Enter the ActionSampler

I’d seen Lomography’s ActionSampler camera before, but was never particularly tempted by it. Then I got Nathan Pearce‘s set of zines and saw the interesting work he does with it, so I started looking. After a little bit of hunting and hesitating, I found a brand new, second version, mislabeled as the “Cyber Sampler” for less than 1/3 of the retail price, so I jumped on it.

If you’re unaware, Lomography’s ActionSampler is a very simple plastic 35mm camera. What makes it special is its 4,  26mm lenses… With these lenses it takes 4 sequential images on each frame, all at roughly f/8 and 1/100th, over the course of about 1 second.

For features, it has two buttons (shutter and rewind), a frame counter, a lever to open the door, and the rewind crank… Did I mention it’s simple?

For a viewfinder, it has these two plastic squares that swing out from the top, and are largely useless for anything but the most basic, wildly general framing.

That’s ok, though… with the fixed focus lenses, 26mm and f/11 means that everything from roughly 1.2m to infinity will be in focus, so just point and click. If you’re close, it’ll probably be ok.

The thumb wheel is a little bit noisy, and the shutter makes this whirring, grinding, click-click-click-click sound, but at least you know it’s doing something when you shoot it.

It’s really very tiny, and so light that the weight noticeably shifts from left to right as you shoot through a roll, but shooting is is reasonably stable. There’s a bit of a hump on the front that gives fingers some decent purchase, and the plastic on the back isn’t so slick that your thumb’s going to slide off or anything. Plus, Lomography helpfully put a wrist strap on it.

That said, if you did drop it on anything but the softest of carpets, it’s likely to suffer some damage, but at $35 retail, or $8-20 used, it wouldn’t be a particularly big loss.

 


So how does it perform? Well… it’s fine, really. I saw some issues of camera shake if I was moving towards a subject (or twitched at some point during a 1 second interval).

But most of the time, each quadrant is sharp enough for web use.

I haven’t looked very closely, and maybe I should, but there may be a bit of swirly blur in busy backgrounds. I see some evidence of that, anyway, with the lower right quadrant above.

For most of this first roll, I shot out the window at the office. Are you getting tired of this view yet?

And I tried to get some movement… it wasn’t very easy. 1 second goes by pretty quickly, and with no viewfinder and the thumb winder thing, I wasn’t able to keep the frame straight.

I tried to catch some motion on the highway, but I don’t go very far in 1 second, about 30m or 100′.

It does give some really fantastic flare, thought… Shoot directly into the sun and be amazed!

To finish off the roll, Hana and I went for a walk around that little park where the Egrets nest and the UT Southwestern Medical Center next door. I enlisted her help in trying to get some motion shots a few times, but most were a bust, either too blurry (like above) or with little or no apparent motion.

But I did get closer on one… Sadly, it was in deep shade, and underexposed a good bit (ISO400, 1/100th, f/11 needs more light than was available here).

I had a pretty good time with the ActionSampler. That said, I do have a couple of complaints or whinges about the it.

First,  Lomography are awfully proud of themselves, plastering “lomography.com” on the front and embossing it on the bottom as if we forgot or wanted to advertise or something. I don’t get paid to advertise, so I might be putting some gaff tape on or something before I take it out again. Plus, on this model, anyway, the chrome’d plastic is a fingerprint magnet… come to think of it, some tape will help that too. Hummm…

The one BIG thing I’d change about it would be swapping in a thumb lever winder or some sort of motor drive. People often make little gifs out of the 4 frames, and if the camera had a faster winder, you could make some short films with it more easily. Also, if it had a tripod socket, you could do some things with it that are harder without it. It’s flat on the bottom and sides, more or less, so you can find things to set it on, and I never carry a tripod and only rarely use one in the field, so I guess that’s really moaning about nothing.

The ActionSampler is a fun little toy. Sure, it’s cheap plastic and has some tool marks and dimples where the plastic was stamped out on most of the edges, but it’s still cheap, cheerful, and just ooozing with potential.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

Overall, I’d give it 4.1 stars.

You can pick up a new, multicolored plastic one from Lomography for $35, or you can try your luck on eBay, where I’ve seen used, older models for as little as $8 and brand new ones for as much as $80. I’d stick something in the $8-$15 range, but that’s just me. They’re not worth $80, for sure, and even $35 seems a bit steep, but still, the ActionSampler is loads of fun, and worth picking up, if you think you have some use for it.

Do you have any experience with the ActionSampler? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Maybe leave a comment below!

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