Toy cameras use digital to keep it analog

August 11th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

Hot on the heels of the toy camera trend, which saw photography buffs embracing cheaply made vintage cameras like the Lomo and Holga for their blurry over-saturated aesthetic, comes the toy digital-camera (トイデジカメ) boom, in which hobbyists bypass the expense of developing film while still achieving the same analog effects.

Although purists may turn up their noses at such inventions as the Digital Harinezumi, whose shape recalls a old-school film cartridge, the camera has been a such a big hit in Japan that its maker, Tokyo-based SuperHeadz, has released the Harinezumi 2++. Shots can be framed the old-fashioned way by using the square, plastic viewfinder above the lens, and pictures and film can be shot in monochrome or Super-8 style color. Because the image is deliberately grainy and fuzzy, image quality is not a priority with these types of cameras: Harinezumi 2++  shoots its nostalgic pictures at only 3 megapixels. And, in case you were wondering, harinezumi means “hedgehog” in English. Go figure.

SuperHeadz has also cannily promoted the toy-camera trend by publishing photography books via its publishing arm, PowershovelBooks. Titles include books such as “Toy Camera Zoo,” which is filled with bright, fuzzy images of animals captured by toy-camera enthusiasts. To further fuel the fire, SuperHeadz will be putting on a special Harinezumi photo fair, Aug. 20-29, at Laforet’s event space in Harajuku, where new colorful versions of the Harinezumi will be available to buy and a new product is set to be unveiled.

SuperHeadz isn’t the only Japanese company producing toy digital cameras. Vistaquest recently released the waterproof VQ8950, the latest in their toy digicam range, which includes the VQ1005, a miniature 1.3 megapixel camera that clips onto a key ring. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the big-name camera manufacturers throw their hats into the ring?

While the charm of these cameras is undeniable, we do have to point out that it’s possible to achieve the same toy-camera effects on iPhone apps or with image software such as Analog Color, so it’s hard to say what edge the lo-fi digicams have, excepting, of course, their cool retro designs.

Toy-camera enthusiasts hungry for more info on the Japanese scene should visit the Toikamera (トイカメラ) website, which is filled with camera news, forums and photo galleries.

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One Response

  1. I think these cameras are quite cool, and along with iphone cameras etc I think they’re developing their own aesthetic style. People with DSLR’s sometimes now try to reduce image quality to give the sort of ‘news-image’ spur of the moment – capturing something dramatic as it happens – effect!

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