This earlier Gakken camera kit allows you to switch from Lens to Pinhole and back from roll to roll, essentially making this a 2 in 1 camera.
Many Lomography members are familiar with Gakken camera kits. The most popular being the TLR in its original and clone forms. The next most popular would be the Stereo Pinhole Kit. I have both, but learned there was an earlier model that allows the photographer to switch between pinhole and lens use and even includes a couple apertures.
This is a clone, the Jr. Scientist Kit, came in English, but Gakken is printed on the camera.
The kit is super easy to put together compared to the other Gakken models I have. More like the snap together models many young boys had in the 1970’s & 80’s. The directions were poor and did not instruct you to put in the tripod fitting.
The kit has the body of the camera and two separate aperture holders: Lens and Pinhole. Each is shaped different at the barrel and they click into the body by two hooks that are depressed and release to aperture holder. The Pinhole holds only the unlabeled size pinhole aperture disc. The Lens version has the option of no aperture (lens only), small and large apertures. The book recommends switching any of these options only between rolls, but if you are willing to risk a frame, I imaging you could get away with changing them mid roll.
The camera comes with a “Preview Pane” that you can insert in the camera before loading film to preview your first shot through the camera as if you were to see what is imprinted on the negative. It is a fun learning device. You will be unable to use after loading the film and it does not remain in the camera will using film.
The finished camera assembled on my floor.
The camera also comes with an informative book with some basic shooting instructions and fun projects to try like long exposure and multiple exposures. It also has a lengthy cartoon that expounds the history and life of Thomas Edison.
My assessment of the camera
The camera was easy enough to put together despite simplistic instructions and like any other Gakken, a lot of fun to use if you are patient and take it for what it is: a kit and not a pro camera. There are a few points that I would really like to stress about the camera:
- There is no take up spool. The film has a metal guide that helps the film naturally wind in the camera. It does not appear to be large enough of a chamber to hold a whole 36 frame roll. I ended up only getting 32 exposures before the pressure was threatening to open the camera from the inside.
- The Lens Barrel has a bulb and shutter switches, but I found that they did not move smoothly. The shutter release has a small wedge foot that is releases the shutter when pressed both in and down. It stuck halfway open or slid slowly about ever third time and doing the activation took a lot of pressure and may have caused shutter shake. I tried to take it apart and shave the parts with little improvement. I set it aside and went straight to the pinhole use.
- The book gives guide lines for Pinhole, Small, Large and No Aperture use based on 400 ISO film. It does not indicate aperture sizes or shutter speed.
- The Pinhole Barrel does not have a shutter. You must remove and replace the cap for each exposure. It is fairly snug, but a rubber band around the cap and body insured no lost frames.
Do not get me wrong, once I started using the pinhole. I had a lot of fun. The camera offers a few pluses too:
- Though there is no frame counter, there is a click wheel frame marker when advancing the film. This was consistent with even frame spacing. Since I track my frames on paper with notes of exposure times, I did not really need the frame counter.
- The camera allows you to “telescope” extending the barrel to allow a longer F stop. They print that it focuses in on your subject.
- The body has both a standard tripod fitting and a small foot that extends out to prop the camera at an upward angle.
I do not think I will ever use the lens mode. I take the camera as an addition to my pinhole collection and so do not regret my purchase, but I will probably only run 24 frame rolls through in the future to prevent the back bulging open.
Here are some of my test shots with some Lomography CN 100: