Lubitel 166B: My Solid Soviet Companion


Ever since bought, the Lubitel 166B has been a reliable and serious friend and companion. I consider it the Anti-Holga, or even the Anti-Diana -- not in a bad way of course. But it's just everything those cameras are not -- a serious camera for people who like to have full control of their shots.

Credits: xxxanderrr

I must admit I’ve only owned the Lubitel since January 2011. That’s quite a short period of time, but I can already say it is one of my favorite medium format cameras! I’ve been using a Holga before that, and have recently acquired a Diana F+ Deluxe Kit, and still the Lubitel remains my favorite. This, of course, is just me and counts for my needs. But all will be told step by step.

My Lubitel came to me after a long journey that started… well, at the factory of course. But it was sold to a German couple in Hungary in 1988. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for me, they did not speak or read Russian, and given that there was no Internet at the time they weren’t able to fully translate the manual. At least not enough to be using this camera.

Fast forward to January 2011: eBay. That is where I found this magnificent piece of Soviet technology.
I have been lucky enough to score a new, basically unused Lubitel 166B for about 70 Euros — which is quite a lot if you think about it, given that flea markets usually carry those for 30-40 Euros. However, it came with everything — the old box, the leather case and even the original receipt. Good bargain, I say.

So what is this camera all about?

Well first of all, it’s a TLR camera (Twin Lens Reflex). This already makes it different from the Diana or Holga, which don’t really have the “through the lens” view. What you see in the Lubitel’s viewfinder is what you get on your negatives.

It has a T-22 75mm glass lens. This is similar to the Diana, which also has a 75mm lens; however, the fact that the lens is made of glass and not plastic makes the images a whole lot sharper. There is also barely any vignetting.

The apertures start at f4.5 and go up to f22; I’ve not found myself using anything lower than f8 though, simply because the film I’m usually shooting requires very wide apertures. The shutter speeds start at 1/250s, go to 1/15s and then to the B-setting. Focusing on this thing is a bit difficult — starts at 1.4m and goes to infinity. The Lubitel also has a self-timer of 10 seconds, a tripod thread and a cable release thread.
There is also a flash-hotshoe; however, plugging your standard Diana F+ Flash with an adaptor won’t work — you need a flash that can be synced up to the camera with a cord (PC cord as far as I remember). I’ve been using an old Bauer flash for this, though I’d love to try Fritz the Blitz flash on this.

The camera is also made out of solid material and weighs like it too — you don’t feel like you’re dealing with a plastic toy, but with a serious piece of equipment.

Credits: xxxanderrr

So why do I love this camera? Quite simple really — for the control it gives me. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that the film I use most has a very low ISO value — Kodak Ektachrome 64. I’ve used that same film on my Holga, and the fixed f8 aperture really screwed up the film. I used it with my Diana F+, and again the limited aperture, even on a sunny day, couldn’t make sure the film was exposed properly. Sure, I could’ve pushed the film 2-3 stops, but that’s additional cost and trouble at the lab.

The Lubitel works very well with low ISO films. Even if the maximum aperture is an f4.5, you still can turn the shutter speeds down to 1/30s and have well exposed shots. Unlike with the Holga or Diana, which are more of a “surprise” camera (which is obviously a lot of fun), with the Lubitel, you get controlled shots.
So basically, if you’re looking for an SLR, but want to shoot medium format, the Lubitel 166B is a great choice.

Unfortunately, you don’t get to use 35mm film on this, unless you mod your camera, for which I’m sure there are instructions on the web. Alternatively, you could get the Lomography Lubitel 166+, which has the Lubikin 35mm adaptor set and has better focusing possibilities.

In times of more serious photography (as opposed to random snapshots), the Lubitel has been a great companion and makes sure I don’t get too many blank rolls back from the lab.

See for yourself:

Credits: xxxanderrr
Credits: xxxanderrr

I’m very happy with this purchase. This is the camera I’ll be spending my most sacred film on — 20 years expired Ektachrome 64 and 15 years expired Agfa RSX 220.

And to all those, who want less blank rolls from their labs, look into getting one of these bad boys!

written by xxxanderrr on 2011-09-23 in #reviews #soviet #medium-format #lubitel-166b #russian #requested #lubitel #film-camera #user-review #lomography


  1. hairil
    hairil ·

    I'm kinda stuck between the 166B and 166U - I don't know which one to get...! Any tips, advice or suggestions? Thanks @xxxanderrr !

  2. xxxanderrr
    xxxanderrr ·

    @hairil : From Flickr discussions:
    "In my experience the 166B is much easier to focus, it has a larger dark circle on the focus screen which makes precise focusing a great deal easier than on the 166U. Also the 166U doesn't hold the film as tightly as the 166B which can sometimes cause problems but that's something i got used to.
    The main advantages of the 166U are the ability to shoot 6x4.5 and the improved latch on the back.
    But I choose to use the 166B because it functions exactly the same as the 166U and is a hell of a lot easier to focus! "

    I have not encountered the back-opening problem - I simply adjusted the lock with a pair of tweezers by bending it towards the camera. Works great.
    Focusing .. well, put it this way - after using it for 2-3 weeks, you'll get a hang for how far 2m or 8m are, so focusing won't be much of a problem. It's only a matter of time.
    If you shoot 6x4.5 format - then the Universal is the way to go; I prefer squared symmetrical shots on this :)

  3. lereile
    lereile ·

    hey! i have the lubitel U ad i am totally in love too!! @hairil the thing is you can do 6x4,5 on the universal, i haven't used it yet, 'cause i prefer the square format.. for the rest, i think they don't difere too much.. i would look for both and get the cheapest! focusing it's not a prob on mine!!!

