Digital LOMO - Has Hell Frozen Over Again?

In October 2003, Apple proudly announced "Hell Freezes Over" with the launch of the iTunes Music Store for Windows. The unthinkable had happened. Apple was making software for their arch enemy's operating system and the world was coming to an end. So with the recent announcement by Lomographic Society International that they will move into the digital photography realm, is there a cold front moving through hell once again?

For those that don't know, Lomographic Society International (LSI) is a company based in Austria that sells photographic equipment and accessories. They started out as a distributor for cameras they bought on the cheap from Russian optics company LOMO but over the years they started to create their own plastic "toy" cameras and even created a replica of the famous LOMO LC-A when the LOMO company stopped producing the camera themselves. The one thing that distinguished LSI from many other camera retailers was that they only sold film based cameras.

Long bashed (hated even) for what some people perceived as inflated prices and alleged aggressive marketing techniques, LSI was often defended in online forums because "they helped in the sale of film." With the rise in digital photography, many other retailers were pushing their film offerings to the bargain bin in the corner of the store but LSI continued to promote film photography as something trendy and chic and here to stay. Their marketing techniques were quite successful with a whole generation of users who grew up with digital cameras but were now making the switch to film based photography. LSI coined the phrases "Lomography" and "Lomographer" and the Urban Outfitters crowd all wanted to be a part of the scene.

LSI wasn't the only company focusing on film of course, but they were one of the more succesful companies in enticing young people into film photography for the first time and older photographers back after their switch to digital technologies.

But is all that now about to change? With the recent LSI announcement about the introduction of a new digital camera, it would appear so. Called the LC-D, this new compact digital camera is based on the iconic LOMO LC-A. In fact, it uses the same body as the LC-A+, the lC-A replica manufactured by Phenix Optical Company. The new camera has a 7.1 megapixel sensor and has built in x-pro, B&W and "enhanced vignette" modes. Unlike regular compact digital cameras, the LC-D still uses the zone focus mechanism of the LC-A and also allows double exposures like it's film based cousin, the LC-A+.

This isn't the first time a predominently film based company dipped their toes into the digital pond. In May 2008, another film hold out, Unsaleable.com, sent a newsletter via their Polanoid.net website announcing a new digital printer from Polaroid called the PoGo (see the newsletter here.)  "horrid, horrid from Polanoid.net" stated one post in the Polaroid Flickr group but it was easy to see why Unsaleable were looking at the PoGo printer. When Polaroid announced that they would stop making instant film, the end for Unsaleable's business was in sight. With only Fuji making instant film for a limited number of cameras, the bulk of the business would have ceased to exist due to lack of supply.

However, rather than heavily investing in digital photography, Unsaleable, now called Polapremium, instead invested in last run lots of various Polaroid film types and have been very successful in keeping analogue Polaroid film alive, at least for now. 

In the LSI case the situation is different. It is difficult to see exactly what the motivation behind the LSI move. There is currently no problem with 35mm or 120 film supply. It is true that some manufacturers are stopping production of specific film products but there are still plenty of brands available. Some new lines have even been introduced in recent months. Perhaps this is a way for LSI to increase their market share again. With a digital option now available for both existing and would be "Lomographers", there is no longer a reason to buy the more confusing film equipment to be part of the Lomography club. If you can be part of the same tribe and get the same effects without having to send your film off to be developed, why spend the time and money on the older cameras?

Back in October 2003, the world did not end and hell warmed up quite nicely. In fact, iTunes changed the way many people obtain their music, their news and their TV. A positive change in my opinion. But I'm not so sure about this change. Hell freezing over is a long shot. LSI is not Apple in it's reach but there may be some minor changes in the world of film, and down at the Urban Outfitters store.

Update: OK, so this was an Aprils Fools Joke. Lame? Yes. But could it happen some day...?


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.

LOMO LC-A Book (Blatant Self Promotion)

My complimentary copy of the Lomographic Society's LOMO LC-A book arrived today and I have to say it is very impressive. It is huge with over 660 pages and more than 3000 photographs. I quickly browsed through it and found four of my photos included (although one of them is a small one on the back cover.)

The book is on sale for $100 and I have to admit it is probably worth it. A lot of work went into the production of the book.

LOMO LC-A Book (Blatant Self Promotion)

In the photograph here, the cityscape (bottom left) is mine (click through the photo to see the others).

Link: LOMO LC-A Book.

Hot Shots by Lomokev

If you frequent Flickr.com there is no doubt you will have heard of Lomokev, aka Kevin Meredith. It was one of his photographs that convinced me to buy a LOMO LC-A a few years ago. (That photo of Imogen Heap on a bicycle that was on the login page of Flickr for years.)

This month, Lomokev publishes a book called "Hot Shots". Check out the preview below.

The book won't be available in the US until March 2009 but Amazon Canada have a October 1st release date so if you can't wait until next year you can order it from across the border.

If you have never heard of Lomokev check out his Flickr photo stream.

From The Flickr Archives : PCC Streamliner #1063

This one was taken a year ago in San Fransisco. The photo is one of an old street car. Streetcar #1063 to be exact. It originally served Philadelphia from 1948 to 1992 before moving to San Francisco to run on the Historic F-Line. PCC Streamliner #1063

Streetcar #1063 is actually currently painted in the color scheme of Baltimore streetcars. More from streetcar.org.

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".

Harmony Motel

Harmony Motel, originally uploaded by Dave Dunne.

Last weekend I finished up a 24 exposure roll of Fuji Sensia 400 in my LOMO LC-A but I couldn't remember what was at the beginning of the roll. It was a nice surprise to find some photos from a road trip I took to Joshua Tree National Park last winter.

This photo is from the town of Twentynine Palms just outside the park.

Double Exposure Experiment

A few weekends ago I did a double exposure experiment with my LC-A. Here is what I did:-

1. I used 100ASA Revue slide film but set the ASA dial to 200 on the LC-A, thereby underexposing by one stop to account for the fact that the film would be exposed twice. 2. I loaded the film and with a “wax pencil” I drew a line on the film where it engaged the sprocket on the bottom. 3. After I shot the roll, I wound the film back but when I felt the film go loose, I stopped rewinding. 4. I reloaded the film trying to get the line I had drawn as close as I could to the sprocket again. 5. After running the film through for a second time I had it cross processed.

The frames from each pass didn’t line up exactly but they were close enough.

This is one of the photos I shot.

Heart in San Francisco and Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here A line written on many a postcard, but interpretation is the key. A desire, a temptation, a burning question, or a bit of irony? Maybe you like to tease and are a little tongue-in-cheek? Or full of longing and sincerity-with a shot to make us weep?

That was the “mission brief” for last months Lomography Lomo Mission. This photo was one of the runners up.