Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Handy Box Does Color

Remember the Handy Box? Silly simple old box camera, with no settable focusing, aperture or shutter speeds. With an uncoated (not counting decades of grime) meniscus lens, and the whole thing designed before the advent of color film. It was fun to shoot in black and white, but I got to wonder what the results would be with a color film.

So I took it out for another spin recently, this time with some inexpensive 400-speed color film (Fuji Astia), just to see what I'd get. I also had this idea on how to compensate for the fixed shutter speed. The "instant" shutter on the camera, (about 1/50s) is appropriate for a picture in full daylight. In the evening, or indoors, or when overcast, the shutter speed is too fast. But instead of using the "open" shutter and trying to time myself I'd simply trip the instant shutter multiple times, enough to give me the overall correct exposure. So if my meter tells me it's one stop too dark I just flip the shutter twice. Two stops, and I flip it four times, and so on. As it turned out, it really did work pretty well, with exposures that were reasonably spot on.

Red light

The corner of Sakaisuji and Nagahoridōri at dusk. I held the camera still on top of a traffic cone, and as you can see from the white car, I tripped the shutter four times for this picture. That's a quirk of shooting this way, by the way; moving things tend to double up rather than blur.


Shinsaibashi street crossing. Darker, so more shutter activations, and a clear illustration of the multiple-object effect. For a bit of context, you can see the same street crossing from above here (click "All sizes" to see it big).


La Porte on the corner of Shinsaibashi and Nagahori. You do need to keep the camera still, or you end up with multiple edges on stuff. Not necessarily a drawback, of course.


Morning commute. It doesn't get more everyday than this for me. Lots of exposures (20 or so if I remember) and I didn't manage to keep the camera completely still.

I collected the whole set of image in this Flickr set.


  1. The street crossing picture is really good, I think. The human "ghosts" contrasting with the static environment...

  2. Dammit, those colors are nice! As Magetoo said, the street crossing looks amazing - I especially like the contrasted blandness (in lack of a better words). A+.


  3. Thanks, both. That old lens does some pretty cool things to a scene, I agree. Kind of feel this can easily become overused though.

  4. It sure can (get overused)! But before that happens, make sure to send some demo pictures to a couple of promising Japanese bands - these shots would make excellent records covers :)



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