I'm a sucker for toy camera deals. I go weak in the knees when I find a decent camera selection in an antique market. But I'm a certifiable lunatic for affordable working vintage toy cameras, and it's discoveries like this Original Diana that motivate me to keep searching and collecting.
I was browsing Kijiji.com (a Canadian buy and sell site, like Craigslist) as I usually do; checking in on the “Cameras” section on the hour every hour, when one listing in particular arrested my attention.
“Original Diana. 1965. Working condition.”
What made me gasp audibly was the next line.
I got on the nearest phone immediately. It was in my pocket. I dialed and waited for the voice.
Hi, do you still have a Diana camera available?
I’m only a few blocks from you, can I walk over tonight sometime to pick it up?
“Sure, but Coronation Street is on from 6:30 until 7:00. Don’t call or stop by then.”
…3 hours later…
I tried to conceal my excitement until that precise point in time where the five dollar bills were fully in his hand and this new treasure was in my grasp alone. It was in pristine condition, and I ran home to strip a fresh roll of Kodak E100VS of its foil.
I already own a Diana+, so the first things that jumped out at me were the obvious differences.
The distance settings are labeled in feet, not metres; the film advance window is round and lower on the back; and the best difference – the pieces of plastic that hold the film rolls are hinged.
This original is not for those who want to change lenses, formats (12 or 16 shots), or film sizes. One lens and 16 shots per 120mm roll. That’s it.
The switch for toggling between “I” and “B” shutter modes is just as sharp and potentially hazardous (if only for a klutz like me) as the Diana+.
I took her for my maiden voyage on a fairly sunny day, not wanting to take any risks. I shot the roll over the course of a weekend, and mistakenly wound the roll after only 12 exposures; I forgot that 16 was the original format. I was quite pleased to find that only one frame was fatally overexposed, perhaps due to a slightly sticky shutter, perhaps due to an absent-minded photographer.
If you’re lucky enough to find one of these in good shape, snap it up, you’ll be glad you did.
Now it’s loaded with film that expired before half of us were born, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.