Photokina 2018

Finally I find the time to sit down, armed with a cup of mint tea, and write about this year’s Photokina.

For those who don’t know, Photokina is the world’s most important and biggest photographic trade show, held in wonderful Köln (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Photokina has been taking place from the fifities, every two years, and has always featured the big names of photography (and also some smaller ones). Where the focus of the old editions was, of course, analogue photography, with the advent of digital photography most of the exhibition is dedicated to this thriving world, although a few surprises still lie here and there. Mainly, the Lomographic Society sand, which is also the main reason I went to Photokina.

Rumors are that starting from his year, the trade show will become annual.

I must admit that if you, like me, are new to this sort of things, the whole experience of a trade show can be a bit… overwhelming, to say the least. There are loads of people in every corner, everyone trying to catch a glimpse of the products from their favourite companies or play with some new cameras, lenses or accessories.


The Leica M-A. Picture taken from Leica’s website. Be kind to me, I’m advertising a product I can’t even afford for free guys. Let me keep this picture posted.

First of all, let’s take a look to a big name. This year, Leica has introduced a new film rangefinder, the Leica M-A. It’s a full metal body camera, which comes in either silver or black finish. It has interchangeable lenses (M-Bayonet) and quite interesting technical features: 1s to 1/1000s (and bulb) speeds, support for film from ISO 6 to 6400, hotshoe and a bright wievfinder. The aperture is, of course, dependant on the lens you want to use with the camera. It weighs less than half a kilo, and it’s build quality is, of course, among the best (it’s Leica, after all). The base price is £3800, but the package includes a complimentary roll of Kodak Tri-X 400. Head over to Leica’s website to find out more and shop. Good for you if you can afford it, because I certainly can’t (I’m still a nurse, after all).

Let’s continue our journey through the show with Lomography. Their stand was full of cameras, trinkets, t-shirts, bags, leaflets and posters and postcards and happy lomographers. Three the major products they featured at the show (albeit nothing breakthrough).

  • LOMO’Instant Automat Glass Elbrus (baptised by yours truly LIAGE, because the name is quite long and I can’t keep typing it over and over). It’s a LOMO’Instant Automat with a brown leatherette and multi coated lenses. Being an Automat, it’s fully automatic. Aperture is either f/4.5 or f/22 (not that you can say your opinion on the matter). Shutter speed is standard 1/250 or bulb up to 30s. Film ejection is motorized and there is a built-in flash. Works on standard Fujifilm Instax Mini film. (leaflet)
  • LOMO’Instant Explorer (the design is new, the camera itself… not). It’s a LOMO’Instant with a new design, basically. (leaflet)
  • Sprocket Rocket SUPERPOP! Teal 2.0 (argh, another mouthful… cannot call it SRSPT either because that’s quite unpronounceable). Again, it’s a Sprocket Rocket. The SUPERPOP! version just adds a new colour and few extra aesthetic details. (leaflet)

All in all, Photokina has been an interesting event. My lack of actual interest in digital photography at the moment plus the not-so-steep price of the ticket and the amount of goodies I managed to get back home made me feel not guilty of leaving after a couple of hours of exploration. As much as I am interested in photography, I could not resist the calling of Köln waiting for me.

Holga, the hol-mighty!

Okay, so let’s ignore the bad pun that is the title of this post and focus on the main topic.

The Holga is a rite of passage, a must for every film photographer.

Like the Diana, the Holga is a plastic “toy camera”, with a meniscus lens. Unlike the Diana, there are several models of Holga according to what they have as features. Holgas were produced until not long ago by Universal Electronic, Ltd. of Hong Kong, under the guide of TM Lee, creator of the original Holga. Production switched hands in 2015, when another company got hold of the original Holga moulds and tools and kept producing this legendary icon of film photography.

The lens is a basic meniscus type lens, 60 mm, in plastic or glass (according to the model), with apertures of f/8 and f/11, switchable by the user. Focus is done by rotating the lens barrel, in a four-zone focus system: portrait, small group, large group and infinite. As with the Diana, the pictures show vignetting and other aberrations, including light leaks. Also, every Holga is slightly different, so that even in the same setting, two Holgas will never produce the same image.

This beauty has experience a rise in popularity thanks to the Lomography movement, who distributed the Holgas in their store (they stopped, at present). Holgas are still VERY easy to find on eBay, and there are several different models to choose from:

  • 120S: standard model, plastic lens, no frills, only one picture size. This has been discontinued for a long time but remains the favourite of many photographers.
  • 120SF: the standard model with a built-in flash.
  • 120G: called “Woca”, is a 120S with a glass lens
  • 120GF: a Woca with a built-in flash
  • 120N: the new standard model (I assume “N” stands for “New”), tripod mount, bulb mode and the possibility to change masks between 6×6 and 6×4.5. Models produced before 2009 (I believe) have a non-functioning aperture switch.
  • 120GN: a 120N with a glass lens (still named Holga)
  • 120FN: a 120N with a flash
  • 120GFN: mix the two above and you get a Holga with a glass lens and a built-in flash.
  • 120CFN: a 120FN with four built-in colour filters for the flash, selectable with a wheel
  • 120GCFN: Again, mix the two above and this is what you get. This is the model I own.

There are also some other models, including a TLR Holga, a pinhole, stereo pinhole, 110 film format Holga and so on and so forth.

There are also several accessories for the Holga, including a 35mm film adapter (which does not have an exposure count, so you have to advance the film manually and kind of guess when to stop), cable release and instant back.

Of course it’s not perfect, there are several issues with each model, mainly affecting the metal clips that both hold the back in place and allow you to attach your camera strap, the film advance mechanisms that tends to loosen the tension thus creating artifacts and light leaks. Most of these issues can be fixed with a roll of duct tape and patience.

I have to admit, I am happy of the results I got with the Holga, it’s a fun camera and has character. I feel I need to know it better so to more appreciate what makes it different from my Diana.

All the pictures above where shot with a Holga 120GCFN on a Lomography Color 400 ISO film.

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.


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)


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!