Here it is, one of the original Soviet 'lomo' cameras. This specific one is the Smena 8m, a gem from the 70's. It is a 35mm camera with a fixed f4 43mm lens, capable of achieving a whopping 1/250 sec shutter speed. You can read all about it at SovietCAMS.
It was one of the very first film cameras gifted to me by loved ones and acquaintances, and I am really pleased with it. As usual, I popped in my test film of choice, the AgfaPhoto Vista 200 and took it out for a walk on the south bank of the Thames. Not however before they both posed for the group portrait above.
Ah!, I lie. I first watched a million 'how to' YouTube videos. Despite it being termed an 'entry level toy camera', I found it completely baffling at first for whatever reason. For such a simple camera, there just seemed to be too much information on it. There are the B - 250 speed markings, but also the 'user friendly' weather icons for cloudy - sunny. There are the actual focusing distances as well as the icons, again supposedly for the unwashed masses. Once I figured that out, I learned to ignore the [ironically confusing] icons and look at the numbers I'm used to - F stops and speeds.
So this camera is quirky as hell, and I hit a quirk on my very first shot. It is way too easy to obstruct the shutter cock with a finger, effectively over-exposing the shot for however long it takes you to realise it. I was lucky the shot below came out at all - which kind of suggests I was under-exposing the scene in the first place. As with all film camera quirks however, it can be seen as a feature. The 'motion blur function' I guess. So psychedelic.
Quirk number 2 - Light leaks galore! One would think 'lomo' was Russian for LightleaksЯus :)
Ok. So the light leaks aren't quirks per say, and could probably be fixed easily, but because the entire body of this camera is plastic, it hasn't done very well over the years of abuse it has got [my one has seen a lot of use]. The cold shoe at the top is missing, but there are three suspicious looking holes in its stead that may be allowing light into the camera. I should have taped them over, but hey.
The third quirk is now most definitely a feature. Double exposure. It's so very easy to [deliberately] forget to advance the film to the next fame before taking another shot, resulting in state of the art analogue picture in picture. +Helen Briggs Film Photography would be proud.
Quirk 4 - the zone focusing on this camera is seriously hit and miss. To be fair, it may be due to user error, but I'm not one to self-incriminate. I will lump in the fifth quirk here too - the viewfinder - which bares no relation what so ever to what the lens is seeing - can someone say parallax error? Amen. Perhaps this thing is what inspired the "Don't think just shoot" mantra of Lomography :)
The above quirks notwithstanding, it is an extremely fun camera to shoot with once you've got used to it. And under the perfect conditions, it's capable of producing Leica-like photos! [I'm doing a Ken Rockwell]. But seriously, it can produce good results if the stars align.
Anyone else got a Smena 8M? What are your experiences with this little thing? gem or mini trash can?