-One shutter speed (I think)
-Cheesy pop-up flash
-Suspect manufacturing quality
-Optics by who knows
In short, a crappy SLR! Right up my alley! Since receiving it from Ultrafine Online (and yes, they are still selling them on their website) in July, I have been shooting with it, getting to know it better, and figuring out its little quirks. The camera is actually a copy of a Fujica ST-F from the mid-1970s, though I suspect the Fujica actually has a metal chassis, not all-plastic like the Chinese copy.
My only real peeve about the PF-1 is that one really has to be careful when loading the film -- make sure that the film is pushed into the slot on the takeup spool as far as possible and that the film winds around before you close the back door. It's possible for it to simply slip off and slide around inside if there isn't a positive capture. It could also be a a manufacturing defect, with not all cameras being as quirky. Once I realized how the film leader has to be "properly" inserted, my winding problems went away. The camera has a split-image center circle which greatly aids in focusing. To use the meter, there is a silver button on the front that must be pressed while adjusting the aperture. To use the flash, push the front of the flash up, and engage a lock on the side of the lens that changes the aperture according to the distance focused on. This is much like the GN-Nikkor for the Nikon and the Canon QL-17, when using the matching flash unit. There is a tripod socket, too.
The camera comes in a box with an "ever-ready" case, neck strap, lens cap, and instructions in Chinese and "English." You can go to the Dot-Line website and download a pdf of their manual for the rebadged Aviva PF-1. It's quite good.
I loaded the camera with Tri-X for the first go-round, and many of the images were overexposed to some degree. My next roll was Gold 100, but I goofed on the film loading and had numerous double exposures, and a half-blank roll. Roll number 3 was respooled b&w, and the film pulled off the end of the roll when I wound one last time, and I opened the back... uh oh. I have not developed that roll yet. Roll 3 was Konica SRG 160 that was LONG expired. I shot it as ISO 100, and got some nice grainy, muted images (see below).
The last roll was Gold 100, and it fits very well with this camera when outdoors. Sure, it's a cheap SLR with a fixed lens. It's fun to use, unassuming, and I like most of the results that I have gotten with it. I wish it had a "B" setting and a hot-shoe, and all would be okay. It does have a cable release socket, plus a locking tab, so the shutter won't fire accidentally. Is it worth $60? Sure is. Considering what a really plastic camera is going from the Lomography folks, this camera is a steal. A pretty simple SLR that would be perfect for experimenting with, and adding various odd lens filters to see what happens. There is a photographer on the Lomography site that shot a bunch of nudes with his PF-1. Sort of strange, but if the models didn't laugh at his camera, then all is okay.
Should you buy this camera? Sure. It's a lot of fun. I even created a group on Flickr for it.