Lomo Instant review

LomoInstant-BannerLomography’s Lomo’Instant is the most advanced instant camera yet, and the result of a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign.

With the rise of the selfie and concerns over cloud storage of digital snaps, Polaroid-esque instant cameras have made something of a comeback. This model from analogue camera expert Lomography is the latest version to hit the shops, but what sets it apart from the others?

The Lomo’Instant offers far more control than you get with any other instant camera, including a selection of removable lenses, different shooting modes, aperture control and the ability to take multiple exposures.

The first models went out to Kickstarter backers in October, and the Lomo’Instant is now available to everyone.

Lomo’Instant – Design and Handling

The Lomo’Instant sports a pleasingly retro design, although the box-like design means that it’s rather bulky. With the exception of the incredibly cool Fujifilm Instax Mini 90, instant cameras in recent years have tended to feature slightly ugly, uninspiring designs, but the Lomo’Instant is cool and blocky.

The camera sports a similar faux-leather covering to the Lomography Lomokino and Belair models, and is available in black or white. There’s also a model that’s covered real brown leather with a slightly higher price tag of £109. We like the white version best, as its shows off the minimalist design more, but the finish is rather prone to picking up marks and scuffs, and there’s no protective case available to keep it in.

The only accessory that is available – aside from the optional lenses which we’ll look at in more detail later – is a shoulder strap (£8.90), which is good news as it makes the hefty camera slightly less cumbersome.

As with most Lomography cameras, physical controls are kept to a minimum, but these all feel well placed and intuitive.

Lomo’Instant – Controls and Features

The key control that you’ll need to get to grips with is the mode switch, which enables you to choose between having the flash on, off or on auto, where a sensor will automatically set the flash to the most suitable level based on the ambient light…

You can read the rest of the article at TrustedReviews (originally published 23 November 2014).

30 ways to hack your next roll of film

Liana camerasThe glory of good ol’ fashioned film photography is that you never know exactly what results you’re going to get. There’s no handy LCD screen on which to review your shots, so you’re completely at the mercy of your film — though half the fun is that any mistakes can be passed off as intentionally-arty effects. Here are some top tips to get you started…

Kit

1. The cost of buying and processing film may be relatively high to those who are used to fitting hundreds of snaps onto an SD card, but the camera itself needn’t cost you the Earth. Analogue specialist Lomography offers a wide selection of low-cost film cameras such as the sub-£50 Diana Mini and wide-angle La Sardina, or you can get yourself a Holga or Blackbird if you’ve got a bit more budget to play with. Most of the top camera brands are digital-only nowadays, but you can pick up second-hand units such as the popular Canon AV-1 on eBay or in specialist camera shops.

2. If you’re after steady, quality shots, then using a tripod is a no-brainer. Most cameras sport a standard tripod mount on the underside making it easier to simply fit your accessory of choice. Pro tripods will cost you a fair few pennies but there are plenty of cheaper options around, not least Joby’s wide range of flexible Gorillapod tripods which can be adjusted to suit their surroundings and won’t break the bank either.

3. An easy way to add a splash of colour to your snaps is to make use of a colour filter on the flash. Some flash models will come with their own set of colour gels or you can pick up a cheap set like these colour lens and flash filters from Photojojo, which as the name suggests, can also be held over the lens for colourful effect. Alternatively you can make your own filters for next to nothing using coloured sweet wrappers or by colouring a piece of sticky tape or clear plastic with a marker pen.

4. Investing in some extra lenses is a good idea, even if you’ve only got a lo-fi toy camera. Even if it’s a fixed focus snapper, attaching a close-up, wide-angle or fish-eye lens using gaffer tape can produce some surprisingly good results (although it might make you look like you’ve lost the plot slightly).

5. Instant cameras make a nice retro-flavoured addition to your camera collection, whether that’s a vintagePolaroid SX-70 or a brand new Fujifilm Instax 210. Alternatively, Lomography sells instant backs for itsLC-A+ and Diana+ models, which can be easily fitted and offer you Polaroid-style snaps (albeit the size of a credit card), without the hassle of getting the film processed.

