The LOMO Fotokonstruktor UFK-2: A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery inside an Enigma

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A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

THE ENIGMA
So, the story begins on a cold, dark, wintry morning (like all good international espionage stories do), at the beginning of November. I’m sitting having my morning coffee, browsing the Lomography site on my MI5-issued, military-grade portable communications device. (Oh, alright – it was just a regular iPad.) Suddenly, a notification pops up, telling me I’ve received a message from @adash.

Now, some of you may know Adash as just a normal, cheerful, innocent member of the Lomography community, from Bulgaria. However, as an intelligence officer of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I know the truth: Comrade Adash (just his codename, of course – I could tell you his real name, but then I’d have to kill you) is actually one of the Bulgarian intelligence community’s most valued operatives, and a highly trained master of disguise.

Our paths crossed recently when we were both on an undercover mission in London. (Yes, it was in a pub, and yes, we drank several delicious pints of cold beer, and yes, we laughed a lot, and yes, we had a great time discussing the endlessly fascinating world of analogue photography for hours… but I can assure you it was purely in the interest of maintaining our cover; we spies sometimes have to make such terrible sacrifices to protect the national security of our countries, you know.)

It would suit the purposes of my story better if I could report to you that Adash was a gorgeous, long-legged blonde woman, with a seductive Eastern European accent and the suggestion of a dark, tragic past in her mesmerisingly beautiful, ice-blue eyes, but the reality is that Adash is a tall young man with a ponytail… and a bit of a beer gut. (Or was that just one of your cunning disguises, Dimitar? Oh, shit, I just revealed his name – now I have to kill you all!)

Anyway, so the message he sent went like this:

TOP SECRETFOR YOUR EYES ONLY: Agent Buckshot, I have something very interesting for you. I’m not telling what, just know it’s quite rare, and very exciting. Let me know your address so that I can send it. THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN THREE SECONDS.”

I read the message and think, Wow! A secret delivery?!? Cool! Nobody ever sent me anything from Bulgaria before! But what the hell could it be, this “very interesting, rare and exciting” surprise package…? It was a true enigma indeed, and as I repy to @adash with my mailing address, I realise it’s going to be very tough to contain my excitement until the package arrives and the puzzle can be resolved…

THE MYSTERY
So, about a week passes, with me in a state of ever-increasing suspense, until, on the morning of Saturday, 9 November, my doorbell finally rings. I open the door, and standing there – very cleverly disguised as a postman – is one of the trusted underground couriers we spies use to make international deliveries. In his hands is the package I’ve been expecting so eagerly. We exchange ‘the look’, which wordlessly conveys all sorts of messages that I’m not allowed to tell you guys about. He hands me the package, and departs to report the success of his mission to his superiors.

I take the package inside and examine it. At first, it looks just like a regular parcel: a rectangular box, wrapped tightly in brown paper, with no distinguishing features. On closer inspection, though, I detect this mysterious label in a corner on the back:

The mystery package.

Huh…?!? What the hell does that mean, I ask, and curse myself for not having paid enough attention to my Cyrillic studies back in spy school.

I do, however, recognise the LOMO logo on the label, and think, A-ha, a clue! As part of my training, I have acquired all sorts of obscure knowledge, and so I know that LOMO is a manufacturer of finest-quality, precision-engineered, lovingly hand-crafted optical apparatus, based in St Petersburg, Russia. So, I say to myself, we’re a little closer to solving this mystery – it must be some new kind of high-tech spy camera!

But as I carefully unwrap the many layers of protective brown paper and reveal the cover of the goods inside, I’m only slightly less mystified than I was before, for this is what I see:

Still a mystery.

Again, my terribly poor understanding of Cyrillic lets me down, but the pictures definitely help a bit, and I’m pretty sure the word above the top one is ‘FOTOAPPARAT’. Ah, so it is a camera… from LOMO! With my excitement now at fever pitch, I rip the cover off and open the box within, to reveal this:

Unboxing the mystery.

THE RIDDLE
By now, it’s abundantly clear that the mystery delivery from Bulgaria is definitely a camera, but it sure as hell doesn’t look like any type of camera I’ve ever seen before! And so I open the instructions that come with it, but they do very little to clarify what becomes an even more fascinating riddle:

Still definitely a riddle to me.

Eh…?!? What on earth do all those bits do? What’s with all those different configurations? And why aren’t the parts in the box numbered like they are in the diagrams? How the hell am I ever supposed to put this thing together?

Luckily for me, one of my Russian colleagues arrives just then: Agent Irina Stolichnaya – a highly regarded counter-intelligence expert. (Actually, her name’s Irena, and she’s my Polish wife. She did learn Russian in high school, though, and she’s definitely a spy, because she somehow knows all my secrets, like how much money I spend on buying and processing film – but that’s another story.)

I ask Agent Irina for assistance, and so, with her reading the instructions, I am finally able to solve the riddle of this mysterious piece of equipment. It’s called a LOMO Fotokonstruktor UFK-2, and is a multi-purpose, self-assembly camera kit that can be configured as three different things: a 35mm camera, an enlarger and a slide projector.

Armed with this knowledge, I log on to the Inter-Agency Online Intelligence Archive (you guys might know it as ‘Google’) and search for further information about this enigmatic camera kit. However, it seems the kit is extremely rare, and my research reveals very few sources of intelligence about it at all. I do find one discussion forum, though, which helps to shed some light on it. The UFK-2 was a Soviet-era kit, produced by LOMO from about 1976 to 1992, and was specifically intended as an affordable, educational toy for children.

