When you’re holding a plastic camera it feels more like playing with a toy than a serious instrument of photography. Probably because it is a toy camera. But shooting with one can lighten the mood and open up new inspirations. The pressure is off. I don’t feel like every frame *has* to count, and sometimes that can lead to taking chances you might not otherwise take.
Another plus (sometimes) is that the results from these toy cameras can be rather unpredictable. Plastic camera bodies are prone to light leaks, and a lot of them have irregular lenses and a fixed aperture. Throw in a roll of expired or color-shifting film, and all bets are off.
Like any experiments, sometimes these combinations tend to fail, or at least don’t produce the one-of-a-kind, eye-catching images we might hope. There are a lot of unknowns, from the camera’s function, to the film quality, then on to developing, scanning, and printing. But even if the film turns out to be too old and fogged, or that one frame you were excited about comes out slightly out of focus, there’s still a lot of joy and things to learn from the process.
That was my thinking when I recently purchased a Werlisa Color Club for about $30 off of eBay. The plastic camera is reminiscent of the legendary Holga, but really it’s a completely different beast. Most notably it take 35mm film instead of medium format spools like the Holga. And while you can still buy a Holga new, Werlisa’s are long out of production and conditions will vary.
Made in Spain during the 70s and 80s, these Werlisa little pocket-sized cameras really simplify the photography process. There are 3 exposure settings, and a green button on top to fire the shutter. You don’t have to pay much attention to the technical side of things, just concentrate on taking the picture.
After our first snow of the season here in Homer, Alaska, I loaded up my new/old Color Club with a roll of expired Fuji Superia 400 from the local thrift store and I headed down to the Homer Spit to test it out. I have no idea how old the film was, or how it was stored, but it produced interesting results with magenta color shifts and not-too-terribly-horrible grain in underexposed shots.
Like most fixed-aperture cameras, the Werlisa Color Club can do with a lot of light — not the best for an overcast winters day in Alaska — but I was pretty impressed with how the camera handled the conditions, and how well the lens performed. I’m not even sure what the lens’ aperture is. On the front of the camera it says “F/38mm,” which makes no sense.
Another major factor is, of course, the age and condition of the film. I have no idea how old this stuff was, or how it was stored. I have another roll from the same batch, so next time around I will either over exposure the film or push it a stop during development to add a little more punch.
Over all though this was a fun first experiment with the Werlisa Color Club 35mm film camera. I’m really looking forward to some sunny days to really see this toy camera shine.