6. Getting yourself a negative scanner could well save you a lot of pennies as you’ll only need to pay the photo lab for processing. There are plenty of models to choose from, ranging from budget negative scanners for under £50 to multi-function flatbed scanners that can be used for documents and photos as well.

Film

7. You can get all kinds of camera film, although it’s not quite as readily available as it once was. There are still limited supplies available in most chemists and camera shops, but specialist shops, like the Lomography stores, are your best bet. It’s also worth having a scout around on eBay for expired film. It may be out of date, but it’ll still work and you might even get some fancy effects that you weren’t expecting.

8. When choosing which film to use, it’s important to check the ISO, which refers to the speed of the film. The higher the number, the faster the film. If you’re shooting on a gloomy day then it’s best to go for a high ISO (800 and over), while you’ll need a very sunny day to get any decent results from a film with a low rating (100 and under). Film with an ISO rating of 400 is a safe middle-ground for most conditions.

9. If you want some cool results, then try to think beyond the classic colour neg film. Black and white film will give you moody monochrome shots, while slide film offers striking colour saturation for a bold, arty look. It’s also worth checking out redscale film which will give your snaps a nostalgic orangey-red glow.

10. Colour infrared film is notoriously hard to track down these days since Kodak stopped making it a few years back, and it now only occasionally turns up on eBay. Originally designed for aerial photography,colour infrared film offers crazily bright colour combinations, especially when teamed with a suitable colour lens filter.

11. If you’re feeling extra brave, then try re-spooling and re-using your film. This will effectively give you two sets of shots on one film and it’s pure luck as to whether this will give you awesome results or just a big mess, which is part of the fun. All you need to do is rewind your film as you normally would, but leave a small section of film poking out of the canister. You can then simply re-load the film into your snapper (or a different camera if you want to mix up the results).

12. If you’ve got yourself a vintage Polaroid snapper then the only place you’re likely to find the genuine Polaroid instant film is on eBay. The good news is that the clever folk at The Impossible Project, formed by former Polaroid employees, offer a new generation of instant film, which can easily be picked up online or in specialist camera shops. You can also still buy Fujifilm instant film for use in its Instax Mini 7 (also re-badged as the Polaroid 300) as well as Lomography’s instant camera backs.

You can read the rest of the article on Gizmodo.co.uk (originally published 05/12/11) and it also appears on Lomography.com.

Image credit: Golfpunkgirl

The Disposable Memory Project

Disposable Memory ProjectWhen the nice folk at Kodak asked if I wanted to get involved with the Disposable Memory Project, I jumped at the chance, given that I’m a huge fan of film photography. The Kodak chaps recently provided me with some disposable cameras for a feature where I spent seven days working only with film  – no digital allowed – so I was keen to get stuck in once again.

Established in April 2008, the Disposable Memory Project is a “global photography experiment” where throwaway cameras are passed on to others or left in public locations around the world.

Disposable Memory ProjectEach camera includes a message urging the finder to take a few pictures and then pass the snapper on. There are also instructions on where to return the camera to when the film is finished.

More than 350 camera have been released already and you can see the results from those that have made it safely home over at the Project’s website. So far, more than 70 countries have been visited, with the cameras racking up over 440,000 miles of travel between them.

Disposable Memory ProjectMy Kodak Ultra single-use camera started its journey in South London and spent a short time travelling around the Big Smoke before jetting off to Washington D.C in the US of A, courtesy of my mum. From there, who knows where it will end up. You can follow its progress on its own little tracking page.

If the Disposable Memory Project sounds like your kind of bag, then you can get involved yourself by contacting the chaps in charge or follow the Twitter feed on @foundacam.

7 Days living with…film photography

7 Days living with...film photographyAlmost everyone on Team Pocket-lint is a camera nut of some description but out of all of us with our various bits of high tech snapping kit, I’ve also got quite a strong collection of Lomo cameras. The question is though, is film still relevant beyond retro style photography? Does it still have a place in society and how much of a pain in the bum is to use now that we’re mollycoddled by the happy snapping ways of digital? I decided to find out in 7 days.

