If you are a follower of this blog, you know that most of my reviews are of film cameras, but I certainly do have a few posts on digital cameras. I just don't go through them the way I do with film cameras. Here is my review of the Takashi FX 521, available from Ultrafine Online.
The Takashi FX521
Sometime last year I read about a camera that was described as the equivalent of a "digital Holga." That camera was the Yashica EZ F521, a 5 MP camera that had minimal control,http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif a classic look, and yet had enough pixels to create real prints. The Yashica EZ was apparently limited to Japan, as I never saw it for sale in the US. The manufacturer's approach to the camera was appealing, though, and I hoped that a model would become available here in the USA. Last month I saw that Ultrafine Online was selling the same camera, now branded as a Takashi FX521. I immediately ordered one - it was on sale for $99. That's a lot cheaper than many digicams, and I soon received it via UPS. The camera looks classically styled, alright - it has a real viewfinder as well as a decent-sized rear LCD. The only controls are a knob on the top deck to choose camera-review-video, and on the rear, with a menu system and navigation buttons. You focus by turning the lens a fraction of a turn for normal and macro. That's it. There is a built-in flash, a tripod socket, and a rubber lens cap. The front definitely reminds me of a Holga.
The menu system allows you to select white balance, EV adjustment, type of image (normal, b&w, sepia, negative, and several colors. You insert a SD card in the bottom by lifting up the battery latch -- the camera takes three AAA cells which last quite a while. There is also 32MB of RAM built in, but I suggest a 1 or 2 GB SD card, which will hold a lot of images. The camera does not retain date information if you change the batteries, so make sure that you enter the date info to avoid having your images all dated Jan. 2008.
After using the camera for nearly a month, I have to say that I like it. Yes, it's probably not as "holga-like" as some would demand, but control-wise, it is pretty similar. It fits easily into a pocket, and because there is no zoom or AF search, it's ready to shoot fairly quickly, and you can use the optical viewfinder if you want to. It runs a long time on one set of AAA cells, and with a 1 GB card, one can shoot for a long time before using up that space. The video is pretty decent - certainly good enough for YouTube and Facebook vids. The macro-mode is okay, and setting up the camera for different in-cam effects is easily done. The menus are simple and straightforward, and the control layout is thought out pretty well. By adjusting the EV, I could get more saturated images. I also like the b&w and sepia modes.
In a way, even though this camera is touted as a digital equivalent of a Holga, it's really a perfect little P&S camera for someone that does not want to have to fiddle around with a multitude of options - sort of like a bridge camera in getting a user from film to digital. The 5 Mp file size will be enough for 8x10 prints, something lacking in cameras sold as "toy digital" that are in the 1 MP range.
It's a fun camera. doesn't cost much, and might be the perfect camera to keep in the car or a purse when a photo op arises. If you desire more holga-type results, editing the images in Picnic or Picasa makes it easy.
Sometimes the camera will give unexpected wild effects like this. I like that.