suppose even the most liberal definition of street photography wouldn’t accommodate many of these. But I’m still glad I put that third roll through!

For that one guy in 2015 who’s wondering, the film was Agfa “Vista” ISO 200 from Poundland (where by God’s grace everything is £1).

I guess if there’s any lesson about photography my penguin-cam can tell me it’s this: Give any camera a fair try. Perhaps I was so persistent because when I started out with my FED-4 rangefinder (my first film camera), my first few results were terrible too. But this little Pingo takes it to a whole new level – even though it has a plastic lens, fixed settings, broken “essential” components, and was sold with sweets to children as a toy – I was still able to get these (in my opinion) enjoyable photographs out of them with a little care and the steel determination of someone with too much time on his hands.

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