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Lomo LC-A+, love it or hate it…. or both? – Guest Review by Frank Lehnen

I am crazy! I’m a sucker for new gear, I’m a G.A.S. victim if there ever was one, but what’s more, I’m a G.A.S. victim that has amazingly little money for the moment… and still I go for stupid stuff like the Lomo LC-A+ from Lomography.

I had a real Lomo LC-A, the old one, the russian one and I liked it. But the meter was inconsistent. the winder seemed a bit unreliable and I sold it on. Now I liked it as I said, and I wanted one again. And there’s the new one from Lomography, albeit at a hefty price. 250€ for a piece of mostly plastic made in China, but that’s what we are accustomed to from Lomography. Cheap stuff for big money.

And it’s got a copy of the original Minitar lens, also made in China, but you can get a Russian made lens….. at a premium of course.

When I got it I immediately noticed how light it felt, compared to the old one. The back closes only with some persuasion. The focusing lever seems not to be connected to anything, there’s a loose feeling when you move it, not as the real LC-A. But focus works.

Well, everything seems to work. And then there’s the ‘new’ features the old LC-A did not have:

Multiple exposures – ISO 100 to 1600 – a slot for various filters or add on lenses on the front cover…

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Shot into the sun…. what flare?

Only the (mostly useless) aperture selector has been left out, and sadly also the useful focus information in the viewfinder. But you quickly get the habit of setting the focus zones.

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Stealthy it is!

Let’s not forget one of the real strong points of the Lomo LC-A+ – it’s capable of long shutter times, in fact, as long as you keep the shutter depressed! In fact, this is the ultimate compact long exposure camera.

The LC-A+ is fun, I like it, but I think it will not work for long, though I am always careful with my cameras. I already had the metal spring clip of the hotshoe falling off the camera when I took the flash off. Well I bent it into shape and slid it on again…. until next time.

Good thing is it got warranty! Guess I’ll need it before long, but until then I will enjoy my Lomo LC-A+ a lot. As I said, I love it AND I hate it… but so’s life!

It’s not your camera for documentation work, not for ‘serious’ photography for sure, but it takes nice pictures with flaws that can be beautiful. It’s a Lomo! That’s the essence of this camera that started the whole Lomography business.

You might loathe Lomography because of all that hipster stuff they sell at astronomical prices, but one thing is sure: Lomography contributed in a very large way to the reemergence of film photography. People, mostly young, start out with a Lomo or Holga, are intrigued by the whole film process and sometimes go on to ‘real’ cameras. They buy film, have it developed and scanned and thus keep all the film businesses running for a good part. This contributes to the fact that film is still available and will remain so until demand crashes. Let’s hope that Lomography will go strong for a long time and all hail the mighty Lomo LC-A+.

Here’s some pics to show you the wonderful things this piece of plastic is capable of. I just added a tiny bit of contrast and clarity in LR:

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Flashy colours and vignetting… it’s a Lomo LC_A

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Street camera by design

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Again those colours…

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A bit shaky, but the ideal camera for night shots!

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UPDATE (21/05/2016):

Just a quick update to say that I sold the dismally trashy Lomo LC-A+, at an obvious loss of course…

M first idea was to just use my beautiful Leica IIIa and have the XA2 always on me, but then I started to doubt. I scored eBay and found a hopefully ver y good, CLA’d real russian Lomo and bought it.

Should arrive next week and I’ll keep you up to date!

Thanks for reading.


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26 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish Gill
    March 31, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks Frank! I’m going to be borrowing the wide version soon – a camera I’ve hovered over a good few times!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andy Sedik
    March 31, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Frank,
    You have some nice photos from a very temperamental camera. I bought one in 2008, lured by the idea of being able to shoot at ISO 800 and 1600. You are right about the build quality though. I had mine in twice for service – good thing Lomography has a two year warranty on it. I wound up shelving mine, perhaps worried it would frustrate me more than get a decent photo. If I had to do it again, I probably would have gone for an Olympus XA3 and used the difference to buy quite a few rolls of film.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    April 1, 2016 at 3:14 am

    Right, Andy. An XA2 or 3 is by far the better acquisition and leaves room for plenty of film. And I prefer the feel of my XA2 of course.
    It’s just that the Lomo has a certain something to it that makes me like to shoot with it.
    Big number of keepers on my first two rolls too!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Andy Sedik
      April 2, 2016 at 3:23 am

      Frank, I totally hear you about how the LC-A+ makes you want to shoot with it. I bought mine shortly before a trip to New York and had a blast with it. I was in my pocket nearly every day, usually loaded with expired colour film. It’s not bad with black & white but it really comes into its own in colour. If a little extra money spent on a camera inspires you, I’d say it is money well spent.

