Toy camera

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Glossary Terms

A toy camera is an inexpensive camera made almost entirely out of plastic, including the lens. They are usually made in China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, or the former Soviet Union.

From an aesthetic point of view, it is the flaws of these camera's inferior optics which may sometimes become a sought-after effect: Corner blur, vignetting, or spherical aberration may all lend images an atmospheric or moody quality which suits a photographer's particular vision.

The Diana and Holga are the cameras most associated with the term today, although neither were created as children's toys originally. The Lomographic Society specializes in cameras that may be considered toys, with "lo-fi" optics or ones giving whimsical effects. (The company began by selling Soviet LOMO models with questionable optics.) The dreamy effects of using toy cameras have been documented in plenty of photo exhibits, such as the annual "Krappy Kamera" show in the SoHo neighborhood of New York.

Nowadays we could add many early-generation digital cameras to the category, e.g. for VGA-format images (640x480 pixels) as well as many novelty keychain or pen cameras, or even the poorer of today's ubiquitous cell-phone cameras. In each case image pixelation, noise, and color response may be so flawed as to become an interesting, desired effect.