LSI policy: Oyster & Champagne or Currywurst & Beer?

Crédits: ck_berlin

Is there any offer in between oyster and currywurst? I guess not. What is offered is the low-budget DIY Konstruktor or the New Russar+. The low-budget 110 series or the Petzval. The Orca or the Purple. Is LSI a bit off-track?

This question is not easy to answer. Even though I’m critical I don’t want to condemn LSI for their latest products. Anyway I think it is the right time to make up my mind about the current direction of lomography.

Crédits: susielomovitz

Without any doubt the latest new products are for photography addicts with a pretty high salary or budget. Reading some comments of LSI-members in the articles about the introduction of the products or the shoutbox these products were made to attract new user and clients. And probably more important but not mentioned: to make some more money. But let’s face some facts or let’s say impressions about user being around. Well, impressions subjectively biased by me as user for maybe 3 years and lomographer for about 17 years.
Getting in touch with some user and reading between the lines of comments and Shoutbox entries I’m pretty convinced that the vast part of the active community members are not the ones the new products are made for. I read of students from europe and members of countries with an pretty active local community where a Petzval lens is worth about 4 or 5 months wages. Sure it is the same old story: ruler of a global community can not really consider such facts as there is no financial solidarity because community members from richer countries might have a weak paid job too and so it would be unfair to have something like this.
So the question is if LSI does really go for new members with lenses like the Petzval or Russar? I really doubt that this is the case. For sure they get new customers but I claim without any significant effect on the analogue community on!

Crédits: clickiemcpete

You might want quickly second this claim from a personal feeling. But again let me tell you what I think about it. It is an analogue community which is pretty much neglecting digital photography. One of the main reasons they use as a platform is because those plenty of open but mainly digital photo communities out there are not considering the affinity of analogue. So what LSI does is produce a lens mainly for DSLR and therefore mainly for user of other platforms. The Russar lens is maybe even more for different user even though it is more connected to analogue photography. The reason why is not only the price you have to pay for the lens. It’s the price you have to pay for a camera to use it. The Leica cams or Sony do cost about the same price as the lens or even more. I guess the cheapest cam to use it is the FED 4 but why the heck would you buy a 600€ lens to use it with a 30€ cam? It is a complete different species of photographers who are attracted by the Petzval and Russar.
Meaning both lenses – the Petzval and Russar – are products for photogrophay connaisseurs and addicts with a high budget and the statements of LSI do show this. But I am convinced that there are only few connaisseurs who upload their photos shot with a 600 to 1000€ cam with a 600€ lens of which they might think are technically and qualitative a galaxy away of the diana baby on the same platform.

New customers for LSI: Yes.
New active community members: No.

Crédits: grazie

Anyway I’m fine with the products but it’s just not for me. But then again I ask myself why LSi does not work over a good concept such as the Belair camera and make it a perfect product. A product to set a mark. Currently it is a cam with great concept which is badly implemented.
And even though the Belair is about in the middle of the price range of the latest products I do miss a biased range of new products in matters of the costs and quality. We get pretty cheap products and very expensive ones.
I don’t want to assume if this is wrong or right – not only because I’m not in the position to do so because of missing insights. But I’m a bit concerned about the direction. Currently the traditional messages, rules and character of is to contravene the behaviour to explore new markets and attract new clients.

Crédits: vici

This whole development is to some degree alarming. You need to be an “addict” to be into analogue. And you need to find those people who believe in the message of analogue and see the value and beauty of it. So “selling” “Leave the digital grind behind” is much more complicated than selling products and making money. And we have to accept that every $ or € transports a universal message which includes the beauty and value of analogue.

written by bloomchen on 2014-04-11


  1. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    I think LSI is just trying to attract new costumers into analogue photography. A short browse on Flickr comments you'd know the outside world thinks Lomography = crappy plastic products that fall apart within 6 months. Perhaps this new emphasis on QUALITY is LSI's attempt to change that perception? Lomo now wants to being taken seriously? Although the Belair pictures have been less than spectacular, the LSI did get lots of street cred for putting out a new folding camera. Medium format? Film? This day and age? It's just unheard of. I'm hoping that in this whole process of trial and error, LSI can create a broader base, and ultimately re-introducing films to a wider audience :) I don't have money for any of the expensive new toys. So I'll just amuse myself on the side-line and see if the pictures are worthy of the lens. Just don't forget those of us with a tight budget!!

