David Bailey Colour Camera

If it wasn’t covid times I might never have written this post. But here we are and here I am trying to fill my time. Recently, I did a search for a cheap film camera on eBay and saw these cameras. I have been playing with panoramic cameras recently and had just watched, “We’ll take Manhattan” . So this lot seemed perfect.

There were no bids so I placed the minimum of £5 something and forgot about it. A day later I got an email saying I had won and a week later they arrived.

For some reason I missed the full description of the David Bailey camera. I knew it was a disposable, but hadn’t seen that it had already been used. Hmm, disappointing, but having read this post recently I wondered if I could reload it and try it anyway. That article mentioned how dangerous it could be due to the latent electricity stored in the flash capacitor, I kind of knew that anyway. I had reloaded a Simple camera before, but that was made to be reloaded, this definitely was not.

So I looked it over and thought I could see a way to pop the back off by pressing some tabs around the sides. You could and I did… being very wary of any exposed wires.

It turned out the capacitor in the top left corner was totally secure, no wires exposed at all. With the winder on the right above the cartridge slot, it would seem this is a wind back into the cassette type camera. That would mean taking out all the film, rolling it tight and putting the unused part in the slot on the left, then secure the back in place again. All in the dark. This will be fun.

So in the dark bag goes the new film, the camera front, the back, some scissors, and some black electrical tape. This is never going to work.

Replacing the back while keeping the unused part of the film in a tight roll was a real pain in the derriere. But lo and behold I did it. I even managed to tape around the sides incase there were any gaps. I was quite proud of myself. I then placed the camera back in the cardboard sleeve for extra light protection.

Wait a minute??? Something is not quite right??? Can you see what it is???

The friggin lens is missing!? Was it missing before I fiddled with it? I checked the original photo from the listing, there definitely seemed to be a shiny reflection where the lens would be. Where was the lens?

I took a few shots with the camera just to see what would happen. Then put it back in the dark bag and took it apart again. The lens was trapped between the front cover and the workings. I must have dislodged it while yanking it around. It was not glued or secured in place by anything. With a shake it came out and I was able to put it back in place with some tweezers. And then I went back through the whole process of reloading it and taping it up again, I wound on a few shots to miss the ones I had taken without the lens, just to see what the difference would be. This is never going to work.

This time I also tried to restart the flash by leaving a battery inside and rigging an elastic band with cardboard to keep the button pressed for a few hours. As you can see I loaded up some fomapan 100 classic. I intended to push process it to 400 as the original film was a colour film of 400 ISO.

The jig didn’t work and the flash never came back to life. That was probably good for me in terms of capacitor danger, but you should always be wary even if you think it is dead.

As for the history of the camera or even the technical details, I don’t have much. There are only a few listings for it on eBay, those that have not been used are posted for £50ish. I found a Japanese auction site that said the camera was sold by designer Paul Smith in the 1990s. Mine has the expiry date 1996 on it. I would assume the tech details are about 1/100th at f9 or something similar. Most disposable cameras seem to have those settings. With that information I did a search and found this camera that looks very similar. Well, mine is definitely not worth anything now as I have taken it apart a few times and damaged the cardboard. Though I do still have the outer package 🙂

But with all my fiddling, did it work? I took it for a walk around my garden during my self-isolation and then my local park once I was allowed out again.

Well, holy moly, it did work and they came out. Plus, amazingly, there was no fogging. I kind of like the blurry shots where there was no lens. They remind me of a friend who had terrible eyesight. She would always ask me what the number of the bus was before we got on it. How would it feel to live with that kind of eye sight?

Anyway, that was a fun way to spend a day. I think the little camera did quite well considering, I would have like to have taken more photos of people but there were none around. I don’t think I will reload the camera again. I might use the lens on another project, maybe, I could make a pinhole-ish type camera.

And after all that, I will leave you with a quote from a friend, “A disposable camera is still a disposable camera even if it has the name David Bailey on it.”

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