Last week I assembled the Gakken kit # 25, the Gakkenflex Twin Lens Reflex camera. It was a pretty straight-forward assembly, the Japanese instructions are well-illustrated enough to get by, although there are some English translations around for the assembly.
As cameras go, this fits in the ‘toy’ category, next to other plastic wonders like the Holga or Diana. The lens is a simple plastic meniscus, the shutter is single-speed (about 1/125 allegedly) and there is a single fixed aperture (said to be about f/11). The focal length is roughly 40 or 45mm. The Gakkenflex takes standard 35mm film, and is actually very small and kind of cute in person.
Winding is manual of course and there is no frame counter, just an indicator to let you know when you’ve moved the film far enough for a single frame. Unlike the Holga, the Gakkenflex actually has a focus-aide! As a TLR, you are looking down onto the focus screen, and adjusting the twin lenses, so when it’s in focus on the screen it is (supposed to be) in focus for the film.
As with the Holga, the shutter release is not connected to the film advance, so you can take double-exposures, on purpose or accidentally. Finally, the Gakkenflex has a tripod mount (on the side of the body, so you mount it sideways) but there is no provision for a flash. None at all.
I rushed a roll of film through the Gakkenflex to see how it would go. As expected, the plastic lens gives a ‘soft’ look to the shots, and you can get some Holga-like effects by playing with double-exposures and other ‘artistic’ errors.
I quite like the Gakkenflex, although the first batch of shots won’t win any awards. Maybe if I spent more time outside and wasn’t in a hurry to ram film through it… Oddly it also makes me want to blow the dust off my Holga and play with it some more too. The Gakkenflex has the advantage in cuteness, and if you don’t have a cheap source of 120mm film then the Gakken wins there too for using standard 35mm film.
As usual with kits, 80% of the fun for me is in the building.