The Pouva Start is quite a well known "cult" camera from the former East Germany. However, it hasn't been reviewed on Lomography before, despite it's Holga-like goodness. Here's a short review.
The Pouva Start is quite a well known ‘cult’ children’s camera from the former GDR, but perhaps surprisingly hasn’t been reviewed here on LSI before, though I know quite a few Lomographers who use one. I recently bought one as part of my pilgrimage to acquire the best East German cameras, and have been very impressed by such a simple camera.
First, some manufacturing details: there were four models of this camera, all produced between 1951 and 1973. All were made of bakelite (I love it already!), with some surface cosmetic differences. The first model in particular had a flip-up sports viewfinder which later models replaced with a simpler and easier fixed top-mounted viewfinder. Mine is the second model. All had the same simple design though-a fixed-focus, screw-out barrel lens (see shots of mine opened and closed to understand) mounting a great plastic lens.
Some technical details: this is about as simple as cameras get. There are two shutter speeds, ‘moment’ and ‘bulb’, and two aperture settings, ‘cloudy’ and ‘sunny’. Taking a photo is as simple as unscrewing the lens, fixing these two settings, and snapping away. Film is 120mm and a red window on the back shows which frame you’re on. Film winding is manual, and works from a knob on the left, the only other really unusual feature.
Results: so far I’ve used this camera with two rolls of film, color negative and B&W, and been stunned by both. The B&W has an instant ‘vintage’ look which is an acquired taste, but one definitely worth playing with, whilst the color negative roll (400 ISO) is super-saturated, with lovely corner vignetting. Better yet, the whole camera is well made and seems ultra-reliable, with no light leaks and seemingly very little that can go wrong. There are no complicated mirrors here, no battery powered motors or light meters, no deteriorating shutter speeds or obscure film requirements.
It’s a fantastic lightweight camera, which I got with a little brown leather carrying satchel, rather like something a 1950s German schoolchild might have carried. It’s easy to see, with this great plastic lens, why these cameras have earned a cult reputation.