FIRST ROLL - NO.3

Like many of the cameras that I’ll be testing for the First Roll project, I didn’t know this one existed. I just so happened to be scrolling through Depop one night and thought the design looked interesting. Knowing nothing about the specs or how the Chinon™ Monami performs, or if this particular point and shoot was even in working condition, I talked the seller down to $25 including shipping. I figured that was a reasonable price to take a gamble. The mysterious thing about gambling is, sometimes it pays off.


The first thing I noticed upon holding it for the first time was how everything turns on at once. You flip open the lens cover and the flash instantly pops out. It’s actually quite charming. Something about the simultaneous mechanics got me excited to shoot, which is one of the things that I hold in high regard when it comes to a compact camera. Now it was time to load a roll of Kodak™ Portra and see what this baby could do.


My initial impression after shooting a couple of frames was just how much fun this camera is. It’s really a no frills, here to do one thing.. captures moments, type of experience. The only mechanics that you have control of is the flash, which you have to push back into the body and hold it down with your finger when you want to use natural or ambient light. I could see how one might think this is annoying but for me I liked the interaction. The viewfinder was pretty accurate and the focusing seemed to hit almost every time unless I was closer than an arms-length to what I was shooting. I even snuck a shot from the window of a moving car (frame #6) when we were in Malibu and it surprisingly almost caught the shot fully in focus. Remember, this is a grip-it-and-rip-it camera, meaning, all of your shots are dependent on the cameras accuracy to hit auto focus and exposure. So for me, this little plastic gem was up there with the point and shoots that are well in the $100 range. More importantly, the fun factor of this little guy made the experience memorable. Add that with the capability that this camera has to output usable images and you have yourself a nice little tool to toss in your pocket (or bag if you wear skinny jeans like me). Time for the pros and cons.


PROS:

  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • One-motion (flip) to turn everything on
  • Cool design
  • Pretty sharp 35mm lens
  • Somewhat rare
  • Reliable
  • Extremely easy to use


CONS:

  • Have to hold the flash down to turn it off
  • Slow 4.5 lens
  • No settings
  • No close up shots
  • Not weatherproof


There’s my thoughts on the Chinon™ Monami point and shoot. Now, as predominant as the cons seem to be, this is the First Roll with the most usable frames so far. Out of the thirty-something shots that I got from the roll, I used twenty but that’s only because some of the frames were either identical or simply out of focus. I would say that says a lot about this little camera and the reason why I am definitely going to keep it. Not only am I keeping it, I even bought another one as a back-up and highly recommend anyone who wants a very easy to use camera to do the same. I’m sure the secret will get out soon and we all know what happens when cameras like this get popular. 


-Danny




SPECIAL DELIVERY

I’ve wanted the Zeiss® 35-70mm lens for awhile but could never find one in pristine condition. My search finally came to an end last week when I found a seller in Japan letting go of his beloved piece of glass. From my understanding, he was the original owner and only used it a handful of times in his studio. That’s lovely for me but I can’t wait to give this lens the use that it deserves.


-Danny



HIKING WITH MY SWEETHEART

We just discovered this spectacular hiking trail in our neighborhood while on our Sunday stroll. I think it’s one of those speak-easy types of spots that only the people who’ve lived in the area for years know about because it’s nicely tucked away at the end of a residential street, extremely well maintained, hardly any foot-traffic and absolutely does not embody a “fashion show” vibe of the likes of, Runyon. It has a nice winding route that leads you to an amazing view. It’s pretty much perfect.


-Danny


POSTER CLUB

We get so many messages asking when we’re going to update the SS Poster Club. To be completely honest, I got so tired of people stealing my images and reprinting them all over the internet that I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. Low quality pirated prints selling anywhere from $50 to $500 through numerous popular “art” sites. I understand that’s just the way things go and as much as we try to legally regulate these types of matters, its not possible to canvas the entire internet in hopes to pursue copyright infringements. I’m merely one person with a small team and do not have the time nor the resources to tackle such matters. Therefore, I decided to not put out any new posters, until now. All of our posters from here on out will have a small print and a hand-signed authenticity sticker on the back that will be changed up with each release. Knowing these efforts won’t stop unauthentic production of my images, it will at least help make it a bit harder. Our new posters will be available next week in 18x24 and 24x36 options. 


