• Johnny Wilson

Taking the Kassha out in the snow

Far far back in September 2018, when we were still allowed to go on holiday and walk around Tesco in groups larger than 1... cornerstone of the online film photography community; Bellamy Hunt a.k.a Japan Camera Hunter released the 'Kassha' a single use camera preloaded with JCH Street Pan black and white ISO 400 film. Nowadays you can pick up a handful of different branded single use cameras from Lomography, Ilford and Rollei and some of them are now even reloadable, but at the time the Kassha was one of the first of it's kind; borne out of the joy you get with shooting disposables. I immediately bought one and remembering it costing me way more than was morally justifiable to myself (on account that it was coming from Japan and shipping cost more than the actual camera...) but I really wanted to use one, and I wanted to save it for a special occasion. Fast forward a couple of years and I planned to shoot some street photography with it in the summer last year, but all of that went to shit thanks to current events and I found myself getting dangerously close to the expiry date of my little Kassha and wishing I'd taken it on holiday with me at some point the year before...

It's certainly the coolest looking disposable camera I think I will ever use. I mean, just look at it. I literally had to look at it with remorse for a couple of minutes before stuffing it in an envelope and posting it off for processing and I really wish and regret that I didn't just chisel it open myself to remove the film (which I've done before) and keep the body! But regretfully I didn't. And here we are. If you aren't familiar with the Kassha let me bring you up to speed; it's a single use disposable camera with a built in flash, a fixed f9 aperture, fixed 1/120 shutter speed and 31mm lens preloaded with a roll of 27 exposure JCH Street Pan; a black and white ISO 400 film renowned for performing well in low sunlight, late afternoon conditions. Kassha is also Japanese onomatopoeia and the word for the sound a camera shutter makes which is pretty cool in my opinion. Walking a very thin tightrope between the film inside my camera being in date and out of date, almost on a whim I opted to take my Kassha out with me on a very cold, very wintery Sunday afternoon after we had just experienced a heavy snow fall the night previous, and snapped some wintery shots on monochrome film.

The Kassha was naturally very easy to get to grips with. Look through the little glass window and press the button at the top. There is literally nothing you can get wrong here and the lens protrudes just slightly from the front of the camera body making accidental thumb intrusions slightly harder. I'm not really into flash photography, I prefer natural light, so at no point did I ever use the flash so I can't tell you if it was too overpowered for the camera or too underpowered but I can tell you that the viewfinder was fine, if not maybe a little bit off centre resulting in a handful of my shots not quite being composed how I thought they were and that the camera was as light and portable as you are ever likely to find, but also sturdy enough that I managed to get through the whole roll without any pocket shots. Unfortunately as you might have guessed from some of my first batch of photos; a snow filled cloudy sky combined with an f9 1/120 camera setup resulted in some distinct underexposure which I think is partly down to me as I should have known better, but I was also accounting for white balance and light levels to be thrown off slightly by the white snow so I was sort of edging my bets that I might get away with it. Not that I'm unhappy with my shots because I'm not, but the ones I did get definitely turned out a good degree more underexposed than I had anticipated.

That being said, in shots taken in more brightly lit areas Street Pan still has this habit of toning things down and pumping up the contrast which I actually really like (and edit my digital photos to that effect) and I would really like to put a roll of Street Pan through a manual SLR or a Pro Automatic like my LC-A+ or mju-II because I imagine with some manual control you could get some really awesome shots.

Sadly, the Kassha was a bit of an enigma and whilst writing this I may have had a little shop around to see if I could pick up another one but at time of writing it seems most places have sold out and JCH did mention that it was a limited edition, whilst stocks last affair and that is a shame because it's a really cool looking camera and if for nothing else I'd keep one just to put it on a shelf with similarly collectable camera and film stuff. So giving the Kassha a second chance with some brighter lit street photography doesn't seem to be a thing I can make happen but it has introduced me to JCH Street Pan and I definitely want to have more of play with another roll of that to see what I can do with it.