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Lazy Daydreamer
Anybody here ever use 'disposable' cameras to snap prototype train pics?

I know you won't get anything ultra-high quality using one of these, but for typical daylight/outdoor stuff at distances farther than 50ft I think they might be adequate. I want to keep a throwaway in my glove compartment so that if I see a rare loco - like that Santa Fe "war bonnet" I caught last weekend - I can pull over and grab a quick shot or two. I don't want to keep my Canon Digital Rebel in the car all the time, for obvious reasons.

Since I live only 1/2 mile from a crossing where trains often 'park', I sometimes race back to my house and return with my regular camera. But I really don't want to make a habit of doing this...:eek:


Railroad Photographer
I can't see a real problem - the disposables are so cheap that it can't hurt to try. I'd get one with ISO 800 film to allow photos in les than ideal light, especially with the low grade lenses.

I keep my Canon Elph LT camera in my vehicle, it uses APS film and is great when shooting in the panorama mode - I can get 4" by 10" prints for the same as 4" by 6" ones. I really haven't used it much for a while, as I now usually have with me my Canon Digital Elph S500 with me in the vehicle. With 5MP it produces decent shots. For serious shooting I too bring along my Canon Digital Rebel XT.

Can you see that I like Canon cameras? Been using them for about 40 years!


House Mother, Cheerleader
Is this doable? Good question kenL! I have several bruises from kicking myself when the photo op was there, but the camera was at home. My question is, how long can you keep a disposable in the car before it's rendered useless by fluctuations in temperature and humidity?


Lazy Daydreamer
Thank you everybody for your responses!

Railphotog said:
...Can you see that I like Canon cameras? Been using them for about 40 years!
Bob, you probably don't remember but I'm the guy who emailed you ~18 months ago, asking what kind of digital camera I needed for taking decent layout pics. I bought mine based on your input and, you're right, I have NOT regretted it - it's a fantastic tool!

Lady_Railfan said:
My question is, how long can you keep a disposable in the car before it's rendered useless by fluctuations in temperature and humidity?
I could scribble the purchase date on it and, if I've snapped any pictures, get them processed ~1 month later, otherwise just throw the thing out and get another one. The $8 price of a 800-speed-film throwaway is less than what I sometimes spend for parking downtown.

jbaakko said:
Just buy a cheep 2mp digital, come on! Don't give into the old school...
Josh, I saw a few disposable digitals at the CVS drugstore, but the cheapest was $15, plus I would have to pay them (CVS) to extract the pictures - kinda defeats a major purpose why I went digital in the first place.:D
The price of digitals are falling all the time - My local Tesco supermarket here in UK had 5mp 's for less than GB£60 today - I wouldn't even bother with a disposable, on the basis that by the time you've bought, developed and printed - and found you haven't got what you wanted I'd go for the cheap digital. Just make sure that it has reasonable Glass!
Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands


Master Mechanic
I have to agree with what Shortliner said. The prices are coming down. Walmart has some 4mp and less for $100. One "local" discount store, Fred's, even is advertising a 3.1mp for $47.99. Don't know how good it actually is but it might be worth a try. Just for shooting spur of the moment type shots I don't see why it couldn't be adequate.

To give another example. My wife won a trip to New Orleans several years ago and part of the prize was a digital camera whose MSRP listed for $350.00. It's only a 1.3mp camera. Has a 6 step digital zoom (after the pic is taken), and two modes, with flash or without. Wal-Mart now has 4-5mp cameras from $99-200, depending on what options like different shooting speeds, a real zoom etc. Any of these would be a great camera to put in a protective case inside the glove box of the car.
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Lazy Daydreamer
Thanx Jack and Carey,

From that perspective, a cheap [~$50] digital would make more sense since I wouldn't be buying a new disposable every month or two.

My final concern would then be: How much temperature variation can a cheap digicam tolerate? Humidity shouldn't be a problem with a protective case, but, since I am not allowed to bring cameras inside the security perimeter where I work, I must leave it in the car. In Maryland it can get as hot as 100 degF in the summer, down to 10 degF in winter.


Master Mechanic
I leave mine in the truck a good deal of the time. It can get hotter here (Alabama) than where you are. I've had no problem with the heat as long as the camera is in a thickly padded case. The padding acts as insulation (along with the glove box), and prevents the camera from overheating. Most manuals will have somewhere on the first pages an operating temperature range, generally from -20 to +120 or so.


There are hacks on the web that allow you to defeat the cheap digital cameras "store only" features and extract the photos yourself. Of course I would never endorse such a thing, so I can't tell you where to find that info, but anyone who can type a few keywords into Google can probably get there...

As for whether they'll work on trains, I recall seeing a photo someplace, maybe at RailroadForums, where a fellow used a really cheap digital for an action photo. It apparently scans line by line, and if the object is moving the lines don't line up, as the locomotive was SEVERELY out of square. It was so bad it looked kind of cool, but really pretty much totally useless.


Coal Shoveler
I have. Quality in the prints are only 'OK', but if you're shooting in good daylight and can compose with some skill, you can get a decent picture. It's usual drawback is the cheapness of the film, but realistically speaking, you should get an OK result.

I once bought a 'cheap' 35mm camera. It takes regular 35mm film, has a lever action zoom, and limited user-adjustable features (as in, nearly none). Went out on a sunny day, and got some really good shots. Not the best I've done, given the limitations of the camera, it wasn't a total waste.


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