Thank you to everyone who supports SS by only purchasing posters and products through the dedicated shop.


-Danny


SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT

I’ve been putting little messages on the backs of my cameras for as long as I can remember. A lot of times people ask me if I can make them one to put on theirs. Well, the time has finally come. Our new sticker packs are perfectly sized to put on your favorite shooter. 


Available soon :)


-Danny



FIRST ROLL - NO.2

My quest to obtaining the Rollei™ A110 miniature camera spawned from an encounter nearly a year prior at a flea market in the middle of no where. There I was, walking down the path of broken asphalt in a vacant lot where many people congregate to sell their old unwanted goods. It’s pretty much a camera-chaser and vintage resellers paradise. I was ending my rounds as the sun was fully expelled into the over exposed sky. The temperature was maxing out at over a hundred degrees and I was ready to wave my flag and retreat for cover. Already with a tote bag full of treasures, I was making my way to the exit when I suddenly spotted what appeared to be a cool looking tiny camera. I picked it up and instantly recognized the logo, Rollei™. Unfamiliar with this particular camera or its value or if it was even possible to use; I was under the impression that the film format had become obsolete. Intrigued by the small metal design and orange accents, I asked the seller how much he wanted for it out of pure curiosity. He looked at the camera, looked at me, looked at my rings, looked at the camera, looked at my clothes, looked back at the camera and blurted out the exasperated figure of $35. I looked at him, looked at the camera, looked at the sweat beads that were about to trickle down from my wrist as if they were begging to get out of the sun. Defeated, I put the camera back down on the table and told the gentleman thank you as I walked away. Usually I would’ve put up a fight and haggled my way to the predetermined $5 figure that I already had set in my mind but in this particular encounter I just didn’t have the energy. Usually I’m okay with taking the “L” and would simply keep it moving when not acquiring something of interest but this experience was different. It haunted me and I kept thinking about it. For some reason this was the “one that got away”, especially when I would check on them from time to time on eBay and see the prices continue to rise. Nevertheless, as most camera hunters know, the first encounter is never the last.


I finally locked in a package deal for the A110 and E110 from a seller in Germany and then watched Youtube videos over the three day span that it would take for the cameras to arrive. I wanted to be in full preparation for what to expect when I ran the first roll of film through the cleverly designed metal body and miniature Tessar™ lens. Surprisingly, no video nor any online article could really prepare me for the feeling that I got when I unboxed the camera, advanced the frame and clicked the shutter. I was completely sold and the camera didn’t even have film in it yet. Just the motion and sound of advancing the frame was soothing enough for me to keep it forever but this post isn’t about a cool looking paper-weight or fidget spinner. We’re here to talk about the experience and how the camera performed. 


The first thing that I noticed when shooting with the A110 was just how much fun it was. I was never even sure if my shot was in focus due to the scale focusing slider but I didn’t even care. I was having a blast and whenever someone would see me pull it out of my pocket and snap a photo, there was always an immediate response of “what is that?” The camera itself sparks interest, not only from the pedestrians standing by or the people walking through your frame but also from the person behind the lens. The size and the usability of this miniature moment capturer really makes you want to keep using it. To me, that’s a huge factor when it comes to a compelling camera that I would want to keep in the arsenal. Granted, you’ll probably never be able to blow up huge prints due to the limited film size but I don’t think that’s what this should be used for. This is one of those cameras that you want to have around on your “off days”, to keep in your pocket when you’re in a creative rut because this charming little guy will make you forget about what you were stuck on and allow you to simply enjoy the process of creating. 


