Tag: camera

[The Unusual Library] The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras

51r5y49vfxl-_ac_ul320_sr228320_The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras
Jean Loup Princelle
1995, Hove Photo Books
ISBN 978-18-740-316-35

This is a book I had to sweat a lot to put my hands on.

The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras is a difficult to find book (I had some luck with an eBay auction from France), but it is also the Bible of the Russian and Soviet camera collector. I’m not a collector per se, nor I have a keen interest in buying all FEDs and Zenits and KMZs that I come across, but Soviet cameras have a certain charme, they have contributed to shape the camera markets of those years, despite often being inspired or cloned from existing western models.

For many people across the Iron Curtain, these cameras were the only option. For many westeners, these were the most affordable option (and you got a decent camera, too). Like the book about the Chinese cameras, this guide is divided by factory (starting from GOMP/VOOMP/LOMO and KMZ to more obscure ZAVOD GEODEZYIA and ZAVOD ARSENAL) and lists (possibly) every model produced together with pictures and technical details, when available. There is also the history of the factories themselves and put in context with the socio-political situation of the USSR at the time.

Overall, it’s quite a nice and interesting book, if you manage to find it grab a copy. Not essential unless you really like to collect Soviet cameras, I might add. There are also some details that appear to be wrong (I’ll consider them bona fide mistakes).

La Sardina (Czar Edition)

I did it. I went online and bought off eBay yet another camera (I really can’t seem to be able to stop).

This time is the turn of La Sardina, a 35mm point and shoot released by Lomography with a sardine can in mind (yes, La Sardina actually means the sardine in Italian and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the region of Sardinia – or Sardegna). It features a wide angle 22mm lens (which is what attracted me the most to this camera), a switch that enables multiple exposures and also a rewind knob that allows you to re-expose previous shots, in true Lomography style.

The thing about this camera that jumps immediately at the eye is the design. Apart from the compact, tin-box size, there are dozens and dozens of different designs of La Sardina, some still in production, some limited editions. Lomography also released dresses, masks that can be applied to change the design of the camera. Not only the patterns and colour schemes are different, but also the materials. The Czar Edition (the one I purchased) is made from steel, the Capri edition instead of a plastic insert has the pattern printed on actual beach chair fabric. Others are made of textured plastic or even cork.

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The whole theme of the camera is seaside and nautical life, as the booklets include demonstrate. As always, Lomography has packed with the camera some nice photo books that show what kind of pictures you can expect from the camera. One of them brings real examples of the Ten Golden Rules with pictures taken with a La Sardina. The other is called “The Caviar Diaries”, by lomographer Wil6ka. It is a brilliant narration of a journey for the discovery of caviar that takes Wil6ka from Germany to Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Latvia and back to Germany, rigorously documented with his prototype La Sardina.

There is a non-standard flash microconnector on the side, designed exclusively to work with Lomography’s Fritz The Blitz flash. Not all camera editions come with it, but those which do feature the flash unit with matching design. Those that do not, can be paired to any FtB flash, including the standard, generic one available from the Lomography shop. Due to this microconnector, there is no cold or hotshoe available.

Features wise, it offers a 22m glass lens, with a fixed aperture of f/8. Shutter speed is either instant (1/100) or bulb. Focusing is done via a two-step system: 60 cm – 1 m, and 1 m to infinity. Quick and simple, after all this is a point and shoot. Cable release threaded socket and tripod mount are available as well. The lens offer sharp pictures with vibrant, saturated colours, that match so well with the Lomography philosophy. Of course, a lot depends on what film you are using. I left today my first roll of film taken in Arundel with this camera to the photo lab, I will be back with the results in a couple of weeks (next lomotour is taking me to Poland).

One of the nice features that comes in handy (and that more cameras should have) is the small rectangular window on the back door, that allows you to see what kind of film you have inserted into the camera. Lomographic beauties like the Diana and the Smena do not feature any sort of holder or window, so it’s easy to forget what you actually have inside if you don’t use it for a while.

Ir is really easy to use and quick too. The shutter is very silent, making it a good stealth camera for all those lomo moments that fill our days. The metal body is not too heavy, but gives the camera a sturdy feeling and it is pleasant to hold.

Finally, let’s talk about the package. It is just awesome. The camera comes packed in a wooden box, like the ones that contains fruit and veggies at the market. Inside, there is the camera itself, the FtB unit, a matching lens cap and four colour filters for the flash. Also the usual Lomography poster/instruction booklet and a couple of photo books featuring the camera. Really cool, I must say.

This might not be the sharpest or the best point and shoot money can buy, but its design and dimensions are quite impressive and stand out from the crowd. Overpriced for sure, like most Lomography products (hey, as much as I love the company I still have to pay my bills at the end of the month, like everyone else!) but this time it looks like things have been done with even more care than usual. The attention to the detail is stunning.