  4. photomood
    photomood ·

    I just bought one on ebay a few days ago.. I hope to receive it next week or the week after :D Can't wait !! Thanks for the article :D

  5. hairil
    hairil ·

    Sweet! Many thanks to @lereile & @xxxanderrr ! = ) Time to head to eBay...!

  6. djramsay
    djramsay ·

    Just had my first 166B delivered :)

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-15 in #reviews
    Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    Exactly seven years ago, I bought this camera from Indonesia's local Lomography community. I remember having some savings in my bank account and just spending it all on this camera. At that time, I browsed the microsite for the Lomography Fisheye No.2 and immediately fell in love with it! Coincidentally, my friend who introduced me to Lomography just bought this same camera for his birthday. My life has changed ever since I had the Fisheye, my first lomographic camera.

  • Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-10-09 in #lifestyle
    Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    Not knowing exactly how to do deal with its odd appearance, Nadica first regarded the Lubitel 166B as a complete monstrosity. She left it untouched on her shelf for months after receiving it as a gift. After using other Lomo cameras and getting familiar with the rules on exposure, she finally had the courage to test it. Find out what made stacy_mcpommes fall in love with the Lubitel 166B in this installment of Weapon of Choice!

  • A Review of the Lubitel 166 Universal

    written by Rafaello Palandri on 2015-07-09 in #gear #reviews
    A Review of the Lubitel 166 Universal

    Where do I begin talking about film cameras on the Lomography Magazine? Yes, you guessed right. I will begin with a LOMO, of course, a very special one: the Lubitel 166 Universal (Lubitel 166U). It’s a camera that has almost everything you might need from a camera. Plus, it’s a LOMO!

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • Lubitel 166+: Lubitel is for Lovers+

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-05 in #reviews
    Lubitel 166+: Lubitel is for Lovers+

    Lubitel for lovers+. You're probably wondering, "Why is there a '+'?" It's to describe and expand a whole new definition of the Lubitel - in this case, this camera is not only for lovers literally, but also for anyone who loves to shoot portraits, street scenes, objects, and the skies. Do you love to take photos of your lover, your dear friend, your lovely family, your pet, or at the streets? This camera can be used in ALL situations. You can shoot everything that you love with it!

  • Pushing Boundaries: So I Heard You Like Multiple Exposures

    written by Amber Valentine on 2015-04-11 in #world #tipster
    Pushing Boundaries: So I Heard You Like Multiple Exposures

    My name is Amber Valentine and I have a confession to make: I’m not really a photographer. I have a website full of photographs, a bookshelf full of cameras, film waiting to be developed, and a wall full of framed pictures I’ve taken. Even so, I don’t really consider myself a photographer per se. I think that Lomography is more about the experimentation and the fun of film than it is about the photography, and that experimentation is part of the reason I have embraced Lomography so.

  • Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    written by jennifer_pos on 2015-03-17 in #gear #news #lifestyle #tipster
    Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    Ever since light painting was invented, it inspired artists from all around the globe to magical creations that capture hidden movements and reinvent the world we live in. "Life is a fairy tale, stay wild little child!" is what they want to tell us. Bringing light to life became the next challenge for anyone rigged with a film camera and a creative mind. Now, how can you take your analogue light paintings from the ordinary to the outstanding? After the carriage came the car, so we definitely need some spacy inventions to follow the old school light pen. So here it is, our new best friend: The Pixelstick!

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Trending Photos of August 2015

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-09-04 in #world #news
    Trending Photos of August 2015

    Have a glimpse of what our fellow lomographers have been up over the summer.

  • Top Shoutbox Users of August 2015

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-09-04 in #world #news
    Top Shoutbox Users of August 2015

    There's no stopping these lomographers from typing their thoughts away!

  • Extraordinary Double Exposures Winner Announcement

    written by petit_loir on 2015-09-04 in #world #competitions
    Extraordinary Double Exposures Winner Announcement

    The double exposure technique is a creative and extraordinary way of adding an unconventional twist to your images. Not surprisingly, the most extraordinary double exposure images were sent as entries to this competition. The grand winner gets to bring home the photo book "Double Exposures" by Nickolas Muray.

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Top Photo Likers of August 2015

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-09-04 in #world #news
    Top Photo Likers of August 2015

    Like a pat in the back, liking photographs goes a long way in encouraging one to continue shooting.

  • LomoKino: The Return of the Home Movie

    written by kenaz on 2015-09-04 in #gear #videos
    LomoKino: The Return of the Home Movie

    Memories are imperfect. To be nostalgic, then, is to fete details blurred by time. Home-spun 35mm movies supply the missing minutes, those parts that look like home.

  • Gartenstadt is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-09-04 in #world #news
    Gartenstadt is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to gartenstadt for winning Home of the Day!