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Cheap Alternatives to Disposable Cameras

KODAK KB-18... less than $5!!! This evening, at a Rite-Aid store in San Diego CA, we bought a Kodak KB-18 35mm camera, fixed-focus with auto flash, redeye reduction, auto power shut-off, large bright viewfinder... and, get this 35mm fans, a 30mm aspheric lens! (guaranteed by the packaging to 'capture great, sharp pictures'). Am looking forward to wondrous semi-wide angle landscape pictures.
On-sale cost at Rite-Aid: $14.95, with a mail-in or online $10 rebate coupon. And you get a lot for your less-than-$5.00 net price. The KB-18 is very light, has a black body, and is quite comfortable to hold and operate. It has a fixed-focus f/8 lens, with a fixed shutter speed of 1/100 second. The package comes with a roll of Kodak 400 Max color print film, two AAA batteries, a wriststrap, an instruction manual, and a one-year warranty. If you like to read, the manual is excellent, and the film speed/situation notes printed on the inside of the film package are fascinating. Unless I'm wrong, we have a situation here where you actually truly get more than you paid for!
Design elegance -- the KB-18 fires its flash every time you take a picture. Every time. In fact, it won't take a picture if the flash isn't ready. This is an excellent solution to a lot of 'bad picture' problems. You will always get fill flash outdoors, and the flash will always work indoors. For example, if you are taking a picture of a person with a setting sun in the background, you really want fill flash! In the rare case where you don't want fill flash outdoors, you can put a small piece of electrical tape over the flash, or cut down the flash intensity with a piece of Kleenex.
Fixed-focus range is from 4' to infinity, and that works for me.
Minor gripes -- no hole on the bottom for a tripod. But then, with the fixed 1/100 shutter speed, who cares. No Bulb or Time setting. No place for a cable release. But, as the Muslims say, perfection is reserved for God, and so I think what we have here is a coll little 35mm daylight-twilight (with fast film) camera at an unbeatable price. $5 too much? Don't worry, you could always sell its batteries and film and get your money back!
Pushing it -- since this essentally free camera appeals to my sense of humor, I'll be using it at work to take a few product shots (I do marketing communications for high-tech test machines). And we'll see. If the lens is only halfway sharp, I'll still be able to scan the prints -- or have them make a set in digital format -- and then crop and edit in Photoshop for pictures for the website. And you'll never know, I guarantee it, that the final corporate website images were taken with a $5 Kodak neo-box camera! Have fun...
Note -- don't get a KB-18 for little kids... getting the film in is slightly tricky... OK for adults, but not for a six-year old. Look for Polaroid's APS $10 7100 at Circuit City instead.

John Johnson
Sun Dec 8 23:25:29 PST 2002

Go another step!
Many cheap 35mm cameras like these can be found at thrift stores for under $5!

Mon Apr 21 04:55:36 PDT 2003

I think the best bets in 35mm are the older Olympus Stylus with 35mm f3.5 lens - available refurbished on Ebay for $20.00, or it's newer replacement the Olympus Stylus Epic with 35mm and even faster f2.8 lens. Both of these cameras produce sharper and higher contrast pictures than consumer zooms on SLR's. Both are portable, have basic flash capabilities, and in the case of the newer camera also splashproof and is small or smaller than the disposables. I have the newer camera and take it everywhere from whitewater rafting to mountain biking. Check out the reviews at

Fri Aug 8 10:40:32 PDT 2003


Just saw this on Vivitar Vivicam 3350, 640x480, 8MB built-in memory, manual white balance... all for $19.67... dunno if store prices are similar tho.


Thu Jun 17 22:27:29 PDT 2004

Any ideas on disabling the auto power shut-off feature on these cameras? I'd like to put one on a wingtip of my plane and I don't want to have to wing-walk out for every shot :-)

Roger Brown
Sun Jul 18 21:28:57 PDT 2004

If its anything like another small digital camera I have, it will stay on if power is provided to it via the USB interface.

Kevin Cozens
Mon Aug 16 19:58:02 PDT 2004

wolf camera was selling a single use "Digital camera" for $19 but I don't see them listed anymore

jason smith
Tue May 24 19:36:51 PDT 2005

CVS pharmacies have a digital camcorder that's 30 bucks, 20 with their little customer tracker card. you can't dump the videos to your own computer yet, but there's people working on reverse engeneering a driver for it. a USB cable's aready easily made, and once a driver's been made, it'd make a great way to get some usable footage (320x200 xvid) from say the camera straped to a helmet or skateboard. and for as low as 20 bucks, not a big loss if it takes a dive. i can't wait until someone makes a way to dump the video yourself.

Fri, 8 Jul 2005 21:38:52 -0700

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