The Digital LOMO?
By Rob Turner
27 Jan 2012
The Digital Harinezumi (literally meaning "hedgehog" in Japanese) is a toy digital camera made in Japan by Superheadz, who are known for their range of lo-fi cameras. I had wanted to pick one up for a while, but I found them to be rather expensive in my native England. While I was on a trip to Tokyo last year, I happened to chance upon one (at a vastly reduced price) in a department store, and purchased it without hesitation.
The first thing you will notice on holding the Harinezumi for the first time is its rather svelte, lightweight form, it can easily be slipped into a jacket pocket, and has now replaced my LOMO L-CA as my "take anywhere" camera du jour. It is also very sparse in way of buttons and dials (something which is greatly magnified when I have just returned from a shoot with my Canon 5D DSLR). Other than the shutter release and power buttons, there are only controls to access the menu, select items within it, switch between preview and shoot mode, and activate the macro mode. In terms of composing your image, the Harinezumi features a (very) simple frame finder, which is great, as you don't need to use the LCD screen so much (although, it can be used to compose your images if needed), massively increasing battery life. Feature wise, it shoots pictures and video, both in colour and black and white, has a self-timer and tripod screw, as well as a very useful macro mode.
The Harinezumi is a simple, fully automatic, lo-fi camera, in the same vein as most of the stuff which the Lomography society produce. Its main defining feature is the 3-megapixel digital (shock! Horror!) sensor at its heart. The images it captures, have a lovely, grainy, soft-focus effect, rather like those taken by those old, 110 cartridge cameras, where as the movies are reminiscent of super-8 cine footage (see a sample here: http://tinyurl.com/harivid). It can shoot at both ISO 100 and ISO 800, making it useable in low-light, or just to provide some extra grit if you need it.
Using the Harinezumi could not be easier, once you have decided on stills or video, and selected your ISO setting, just point and shoot, it really is that easy. The macro mode is simplicity in its self, just flick the macro switch on the bottom, turn on the screen and shift the distance between you and your subject until it snaps into focus. I have found that you can get some very unusual and unpredictable results, unlike any other digital camera I have used before. Images seem to be distorted in an almost completely random manner. Straight line elements of the image are warped into waves, or in some situations, the image is distorted in such a way that it becomes entirely abstract. I found that you can exacerbate this by shaking, spinning and otherwise manhandling the camera while capturing your photograph. Other than the previously mentioned warping. Using the high ISO setting in daylight results in a pleasingly grainy image, and shooting into the sun yields wonderful lens flare. This unpredictability is what sets the Harinezumi apart, the fun, random aspect of analogue toy cameras, without the cost of film.
Its ease of use is why I chose the Harinezumi to replace my L-CA, although it does offer many extra digital luxuries, such as the option to change ISO from photo to photo, not to mention the video mode and the fact that hundreds of photographs will fit on the card. Although the initial cost may seem high (when in reality, it is about the same as the L-CA), the money is soon made back in not having to buy film (the batteries are fairly expensive, but seem to last for ages). If you love lo-fi photography, but aren't a film snob, you must check it out!