The challenge here was to go for an entire week without using any digital cameras whatsoever, including the one on my iPhone. My day-to-day camera, which was housed safely on my bookcase for the entire 7 days, is a Panasonic DMC-LX3 – the brand’s top-of-the-range compact from a couple of years ago which is nice and portable while also offering excellent picture quality, largely thanks to its fancy Leica lens. I also use a lot of film cameras, but they’re all lo-fi models (mostly Lomo) so the first step was to track down a decent film snapper to use for all the Pocket-lint reviews and hands-on work that I do. As it turns out, not an easy task.

After a lot of back and fourth with various brands, Nikon agreed to lend me an alarmingly expensive F6 SLR (around £1,500)  for the duration, along with a rather large AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm zoom lens worth something like the same again. I was also sent a Kodak Ultra Compact single-use camera, along with some film, while Polaroid loaned me one of its Polaroid 300 instant cameras. The film-based lineup was completed by my Lomography La Sardina.

Obviously, this isn’t a review of any of the cameras involved – it’s an account of life without a digital camera. My 7 days begins on Thursday – simply because the Nikon camera turned up at my door halfway through the week. Read on to find out what happened.

Thursday

Thanks to a week of very late nights staying up to follow the London riots on Sky News and Twitter (and praying that they wouldn’t come any closer to my home or those of my friends), the tail-end of the week was something of a struggle. On the agenda for Thursday was a review of the Philips Fidelio DS7700 iPad dock. Usually I would breeze through my review shots on my digital camera, checking them on the screen as I go, before transferring them to my computer and resizing them – all within about half an hour of setting up the kit. Not this time.

Naturally, all of the pictures needed to be snapped using the Nikon F6 and things took a bit longer when film was brought into the equation. After finally managing to load up a Kodak Gold ISO 200 colour film after several failed attempts and a substantial amount of swearing, I was finally ready to get stuck in. The F6 is a heavy camera at the best of times and even more so when you’re trying to balance an iPad dock in one hand and use the camera one-handed.

Philips DS7700 iPad dock

I’m not really a SLR aficionado, so I was at the mercy of the hastily Googled manual when it came to setting the camera’s controls. The fact that I couldn’t take a couple of test shots and look at them to check that the settings were correct before I got started was a major hassle. Having to finish the film off was also something of a pain. Using a well-practiced review routine, I can usually get the 10-15 shots that I need by taking around 20-25 of them on my digital camera. As this iPad dock was a relatively simple piece of kit with only a couple of buttons, there were only a certain amount of shots that I needed, but I had to keep going after that to finish off the film – taking up precious time and also making by arm ache from holding the F6.

Once finished, instead of just popping an SD card into my computer, I had to make the 10-minute saunter down to the local Boots to put my film in for one-hour processing, at a cost of £7.49 (I initially went into the nearby Snappy Snaps, who said that they’d be able to take care of my photos in an hour, but then backtracked when I presented them with a film and said that it would take three). Then I went back home for lunch before returning to pickup my disc of images, all the time praying that they were ok so that I wouldn’t have to repeat the entire process.

Thankfully, the pictures were mostly usable, although the review lacks a close-up shot of the Bluetooth and volume controls as none of my shots of these were sharp enough and I didn’t think that it was worth the cost of another film and more processing to put right this tiny detail (not to mention the time involved).

Polaroid from the LomoHub

After work, I moseyed on down to the Lomography store in Soho for a largely beer-based “tea party” to celebrate the new B&W Earl Grey & Lady Grey films. Being without a digital camera in the Lomo store is hardly unusual so I didn’t miss not being able to use one, and I took along the La Sardina and a Polaroid 300. I took a few shots, including this Poloroid snap (above) of myself, and fellow journos and Lomo users Kat and Laura.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 29/08/11).

Lomography La Sardina review

Lomography La SardinaWhen Lomography sent us a tin of sardines in the post with a message attached inviting us along to a sneak preview of its new camera, we were expecting some sort of waterproof model or perhaps even a fisheye snapper. The clue was in fact much more literal – with the Lomography La Sardina turning out to be a camera shaped like a sardine tin. While this may sound ludicrous, the odd shape is actually based on an old 1930s snapper – the Kandor Candid – made by the Irwin Corporation.

