lc-a

LOMO LC-A

I first heard of the LOMO LC-A camera on a rock climbing discussion website in the summer of 2005 when someone posted that the LC-A was the perfect camera to carry climbing. It was compact, they said, took great photographs and was very cheap. The camera is compact (kind of) and it definitely takes great photographs but cheap it is not. At least, not when compared to similar compact cameras. LOMO LC-A

Originally, the 35mm Lomo LC-A (a.k.a. Kompact Automat) was produced by LOMO,  Leningradskoye Optiko Mechanichesckoye Obyedinenie (Leningrad Optical & Mechanical Enterprise) in Russia in 1984. It bears a striking resemblance to the Cosina CX2 which LOMO copied to create the camera for the masses in what was then the USSR.

The lens has a focal length of 32mm with focusing done by moving a lever on the side to focus at either 3 feet, 4.5 feet, 10 feet or infinity. The lever on the other side controls exposure with an "A" setting for auto exposure and apertures between f/2.8 and f/16 which use a shutter speed of 1/60s. The camera accepts film with speeds of 25 to 400 ISO. (Older versions of the camera do have the speed setting in the GOST standard however.)

LC-A 1s

The camera became a bit of a cult phenomenon after two Viennese students discovered the camera in 1991 while on a trip to Prague. They went on to found the Lomographic Society International (LSI), coined the phrase "Lomography" and successfully marketed the camera with a lot of hype.

But with all hype aside, this camera truly is a nice camera to use. The lens is sharp and there is a nice vignette to give that old time vintage feel. There is also something cool about the sound of the shutter going off - a nice "ping".

LC-A 2s

LC-A 3s

LOMO stopped producing the LC-A in 2005. To fill the gap, LSI created a remake called the LC-A+ which was made by Phenix Optical Company in China. Originally, all LC-A+ cameras came with a LOMO produced lens but in July 2007, most LC-A+ cameras started to be made with Chinese lenses with only a few cameras still using LOMO lenses. Those LOMO lens cameras then became known as LC-A + RL (for Russian Lens).

LC-A 4s

While I can think of better cameras to take rock climbing, the Lomo LC-A is one of my favorite cameras and you can see more of my Lomo shots in my '35mm Snapshot' set on Flickr.

How to Get The "Lomo" Look

Browsing the web recently, I came across a post on the web that said "I wanted to take photos from my 20D and give them the Lomo look and feel". It then went on to describe a method in Photoshop on how to achieve the "the Lomo look and feel". Over the past few years I have read many such posts and seen many forum discussions taking about the "Lomo look" and how to get it without using an actual LOMO camera.

This got me thinking. Not about how to fake the look but what exactly is the "Lomo look"?

First of all, for those of you that don't know, LOMO is an optical company based in Russia. LOMO designs and manufactures optical instruments such as microscopes, night vision devices and telescopes.  They also used to produce cameras but about 4 or 5 years ago, they stopped doing this. The most famous camera they made is the LOMO LC-A.

Many times, when people buy LC-As or the Chinese replica they are disappointed when the first roll comes back from the lab. Some examples from Flickr.com:-

"I just got my first two rolls developed ... and there doesn't appear to be any sign of vignettes"

"...none of the special quirks linked with shots from the lomo, just looked like any other shots"

I have to admit when I got my first roll back I too was a little disappointed. Where were all those wild colors I saw on Flickr and on camera retailer, Lomographic Society International's website? My shots were all kind of normal looking. What was I doing wrong?

The problem here is that there is a misconception that the saturated, contrasty look is a result of the Lomo camera itself. Turns out that is not really the case. Here are a few more photos to illustrate that. These were all taken with a LOMO LC-A. Do they have the "Lomo look"?

If you were to ask someone, which of these is the "Lomo look" I think most people would say the last one. The first was taken using black and white film, the second is plain old regular negative film. But the last photograph is slide film cross processed as negative film.

It is this cross processing that I feel most people associate with the "Lomo look". Now, there is a noticeable vignette on all these photos and this definitely is also part of the look but the cross processing increases the contrast which in turn accentuates the vignette so both effects are related.

Here is another photo I have taken which I think has some of the attributes that people class as "Lomo".

But this wasn't taken with a LOMO at all. It was taken with an Olympus XA2 and cross processed. So is the "Lomo look" also the "XA2" look?

So my conclusion is this: The "Lomo look" has less to do with the camera than it does how you process your film. Cross process slide film in negative film chemistry and you will be closer to getting that famous "Lomo look".