Gift from the Great Wall

Today we have something a little different. My latest camera acquisition is a Tru-View, a cheap plastic camera made by Great Wall Mfg. of Taiwan, probably in the 1970s. It’s a clone of the more well-known Diana. Great Wall made (I hesitate to say “built”–extruded? Pooped out?) the Diana in a few variations with many different trade names, for different markets, but all essentially the same camera. Simple plastic lens, three apertures, one speed. Takes 120 roll film, makes 16 small exposures. The contemporary Holga is a descendant of the Diana.

These are among the crappiest cameras ever made. I got this one for $10 on eBay. These cameras now have a certain cachet in a small niche of the photo world, and you can buy new Holgas at Urban Outfitters, for three times the price they’d be anywhere else. In fact, if my Tru-View had the Diana label, it would likely have sold for more.

In my first post, I commended the Kowa for its sharp optics. Compare a similar detail from the Tru-View scan. You will note that the Tru-View is, well, less sharp. You may also note the chromatic aberration. It doesn’t help that the Tru-View has only crude distance-scale focusing. And there’s vignetting–it can’t quite cover even the reduced 4-centimeter frame.

So what’s the appeal? For starters, they’re about as far as you can get from the clean, bright, linear world of digital cameras. You can shoot with these cameras and really, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you process the film. This particular one seems to be reasonably light tight (many are not), though it appears that the red window is letting in enough light to cause an artifact. Everything becomes instantly impressionistic and surreal. The Diana-type toy camera intrudes itself into the result, and becomes part of the process.

The only drag about having one of these is that toy cameras are kinda trendy among the artsy-hipster set, or at least the artsy-hipster wannabe set. I mean, they’re for sale at Urban Outfitters, fer cthulhu’s sake. But anything that gets a few more film cameras out the door is good, right? Maybe the thing that annoys me most is that they’re paying too much–they could get the cameras and film from Freestyle or B&H for less. At least I only paid what my camera is really worth–almost nothing.

2 responses to “Gift from the Great Wall

  1. Do you have a Lomo? If not, would you like to borrow mine?

  2. Is it the 35mm with the Minitar lens? It could be fun to see which is uh, better, but really, I’ve got enough cameras to play with already. What I really need to find is a cheap plastic lens with a long enough focal length to mount on my Speed Graphic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s