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    Reply
    jeremy north
    April 1, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Interesting article Frank.
    I am recognisant of the value to ‘sensible’ film users as you said, anything which popularises film photography is a good thing, even the atrocity of “Lomography”. I am one of the loathers of Lomography for the reasons you put in your summary.
    I’ve been to both Lomography shops in London (though I think the one in the City is now closed down) and one in Manchester. The staff, pleasant as they are, know little about photography. They just trot out the company BS about their crappy products and image. I asked one about the pricing of the LC-A Wide and she pointed out the ‘amazing’ 17mm Minigon lens! It must cost a fiver to make yet this camera costs an eye-watering £329! That is s/h Leica money.
    Yes, I’m just a grumpy old git 🙂

    Having said that I like the photographs you posted here, not because of the camera but for their intrinsic artistic merit. I like urban pictures and yours are very fine.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    April 1, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Thank you for your praise, Jeremy!
    Let’s thank Lomography for keeping film going and just keep to our own stuff. If they find people (like me… ) who buy their stuff, well, OK for them. This will definitely be the last one I buy from them. Hope it will not break down too soon cause I like it.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    April 1, 2016 at 6:21 am

    …and if you want a Lomo LC-A, buy a used russian one for much cheaper and enjoy it!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremy north
      April 1, 2016 at 8:59 am

      It’s not just the Hipster Tax (great name for it Blinx) I don’t like plastic cameras, I’d not have one if it were a free gift.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        April 1, 2016 at 9:56 am

        Hey, Jeremy, there you go and insult my XA2 ; -)

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Frank Lehnen
          April 1, 2016 at 9:59 am

          …. but to make it clear, the Lomo (and Olympus XA2) are mostly plastic, but still a far cry from the real plastic only contraptions like the Holga or other Lomography Sprocket Rockets and Konstruktors

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    Reply
    Blinx
    April 1, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Add me to Meh list. It’s not that I don’t like FSU cameras, I owned many of the originals, but the whole point is they were cheap and cheerful and when they broke (which they often did), you threw them away and bought another. It’s isn’t as though Lomography are putting magnesium chassis and brass bearings in these things to justify the tenfold price increases, it’s simply a hipster tax. The world is not short of affordable manual point and shoot cameras, but I suspect applying such practicality and logic is to miss the point, and I’m not Lomo’s target market.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    April 1, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Hehe Blinx, I like the ‘Hipster Tax’ part!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    April 13, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    The original Lomo LC-A is one of the best cameras I’ve ever bought. It’s robust (though the early ones feel much more solid in the hand than later examples, I’ve noticed), neatly designed and very compact. It’s also a very reliable camera once you know it’s weaknesses, the main one being that it doesn’t handle scenes with a lot of contrast very well. This is a side effect of its rather rudimentary metering system; the LC-A holds the shutter open until a given amount of light has hit the meter. That means whenever something is silhoutted against the sky, the Lomo underexposes horribly. That’s really its only major weakness though, and whenever I need something quick and reliable to shoot with, it’s the LC-A I reach for. I actually prefer the LC-A’s focus zones to the XA2’s for street photography.

    Optically it’s flawed, but in an interesting way. The Minitar has good central sharpness and in combination with its tendency to vignette and soften in the corners, produces photos that naturally draw the eye to your subject. It also has a surprisingly wide aperture, so is capable of isolating a subject well and producing quite nice bokeh (although in my experience, it only actually does this in low light or when you least expect it). The Lomo’s marmite feature is pincushion distortion so strong it borders on comical. Again, I think it serves to highlight the centre of the frame, but it doesn’t half make any horizontal lines look weird.

    In spite of all that, though, I just don’t see the point of the LC-A+. It has a few extra features, but none of them are particularly useful. It’s not as well built as the original and its lens is a copy, not the real thing. The price for a new one is eye-watering and didn’t really make sense when old LC-As were going for £80-£120 on eBay. The bottom has dropped out of that market in the past couple of years, such as you’ll be able to get one for around £40 now. Frankly, that’s a bargain. You could buy a used one, send it to Roger Lean for a full service and still save £150 over the price of a new one.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      April 13, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      You’re right!

      I did mess up again buying a +. Just thought about the warranty and a guaranteed scratch and fungus-free lens… Guess I was wrong.

