A non-scientific review of the unique 16-lens film camera Fuji Rensha Cardia Byu-N16 from a skateboard photographer's point of view.
Words and photography: Maksim Kalanep
Fuji Rensha Cardia Byu-N16 was originally designed for golf players and got on the market back in 1995. It was aimed at amateurs & professionals as a tool to analyse their swing. The main advantage of the Fuji compact was ease of use & the sequence created by it only took 2 regular 35mm film frames instead of half of the roll produced by a pro camera.
Fuji Rensha Cardia Byu-N16 camera has sixteen plastic 27mm f/9.5 lenses that can be triggered individually or as part of a sequence at 1/250th sec shutter speed. It has two release buttons for individual frames mode & sequence mode. In either mode 16 lenses record images as 2 rows of 8 vertical frames (9x9mm or 9x7mm) on top of each other onto 2 regular 35mm film frames. When in sequence mode camera can shoot at 'Normal' 2.5 sec speed & 'Fast' 1.5 sec speed. It takes both 400 ISO & ISO 800 rated colour & B&W film. Film loading & winding is automatic & powered by a pair of CR123A batteries. A viewfinder is a simple see through plastic finder. A monochrome screen on top of the camera is bright & clear with all the necessary information displayed at all times - like frame number, sequence position, battery level & shooting mode. Everything in this camera is automatic & you just need to make sure you are more than 2 meters away from the subject.
I bought this camera out of curiosity. One use that I had in my mind was to shoot skateboard sequences on film. Shooting sequence with a pro camera is just a waste of film. With 2 regular 35mm frames per sequence this was not too bad on the paper to try out. And in 'Fast' mode it could potentially do 16 frames in 1.5 seconds which is around 10fps. The only downside on the spec sheet was 1/250th sec shutter speed - it's not enough to freeze the movement completely.
It took me 9 months of waiting on Japanese eBay to see one show up. Yes, they are rare & quite expensive for a plastic point & shoot camera with fixed settings. Once I bought mine, a couple more showed up & they keep popping up from time to time.
When I received the camera, everything turned out as stated in the manual & I took it for a spin - first to Paris for a normal shoot & then I tried capturing skateboard action with it when I was doing 'London Day Out' with Rob Mathieson.
In short - it's a little fun camera to play & shoot with. As expected it's very easy to use & everything is straight forward. Getting through the roll is real fast - you only get around 18 to 19 shots. But if you shoot in individual frames mode - then you get 16 different little 9x7mm photographs per 'shot'. And you can also do variations of stop motion & creative panoramas with it.
As for skateboard photography & sequences - these are definitely possible. It takes some time to get used to the timings & the fact that you can't review what you've just shot to make sure the ending wasn't cut off. The best practice is to start shooting as late as possible, right before the trick. If you don't do that - landing might be left out of the frame. Since the lenses are plastic & there is no way to focus - results are a bit unpredictable & can sometimes be on the soft/out of focus side. But if you have plenty of day light - results should be consistent & good. Once the sequence is captured it can also be turned into little clips or Gifs with the help of the Photoshop.
Should you get one? If you are curious as I was & want to experiment with panoramas, stop motion & sequences - then of course - if you can find one for an affordable price.