Do The FunkyCam
Digital Liberation for $20?
I am as guilty of it as the next photographer. There's simply far too much attention paid to the technical quality of our images. Ultimately though, this isn't what's important. It's what the photographs are "of" and the vision behind them that makes them succeed or not.
Not a single one of the best photographs that I have ever published, exhibited, or sold stands on its technical merits. Yes, many of them have technical merit, but this isn't what makes them succeed. They would have been worthwhile (to the extent that they are) even if they had been taken with lesser equipment.
I have now found a new way to overcome the undue focus on equipment – The FunkyCam.
I bought mine at an office supply store for $20. It was on the discount peg near the cash register. It doesn't have a name. It's just an anonymous toy from some factory in Taiwan. It comes in black, red, and blue, has a key chain ring, and – oh yes – it records a 300K image. It comes with some crappy Windows-only software on a CD, and takes a single AAA battery. The user interface is dreadful. But, on the plus side, the case is transparent, and you can see the chips inside.
A Historical Perspective
Do you remember (or even have) a Holga camera? This was (is) a 120 format $20 film camera. They were (are) a bit of a rage among photographers tired of the too clean, too crisp images produced by normal cameras. They added their own unique characteristics to the image, including vignetting and light leaks. They almost created a new art form, and indeed I saw a couple of gallery shows where fine art photographs taken with Holga and Diana cameras were displayed.
The FunkyCam is to my mind the 21st Century Holga.
Shooting with The FunkyCam
Shooting with the FunkyCam is a bit of a magical mystery tour (am I showing my age?). It has a viewfinder, (not quite like a Leica M7's, because it lacks a rangefinder), but then its lens has almost infinite depth of field, so we don't need no stinkin rangefinder, now do we? But, just like a film camera, there's no LCD. Yup, a digital camera with no LCD. How quaint.
This is what makes using the FunkyCam so much fun. You have to wait to see what you've recorded. Not as long as waiting for the minilab to process your film, but at least till you get back to your computer. And, oh yes, did I mention that the camera has no memory card? Just memory. Enough, in fact, for 18 shots at the camera's highest quality setting (hah!). When you get back to your computer just attach the supplied USB cable and transfer the files using the provided dreadful software.
In the end you'll end up with some 56KB JPGs which open up to about 300k. That's about 4 X 5" at 72 PPI – what you see above. Now keep in mind that these 4X5" shots are at 72ppi. (I said that – right?). This means that at 240ppi they would print out at about 1.2" X 1.5", about the size of a postage stamp.
But, let's not let that deter us. You've heard of Bicubic Smoother? Well, go for it.
I've made 8X10" FunkyCam prints that actually look quite nice, in a funky kind of way. The above is one such example. I printed it that size on A3 matte paper, and placed it on my print viewing box. My wife, who rarely comments on my work unless asked (she was an Art History Major, and knows what's good for her), walked into my office, saw it, and exclaimed with no irony whatsoever in her voice– Wow, that's one of the best things you've done recently.
I explained that it had been made possible because I'd used a new camera. She rolled her eyes, and asked how much. I told her, and with a smile she replied that in that case she was off to buy a new pair of shoes. Go figure.
I've been walking around with the FunkyCam in my pocket for the past few weeks. Sometimes I even remember it's there. I'm not yet sure what its purpose is. But sometimes I see things that I know will look right taken with it, and out it comes. More often that not, something of interest turns out.
I don't do anything to the images in Photoshop except crop them, if needed. No colour adjustment. No sharpening. Nothing. They is what they is.
Some people that I've shown them to ask why I don't use my cell phone camera. Good question. The answer is that those images are too big and too sharp. I love the pastel colours, high contrast, chromatic aberration and all the other flaws of the FunkyCam. Phone camera makers try too hard to get rid of these assets.
No, for me the FunkyCam is perfect. It is a digital age anti-camera, and the ideal antitheses to working with all of the mega-gear that I otherwise regard as being oh-so-necessary to my personal and professional work.
The next time that you're in a novelty store, see if you can't find a FunkyCam of your own.