The 1948 Ansco Shur-Shot Jr. box camera, a simple little contraption of mostly sheet metal and cardboard, uses a basic design that has not really changed much over 50 years. The only real “upgrades” from box cameras you might see from the early 1900s are the plastic winding knob, the bright finders on the top and side, and the silver/black pinstripe design and lettering on the front. It has one shutter speed – probably around 1/50 of a second, one aperture option – probably around f/8 or f/11, and cannot be focused. You simply load it with film and click the shutter button on the side. The instruction manual says you should shoot from at least 8 feet away, but otherwise, this simple camera appears to be designed in a way to be “shur” you’ll get the shot every time! No muss, no fuss.
I like the little advertising sticker inside. Overall the camera is in pretty pristine condition, other than a bit of rust on one corner.
An additional detail about the camera – unlike most cameras nowadays (and even back then), the lens (a single piece of glass) is actually behind the shutter. One advantage of this setup is that you have a built-in dust cover. All very simple, yet somehow also genius.
The 120 film it uses can still be bought nowadays. So that’s what I did – I loaded it up with some modern Ektar 120 color film. And here’s how the photos turned out:
On weekends, Chennaiites flock to the beach. Usually fully clothed, like this, and stand at the edge of the water, just getting wet below the knees. Occasionally some of the local fishermen family kids can be seen actually playing in the water and swimming in shorts.
I think the photos turned out pretty impressive, given the simplicity of this camera! Compare this to all the different features and settings on a camera nowadays. This camera cost a buck or two back in 1948, and a roll of film with 8 exposures, maybe a quarter. Developing that roll would have cost up to 50 cents. In other words, the cost of two rolls of film and developing would have been more than the camera itself. During the film era, I think the vast majority of cameras were built to be extremely cheap and simple, to bring photography to the masses and remove the cost and mystery of what once required a fair bit of money and knowledge of chemistry, in order to make all those people film buyers and processors. It wasn’t really about the camera, except for those they sold to serious enthusiasts.