Today, 27th April 2018, I received what is probably the most wonderful object that I currently own, a LOMO Smena 8M in mint condition, perfectly working, together with original case, manual (in Russian) and box from 1980.
What I currently hold in my hands is a fully manual camera, made out of plastic, with a triplet lens, an eclectic icon-based aperture system and thousands of memories from lomographers and hard working soviet youngsters alike.
A camera for all
The Smena series was introduced in 1953 by GOMZ (the State Optical-Mechanical Factory of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, which later became LOOMP and then the beloved LOMO) as an relatively (to Soviet wages) inexpensive camera for everyone, in particular it was targeted at the youngsters. The word Smena itself means something like “change” or “young generation”. There were at least 25 models in the series, produced until the mid ’90s. These cameras are quite widespread in the countries that once were behind the Iron Curtain, and it is quite easy to find the on eBay.
The three most known models are the 8M, the Symbol (click here to see a review of the Cosmic Symbol – effectively a rebadged Smena Symbol – appeared on Which Camera? Dec ’86/Jan ’87) and the 35mm, this one being the latest model of them all.
Among the various models, I fell immediately in love with the 8M. Its pronounced angles, its rectangular shape, its overall plasticosity make this little jewel a prime example of lomographic beauty.
The camera body its made entirely of plastic, with an aluminum face plate on the top front. Mine is black, but silver, blue and red versions exist as well (the latter are quite rare).
The lens is a LOMO Triplet 43 40mm f/4 triple element glass lens, designed by the same guys that created the Minitar-1 for the LC-A. The lens body is threaded, so I imagine one could use filters, although I have no idea if LOMO ever produced compatible filters for the Smena series.
On the front of the lens barrel, there is the aperture/GOST/DIN setting wheel. I am using slashes because changing film speed changes aperture as well. There is only one wheel with two red dots that fall in proximity of the desired aperture and the desired GOST setting. The gear is marked “GOST-ISO”, but the numbers are in GOST scale, so a little conversion is required.
On the top of the Triplet lens, there is the distance scale selector and some weather icons, associated to different shutter speeds. On the left side, there are numeric indicators, ranging from f/250 to f/15 and a B setting. The shutter cock is operated separately from the release button, and it is done by pushing down the lever on the lens barrel. The shutter release button is on the top of the camera, with a threaded hole for a cable release.
On the top there is also a cold shoe for accessories and a flash, which connects to the PC socket on the right side of the lens barrel, and can sync at all speeds. A popular accessory (which I am waiting to be shipped to me) is the Blik, a small rectangular rangefinder that was designed for the 8M and the Symbol.
There is also a frame counter (next to useless, I still have to figure out how it works) and the film rewind knob.
The viewfinder is also almost pointless, as it is located on the far right side of the camera, as far as possible from the lens barrel.
All in all, I still have to try it properly and develop pictures shot with it. I’m sure it will be great fun to use, and I decided she will be the camera choice on my next trip to Poland in two weeks. After that, I will post some pictures from the trip on here, make sure to come back and check them out!