  2. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @ihave2pillows there is nothing wrong with the quality attempt of LSI. it's just that it seems to be kind of schizophrenic. there is this huge gap between plastic and Petzval. so the Belair is a great example to show it is possible to produce a folding camera these days. and I was asked several times by analogue and digital photographers about the quality of this camera and unfortunately the community members do not work as knowledge multiplier because it has it's weaknesses. so you can't probably do wrong with a new lens but you can with a new cam. maybe they should introduce a new lomo side brand for the expensive stuff to use credibility or spread the plastic impression which is transported by the name.

  3. _pennylane
    _pennylane ·

    Lately, I've been quite disappointed with LSI. In the past I used to think that Lomography was all about fun.
    You did not have to take super professional photos or have the most expensive equipment to be accepted.
    In other photo communities they laughed about you and your amateurish, sometimes unsharp photos and your cheap cameras. I was upset that photography was taken so serious. But then I found out about Lomography, a place where it was ok to not take perfect photos, where having fun was the priority. Also I was really impressed by the fact that the community consisted of analog photograpers only. Only analog photos could be found there and I haven't seen that before.
    Now it seems like LSI is slowly eliminating all the things they used to represent and that made them so special: they introduce digital stuff, allow digital photos and release stuff no one would buy "just for fun". I'm not too happy about this progress..

  4. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @_pennylane I strongly believe that there is no effect on so you should have fun using this platform the way you did as ever. I'm convinced mainly digital user will not enter this page. It's just a bad feeling to have the impression that a platform you use and like is aiming for other customers and don't take you serious. So you have to set the focus on the outstanding community this platform has and not so much on the new products. And as LSI tries to tell us: there are still products to come for low budgets.

  5. _pennylane
    _pennylane ·

    @bloomchen I guess you're right. And I sure will keep using this site the way I always did.
    I just somehow feel a little 'betrayed'. It's as if a boy I really like tells me I will always be the only girl he dates and then one day he anounces he will meet other girls too, but promises that nothing will change between us.
    The boy is LSI, who promised to "Leave the Digital Grind behind" but now flirts with the idea of releasing Digital and expensive stuff too.
    I hope this isn't too odd of a comparison.

  6. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    Wise words, all of you, and I agree - LSI has embarked on a path that threatens to undermine its unique character and the ethos that distinguishes them from their competitors. I have nothing against them making money - they're a business after all, and I want them to be successful so that we can all continue to benefit from what they offer. However, I think they'd actually make MORE money if they produced a €100 version of the Russar or the Petzval, with cheaper materials (who needs brass and chrome plating anyway?). It's got to be possible, right? Even with a few minor imperfections, hundreds of us would buy them anyway at that price - certainly more of us than can afford them at €500 or €600. The fact that they're still promoting the Petzval so prominantly all over this site six months or so after they first announced it suggests to me that they're not selling enough of them to recoup the production costs and turn a profit. LSI should leave the precision optics stuff to the likes of Leica, Nikon and Canon - or even Zenit - and concentrate instead on coming up with new, innovative, quirky, fun but AFFORDABLE cameras, lenses and accessories. That's what brought us here in the first place, and that's what will keep us here.

  7. clickiemcpete
    clickiemcpete ·

    Good insights all around. I suspect that they could not sell the new lens for the kind of price @buckshot is thinking of though because the production costs are probably very high. Good glass does not come cheap.....I like that LSI is making some higher end things and branching out into other aspects of the photographic world. I suspect it's ultimately very healthy and positive for the overall business. But yes, I REALLY want to see some new ideas for the lo-fi end of the spectrum. I try to advance some of my own humble ideas here and there and hope someone is listening but obviously LSI does have a good grasp of things already and don't necessarily need help from the community to come up with new ideas. But the fact remains, we need a new game changing product this year along the lines of the Spinner 360, Sprocket Rocket or LC-Wide. Something new and different...always easier said than done though of course. :) How about a double lens EBS 35mm camera along the lines of @stratski home made Janus project? Great creativity there...

