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LOMO LC-A – Sans the Hype – Guest Review by Jonas Lundström

Hi! I’m Jonas, another 35mm Compact Fanatic. A bit of background first; ever since I first got my Holga and not being able to cope with the costs of film I’ve turned to cheap, compact 135 cameras to cure my itch for film wasting. From the Smena 8M and Olympus Trip 35 Mini to Olympus XA and Minolta AF-C there’s always been something missing..

So yeah, the Lomo LC-A maybe?

The main trait that led me to lust for the Lomo LC-A was the capability of long exposures. I’ve always liked the punch in slower films pushing haven’t been an interest until just recently. Considering where I come from during the darkest of winter the sun never even comes up over the horizon I’ve felt the need to get a camera that can handle exposures over a minute at least, the Lomo LC-A was the shining light that would lit up my shots.

Of course, since Lomography got their hands on it, it has been going for silly prices and wasn’t even an option because of that. I think the closest I came was the Olympus XA or Olympus XA3. The XA is a quality camera but in the end it was too slow in actual use for me. The XA3 was faster to work with and a joy to use but the shots from either never impressed me.

So que the beginning of fall this year, I was part of Planket Gothenburg…
Planket (tr. the fence) is a concept brought to Sweden by photographer Neil Goldstein in 1982. It’s an open, outdoor photography exhibition, where a large number of artists use a fence to hang their work.
…and among the photographs hanging there were also people selling off used equipment this year. And it was there I saw my to be Lomo LC-A. Marked as non functioning with a price tag of 6 USD/4.5 EUR the plunge didn’t feel that bad in case it didn’t work. Considering what I’ve seen online with several guides how to repair and maintain the LC-A, I was confident to take it on.

Ilford XP1 400

Too my surprise, as soon as I put some fresh batteries in it life came back into the little camera and it seemed to expose correctly too!
Now, about 20 to 30 rolls later through it I can honestly give you my opinion.

The long exposures I dreamed of worked like a charm! The only thing you have to worry about it pushing that shutter button down until it closes or you’ll end up with an under exposed shot. I’m planning to mod the thing so I can attach a shutter release cable and eliminate any hand shake. Maybe obvious but worth noting is that for long exposures it goes right away to fully open the aperture. But yes, it doesn’t stop sucking in the light until it is full.

baby the stars shine bright

Speaking of fully open aperture, I noticed when trying long exposures in the city at night, the infinity setting doesn’t quite cut it. Distances past 15 meters tend to go soft. So it’s not really my first choice for night time landscape shooting, haha.

lonely night walk

Considering the viewfinder -it is to my surprise decently accurate! It’s quite nice having the finder just over the lens. As mine is a non Lomography version, it even has little Holga like distance icons in the viewfinder with an accompanying marker to show at what distance it is currently focused at. Besides the Pentax PS35AF this is the only other camera I’ve had this function in (and I’ve had over 100 cameras…).

LC-A viewfinder

Judging from my Smena 8M, I’d thought the film advance wheel was going to a pain in the arse but actually it’s pretty smooth. The rewind lever is also perfectly fine. I hear both these parts can be prone to breakage though. Though if I remember correctly, you can get both these parts off a much cheaper Smena-35.

Now, to the lens… the Lomo LC-A is fitted with a Minitar 1 f:2.8 32mm lens. Pleasantly wide, I’d say! 35mm feels very normal to me but this focal length gives just a bit more in the frame. It works okay and can get pretty sharp with the light right when it stops down a bit. I haven’t experimented much with using the flash setting for manual control (1/60th of a second) but I’d guess it starts getting good at f:5.6. The vignetting is something it is famed for and something I quite like with this camera. Though what fascinates me most is how uncorrected it is! Lines never seem to stay straight after passing through this lens and even my gf admits that it has a certain charm and distinct character to it. And she’s not always a fan of my “weird” toy camera shots, haha.

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Minitar 1 LC-A

A built in lens cover is something that I learned to love after using the Olympus XA cameras. I try to always have a camera with me, in my jacket or bag and it is nice to know that I don’t have to worry about the lens getting scratched or loosing a lens cap. Another trait with the lens that I find interesting is how it renders backgrounds when close focusing. Not really like a flipped lens but the blur can blow up in a peculiar manner.

set aim...

hej lomo lc-a polypantmax 339

So in the end, if you can bear its quirks, maybe even like how the lens renders, and you find it for a good price, I don’t see why not to pick it up.

You can find more shots with me and my LC-A’s adventures on flickr.

Good source for information on the LC-A: http://www.kataan.org/lomofaq
Some history: http://www.sovietcams.com/index.php?591361816

Thank you for reading and thanks to Hamish for having me.

Jonas
Twitter
flickr


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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish Gill
    August 6, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you Jonas, I’ve been mulling one of these, or maybe the LC-W for a while …like you though, I’m most attracted by finding one cheap. 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jonas
      August 6, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      ah, yes.. the lc-w would be nice! I made a deal with myself that if I couldn’t find a klasse w in japan then I’d get a lc-w. but klasse it is 🙂 maybe next time… 😉

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