- Johnny Wilson
Four year old Boots disposable camera
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
If you know me quite well, follow me on Instagram, or you checked out some of the earlier posts before this one, you'll know that I'm quite into disposable cameras... Generally speaking if I see them around in charity shops or somewhere going for cheap I tend to buy them. Back in April of this year, whilst wandering around the local junk shop I found a 4 year old disposable for the paltry price of ONE ENGLISH POUND!
Ignore that £1.99 sticker, that must have been the original price? I miss the times when you could get a fresh disposable for a couple of quid! So when I say this camera is four years old, what I mean is that the "develop before" date was 08/2015, with colour film having an unexpired shelf life of somewhere between 2 - 4 years depending on the brand, the sensitivity and the type e.t.c. I'm erring on the side of caution and going with the youngest age possible for this camera with 4 years. The box had no indication of the brand or manufacturer but I recognized the design and colours as the old branding for Boots disposables cameras. At time of writing they still exist as a company but given that UK companies are literally collapsing overnight, for reference, I'm linking back to the Wikipedia entry for Boots pharmacies! It did tell me it was an ISO 400 film camera, which is usually the go to choice for standard disposable cameras.
Despite still being fresh in the box, not being opened for the last 4 years, there was a strange problem with the film winder, it felt really loose and sounded like it was slipping. I wasn't even sure it was winding the film on correctly. Aside from that it worked just like a typical disposable camera should, it was light enough to carry around easily and the shutter could be fired easy enough, nothing else seemed to be wrong mechanically although despite having a built in flash, the internal battery had long since ran dry so that flash didn't work. But that was fine because I'm not a fan of shooting with flash anyway. I was just mostly intrigued to see how the photos from a roll of film that's been stashed in a disposable camera in completely unknown conditions for the last 4 years would turn out! So how did my images turn out?
Not bad! I was mostly surprised that anything at all had turned out actually! This isn't the oldest roll of film I've shot with, I've shot with a twelve year old disposable before, but the film winder issue had lead me to believe I would just get back a whole roll of one endless panoramic picture, all overlapping and double exposed! So at least it worked out! In typical cheap disposable fashion, the viewfinder and the lens were not quite in tandem and all of the images I composed where I was closer turned out to be much more at a wider angle than I had originally composed them at. But it was within an acceptable range and not completely ludicrous like that crappy underwater disposable I shot with. And I'm not sure if it's a result of shooting with expired film, or if the plastic lens is a bit dodgy but there's a real element of soft focus to nearly every photo.
However I'm loving the slight contrast boost that they all have! And the vignette that sometimes ranges from very slight to full on dramatic! The negatives are unbranded so I'm not entirely sure what the brand of film is but I know it was an ISO 400 sensitivity level film and with Boots also selling their own rebranded film back in the day that was very similar to Kodak Gold 200 I would hazard a guess that this is Kodak Ultramax 400 or something in the same vein. Shooting expired film is always going to be a bit of a gamble. Expert and pro photographers will know how to store and handle film up to and past it's expiry date to get the best results, but picking it up in the wild when you have no idea how's it's been looked after for however long it's been out of date is even more risky! But that's the whole beauty behind shooting with expired film; embracing the imperfections and the defects to apply a creative effect to the photos. Sometimes it works really well, the folks at Lomography are champions at that, sometimes however it doesn't always turn out so great! I find with disposables you have to try to not have any preconceptions about how your images are going to turn out, you just have to embrace however dodgy and lo-fi they might end up! And that's twice as true when it comes to shooting an expired disposable. But when everything goes just right you can end up with some really unique looking photos. And because you're not completely sure how it's going to turn out, it can be fun? Right? Just don't take it too seriously!