All photographers must have at least one half-frame camera in their arsenals, if we say so ourselves. Here’s a list to kick start your quest for the perfect one.
As its name implies, half-frame cameras, also known as single-frame or split-frame, are those that shoot 18×24mm photographs on 35mm film. In other words, that’s half of what standard full-frame cameras take (24×36mm). Incidentally, it’s also the usual format of 35mm movie cameras.
What sets half-frame cameras apart is that they are not only compact and functional, but are also economical—a 12-, 24-, or 36-frame roll yields twice the number of shots on a 35mm film that can be easily bought. The 1960s saw half-frame cameras enjoy widespread popularity, something that eventually ended when full-frame 35mm cameras as small as their half-frame counterparts began to be introduced in the market.
Ricoh Auto Half (1960)
A funny-looking half-frame camera, the Ricoh Auto Half boasts of features such as fixed focusing, two shutter speed settings, the spring-drive auto crank that allows for shooting 25 to 30 frames in one winding, and the possibility to use a range of accessories with it. Also sold as the Standard Gatling 72 and the Ansco Memo Automatic cameras, the Ricoh Auto Half was improved later on through models like the Ricoh Auto Half SL, E2, and EF.
Agfa Paramat (1963)
Part of Agfa’s Parat series, the Agfa Paramat is the automatic counterpart of the Agfa Parat-I. Unlike other cameras in this list, the Paramat has limited features that include just one shutter speed and the aperture being set through a CdS exposure meter that is activated by half-pressing the shutter.
Canon Demi (1963)
Favored by many for its elegant design, the Canon Demi was developed shortly after Olympus’ introduction of its original Olympus Pen in Japan in 1959. But not only does it look great, the Canon Demi is also easy to use with features like a manual focus lens and match-needle selenium exposure meter.
Olympus Pen F (1963)
Speaking of the Olympus Pen, did you know that it has an SLR counterpart? It’s called the Olympus Pen F, which was introduced in 1963 and designed by Maitani Yoshihisa, the legendary designer who was also the man behind the original Olympus Pen, the Olympus OM-1, and the Olympus XA. A complete camera system, the Olympus Pen F is compact yet it can be equipped with a range of lenses and accessories.
Belomo Agat 18k (late 1980s)
At first glance, the all-plastic Belomo Agat 18k might remind one of a transistor radio. Produced in Minsk, Belarus by MMZ and, later on, Vilejka for MMZ (Belomo), the Belomo Agat 18k is the successor of the Agat 18 and has odd features like the shutter button placed on the camera’s front face, the film loading that requires disassembling the camera, and the “mechanical program mode” where the aperture and shutter speed are set by the camera based on the film speed and exposure settings selected.
Yashica Samurai X3.0 (1988)
The Yashica Samurai X3.0 is not only oddly named, it’s also unusually built to resemble a video camera and meant for one-hand operation. Introduced in 1988, this fully automatic camera was the first in Yashica’s Samurai line of half-frame, bridge SLR cameras.
Lomo LC-Wide (2011)
Last but not least, we have one of Lomography’s very own: the Lomo LC-Wide, which boasts of an ultra-wide 17mm lens and a slew of other features. Unlike the cameras above, the LC-Wide is capable not only of shooting half-frame photos but also full-frames and squares, with every photo having that signature lomographic look—eye-popping colors and contrast, shadowy vignettes.
What’s your favorite half-frame camera? Do tell us in the comments section below!