Along with the somewhat silly, yet endearing design, La Sardina also boasts a super-wide 22mm f/8 lens, while the flash has three different settings – a first for a Lomo camera. The design may be fun, but is the camera actually any good? We put it through its paces to see whether it would sink or swim.

Design

There are four different designs available – all based on sardine tins. You can choose from the green Marathon or the blue Sea Pride, both of which come with a price tag of £49 and no flashgun. To get the flash capability you’ll need to shell out £89 for the red El Capitan or the blue Fishers Fritze (we had the latter in for review). You can also pick up the Fritz the Blitz flash separately for £55. (For more images of the other designs, check out our hands-onfrom launch day.) While the build quality isn’t quite up to the standards set my the brand’s more expensive cameras, such as the LC-Wide, it’s reassuringly robust compared to the likes of the Diana Mini.

The camera chassis itself is relatively compact, although obviously the detachable flash, which fits on the side of the body, adds a fair bit of bulk. The lens board can be twisted into the body of the camera to make it more compact (simply turn it 45 degrees until it clicks), although you need to make sure that it’s fully extended for shooting. There’s a message on the extension that reads “Only shoot if you can see me!” – and as the shutter release won’t go when the lens is collapsed, this shouldn’t be a problem. Although a useful feature if space is at a premium in your bag (and to stop the camera going off by accident), we found that it was easier just to leave the lens extended all of the time, as it only takes up a few extra mm.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 05/08/11).

Lomography LC-Wide review

Lomography LC-WideAnalogue camera specialist Lomography recently expanded its classic LC-A lineup when it unveiled the LC-Wide, featuring a new wide angle lens and a choice of picture formats. The original LC-A was first manufactured 27 years ago and was then replaced by the LC-A+ in 2006. Packing a considerable heritage, the LC-Wide may be the most modern snapper to join the lineup, but how does it compare to the LC-A+ and is it worth trading up?

Measuring in at 108 x 68 x 44.5mm, the LC-Wide is pretty much the same size as its older sibling and feels just as sturdy in the hand. It tips the scales at 220g (not including the battery and film) which is more or less the same as the LC-A+. Although a fair bit larger than most modern digital cameras, the pleasingly chunky chassis is palm-sized so it won’t take up to too much room in your bag and its relative bulk actually means that it can be held far more comforably than many smaller cameras. The textured finish also means that there’s plenty of grip to keep it slipping from your hand and it also comes with a detachable wrist strip for extra safety.

In terms of looks, it boasts the same vintage asthetics as previous LC-A models with a few added touches to make it clear that this is an upgrade. The lens casing on the front of the camera is slightly wider to accomodate the new wide-angle 17mm lens, and the extra protrusion sports a thin red trim. Apart from these differences and a couple of very minor aesthetic additions (such as the text around the lens) the camera looks more or less the same as the LC-A+.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 21/06/11).

Hipstamatic – behind the lens

Hipstamatic iPhone appHere’s a feature that I wrote for Pocket-lint.com on the popular Hipstamatic iPhone app. My comments on the viral marketing aspect of the app are referenced on its Wikipedia page.

Do people want photographic prints anymore? Prints are expensive, they fade and all they do is create heavy boxes to carry from home to home throughout our lives when they’re not gathering dust in the attic. Prints are old. So, does anyone care anymore?

“We do”, says Mario Estrada, community director of Hipstamatic, “they’re awesome to shuffle through. I remember being a kid and pouring through my parents shoe box of old prints and I miss that. I want that experience. I don’t want to be old and have to redirect my grandchildren to Facebook to look at my pictures”.

It’s a point that hits undeniable warm notes of nostalgia – one that’s hard to argue with when it’s the very same feeling that’s made Hipstamatic one of the most downloaded apps for iPhone – 1.4 million mobile users worldwide and counting. In the same way that cult brand Lomography is enjoying success with its analogue, film-based snappers, Hipstamatic is getting the same effect in digital form, but the latest move to introduce the HipstaMart Print Lab service – offering genuine, old-school prints made from your mobile camera shots – brings the whole ethos full circle. So, where did the idea of this low grade retro look digital camera application come from in the first place? Estrada explains:

“We heard a story about a plastic camera that once existed and we liked it”.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 16/11/10).