I've used some bad cameras over the years. In fairness, almost all of them have been film cameras – those of a certain age will remember the creaky Russian knock-offs, the "characterful cheapness" of Holgas, or even the big-name disasters like the Konica AiBORG.
The thing is, nowadays, it's actually really hard to make a bad camera. And for all the rubbish bodies I've used, I can honestly say that I've never used a bad camera from one of the 'big three'.
So it's pretty mind-blowing that the worst camera I've ever bought was made by Canon in 2019: the Canon Ivy Rec (opens in new tab).
It was a weird and low-key release. One of Canon's concept cameras, the manufacturer crowdfunded it in Japan and the USA rather than releasing it straight into stores. As a result, there was incredibly little coverage aside from some sketchy videos by smalltime YouTubers – usually a red flag, when a manufacturer doesn't give a product a big press push.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Clearly, the best way to find out what this camera had to offer was to buy one. Though I didn't buy one of the discounted $50 models (reduced by 50% – another red flag), I imported a $300 limited edition Pokémon version from Japan because I'm a nerd who can't help himself when it comes to weird and wonderful cameras. And it's by far the worst camera I own.
In case you've never heard of it, the Canon Ivy Rec is an all-weather activity camera made of tough plastic with a carabiner, so you can clip it to your belt or backpack and take anywhere. However, it doesn't have a viewfinder or LCD screen – instead, the carabiner doubles as an old-school finder.(opens in new tab)
Herein lies the first problem: it's impossible to frame your shots. Now, I shoot with instant cameras quite a lot. So I do have some instincts for composing images using very approximate viewfinders… but those instincts won't help you here.
The Rec has a 25.4 mm f/2.2 lens, but there's just no way of being sure how much is going to be in your shot (and, as my partner discovered, no way of knowing when your thumb will be in the shot either). Moreover, there's no way of knowing what the camera will actually focus on.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Everything is fully automatic, from the AF to exposure, because the whole idea is that you just point and shoot. Unfortunately, that means you have no control over anything – coupled with having no idea what's in your frame, and no screen to check what you've just shot, taking photographs is like spinning a roulette wheel.
There's a certain thrill to it, of course. Will I get a headshot, or a full body shot? Will my subject's face be in focus, or will the trees behind her be in focus? Will my thumb be in the frame? Will my image be horribly overexposed, or horribly underexposed?
The Ivy Rec features a 13MP sensor, but it's one of the worst 13MP sensors you'll ever use. Trust me, and I'm not even tossing out hyperbole here, the old Nokia phone you keep in your junk drawer for sentiment's sake very likely takes better quality photos than this camera.
Details are muddy, colors just leech into each other, highlights are horrible… and again, you don't know what's going to be sharp, but "sharpness" is a relative term.
The Rec can shoot 1080p movies at 60p, but you should never do this. It 'boasts' electronic image stabilization, but all this does (again, I'M NOT EXAGGERATING, look at the sample below) is turn your video into Jell-O and poke it until it wobbles so much that you'll probably get nauseous watching it back.
Watch video: Canon Ivy Rec sample footage
I mentioned earlier that there's no way of knowing what's in your frame using the carabiner viewfinder, but you can use your smartphone as an electronic finder. You know what else you can do? You can gouge out your eyes with oyster forks, get in your car, and have a friend tell you when to turn the wheel or hit the brakes. Just be cause you can do something, doesn't mean I'd recommend it.
So, the Canon Ivy Rec isn't a good camera. It's a very bad camera. Which is a shame, because you get that same thrill of shooting with analog film cameras – because you don't have the immediacy of a screen, you can't chimp and check what you've just shot, so you simply get lost in the fun and art of shooting.
Sadly, the pictures you find when you get home are the furthest thing from fun or art you could ever imagine. Oh well, at least it looks cool on my shelf!
Sample image gallery