Lomography, the Austrian company recreating vintage cameras, embraces an attitude to photography that resonates with me – they say it’s all about making photography an integral part of your life and enjoying the process rather than the end result. At the same time, they are doing things that seems like consumerism gone mad – do people really want to buy a gazillion differently-coloured versions of the same camera, for instance?
But before I knew anything at all about Lomography, I bought their medium-format Diana+, as my first foray back into film after a long digital period. This is truly a gem of a camera!
The settings are of course quite limited – three aperture settings only – so good light is very important, but I’ve had stunning results in all sorts of conditions, in summer…
…and even in heavy fog, all with a vignetting with an organic feel that no digital processing can recreate.
Manually winding the film means you can easily do double exposures…
All you have to do is to tape tinfoil over the window in the back of the camera and put bubble-wrap in the left-hand compartment to keep the film canister in place. The film is wound around an empty medium format spool on the right-hand side. When you have shot the entire roll, you’ll need to rewind the film by hand somewhere entirely dark.
Shooting 35mm film like this will expose the sprocket holes, so you need a lab that knows what they’re doing if you want them to scan the negatives for you. My lab unfortunately uses a scanner that does not include the sprocket holes in the scan, and so I keep thinking I need to figure out how to scan my own negatives the way I want them. Or find a new lab.
Since the camera is built for medium format film, you won’t know exactly how much to wind 35mm film between each shot. However, you can easily find calculation tables that tell you approximately how many turns of the knob depending on where on the film you are. There is big potential here for accidental and partial double exposures, in other words – and this was probably the reason why the lab once rang me up to ask me what to do about my “oddly exposed” roll of film. (I do need to find a new lab!)
There are many more experiments to try with a Diana if you’re so inclined. One thing I plan to do at some point is to remove the lens and use it as a pinhole camera.
I’ve also bought Photojojo’s adapter that lets me put the Diana lens on my dSLR. I’m not really comfortable with shooting with this yet, but I don’t plan to give up – check out SuperDewa’s set to see why it’s worth persevering with.
The only disadvantage to this camera that I can think of is the potential for light leaks. This is a plastic toy camera after all, so you can easily get light through the cracks where the camera fits together. One way around this problem is to tape it shut after loading it with a new roll of film. I’ve not done this yet, being somewhat ambivalent about light leaks – sometimes I love them, and sometimes I find them distracting and just too much.
So my final point is this: if you’re tempted by the glossy Lomography items, stick to the basics and get a Diana.