I was excited about this thrift store find. A like new Kodak VR35 k12 35mm point and shoot still in it’s original box. All for the low price of $2.99. This price tag was next to the original price tag of $149.97 from KMart. Some research shows this camera originally retailed for $200. The Chicago Tribune noted in 1986 that this was Kodak’s grand return to the 35mm format after a 17 year absence. I was hopeful on my ride home that this neat little camera with a seemingly fast 35/2.8 lens would prove a rightful place among my Nikon L35AF, Olympus mju and mjuII. The bonus is that this camera looked cool. All I needed was a roll of film and a battery. First I noticed that it took a proprietary battery (no doubt long out of manufacture) however a 9 volt would work as well. Put in a fresh roll of Kodak ultramax 400 and a new 9 volt battery and I was ready.
Let me just say, this camera is utterly craptastic! I mean it is so crappy that it is fantastical that Kodak chose this piece of excrement as it’s heralded return to 35mm camera format. First I notice that it is on the chunky side. I mean chunky. Like bigger than my Nikon fg-20 with 50/1.8 attached. I am not opposed to a well built camera being on the large size however this hunk of plastic is just that, a hunk of cheap plastic. It reeks of it. The shutter button feels cheap, focus never locks on the first attempt and there are no manual overrides of any sort. No backlight compensation button, no manual shutoff for the flash, nothing. Forget shooting into the sun. Forget choosing not to use the flash. This camera just does one thing and that it does poorly.
I would love to share some images from the roll of film I shot. I was hoping the lens would be the one saving grace. Alas this was not to be. The film would not rewind even though the rewind motor spins and spins and spins. I opened the back thinking surely it had rewound after several minutes. Opened it up and there was all the exposed film, no ruined by light. In fact, it is still in there 2 weeks later (today). This led me to use it as my first film review due to being completely amazed at how crappy this camera is. I have a bunch of old point and shoots from the 80’s and 90’s, some better than others but none as utterly disappointing as this one. What I want to know is, how much did Kodak pay the writer for the Chicago Tribune in 1986 to write such a B.S. article praising this camera? Many, many, many better options in the cluttered field of auto focus point in shoots in 1986. The field of fast, fixed lens P&S’s yielded many superb performers. This was not one of them. The Kodak VR35 k12 35mm is (my) winner of the worst camera I have ever used awarding it a place at the top with distinction as my first film camera review.
UPDATE: I was wrong, it does have two features to change things up. A self timer and a fill flash button. Still a useless piece of cheap plastic.