Saturday, March 01, 2008

Shang Hai Surprise!

I recently ordered some cameras direct from mainland China, so in continuation of my series of reviews for "cameras you'll never own", I bring you this lovely beast!

Yes, that is one hideous case. Smelly, too. My fingers stink right now from handling the thing to take pictures of it. Old and smelly. Just the way I like them. My cases, not my fingers. It was described on the site as an 'old style case'. 1960s, I imagine. Let's take that ugly dress off, shall we?

Pleather on the outside, corduroy (Seriously, what kind of word is that? Just look at it!) on the inside. How 'bout we throw that on the floor in the corner. What are we wearing underneath?

Ooh, now that is sexy. Turn around for me. I want to see you from behind.

Oh yeah. Damn, you are hot! Check out that chrome! You've got it going on in ALL the right places!
Okay, enough of that. Still, pretty sweet camera, eh? Want one? Good luck. I'm sure there are others out China.
You can tell by the barrel that it resembles the Diana. So it is kind of a Diana clone, but it's built a bit better. I have no idea how old this thing is, so maybe the Diana is a clone of this thing. Some of the other cameras I got look like Holgas, but the Holga is probably based on a fairly common Chinese camera design. Who's to say the Diana isn't a dumbed down version of another camera? Not that this particular camera is complicated. It's actually easier to use!
Okay, so it looks kind of like a Diana. What's it called? Well, you maybe noticed that it actually says, right on the front, "TOY CAMERA". Seriously. So this thing is old. It's what we would call a toy camera by today's standards. It's from China. It says Toy Camera on the front. How perfect is that?
So maybe that is the name of the camera. Maybe not. On the front of the barrel, it shows us this:

Camera 65-4 Shang Hai Zhi Zao. I have no idea, but it's damn cool. Of course, I couldn't find anything about it on the interweb. Zhi Zao seems to be part of people's names. Shang Hai is obviously in China. 65-4 seems to be meaningless. Whatever. It's still about the best camera name I've ever encountered.
A bit more about the camera. That isn't silver paint on the top. I can't figure out if it's chrome or cast metal, but it sure is shiny. The ring was missing from the front, and I had an extra Banner ring that I threw on to make the carpet match the drapes.
This was a much-used camera. The winder is well worn. Look at how muffed up that metal plate is on the winder compared to the spotless chrome. That is some tough stuff, there.

It says "USE" on it, which is tough to make out in the picture. The spool holder inside the winder was also very worn out. Still holds film, but plenty smooth on the edges.
Looking on the bottom, we don't see the usual Diana-style open/close knob.

It is actually a screw. And a screw that unscrews completely.

Interesting. Amazing it didn't get lost. Inside we see metal tongs to hold the film spools in place.

Also, looking inside, notice the shape of the film frame...

Not square! Rectangular. Now look at the viewfinder...

Not only is it incredibly tiny, but it is round. Well, actually what I see is a square when i look through it. So framing is kind of guesswork. That's cool. I'm used to that.
It has the same settings as a Diana. Bulb and Instant, with three aperture settings.

The placement is different, though. The aperture switch is on the bottom. It is exactly the same as the Diana, with the three different 'holes'...well, two holes and no hole for 'cloudy'. One thing that kept me on my toes was the shutter lever. It's lower than the Diana's, and the B/I switch is where the Diana shutter lever is. So I kept reaching for that lever with my finger when I wanted to shoot. Annoying? I got over it. It also has the ability to take a handheld flash.
So I took the camera out today, along with a few others. No idea what to expect, and I was expecting the dullest output. One other difference from the Diana is that this camera is fixed focus. That's not a bad thing...the Fujipet is also fixed focus. The lens looks like it is glass...sounds like it when I tap on it. I figured It would take pretty straightforward rectangle shots. I like square shots. I don't like rectangle shots. Boo hoo. Guessed boring at best would be the results.
I went over to the Cave Creek area, as I haven't been over there for I think 10 years. Figured the desert would be pretty with all the rain we had. The Camera 65-4 takes 16 shots, and I kind of felt like I was wasting them trying to finish the roll. Again, I figured it was going to be all looks, no personality. Am I ever wrong? Maybe. Sometimes. Like now. This camera takes some very kick-ass photos. I I am in love with this camera. I want to marry it and have its babies. I'll gladly cheat on my other favorite cameras. I've moved on bore me. I've found something fresh, something sweet. Her name is Camera 65-4 Shang Hai Zhi Zao, and she has something you'll never have. Chrome. Class. Don't call me, I'll call you. You can keep the kids.
Okay, I'll shut up now. Here are some of the photos I shot today with Fortepan 100.

And I can turn it sideways for some horizontal action. That's Camelback Mountain way off in the distance, I think, with the Phoenix Preserves to the right.

Check out that crazy blur! So unexpected, and so lovely. No way will this camera sit on my shelf collecting dust. Use it a lot, I will. I shot one self.

Nerd. I look like a Vulcan. A Vulcan with a large jaw. That's the camera's doing, that extended jaw. Nifty. Squinty. The odd lines in the lower right are very interesting. Looks like fabric texture, but it's not. Just some strange lens effect. I'll have to play around with that next time.
So, another great camera to add to the collection. I'm really happy I found this! I'll be reviewing some of the others I bought in the coming posts. Ladies and gentlebums, I present:

On a Polaroid note, the discontinuation has been officially announced, with final production dates and expirations. Bummer. Looks like 600 will be the last to go. Makes sense as it is the most popular. Price gouging has commenced.
Check out Save Polaroid. Also, someone received an e-mail from Ilford that they would be investigating the possibility of licensing the technology from Polaroid. Could be interesting, indeed.
I took my 195 with me. I fixed my leaky bellows, and a few new leaks happened. So I repaired those and now it's sitting in the corner. Also took my SX-70 with some 600 film. Spring has sprung in Arizona.

Hope your Spring is Polaroidarific. I just made that word up. I'm so clever. Time to sleep. 'night.


  1. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Brilliant blog! Zhi Zao in Chinese means "produce", "manufacture" or "make".

  2. aaaah! thanks for that. so made in shang hai. very cool!

  3. Anonymous10:54 AM

    Great camea Sean, cant wait to see the rest from the batch.
    Gary M

  4. Anonymous11:20 AM

    You lucky dog! That Camera camera is the nuts! Wonderful blur; a truly craptastic machine.

    Here's my guess on 65-4. What they were probably going for was 6-4.5 or something close, as in 6X4.5. You know, rectangular frame, etc. . . .

    Or it just looked "serious."

  5. I love your photos! I love your blog!

  6. Amazing that case got through customs Sean! I would have thought it might be classified as some sort of a biological hazard. Hell, the FDA won't let Vegemite into the U.S.A. but they let that thing in? Ha!
    Nice results from that camera, and yes you do look a bit like a Vulcan. Very logical.

  7. The 6x4.5 theory sounds ok to me.

    It's really strange that the lens share so many similarities with a Diana.
    As Diana had a small mother (Babette), I guess that this camera is a kind of mutant Diana.