Now, when talking about the photo output, I was truly shocked when I got the scans back from my friends over at @darkroomfilmlab. I honestly thought I would maybe have one or two usable frames for this post but as you can see from above, when this camera hits, it really HITS. The images embody the exact mid to late 70’s era that this camera spawns from and takes you back to a dimension in time when film was king. The Tessar™ lens (when focused correctly) is astonishing to me. The fact that the tiny glass lens can produce images of this caliber is beyond my comprehension. And the tones, the color tones are so good it’s hard to believe that they came from this miniature little shooter. But now it’s time for the pros and cons so you can decide if this something worth getting for yourself.


PROS:

  • Compact
  • Advanced industrial design elements
  • Built with quality materials
  • Sharp Tessar® lens
  • Metal Body
  • The film advancing motion never gets old
  • Captures vibey vintage style photos
  • Really fun to shoot and it’s hard not to blow through a roll
  • Looks cool
  • Sparks interest


CONS:

  • Scale focusing takes some getting used to
  • Batteries are special order (eBay, Amazon)
  • Theres no flash unless you use flash cubes and an attachment
  • The only fresh batch film you can buy is from Lomography™ (separate post coming soon)
  • Can’t be used as a daily shooter due to the film size
  • Pretty expensive on the current market ($100-$300+ depending on condition and if manufactured in Germany or Singapore)
  • From my understanding, a lot of labs won’t/can’t process 110 film
  • Good luck finding someone who can repair it


All in all I have a true love affair with this camera, so much so that I currently own three of them simply because they make me happy. If you want a fun little pocket shooter that inspires you, not only by its design but also by its capacity to create solid looking small format images, then the Rollei™ A110 is surely for you. 


-Danny


NEVER STOP LAUGHING

I had a profound dream last night. In my dream my parents just got a divorce and I was helping my dad clean the house that I grew up in. He was picking up clutter off of the coffee table as I was on trash duty. Just a father and son doing chores together and talking about life. He was asking me about school then asked me what my plans were for the evening? I told him I didn’t have any, then he asked me if I would like to meet his new girlfriend? I was a bit stunned because in this dream I knew that the divorce was still fresh, still new because the wound in my heart ran deep; these simple words that fell from his mouth felt excruciating. I asked him if he ever thought that maybe one day him and my mom would realize that they made a mistake and get back together? He stopped what he was doing and narrowed his focus directly to my eyes. As he stood there in thought, time decided to mimic his posturing. It took what felt like an eternity for him to finally answer me, “No, son, I don’t”. Fighting back the tears as hard as I could, I was finally able to maneuver my voice past the lump in my throat, “it’s because you guys stopped laughing”. Then I instantly woke up. 


As a kid, my childhood home always felt alive. It was always full of laughter and felt like a hub for love because as much as I hated it, my parents were always playing, always laughing and grotesquely always kissing or leaving hickeys on one another. Yes, grown ups walking around with busted blood vessels in their necks on public display as if they were two teenagers who felt the need to boast their affection and claim their territory. It was a disgusting visual through my adolescent eyes and especially embarrassing when I had friends over. Yet, as much as I hated it, all of my friends who came from broken or divorced homes would always tell me how lucky I was. I never understood it and would plea for my parents to just be “normal”.


I understand now as an adult that the reasonings behind my parents divorce was completely valid. In fact, now knowing the chaos that was dwelling beneath the surface of the laughter and kisses, I’m quite surprised that the marriage ran as long as it did. But my dream, my dream didn’t upset me or make me miss my parents being married, no, my dream seemed to apply to myself currently. It was as if a ghost was visiting me from the past and showing me what will happen in the future if the gal and I ever stop laughing. Laughter is one of the things that bonds us, makes us feel close, makes us feel alive and makes us want to continue to fight for what we have. Laughter echos wherever we are and seems to infect others around us with a sense of energy that penetrates to the soul. You have no idea how many times people stare at us, compliment us or are in pure shock that we’ve only been together for six months. It’s because we’re aware of our magic, we cherish what we have, we’re grateful and we’re both willing to fight with everything that we’ve got to never give up, never stop playing, never stop kissing.. never stop laughing.


-Danny