- Johnny Wilson
Club Reloadable - Harman Reusable Camera
Ilford are an established heavyweight name in the world of film photography and pretty much have the black and white film market sewn up. XP2 Super is the first black & white film I shot with for the sheer fact that it was that easy to get hold of and I've been an Ilford fan for a long time. Under the Harman and Kentmere brands Ilford try to bring affordability more into the equation and in October 2019 they followed the fast moving trend of brands releasing reloadable simple use cameras with their own entry: the Harman Reusable Camera. Pretty much identical to the Kodak M35 (which preceded it by roughly a month) the Harman camera has a 31mm single element lens with a fixed f10 aperture and fixed 1/120 shutter speed together with a built in flash powered by a single AAA battery. I say pretty much identical... they are exactly identical really right the way down to the plastic mouldings, however where Ilford's offering slightly differs is that each camera is bundled with x2 rolls of Kentmere Pan 400. A film I've never shot with before now.
Operation of the camera is pretty much identical to the M35 and to every other point and shoot really: you look through the viewfinder, and you press the button. Done. If you want to use the flash there is a little switch on the front that you flick until a red LED lights up on the top of the camera. Despite being an exact clone of the M35 though, I found the viewfinder in my Harman camera actually better? Maybe it's something to do with the plastic being black but it just looked and felt clearer to me? And the film winder was not quite as tough to wind on as it is with my M35 but towards the end of the roll it was starting to get a little tense. Otherwise the camera: like the M35 is super light, easy to carry around and completely unobtrusive.
I loaded mine up with a roll of the complimentary Kentmere Pan 400 and carried it around for month shooting photos as I travelled about:
Maybe it's just my imagination here? But I feel like the lens is definitely softer compared to the M35? There's definitely a greater contrast and definition with these photos in comparison to the ones shot with the expired Ektachrome but I put that down to the film stock not the camera lens. I definitely feel like they have a softer focus? For what it's worth I think my shots with this camera turned out better than my M35 shots but that's more to do with shooting fresh ISO400 film and not expired ISO100 film, although quite a few of my photos have a slight degree of blurring at the outer edges, most obvious on the below shots:
Again, likely down to the soft plastic lens, and I had the same issues with the M35, but it's nowhere near as bad as you get with the Lomo Simple Use cameras. I'm pleased with my shots! Particularly like the Ghost Town graffiti shot earlier. Most of the same comments I made about the M35 can be applied here; the lens is significantly more wide angle than the viewfinder would suggest and a couple of my photos turned out far too underexposed to be usable. The results were better this time with a stronger film, but you still have to utilize that flash indoors or in shadowy areas. If I look at these photos side by side with the M35 shots, then, shock horror, there isn't really that great an amount of difference! Likely because they are exactly the same camera... but I definitely think my Harman Reloadable shots are more softer? And the vignette is less pronounced?
But if you haven't guessed the theme of this post by now, let me make it obvious: the Harman Reusable Camera is basically a complete clone of the Kodak M35. Right the way down to the same plastic mouldings and they are perfectly identical. Look at them side by side and you'll see what I mean:
And there is virtually nothing that sets them apart with only one key difference. Cost. To use Analogue Wonderland's costings as an example, at time of writing, a Kodak M35 will set you back £28 where as the Harman Camera will set you back £32 but you do get x2 rolls of £4 film with it, so accounting for that you technically save £2 over choosing it instead of the M35 if you don't mind paying a little bit extra for the extra film. It should be noted that not long after the Harman Reusable was released Ilford followed up with the Harman EZ-35 which looks to be more of their own exclusive construction and features a motorised film loading and winding mechanism. Fancy for a reloadable camera! I'll look at one of those another time though as I haven't actually brought one yet... but getting back on tangent, the same caveat I applied to the M35 really applies here: "there isn't anything here that is likely to tempt you away from any other plastic point and shoot film camera you might already own, and anything with any degree of control over the aperture and shutter speed is likely going to eclipse this camera immediately," but where the M35 made up for that by being quirky, carrying the Kodak branding and looking cool. The Harman carries the Harman branding yes, and comes in black which looks nice, but is unlikely to stick out next to the M35 to the casual shopper and is potentially the reason why the EZ-35 came to be in the first place. I'm glad I own one and I happy to add it to my collection, but I will likely pick up my M35 and play with that again over the Harman Camera when it comes to messing around with simple reloadable's mostly cos I just really like that yellow camera.