If you want a cool camera, that’s fun, easy to use and offers a quick approach to film photography and lomography, you should really consider a La Sardina – just pick your style and get going.

 

LOMO Smena 8M (ЛОМО Смена 8М)

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Привет, красоткаi! (Privet, krasotka!) – the Smena 8M with its original box and the instruction booklet.

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.

The 8M

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.

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The camera, the original manual and the box.

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).

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The LOMO T43 Triplet lens barrel, with the aperture/film speed selecting dial.

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.

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The top part of the lens barrel with the funky weather icons.

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.

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This certifies that the Smena 8M with serial n. 90998154 is not radioactive and has approved by the Supreme Committee for Popular Products for the Proletariat of the Soviet Union. Of course, I made this up, I actually have no idea what this certificate…certifies. Just to make sure this manual came bundled with the camera I checked the serials and they match. Cool.

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!

Lomography, and why I still shoot film

Today, I want to talk about what made me start on film photography: lomography.

I want to use the definition of lomography that comes from the website of the Lomography Society International:

“Lomography is a globally-active organization dedicated to analogue, experimental and creative photography. With millions of followers and friends across the world, the concept of Lomography encompasses an interactive, vivid and sometimes even blurred and crazy way of life. Through our constantly expanding collection of innovative cameras, instant products, films, lenses & photographic accessories, we promote photography as an inventive approach to communicate, absorb and capture the world. ()”

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This movement was born in the 1990s when a group of Austrian students found an old LOMO LC-A (see my page about this camera here) and used it to take some pictures, without knowing what the end result would be. Once they developed the films, they found out that the pictures had an unique lo-fi charme.

Mainly, lomographers tend to prefer certain cameras, like the ones shown below, but lomography is certainly not limited to only these sacred beasts (all pictures taken from Lomography official website).

 

What makes a photograph lomographic?

 

“Don’t think, just shoot.”

This is the motto of the movement, the essence of every lomograph. In each picture there is a mixture of spontaneity, lo-fi, color, randomness. There is no fix technique into taking a lomograph, often there is no technique at all. 

Each picture is unique, there may or may not be vignetting, extreme color (de)saturation, color shift, light leaks, light trails, blurriness… every possible defect that can be present in a normal photograph, is considered a virtue in a lomograph. It can be random or forcibly added to the picture by the lomographer.

To express this concept further, I’d like to copy the 10 golden rules of the movement (taken from the LSI website).

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go
  2. Use it at any time – day and night
  3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but a part of it
  4. Try the shot from the hip
  5. Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible
  6. Don’t think
  7. Be fast
  8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film
  9. Afterwards either
  10. Don’t worry about any rules

These above are some examples of lomographs taken by me. I used my Diana F+ camera. More on my LomoHome.

Are you a lomographer? Why are you still using film?

Depends on my mood, and the camera I am using. Overall, I like both traditional photography and lomography and like to play with both. For some, photography is trying to reproduce reality in the most accurate way possible. For others, it is a way to capture moments and emotions, a way of self-expression. I think film is the best medium for the kind of photography I do and like, and the reason behind my shooting changes according to what picture you are looking at. Simple as that.

I like film because it adds a challenge, choosing the right medium for the right photo, or doing the best you can, for the best result you want, with what you have loaded in your camera. Unlike digital, you can’t switch colour to B&W or change ISO sensitivity on the fly, it all depends on what you have loaded.

I find that having a limited number of exposures per roll gives more meaning to what you do, what you choose to shoot and how you do it.

But the main reason of all, is that waiting for a film to be processed and see the pictures is like waiting for Christmas, every time. And when some pictures don’t come out as you wanted (or do not come out at all – happens!), the delusion gives quickly way to a new excitement and enthusiasm and will to continue shooting regardless.

Can I be a lomographer/film shooter?

Naturally. You need three things:

  • A camera
  • A roll of film
  • a bit of creativity

The best format with which to begin with is 35mm (aka 135). Every photo lab can process colour 135 and you can find films easily. Most common films you can find are AgfaPhoto Vista (200 and 400 ISO), Kodak ColorPlus 200 and Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400. Black and white shooting is also possible, but not all labs process B&W film. Ilford’s FP4 and HP5 are easily found in photography shops, sometimes with the XP2 (which is processed C-41 – colour – but produces a black and white image, still).

Getting a film camera is the next thing. Chances are you already got one lying around somewhere. Make sure there are some batteries in it if it’s an automatic model, load the film and start shooting. If you don’t you can find some in thrift shops or eBay quite easily. Even a point and shoot is sufficient to begin. Have a look at this, this, this one and this.

If you want to start even quicker, grab a disposable camera. They are still quite common (used especially in parties and weddings), or you can spend a little more and try your lomographic skills with Lomography’s own series of disposable cameras (they have a built in flash with colour filters).