Can these eco-friendly digital cameras take over the film photography trend?
A few months ago I came across Paper Shoot—a company that produces environmentally friendly digital cameras, specifically catering to the aesthetic of vintage reel photography, all while minimizing the fuss and waste the hobby can generate.
Paper Shoot is the brainchild of Taiwanese entrepreneur George Lin and a testament to the power of personal experience. During his childhood, his family experienced financial hardship due to an ailing older sibling who passed away young. Lin was moved to create the Paper Shoot camera when he realized he had few childhood memories or pictures of his late brother because their family could not afford a camera at the time. His childhood memories, or lack thereof, inspired him to create a camera that would not only capture memories but also give back to the community. With every purchase of a Paper Shoot camera, the company donates a camera to a child in need for every camera purchased.
Deeply touched by the brand’s story and being a film photography enthusiast, I reached out to the team at Paper Shoot, who put together a PR kit full of interesting products for our review.
What’s in the box
The camera has 18 megapixels (4896 × 3672), a 22 mm focus, an F2.2 Aperture and 10-3200 ISO. It can shoot 1440P 10-second video and time-lapse clips. The latest version of the camera board can support SD cards up to 128 GB and requires 2 × AAA batteries (rechargeables recommended) to operate. The camera has four color filters, namely Color, Black and White, Sepia and Blue
All paper shoot cameras come with the same camera board which can be interchanged between their wide variety of cases made out of recycled or biodegradable materials.
The Stone Paper 1925 Vintage case
Paper Shoot’s Stone Paper cases are the company’s flagship products, which are made of strong and biodegradable materials. Among the camera cases Paper Shoot has to offer, we received the Vintage 1925 for review, which looks like a tiny vintage camera. The product included a camera board, the 1925 Vintage Stone Paper case, two sets of fasteners (brass and clear plastic), a USB type C cable, an information manual and a paper strap.
The camera is a lightweight device that is quite easy to assemble and use. Being smaller than the average smartphone, it can easily be taken along on an outing by putting it in a pocket or small purse. Accessories like the function cards are easy to insert and remove from the device.
At first, I was a little scared of accidentally dropping it given how light it weighs, but the case seems sturdier than it looks. I would, however, recommend being careful of moisture getting into the case. The Stone Paper case by itself can take a light spray of water without significant damage, but it is open on three sides and only connected by fasteners, which leaves the camera board vulnerable.
The Thinkk&Shoot case
Another case we received in the PR kit was the Thinkk&Shoot in the color Spring Morning (leaf green), which is very aesthetically pleasing with a pressed leaves front cover. The case also comes in three other colors, including Summer Evening (reddish brown), Winter Night (denim blue) and Autumn Afternoon (wood brown). It could definitely double as a stylish accessory for an outfit.
The camera comes pre-assembled with this particular case, so it is pretty much ready to go as soon as you pop the batteries and SD card in. The package also includes a USB type C cable and Silk cord strap that attaches securely to the camera via lobster-claw clasps.
The case is made of thick, solid wood, so it is slightly larger than the Stone Paper 1925 Vintage camera, making it easier to grip and operate. The cover board of the camera snaps in place with strong magnets and provides easy access to the camera board. With the sturdy Silk cord strap attached, it is something I would trust a small child to handle on their own without fear of significant damage from falls or splashes.
However, there were some things that did bug me about the design. While the all-around coverage of the case provides better protection from SD cards or function cards falling out by accident, it makes the camera board difficult to access in general.
Unlike the Stone Paper case, the Thinkk&Shoot case has few openings. As seen in the above photo, the opening to access the charging port is quite deep and narrow, making it a slight struggle to plug the camera into a socket or computer.
Also, the function card slot is placed on the inward-facing side of the camera board, which is not easily accessible since there is no designated opening for it. This makes switching function cards a bit of a hassle, as the case must be opened and the camera board unscrewed every single time you want to switch function cards. This can be quite tedious and cause wear and tear to the camera board. A possible remedy would be to widen the opening for the charging port to expose the function card slot, which is in the same location. As seen in the photo above, the function card slot is partially exposed through the charging slot opening. This would still keep the rest of the camera board protected and make it much easier to switch function cards on the go.
Moreover, the hooks for the strap clasps are placed in such a manner that the hand crank accessory cannot be turned while the strap is attached to the camera. This compromises the function of the accessory, but removing the strap could also make the camera less secure. I did notice, however, that this issue did not occur while using the metal chain straps.
