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Blackbird Fly Review

First Impressions

The Blackbird Fly is a 35mm twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera made by Superheadz in Japan. It’s also super cute, comes in a choice of colors and, in my opinion, is everything that’s right about plastic cameras today.

When I first saw the Blackbird Fly, I was like: I want one. This doesn’t surprise any of you because, as we all know, I am seriously addicted to cameras. In fact, the Blackbird Fly immediately took me on a nostalgic trip back to college when I had a Seagull, which is a 120 format plastic TLR camera. I lost it somewhere along the way and to do this day, I have no idea what happened to my Seagull or where it is. It’s the only camera I have ever lost.

I have other TLRs, but they are pretty clunky - like my Mamiya C330. The thing that I love the most about shooting with a TLR is that people don’t necessarily know what you’re photographing and that makes street shooting much easier. Needless to say I was thrilled when the generous folks at Superheadz agreed to let me test out a Blackbird Fly.

When I took it out of the box my first reaction was, “Wow it’s so small!” It’s also incredibly light… so much so you could probably forget you were carrying it in your bag or even around your neck. It only weighs 210 grams, which is probably the equivalent weight of a lens cap for most of my cameras. It also comes with a little plastic bird cage to store it in, which I happen to think is adorable and clever. Plus, it protects from dust which is very important if, like myself, you live in an urban environment. Or if you have long-haired pets.

As far as aperture goes, you have a choice between f/7 for “cloudy” and f/11 for “fine weather.”  For shutter speed, you can choose between 1/125 or “B” for bulb. The bulb function leaves the shutter open as long as you hold it. Not unlike the Holga, you would probably want to use a flash with the Blackbird Fly if you were shooting indoors or at dusk.

Shooting Formats

The Blackbird Fly gives you the option to shoot in three different formats: standard 35mm (24mm x 36mm), square format (24mm x 24mm), or full frame with sprocket holes. It comes with two masks: one for standard and one for square. For full frame, you simply remove the mask. Obviously, you have to choose which format you want and change the mask accordingly before you load the film.

It’s also very easy to make multiple exposures with this camera because you can pop the shutter as many times as you want without advancing the film.

Loading Film

When I opened up the Blackbird Fly to load film in it, I suddenly realized that I have never loaded 35mm film into a TLR camera and it was a little weird at first. It feels as though you’re loading the film backwards, but in fact not. I would say it took me about 15 minutes to load and I am a person who can load film into a camera with a blindfold and two hands tied behind my back.  I have included some nifty instructions and a video from Superheadz, in case any of you need it (I know I did):


Let’s move on to actual shooting:

Shooting with the Blackbird Fly is pretty straightforward. The shutter release is on the front and the winding knob is on the side. In case you are not familiar with TLRs, one lens takes the picture and the other lets you see the picture in the viewfinder. This means that, like a with rangefinder, you don’t actually see what you’re photographing. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you’re shooting portraits.

I shot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100, which tends to give a decent amount of contrast on its own. Combined with the Blackbird Fly and a super sunny day, I got this:

This is the Jardin des Plantes, which is a lovely park/garden in the 7th. A certain amount of contrast disappeared when I uploaded this, because my version is super bright and poppy. The vignetting is also more pronounced. In fact, I got vignetting on almost every single one of my shots and I was not using a flash.

I am quite pleased with this result, especially when you take into account that the lens is plastic. Here’s some more shots from the Jardin des Plantes and around Paris:

I also tested out some double/multiple exposures, which I find come out really well with this camera:

Overall, I really enjoyed using this camera. I feel like it does a lot of the things you want a plastic camera to do but don’t always get… a little image distortion but not too much, high or low contrast, vignetting and an overall vintage feeling. Plus the format makes it a little more accessible for people who don’t  labs that develop medium format film in their area. If you’re looking for a fun little plastic camera, this guy is worth the money.

Warranty

A plastic camera that comes with a warranty: now that’s classy. In fact, the Blackbird Fly comes with a full year replacement warranty. That means that if for whatever reason it stops working, Superheadz will send you a new one.

Tech Specs:

Film Format: 35mm (135 for Europeans)
Lens: 33mm f/7
Shutter Speed: 1/125 or “B”
Aperture: f/7 or f/11
Focus: from 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) to infinity
Weight: 210 grams (7.4 ounces)

Official Site: http://www.superheadz.com/bbf/

Where to Buy It:

Superheadz provides a list of official vendors on it’s website here.

But you can also get it online at:

B&H Photo
Amazon
Adorama
Four Corner Store