Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spotlight: Great Wall PF-1

Last week, I drove over to Mississippi in order to purchase a bulk of old film cameras from an estate. Within this group of cameras, along with its original box, case, and instructions, was a Great Wall PF-1. A cheap Chinese copy of the Fujica ST-F, the PF-1 is a full-plastic SLR. That's right, there's an actual mirror, prism, and focusing screen system within this hipster wet dream. Honestly, this camera's feature set is somewhat incredible considering its Holga-esque build quality. There's a built-in flash, and even metering! For the light meter, you press a little silver button on the front of the camera, and in the viewfinder you'll see a green light indicating correct exposure, or a red light, meaning you're either over or under exposed. The meter can be set for either 100, 200, or 400 ISO film. Both the light meter and the flash are powered by two AA batteries.

Exposure is controlled by adjusting the aperture ring on the base of the lens. The shutter fires at a set mechanical speed of 1/60 (Though, oddly, according to the instruction manual, at f/16, the shutter fires at 1/370 of a second... could be a typo?). With the fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens, you can focus as close as 0.9 meters, which is a bit pathetic for an SLR. There's a split-image assist on the focus screen that makes getting your subject into focus a relatively pain-free experience.

Ergonomics are pretty decent. The only tricky part to operation is remembering to couple the focusing ring to the aperture ring (by means of a sliding plastic tab) when you want to use the flash. This is how the PF-1 determines correct flash exposure. Speaking of ergonomics, I love the camera's adorable knurled plastic film advance wheel; it reminds me of the disposable Kodak cameras of my youth. The PF-1 is small enough for a coat pocket, and the plastic construction means it's quite light and easy to carry around all day.

Here are some photographs I made with the Great Wall PF-1. I used Kodak HP5+ film.