Another thing I wish was included in the Thinkk&Shoot case are the visual filter/setting indicators that are available on the Stone Paper Vintage 1925 camera. If you start out with a Thinkk&Shoot camera, with no point of reference, the lack of indicators could make things a little difficult to grasp as you wouldn’t know what filter setting it is on.
Reviewing the accessories
To help users make the most out of an otherwise really simple format, Paper Shoot also offers many innovative accessories. With the help of the filter slider and function cards, a simple point-and-shoot can take videos, time-lapses, double-exposure pictures and more.
Left top: 10-second video clip
Left center: Time-lapse
Left bottom: Vari-speed recording with hand crank
Right: 10-second video clip with color pallet
The function cards can also be used to record 10-second clips and time-lapse videos. There are three sets of lenses containing two lenses each, a hex key and a lens adapter that screws onto the camera case.
Personally, I liked how nicely the pictures turned out with the Star, fish-eye and wide-angle lens with very little effort. The radial, prism and Macro lenses took a little more practice to focus and center without being able to see the shot. Yet, they still resulted in some really interesting-looking effects.
The lenses can be screwed on securely to the adapter, reducing the chances of them falling off. However, I did find this whole process to be a little cumbersome. At times, I ended up struggling with the dual protective caps and screwing the lens onto the camera, missing the shot in the process. Sometimes, unscrewing the lens will take the adapter out with it as well, so users will have to be careful.
The ring lights are an innovative accessory that allows you to take clear shots in low light which the camera cannot capture on its own. They have three brightness settings and are rechargeable with the accompanying USB type C cable.
The ring light can be screwed onto the case and used with or without an accessory lens. The flash is really bright, and the fact that it’s adjustable makes it suitable to use in varying degrees of low light. My only concern was that the ring light blocks the viewfinder in the Stone Paper 1925 Vintage camera, though this is not an issue with the Thinkk&Shoot case.
The metal chain straps are available in elegant gold and metallic finish. While the straps appear dainty, they are quite strong and can take some jolting. The swivel clasps make them easy to use with both the Stone Paper case fasteners and the Thinkk&Shoot case’s attachable loops. They definitely elevate the aesthetic appeal of the product while providing the necessary security when using the camera.
First-time user experience
Like any new piece of tech you come across, there is a learning curve to figuring out how to use the Paper Shoot camera. I am by no means a professional photographer, and like most people, my experience of taking pictures is relatively limited to smartphone cameras.
One of the main things I had to adjust to was not being able to see the shot as I snapped it. The viewfinder is simply a hole in the case, and the angle of the lens is a lot wider than I expected. This meant that what I saw through the viewfinder was not exactly what I ended up with in the final image. It took me a few tries from varying distances to realize that getting a little closer to my subject than I initially thought was needed to get the intended shots.
The camera’s autofocus works well for stationary objects, but it struggles with moving ones. It has a slight delay of a second or two, so it’s best to keep the shutter button pressed till you hear the snap sound and see the blue lights flash. Otherwise, the photo may turn out slightly blurry.
The Paper Shoot camera delivers a retro film look, though it lacks the typical graininess of film photos. I preferred the Sepia filter as it closely resembles the look of film photos.
The camera has no ON/OFF mode meaning it’s always on standby. This would obviously result in some amount of battery draining between uses, which is why the recommendation to use rechargeable batteries is good to adhere to. The camera batteries can be charged within the device by simply plugging it into a socket or your computer while you look at your photos. There is a green light that lights up when the camera is connected to a power source, which turns off automatically when the batteries are fully charged. While the camera can function on disposable batteries, it can affect the performance of the camera and generate more waste overall.
With the ability to take more than the average 25–30 shots offered by a disposable camera, I felt like there was less pressure to “waste” a shot. Not having a screen on the camera definitely adds to the excitement of plugging it into my computer to see how my photos turned out. Also, the lack of waste generated by the Paper Shoot was impressive, as there is no need for plastic film, disposable cameras and no paper is used unless the photos are printed.
Would the Paper Shoot completely replace my smartphone as my primary camera? Perhaps not, but I do see myself taking it along on regular excursions. It’s an appealing notion to separate ourselves from the screens that surround us and still be able to capture memories. Some may even prefer the simplicity and aesthetic of Paper Shoot over the all-in-one convenience of the smartphone entirely. Overall, my experience with the Paper Shoot cameras was positive, and I would definitely recommend it.
If you are interested in purchasing this product, do take advantage of getting US$10 off of every US$100 order with the code “jumpstart” when checking out through the website.
Disclaimer: This is an honest review where Jumpstart does not receive any compensation or referral fee from any purchases made via the above-mentioned discount code.
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All images courtesy of the author