  8. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @clickiemcpete My impression is that croudsourcing is not considered at all on this plattform.
    Apart from that in my opinion lo-fi needs a clear definition. Like @ihave2pillows stated already there is this overpriced plastic impression and I suffered from it already a few times. Lo-fi stuff isn't really what I personally like. I have a few cams and some of them take sharp and crisp pics. I don't need a new clone and I don't need a new 35mm lo-fi cam because there are so so many out there already I can shoot on ebay. You can not invent again analogue photography - and again to some degree the Belair did - so when producing new cams I really want something convincing. Or on the other hand a very cheap cam I can customize for some experiment.
    Whereas in other global communities with a more familial atmosphere you even get in touch with those who rule the whole cumminity LSI is different. The communication is up to others and directions and ideas are not communicated. As user/community member you don't even know if ideas spread via the community reach the ones in charge because you don't know of any hierarchy. There are no communication channels the ones in charge use to inform about ideas nd directions.

  9. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    @clickiemcpete @bloomchen It is rather odd that LSI on one hand promotes "lo-fi is beautiful" and then turns around and comes out with high def this, sharpest lens that. You two are right about the lack of information exchange on this site. Just look at any bunch of "camera reviews" all making the same mistakes 34 times over. We can't all stay beginners... I think it'd be great if we can have a forum with threads, discussing products, techniques, etc. This place needs to grow.
    The number of pictures hosted here will only keep increasing, I certainly want them to make enough money to stay afloat and stay in business. But sooner of later, people will find out that a real Lubitel don't cost $200/300 in eBay. So yes, I see the need to explore affordable as well as expensive novelties.

  10. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    I understand that LSI needs to grow as a business or it will fade and die. They need a new client and digital is it. But, they are very Janus right now trying to show two faces. The watched the staff here try to pacify the rants of angry members while still shelling out digital purposed products, but like bloomchen mentioned, we don't know that the decision makers are hearing the pleas of those who don't want what LSI is selling.
    I bought my Lubitel here. It is like the average person in America that does not have the know how to recognize a true classic car or maintain it. Instead we buy the modern version of the said car because it is new and comes with an assuring warranty. I still love my Lubitel I got from here, but since have purchased some classic cameras to use because of my confidence level. I liked the Diana Glass lens and wished they made more products for the Lubitel.
    I don't know about oysters and champagne, but if you point out some good currywurst, @bloomchen, I will buy the first beer.

  11. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @ihave2pillows Hmmm well, growing is an ambivalent thing. Obviously Lomography grew a bit to fast that is the reason why they had to close several stores around the globe and reduced the staff. So I guess in Vienna they are now aware about the side effects of growing and the Euro-crisis. So a smooth exploring new markets seems to be the way they want to go. Maybe this experience is a good one. I know from another - gaming - plattform that the owners did want to grow and had like a user number on their mind which they did not reach. And they suffered a lot until they realized that it's maybe easier and better to have a constant level and most important: take care of long-term user.
    @neanderthalis Angry user or complaining user are not really the type od user you should maybe listen to. Again I want to mention this other platform where I spent many many hours in the past and as soons as there was something new there were mayn user complaining about this and that. What you actually have to do is read between the lines I think. Filter the essence of complaints and euphoric comments. Indeed this is hard without having a platform to communicate. A community manager could do so but he would have to be proactive and as we all know LSI-policy is to make a secret and riddle about every new product. So they have this idea and it is growing in a small cluster of people. So it's hard to believe they are really interested about what user really think of it otherwise you would launch a message/newsletter with saying "We are currently working on a small DIY 35mm camera of low price range!" and wait for reactions and ideas what features it should have. You will never be able to consider all of this but maybe there is this one information which is important to consider. It's sad that there is no communication at all about new products and mainly statements of the rulers about how satisfied they are with novelties and so on.

  12. gibri
    gibri ·

    Very interesting, I agree for many things. The line between analog and digital is very thin, certainly the Petzval and Russar lenses's cost doesn't attract people to approach toward analogic thinking.

