My friend Mark introduced me to a curious toy like camera called the Digital Harinezumi the other day, right after our dinner at Hopdoddy’s. It’s a tiny plastic camera that looks like it can be a Happy Meal prize in the not too distant future. What I didn’t realize is that there is an entire movement around doing low fidelity (Lo Fi) photography on Flickr.
After some research, it appears that there are at least 6 versions of the Digital Harinezumi made over the years. Version one is coveted since it has the largest sensor with the most film-like results. Newer version 2s, 3 and 4 models add additional filter effects. The original version 2, that Mark loaned me, is the most basic.
With my new-found love for old or odd cameras, I gave this a try. The results are certainly modest, to be charitable. Probably a 10-year-old Blackberry will give better results but I kept an open mind. The point of this camera is its low quality, and having low expectations is the best way to enjoy it. I have to admit, I struggled to see the point of it.
There’s a movement toward authentic analog experiences. I too have shot old film cameras and even the trendy Fuji Instax. Film cameras have character and a wonderful mellow color that is hard to replicate in digital. The Harinezumi 2 is just plain ugly. There’s none of the richness of film or the clean precision of digital. What it produces is noisy and wonky pseudo cross processed colors or noisy black and whites.
There is a hidden hack that turns the Digital Harinezumi 2 into a black and white camera. Here’s how you do it. While the camera is on, hit the menu button. You should now be on the “Resolution” menu option. From here, click the Menu button 4 times and the OK button 2 times. That’s it. You’re now in black and white mode.
Unfortunately, it reverts to color every time the camera turns off. I found it a pain to switch to black and white so I resorted to shooting in the default color and changing it to black and white in post — that’s the only way I could find most of the photos palatable. The black and whites almost pass for old-time grainy film photos, if I squint hard enough.
Once in a while though, I produced some color images that seemed okay, in a Lo Fi kind of way.
Ironically, the camera got a warm reception at a Drink and Click Photography meetup — the participants reacted positively and with curiosity. The camera is impossibly tiny with barely any controls. It resembles and is slightly larger than a 110 film cartridge. It shoots at a selectable ISO 100 or 800 and has about a 50mm equivalent f2.8 lens. At 3MP, it’s enough for Instagram or basic blog postings. I was surprised by the positive reception. Maybe the photographers were bored of digital perfection and were hungry for simulated imperfection.
I would be a lot kinder to the camera and would even consider buying one if it weren’t for the prices. Models run between $80 and $150 with a list price over $200. Perhaps as a novelty for less than $50? For those prices, I can get old but high quality used digital or film cameras. For Lo Fi fun, I recommend the Pentax Q series. It costs more but would be significantly more versatile.
A big thanks to Mark for letting me use the camera. Yeah I was less than enthusiastic, but there’s always something new to learn, especially when a device has significant limitations. For most, I would recommend using your smartphone and apply filters to simulate the look you like. That is unless you want to whip out that cute and novel device that’ll be totally unique. You never know, it could be the hit of the party.
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