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Nothing is a better callback to the ’90s than a disposable camera. Before we all had a camera in our pockets, disposable cameras were the cheapest, easiest, and most convenient way to always have a camera on you. You could pick them up at any drug store, shoot them on a weekend out with friends, and drop them off at the one hour photo booth. Picture quality may have been questionable, but we loved them anyways.
There are still a few brands manufacturing disposable cameras, and one of my favorite is definitely the Ilford XP2 Super Single Use Camera (find on Amazon). As a disposable black and white camera, the Ilford XP2 Single Use is the perfect combination of an easy to use, affordable disposable with the magic of Ilford black and white film.
Durability and Design of the Ilford XP2 Disposable Camera
Disposable cameras are not known for their durability. The camera portions are meant to be broken open and thrown away after you’ve shot the film, so they tend to made of fairly thin plastic and covered in paper or a sticker.
The XP2 Single Use has a nice extra feature in that the front of the camera has an extra clear plastic casing. This makes it quite a bit more durable than most disposable cameras. I had no problem throwing it into my bag without any kind of extra protection. The plastic casing kept me from tearing up the paper on the front of the camera or scratching the lens.
The clear plastic casing also gives the whole camera a nice, clean look to it. Add in its retro white and orange design, and you got a pretty sleek and stylish little point and shoot a step above most disposables.
Functions on the Ilford XP2 Disposable Camera
One of the things that make disposable cameras so much fun is just how easy they are to use. The Ilford XP2 Single Use has 27 exposures, and all you have to do is point, shoot, and wind the dial.
The shutter is the gray button at the top of the camera. Next to it you’ll find the image counter. On the front, you have the lens, viewfinder, flash, and the button to turn on the flash. And on the back, you have the viewfinder and the film winder. The back also has a few instructions and shooting tips on it.
There aren’t many choices to make or buttons to press, which is both what makes it fun and frustrating. If you’re looking for more control of your images, this camera will not be a good fit for you.
Focusing: You can’t manually adjust the focus in any way, so just be sure your subject is at least one meter away if you’re not using the flash and three meters away if you are using flash.
Using the Flash: The flash does not fire automatically on this disposable. To turn the flash on, hold down the button (the flash charger) on the front of the camera until the orange flash indicator light comes on next to the viewfinder on the back of the camera. The flash only lasts for one image, so you’ll have to repeat this process for each image where you want flash.
The images from the Ilford XP2 Single Use were much sharper than I expected. It is a plastic lens, so I was ready for some pretty soft images similar to those taken with a Diana or other toy cameras. But the XP2 Disposable produced some beautiful detail and sharpness. Not glass sharp, but much closer than I expected.
Where I did notice some issues were in the corners of my images. The lens on the Ilford XP2 Disposable is a 30mm f9 lens. Since it’s a bit of a wide angle, there was some slight warping. I also had blurriness and distortion in the corners, particularly on the left side.
Ilford’s XP2 400 Black and White Film
Where this camera shines is in its use of black and white film. Color film in disposable cameras often turns out underexposed giving it that classic faded disposable camera look. But Ilford’s XP2 black and white film has incredible latitude. Meaning you can shoot at a wide range of exposures and still get a great image.
Technically, Ilford XP2 is a chromogenic film. Chromogenic refers to how the film is created and developed. It’s a b&w film made to be developed with the same chemicals and process as color film. This aspect is what gives the film such amazing exposure latitude. In a disposable camera with zero control over exposure, that latitude can make all the difference in avoiding muddy, underexposed images.
XP2 film also has low grain and great contrast, making it a really beautiful black and white film. Its clean and timeless look elevates the quality of the images from a typical disposable.
Lighting & Shooting Situations
I love using this camera outdoors in full sunlight. It handles the highlights and shadows beautifully and has no problem with the extra light. I also found it did surprisingly well in overcast light. It’s that amazing exposure latitude! The images still had nice contrast with varied tones.
I found this little disposable to be great for travel photography. It’s so easy to use and the images turn out surprisingly well that it’s the perfect way to document a trip while you’re on the go.
I haven’t experimented too much indoors yet, but remember to use the flash, and you should be good to go.
Developing the Film
Sending it to a lab: The entire camera is meant to be sent into the lab. The lab dismantles the camera to get to your film roll, and then develops normally. Not all labs develop disposable cameras, so you’ll want to check with them first. Many also charge an extra fee for developing disposables.
C-41 developing: The XP2 film is developed as color film, also called C-41. So if you’re sending it to a lab, you’ll want to fill out the info for C-41/Color processing. If you’re developing at home, make sure you’re following the steps for C-41 developing, not b&w.
Removing the film from the camera yourself: If you want to save a few buck on developing or if you’re developing yourself, you can also remove the film from the camera on your own. This can be a pretty gnarly process, so use caution. This YouTube video gives a quick rundown of the process.
That’s pretty much it for this awesome little disposable. It’s a blast to use, simple, fun, and you’ll definitely get some unique images. Please reach out if you pick one up! I’d love to see what you create!
Check out Kathleen’s website and Instagram to see more of her work! Kathleen’s also the founder here at Shoot It With Film, and you can read more of her articles here.