Lomo, maker of cameras that use proper film instead of this digital stuff, has introduced a new kind of SLR to the market: one that you build yourself. The Konstruktor costs just £29,99, and Lomo says you should be able to build your camera in less than two hours.
In the pack, you get everything you need. The parts are pretty much provided like an Airfix kit, so you just punch them out of their grid, and put them together following the instructions. We haven't tried this yet, so we can't tell you how easy it is, nor how accurate the instructions are. We suspect it's a lot easier and less annoying than Ikea furniture though. Once you've built the camera, you can put in any 35mm film, and start snapping. If you take your finished film to Lomo, it costs £8 to have it developed, and the firm also sells a digital scanner, so you can tweet your photos to the Instagram crowd.
So what's the point? Well, there is a whole generation of people who have possibly never shot anything on 35mm film, and that's a great shame. But one of the big problems with film cameras is that they - even now - require an investment to get into. Because digital SLRs use film camera lenses in a lot of cases, it has meant that the price of second-hand equipment has remained high.
What producing a cheap, build it yourself camera, achieves is the ability for people not only to have a light, cheap camera with them but it also helps you understand how film cameras work, and how to shoot with them. The Lomo doesn't have much in the way of settings, it's got a fixed aperture, and a choice of two shutter speeds, either 1/80s for normal photos or "bulb" for long exposures.
The viewfinder gives you a view through the lens, as you'd expect with an SLR, but don't expect the same as you get with a regular SLR- here the image is a bit more indistinct, and it's reversed too, so you need to factor all of that into your photography. It's not hard to use though, and while the viewfinder is a bit dark, and very soft at the edges, it's still usable, and some of the test shots we saw from the camera are really great.
With so few controls over exposure and iris, you'll need to think about where you want to take photos and to some extent compensate for the lack of control with different ISO films. But with these cameras being cheap, you could have one for indoor use, and one for outdoor if you really wanted.
Lomo photographs have a very specific look and feel, often with some areas where light has crept into the camera through gaps in the housing. This look is inredibly popular with Lomographers, and it's some that's taken the world of digital cameras by storm too, with the likes of Instagram. But with the Konstruktor, the best part is that you get to build your camera, use film and practise photography where you can't just shoot dozens of photos and delete the ones that don't work.
If you've never worked with film, we'd suggest you go and grab a Konstruktor. It's terrific fun, you'll have a real sense of achievement, and the whole thing is fantastically cheap. It's never going to replace digital photography in your life, but for fun, you can't beat this little addition to the Lomo family.