It’s not a Leica, but if you’re a film photographer, you’re probably going to like it a lot. If you like LEGO, you will probably be very sensitive to it as well. Yes, it’s the (limited edition?) VIP Rewards vintage camera. This article goes over the camera in its entirety with a start-to-finish video of the build (condensed to around 4 minutes) and compares it to several film camera alternatives you might want to consider at the moment. square.
IMPORTANT: There are a few things you need to know before diving in and buying this camera as part of your photography kit. Buyer beware, let’s dive in.
Here is what I cover:
What do you want to know
First of all, this is a diy kit. It comes with a detailed, illustrated manual that provides step-by-step instructions on assembling the camera. Be warned: there is no after-sales service provided by LEGO to help you with the building. This is a little disappointing, considering the options that many other current “kit camera” manufacturers – Dora Goodman, Panomicron, etc. – have. – currently offer.
There is, however, good news. I contacted my local LEGO store and was assured that almost anyone over the age of 10 would be able to build the camera to specification using the instructions provided. They went on to state that at 179 pieces, I could expect a moderately paced build to take around 45 minutes, including 1-2 instances of backtracking and time spent at RTFM.
Good to know.
Watch the build video
45 minutes is time that could be spent letting the film slow me down, so I left the build to Ms. EM. You can see a sped up video below: 45 minutes condensed into 3 minutes and 57 seconds.
Not bad at all! As a bonus, I discovered that LEGO had been kind enough to include half a dozen spare parts, including an extra self-timer lever and “leatherette” dots.
Once the camera was built, it was time to load it up with the included thumbnail film and shoot it.
As you’d expect, there’s a lens on the front, along with a viewfinder window, self-timer lever and strap tabs.
The top panel (left to right) features a rewind dial, shutter speed dial (black), film and film wind dial with a built-in red dot shutter button. The dials spin freely with little friction.
When we turn to the back, we have the film door, which opens with a pulling movement (from the left). When opened, the film chamber is revealed, which has space for the included film roll and “carry”. The rear also has a viewfinder window, and when we move down from the camera we have a non-standard tripod socket, which requires a LEGO Technic Pin (1/2) 4274 connector.
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As you can see, the camera fits very well in an AVEA 7 end pocket, which brings me to…
Camera Size Comparison
I wish I still had my Leica CL to give you a better idea of the size of the camera. It’s tiny to say the least, so I sized it up with a few other cameras in my cabinets.
Here is the Lego 6392344 VIP camera compared to an Olympus XA, Lecia M2, Nikon FM3a and Hasselblad 2000FCW.
If that doesn’t give you an adequate point of reference, here it is in another format: it’s about as wide as 4 cartridges at 35mm wide and 1.5 high:
Modifications and small attentions
The lens is interchangeable! Not only that, it is user expandable. Don’t like the 35mm (equivalent) focal length included in the kit? Extend it, make another one, or even mount the lens of ANOTHER camera system on it.
I modified mine to mount a Leica Elmar 50mm f/2.8 from the late 1950s. Although the lens is little more than the camera body itself, it is still a a compact combination. That said, it is not possible to fold the lens into the body.
On a cosmetic note, I love when product designers work in little frills. I especially like the name “LEGO” which has been etched into the camera mount here. It reminds me of a replacement monogrammed leatherette I saw a few years ago.
I have since rearranged the logomark the right way.
Optical quality and other issues
- I have yet to shoot the included film and will update this article in due course.
- As far as I know, there is no clear light path between the lens and the film plane.
- The film chamber is not aligned with the rewind or winding wheels. Weird.
- Was I supposed to install magnets somewhere?
- The self-timer lever has no tension.
- It is possible to mount the lens off center.
- The shutter has no play. It is possible that the shutter of my copy locked.
- Imperfect ergonomics despite the size of an XA.
Is it a real camera? It depends on several factors: your definition of reality, how important the preview is to you in relation to the final image, and the current price of color film. In other words, no. I also hope that my lame attempts to write a camera review gave you at least a chuckle.
You can get your own camera for free through a Lego Friends account (spend $40 or more). Or you can buy one from eBay or a local online marketplace like I did.
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