I did not own a Go Pro and I needed to go to the beach. Well, let me rephrase that. I was heading to Florida’s greatest national parks, which means swimming/snorkeling/paddling (with alligators and manatees). I decided that Go Pro is too mainstream and expensive for one session, while disposable camera gave such crappy results that it is not worth the time. At that time, I got into surfing bidding website, and stumbled onto this yellow Spongebob Squarepants waterproof film camera. The Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35 is the 35mm version; there is also a much slimmer 110 version, but good luck getting film for those. Yes, coral orange Nikonos exist but they are more expensive, and this is a fun one trip project.
Managed to snag a cheap one in rather beautiful condition that came in a case. My tip for buying used, untested electronics online is by looking at everything else outside of the product – is it dirty? Does it come with manual/box? Previous owners who cared wouldn’t trash things they paid money for. The yellow sponge worked great with a roll of film and fresh batteries, and even survived a dunk in the bucket. It is show time!
At Dry Tortugas National Park, I loaded a roll of the newly released Ektachrome E100 and ran into the Caribbean Sea. Camera worked amazing and I was blasting through the shots. The issue, at least at the beginning, is that my underwater vision isn’t great and worsen by the cloudy day. About half way through the roll, the camera jams up and was having difficulty going to the next film. I tried to power cycle the camera and managed to get a few more shots in before it seized up. I managed to shoot about 1.5 rolls of film in this camera… Let’s call it a success?
Luckily, the electronics isn’t completely gone, so I managed to rewind the whole spool and developed the film. Without diagnostics, I can safely assume that the aging O-ring that gave way. Kids, remember to inspect and replace the O-ring to prevent this from happening. Overall, it was fun. Camera is fully automated, but you can switch between the built in 35mm and 50mm lens. There is even a macro mode. As for the image quality…
The Minolta Weathermatic 35 will blow out the plastic cameras bought from local drug stores, but that is setting the bar extremely low. On land, the corner to corner sharpness is excellent. The camera will decide when to turn on the flash to compensate for the light condition, but even with that, the shutter speed feels very slow as many shots suffer from motion lag. Oh, it also depends on a dumb DX reader – so it will shoot all film at ISO 100 unless it reads an ISO 400 film. Underwater photography is difficult to begin with, and this camera doesn’t help. None of the pictures were sharp -it remains a mystery what the camera was focusing. I could be partly blamed for that, as the slow shutter speed simply did not work while I was trying to stay alive floating in the strong ocean current. I figured out what the purpose of this camera – to be used by the beach or for pool day. The yellow creature can survive some splash, but nothing more. In the world where waterproof phones are shooting 4K videos, and action cameras are going for slightly more than the cost of a meal at Shake Shack, it is time to retire these “cheap” waterproof digital and film cameras for good. Yes, I’m also talking to you, one-use disposable camera. Mr. Squarepants here is going to decorate my office, acting like a book end. I believe it will do an excellent job.