How to make a snap decision

Julie Aschkenasy tucks a range of single-use cameras into her handbag and waits to see what develops
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The Independent Online
The single-use camera is enjoying a boom: sales have soared by more than35 per cent over the past three years, while those of regular film have slumped. Why? Disposables are easy to use and cheap, rapidly becoming indispensable for the handbag, glove compartment or pocket.

"They are often impulse buys, but those who try them are pleased by the results and buy them again," says Jeremy French, product manager for film and single-use cameras at Boots. "The quality compares favourably with the Boots brand compact camera, which retails at pounds 14.99 - you won't see much difference between the end-results." Steve Waldron of Fuji goes a step further: "Sometimes it is a struggle to see the difference between the results of a single-use and a pounds 40 to pounds 50 camera.

"You can give them to children to use without worrying about your best camera getting ruined. Brides and grooms buy one for each guest and collect them at the end of the night. That way they get the other side of the event: the candid side. Or you can put a film into the glove box so you can take a quick picture if you have a crash.''

Now single-use cameras are becoming smaller and cheaper: the Micro Marvel camera (pounds 1.95), is scarcely bigger than the 110 film it carries. It even doubles as a key ring. The picture quality isn't great, but what do you expect for the price of a pint of beer?

Single-use cameras are little more than films in boxes, so the results depend entirely on the quality of the film and not on sophisticated equipment.

They fall into four categories: basic (no flash), flash, panoramic and underwater. We tested the first three groups. Overall, we liked the Fuji cameras best. Though the dark backgrounds took a while to adjust to, the detail was as sharp as photos produced by regular cameras.

BASIC

Fujicolor Quicksnap Plus, pounds 5.49 for 27 exposures

Rating: 9/10

Comments: easily the best; good sharp detail, especially in close-up

Kodak Fun Daylight Camera, pounds 5.49 for 27 exposures

Rating: 8/10

Comments: good all-rounder

Konica Film-In, pounds 5.49 for 27 exposures

Rating: 7/10

Comments: all pictures came out well, but less detail in the sun

Boots the Snapper, pounds 5.49 (for kids) for 27 exposures

Rating: 6/10

Comments: kids' camera gave sharper results than the adult version (see below)

Boots Single-Use Camera, pounds 4.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 5/10

Comment: pictures rather underexposed, producing slight sepia tint

FLASH

Kodak Fun Camera with Flash, pounds 8.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 9/10

Comment: faultless: sharp, bright and consistent pictures

Fujicolor Quicksnap Flash, pounds 8.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 8/10

Comments: liked the big, clear viewfinder; slight blue tint but pictures were extremely sharp; best for close-ups.

Boots Single-Use Camera with Flash, pounds 7.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 7/10

Comment: good, strong flash; pictures reasonably sharp

Konica Film-In with Flash, pounds 8.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 7/10

Comments: good, realistic colour and the flash light comes on nice and quickly; would have scored higher but flash intensity varied

Agfa Le Box Mini Flash, pounds 8.99 for 27 exposures

Rating: 7/10

Comments: colours a little thin - probably not bold enough for the average amateur

Boots the Snapper with Flash, pounds 7.99 for 24 exposures (for kids)

Rating: 6/10

Comments: good images but grainy film

PANORAMIC

Fujicolor Quicksnap Panorama, pounds 7.99 for 15 exposures

Rating: 8/10

Comments: excellent detail

Konica Film-In Panorama, pounds 8.99 for 24 exposures

Rating: 7/10

Comments: more distortion at the edge of the picture than other cameras

Kodak Fun Wide Angle, pounds 7.95 for 15 exposures

Rating: 6/10

Comments: viewfinder rather difficult to use. It has a centring circle which aims to help but simply makes things blurry - like looking through a miniature goldfish bowl. Slight yellow cast

Comments