Top critical review
35 people found this helpful
Inexpensive Lomo, Not Crazy Over It
on February 22, 2013
I bought this camera a few weeks back and I wanted to put it together and shoot a roll of film with it before I wrote my review. Overall, this is probably the best option for people interested in shooting 35mm with a Lomo-style camera, but there are a few hang-ups I have with the product.
First, I will say my experience in building the unit was consistent with the other reviews: springs C and D were mixed up, the instructions used the Anglo alphabet but did not closely resemble English, and the pictures in the manual were more informative than the written instructions. Like another reviewer said, if you have experience building model cars/planes/trains, you shouldn't have too many difficulties with it.
The camera functions reasonably well. The advancement mechanism uses a little arrow on a circular dial that makes a half-turn every time the frame advances, so keeping your film lined up isn't too hard. Of course, there is no counter on it, so you'll have to keep track of the shots you take. One thing I love about this camera is its focus and viewfinder. The camera allows you to manually focus your shot, which you line up and compose using the viewfinder. Like all TLR cameras, the viewfinder consists of light gathered by the top lens, which is then reflected onto a frosted screen (which, in this case, is made of plastic). Of course, this yields a mirror image on the frosted screen, so lining things up at first is confusing, but it's easy to get the hang of.
The fact is, this camera is superior to most toy cameras by the simple virtue of it being a TLR, and quite a bit cheaper, too. Lomo is something I've had a hard time to commit to because I think the style of shots associated with the Lomo niche usually focus on the aesthetic of the photo rather than the composition. This is a problem not with Lomo cameras but with the photographers, but it's still a hurdle that all users have to overcome when you're shooting Lomo. I know there's a lot of rhetoric and hate towards "hipsters" (which I refuse to engage in), but one thing you're going to have to accept and work against is that your shots are going to have a "hipster" look to them, so you have to compose your shots well to make them stand out against the typical "look at my shoes"/"look at my coffee"/"look at my food" photos you see with this genre. Unfortunately, "hipster" is a poor term to describe something as because it's a completely subjective term. Here's a more objective description of the type of photos you'll get with this camera:
The first thing I noticed is that the focus area is pretty small. You get a nice, clear focus at the center of your picture, but the surrounding areas are out of focus or have a "soft" focus to them. This is actually aesthetically pleasing, as it immediately creates a focal point in your shot. You can use this to your advantage when you compose your shot. Keep in mind, this blur ring around your focal point occurs even when the surrounding area is the same or similar distance from your focal point. For example, you can take a picture of a person's shirt, which would be in focus, but their arms, face, etc (which are more or less the same distance away from your lens) will be out of focus. Another thing I noticed with this camera is that your shots have a gritty look to them, a feature I found pleasing.
The Lomo niche in general has a few factors that work against it, which I strongly recommend you keep in mind when shooting with toy cameras. First, don't let the aesthetics take over your shot: if it would be boring through a standard digital camera, it's still boring through a Lomo. Second, if you're unsure about whether or not you'll enjoy Lomography, don't drop $50 on a Holga or $80+ on a Diana - these cameras are horribly overpriced and are thinner on features than this camera. Third, if this is your first concerted foray into film photography and you're choosing Lomo, go with 35mm instead of medium-format 120 film. You're going to have a smaller investment in the art in terms of processing and prints. I can get a roll of film processed at CVS for $2, then scan them at home.
As you may have guessed, I'm not entirely sold on Lomo or toy photography, but I'm happy with this purchase because I got into the niche for a cheap price, plus this camera gives you more control over your image than the standard Holga/Diana.