Well, I think, since it was made for children, I should have no problem at all building it, and I immediately begin constructing the konstruktor. It takes a little bit longer than expected, though, because I discover that some of the parts (mainly screws, but more importantly, the shutter-release mechanism too) are quite badly rusted from having sat in an unsealed box for at least the past twenty or thirty years. A bit of lubricant spray eventually takes care of all that, though, and I soon have the kit assembled in each of its three configurations:

LOMO UFK-2 in camera and enlarger configurations, and (third picture) in action as a slide projector (you can just about see the projected image in the darkness on the right).

THE UFK-2 IN ACTION
The following day, as it happens, I receive orders from my boss to embark on a secret mission to gather intelligence about a deadly ring of international statue smugglers who have been operating in the UK recently. I decide to take the UFK-2 with me, to test it out in action and record what I discover on my daring assignment.

Agent Buckshot in action with the LOMO UFK-2.
My trusty sniffer dog, Shimmer, who helps me track down the bad guys.
A village pub, which, I discover, is actually the secret headquarters of the statue smugglers.
Some of the priceless, stolen statues I find hidden in the garden behind the pub.
A sweet-looking girl who actually turns out to be Maya Mayakova – the evil leader of the international smuggling ring.

It’s a good day’s work. When I deliver the photographic evidence I’ve collected with my LOMO UFK-2 to my superiors at MI5 HQ, they immediately send a commando unit to the location I’ve identified, which storms the building, arrests all the occupants and locks them up for good.

It’s mission success! And it couldn’t have been achieved without the help of one very mysterious package sent by Agent Adash from Bulgaria. I am extremely grateful to him for his kindness, and I greatly look forward to using his very generous gift on my next secret mission. Who knows what revelations it’ll help me to expose next time…?

Thanks for reading my little fiction :-)

Love & bullets,
Agent Buckshot.

written by buckshot on 2013-11-16

23 Comments

  1. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    You can see more photos from my first test roll in the UFK-2 here: www.lomography.nl/homes/buckshot/albums/1994078-lomo-fotoko…

  2. kibs
    kibs ·

    and @adash I'm always amazed at the interesting sorts who populate this lomography community. I can now say I know several international members of a top secret organization intent on promoting film and film cameras! This article made me smile :)

  3. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    @buckshot ...and mission accomplished! :D
    absolut temptations if LSI made a konstruktor #2 which "can be configured as three different things: a 35mm camera, an enlarger and a slide projector" just like your UFK-2.

  4. moodification
    moodification ·

    Great article! Made me smile ;-)

  5. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    Amazed by the reading of this great article/spy story

  6. putchu
    putchu ·

    Love this article...big smile on my face the whole time.

  7. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    @kibs @istionojr @moodification @superlighter @putchu Thanks a lot, guys – I'm glad my little spy story gave you something to smile about! :-) Thanks so much for your interest and kind comments.

  8. adash
    adash ·

    Indeed, a killer story! And great photos too - I haven't been able to process mine yet, but yours give me hope :-D
    You omitted the half-frame mask, didn't you?

  9. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    @adash: Thanks a lot, Agent Adash! :-) Yes, I shot without the mask, as I didn't really see the point of it (other than getting twice as many photos on the roll, of course). I was also curious to see what kind of blur/vignetting I'd get at the edges of the shots without the mask (as expected, the blurring is pretty extreme - definitely a lo-fi lens in that thing!). I look forward to seeing your results too, once they/re processed. Many thanks again, my friend!

  10. mapix
    mapix ·

    thanks for the story @buckshot by the way it sounds suspiciously authentic over extended passages. so we should be a little more careful with Mr. Buckshot in the furure...

  11. stouf
    stouf ·

    Great story! Sweet camera...

  12. muhamad_haiz_shamsudin
    muhamad_haiz_shamsudin ·

    Great story! I want to hunt this camera down so I can be a spy too! Secretly, of course :)

  13. muhamad_haiz_shamsudin
    muhamad_haiz_shamsudin ·

    The dang thing's not even on eBay! Curses!!

  14. asharnanae
    asharnanae ·

    wonderful to see someone who still has an active imagination! great story, and what an amazing kit to receive :D

  15. inrod
    inrod ·

    Awesome! Love it.

  16. mafiosa
    mafiosa ·

    Great read and awesome photos!!

  17. boredslacker
    boredslacker ·

    You wrote it so well! Had such fun reading it!

  18. iamtheju
    iamtheju ·

    Amazing. Thank you for linking me here from my question. I knew I wanted it from the moment I saw it on your shelf and after reading this I had to get straight to eBay to buy one myself! I can't wait until it arrives!!!! It makes me wonder what other little gems Lomo have made in the past that I've never seen.

  19. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    @iamtheju Very cool that you found one on eBay - they're definitely pretty rare! Good luck with it, and send me a link whenever you've got some shots out of it to see. Thanks a lot for your interest :-)

  20. iamtheju
    iamtheju ·

    Ok, so I've just got my photos back from the lab and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Have a look for yourself @buckshot and please let me know what you think ... www.lomography.nl/homes/iamtheju/albums/2015409-lomo-fotoko…

  21. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    @iamtheju Congrats on getting it assembled, Agent Ju - Mission accomplished...! :-)

  22. hutschi
    hutschi ·

    Hi, I bought this wonderful little camera, and shot lots of photos.
    I appreciate your article much, without it I would never know this precious little thing.

  23. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    @hutschi It is a really fascinating piece of equipment, indeed! Thanks a lot for your interest :-)