How Are Disposable Cameras Made?

Updated April 17, 2017

Disposable cameras are cameras intended for one-time use. Normally composed of a box camera made of cardboard-covered plastic, disposable cameras include an integrated flash unit and a pre-installed roll of film. This concept was conceived from the emergence of disposable materials such as bottles, kitchen utensils, razors and other modern appliances. Disposable cameras were mainly targeted to children and travellers who preferred cost-effective cameras to the more expensive sophisticated cameras on the market.

Brief History

Disposable cameras were introduced as a concept in 1887 by Kodak and were later released again in the 1980s. In 1986, Fuji introduced the first disposable camera to the market in the form of the 110-film format, which didn't meet the technical quality required for these cameras. A year after this disappointment, Fuji released another camera, the Fuji Quick-Snap, which carries the 35-mm film format. This change provided disposable cameras with good quality exposure for a cheap price.

As the process of disposable camera production improved, manufacturers eventually factored in underwater and telephoto capabilities. Development with the camera's lens, film format and body came into the picture several years later and became a much more functional disposable camera.


A basic disposable camera is composed of cardboard-covered plastic, a built-in flash and weatherproof capability. However, the materials used for the camera differ from the conventional camera. This difference is illustrated in the disposable camera's features.

Shutter and Lenses

The shutter speed of a disposable camera has a guillotine-style shutter driven by a spring. Naturally, the exposure cannot be customised because these cameras only rely on print films that offer wide exposure tolerance. This helps capture light more effectively.

As for the lenses, disposable cameras make use of aspheric lenses. This lens is a cheap plastic version of the typical glass lens used by long-lasting cameras. Even though the lens is plastic, it delivers good optical properties, as it utilises glass aspheric elements used in a diversity of illumination and imaging applications.

Film and Winding Mechanism

Disposable cameras use high-speed film, since the aperture of cheap plastic lenses is so small. A small aperture facilitates longer exposure and a deeper field of focus. In order to achieve a well-exposed photograph, a high-speed film is required. Technological advancements have allowed film to evolve so that it adapts to the requirements of the disposable camera in order to provide fine grain and large exposure latitude.

Lastly, since these types of camera typically have film already built in, manufacturers have made reverse winding possible so consumers won't have to rewind the film once they finish taking photos. Basically the film is completely outside the canister: so when a photo is taken, it goes back to the canister. Then the user can just conveniently turn over the entire camera to a photo developer.

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About the Author

Paul Favors is a full-time SEO Consultant and freelance writer who operates a private web consulting firm. Paul holds a B.A. in Communications Studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has been a professional writer for 3 years - two of those years as regular Demand Studios contributor.