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The cardboard, all-mechanical Jollylook camera is a great gift for photographers

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

After a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $377,000 in 2017, the Jollylook instant camera is now shipping. Made from recycled cardboard, the Jollylook might be the most eco-friendly camera on the planet. It also costs just $69, making it one of the cheapest. Digital Trends received a production model of the camera for testing, and considering the materials, we’re quite impressed with the look and feel.

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The term “instant camera” isn’t the most accurate descriptor of the Jollylook. The all-mechanical camera does use Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film, but unlike a standard Instax camera, the Jollylook requires considerably more effort to make a photo. You have to set the focus using an old-school bellows system, choose an aperture, cock the shutter, line up the viewfinder, and — finally — press the shutter release. Then you have to manually roll the exposed film out of the camera using a hand crank. The process is a cumbersome, but that’s the idea and a big part of the fun.

If you survive that list of steps, you end up with a correctly exposed 2 × 3-inch Instax print a couple of minutes later. The image quality is on par with other Instax cameras, but you have some control over depth of field thanks to the adjustable aperture and macro focus position. With no control over shutter speed, however, you are more or less required to use a specific aperture for a specific type of lighting (the included exposure chart guides you through this).

The shutter is controlled by a rubber band that is stretched when you raise the viewfinder into position. This is a weak point of the camera; our rubber band broke after the first exposure. Fortunately, extras are included in the box and replacing one is a straightforward process. (Our second rubber band fared much better.)

The Jollylook is perhaps more valuable as a novelty than a working camera, but we don’t have a problem with that. It’s an elegant bookshelf decoration and great conversation piece. That you can pick it up off the shelf and produce a print for someone in the moment is icing on the cake.

It is also a good teaching tool that illustrates the basics of photography without electricity or chemistry. Digital cameras, including smartphones, have made taking pictures so quick and easy that the process has become opaque. The Jollylook allows you to see into and touch every component of that process. If you’re struggling to find a gift for the photographer in your life this holiday season, it’s worth a look.

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