      While rewinding the last film I had to keep the rewind button depressed, it always popped out and the camera ripped some sprocket holes. It’s a piece of trash.

      I would have done better buying a fair old one and have it CLA’d by Roger Lean!

      But it’s a helluva camera and the focus zones are really way better than on the XA2 (sorry XA2, still love you!).

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    April 14, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I think the XA2 is objectively a better camera in almost every way, but I just find the shorter zones on the Lomo easier to work with: My arm+20cm, my height, twice my height.

    The Lomo has that kind of weird alchemy going on that tends to make things look interesting regardless of whether the photo is any good or not. Like cross processing, it’s a useful tool but one that can make you lazy as a photographer.

    I also really hope Roger Lean is still providing his service. It’s a few years since I last used him and his web presence is almost non-existent.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      April 14, 2016 at 11:52 am

      I’ll see what I’m going to do… if I switch to a real Lomo I’ll try to see if Roger is still in business…. according to some photographs on flickr he seems quite young, so hopefully not retired.

      I guess I’ll bugger the Lomographists soon to get my Lomo repaired if the fault is consistent (I’ll check). Then I might sell it off with the nice box, book and stuff to some unwary hipster and get a good old russian one. Have it CLA’d by Roger and be happy.

      And right, the focus zones feel natural to me too, much more so than on the XA. I hardly have a pic out of focus with the Lomo while that happens more often on the XA.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Alan D
        April 14, 2016 at 10:17 pm

        Frank
        Roger is very much on the go and a national treasure. He did a couple of LC-A’s for me in October. He doesn’t do the web so you’ll need to get his number from the web. It might be worth asking him re your LC-A+ if it’s out of warranty too but bear in mind he is doesn’t like straying from familiar territory.

        The LC-A does seem more solid than the LC-A+ (my original one has survived being dropped onto concrete several times although Mr Lean has had to see to it) from both your post and others. There’s also the issue about the flash setting (LC-A does a standard 1/60 you set the aperture, the LC-A+ shoots as if no flash – the so called curtain flash)

        Your article and the prior XA2 one raise the issues of these 2 cameras often in comparison. To me a working LC-A is marginally better than a psuedo zone focus XA2 with it’s proprietary only flash option but things are close. The sad thing is you can buy between 8 and 16 XA2 for the cost of a cheap and then CLA’d by Roger LC-A .

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 15, 2016 at 11:16 am

          Nice to see you poking your head round the door Alan 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    May 21, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I’ve added a little update to this post…. I’ve gone and sold the Lomography abomination that passes for a Lomo LC-A! Too cheap feeling…. and cheaply built. Absolutely no confidence in it, despite the warranty.

    I bought a new one (well, an old one actually, and russian built) on eBay and just hope for the best (reputable seller from U.K. and apparently CLA’d).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Alan Duncan
      May 21, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Frank as I said before keep Roger Lean in mind (national treasure he is). Both my LC-A needed seeing to after buying and he is not only good but incredibly cheap. He has no on line presence so you’ll be best googling “Roger lean Russian camera repair”

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    May 23, 2016 at 3:18 am

    Thanks again, Alan. I have his contact information here if ever…,

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    June 18, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I sold the LC-A+, at a loss of course, and bought a real Lomo LC-A as I said earlier. It arrived some days ago and I’m Real happy with it!

    Please NEVER buy the super expensive Lomography LC-A+ as it’s just a pile of crap, really. Warranty or no, it’s not worth it!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jojonas
      November 23, 2016 at 9:30 am

      so in short the new + version was too cheaply made to be of use? can you give any more comparisons now that you’ve used both?

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        November 23, 2016 at 10:55 am

        The new LC-A is cheaply made, or at least it feels cheaper. But notwithstanding it is usable! I just didn’t bond with it. The old one’s focus lever feels sturdier, the backdoor latch IS working smoother and the hotshoe did never fall off as in my new one….. 😉

        • Avatar
          Reply
          jojonas
          November 24, 2016 at 9:35 am

          The hotshoe seems to be a design problem as I’ve had that happen too on my original LC-A (or atleast, parts of it). The focus lever is a worry though, as I’ve come to rely on the feeling it gives when it comes into position for the different distances.

  • Reply
    Bouncing the Lomo - 7 Alternatives to the LC-A - Guest post by Alan Duncan - 35mmc
    July 12, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    […] zone or fixed focus. I’ve left out the LC-A+ as it is too pricey & close to the original, abet more shoddy if you’ve read Frank Lehnen post, as well as its other siblings the LC-A wide and 120. I reviewed all of the cameras below in more […]

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