I saw this on Facebook Marketplace for a very reasonable price and thought it would make a nice addition to my “Diana” bag. In that bag, I have all the available lenses including the fisheye, plus the Instax back, flash and adapter. You would think I love Lomography, but to be truthful in terms of toy cameras I prefer Holgas. Would this tiny little camera change my mind?
The Lomography Diana Mini is based on a toy camera from the 1960s. You can read about that here which has lots of details and introduced me to Nancy Rexroth. Along with this version, there are many other clones of the original Diana. I would like to try one of those some time.
Mine came in the original box with everything including the flash. Unfortunately the flash still had a battery inside that had swelled so much that it was completely stuck. I love a challenge. There were no screws or fasteners on the flash to gain access to the compartment. So I decided to be bold. I made a hole in the side of the battery attached a hook type thing and pulled the damn thing out causing a tiny bit more damage to the flash. Looking inside the compartment I could see there was crud everywhere, there was no way this flash would work again. But…I love a challenge. So I cleaned it up best I could and put in fresh batteries. Finally, I could hear a slight high pitched sound coming from the unit when turned on. Well, maybe it would work?? I pressed the button on the back and the whole thing exploded in my hands, luckily not a violent explosion but enough to give me a bit of a fright, so I put the unit in the bin. I have another lomography flash in my bag, and the adapter that accepts regular flashes. There was no point in taking any more risks. After that I decided not to even use a flash on the camera for a while.
The Mini can switch between half-frame and a weird square format. So it can take 36 or 72 images. But here is the thing, it can switch mid roll. The Diana F+ can change formats, but you have to add a mask and make your choice before loading. For the mini, you can switch after a shot, before you cock the shutter for the next one. Just make sure you take a blank shot against your leg or something before continuing.
After developing the roll, I found the square format even weirder as the camera’s advance mechanism moves the film forward enough for a regular 35mm shot. Meaning there is a lot of wasted film between images. For the half-frame the images are very close together, that is probably the reason. It is a simple camera so to save film for the square ones would take more mechanics. The camera has two exposure settings and two aperture settings.
Speeds: probably 1/60th and bulb
Apertures: Cloudy and Sunny, f8 and f11
There is also a cable release slot, so that puts it above the Holga Pinhole which “forgot” that important item.
And finally there is the zone focusing on the front of the lens, which is very hard to see, you have to fiddle with it to be sure where it is set.
As with most toy cameras, there is scope to play around, such as double exposures. This great post shows some examples of using the overlap feature to create panoramic images. I might try that in the future. For my first play around I put in a roll of Fomapan 400 film and carried it around for a while.
I mainly stuck to the square format as I have not seen it before, plus I tend to dislike half-frame cameras. I wandered around Slaithwaite and Eyam, the latter having an amazing historical relevance to our current world situation. I like the results 🙂
I played with a couple of shots on Snapseed, which I think is more appropriate for toy camera images. Here is my friend getting annoyed with me on a socially distanced walk.
I often look through all my cameras and images on Instagram, I sometimes lament that I don’t have an individual style. Then I see images like the ones in Iowa and realise the images of my own that I like the best are the ones like these. The dark and contrasty ones, the ones that lack sharpness. The ones with the dreamy-like appearance. Oh and while researching that book, I found this YouTube Feed with someone looking through various photography books, including Iowa. I have now subscribed. He also reviewed this camera.
Anyway, I recently sold my Nikon F2 due to covid times and for the first time I didn’t regret it as much as I thought I would. The person who bought it was so happy that I gained some of his happiness I suppose, but I realized that I was also more excited to use this tiny little toy camera. Sacrilege to some, but I am at ease with that…for the moment.
As for this camera, I like it, but still prefer the Holga 135. But I have a feeling I will be using toy cameras more and more in the future.