  13. jourdanlynch
    jourdanlynch ·

    I would like a Petzval... I would never buy one its just too much for me... but to me that's the case with most Lomography products... Lubitel, LC-A, the new Russar lens etc... you can find the originals on eBay for a quarter of what LSI asks for on here for their versions...

  14. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @gibri, @stanko, @wolfinthewoods, @dermanu, @alcastan, @phoenix1206, @masha_njam, @rik041, @clickiemcpete, @buckshot, @alexkon, @deepfried_goodness, @debja, @freakoftheweek, @sweetyyydreams, @_pennylane, @why-yu, @ihave2pillows, @avola, @primula, @lawypop, @jimjimm, @jourdanlynch, @neanderthalis and @holgardo to be honest i have no clue about those kind of lenses. i'm far from being an expert to judge the quality of it. so first this means i`m not the customer they aim for. but you can convince people. but this means the russar has to convince mean. difficult at that price but i'm open-minded so it is not impossible. and then there is this BIG BUT: those view pics LSI offers are not convincing at all. they look more like snapshots, badly framed and no motif that shows me "wow, this is possible with that kind of lens!" on the other hand there is the petzval lens which is so very special that with everyone knows with the 600€ you buy the special effect and you can take breathtaking portraits. so i'd go for this one if i had plenty of money over. anyway before this happens i would save more money and buy me a xpan or a tx-1. and then i'd travel to a location on top of my photo-spot-list. and only because the bessa 667W is so high priced i'd maybe save for a petzval then after i got me a cam to use it with. even tough i like the petzval shots a lot there will always be something more important i guess…

  15. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @bloomchen I do believe that buying something for the sake of effects is absurd.

  16. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @alexkon yes, you are right but it is the only characteristic i really notice. meaning the russar shots on display could have been taken with any other camera too. well that is what i think as ignorant user. but the petzval lens has a clear hallmark.

  17. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @alexkon yes, you are right but it is the only characteristic i really notice. meaning the russar shots on display could have been taken with any other camera too. well that is what i think as ignorant user. but the petzval lens has a clear hallmark.

  18. jourdanlynch
    jourdanlynch ·

    @bloomchen You can still get the original Russar lens for half the price of what LSI asks for theirs anyways... In my opinion a pointless product... But the Petzval on the other hand... As far as I know you can not get a old original Petzval to fit onto a 35mm SLR... Therefor, not so pointless if you are into artistic portraits... Just very pricey.

    As I am big into artistic portraits outside of Lomography (if I wasn't poor as well) I would probably prioritise getting my hands on the Petzval... But I guess that proves a point that its aimed at a different market by me saying "outside of Lomography" lol.

    Rather than brass LSI should bring out a solid plastic bodied / cheaper metal version of the lens for people like me who can't afford it haha... Knock the expense down a bit lol. :)

  19. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @bloomchen No need to be an expert to know the simplest laws of physical optics. What is the diffraction and interference of studying in school. About what is "Newton's rings" can be heard in college... Bonanza LSI - film. Consumables, here on what money is made. Bonanza LSI - film. consumables here on what money is made. no matter how expensive was not your Hassel, the cost of the film is spent many times more.

  20. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @jourdanlynch I've seen homemade Petzval lens.

  21. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @bloomchen If you like, use the Petzval.

  22. jourdanlynch
    jourdanlynch ·

    @alexkon for use on m42? would like to see that... bet its still a pretty expensive endeavour though.

  23. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @jourdanlynch For use on Canon EOS.

  24. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    @jourdanlynch М-42 Prices are not small,
    you're right. One that I have seen alive can not find. It was based on two Zeiss lenses.))

  25. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    Well, people do come up Russar, well and fine. though still make Industar-10

  26. saidseni
    saidseni ·

    I never understood why they don't do more accessories to improve the creativity of the community, like a motorizer for the Lomokino or a strob flash for the Spinner, if they were affordable I guess they would sell. I don't understand anything about sales but it sounds smart. I know I would have to find a way to get something like that for my lomography cameras, if the price was not insane!

  27. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @arrapaho sorry but i don´t speak italian - i wish i could. but it´s a blog entry not an article. which means you have to find somebody who can translate it for you. it´s not possible to translate blog entries via this page.

  28. istionojr
    istionojr ·