Which Smena? A Comparison of the 8M, Symbol, and 35


There are three types of Smena that are readily available, the 8M, the Symbol and the 35. This comparison helps to make the choice of which one to get a little simpler.

The Smena 8M. Photo via soleado

I recently decided I’d like to add a Smena to my arsenal. After looking around on-line I came to the conclusion that I had three choices (there are more models, but these are all very similar) which had the same lens.

If the 8M, the Symbol and the 35 all have the same lens, and very similar functionality, which Smena should I choose? The decision was simple, as they were all very cheap, and shipping for three was little more than one. I bought all 3.

This is not a review of the lens, the photos it takes; there are plenty of those already, and I thought you could benefit from my experience in using them.

Here’s a little quick info. The Smena, unlike the LC-A, is a fully manual camera. Due to this it requires a little more technical knowledge to get going. You need to, at least, understand how to choose the right film for the right conditions.

Once over that hurdle, even an amateur can use the camera, due to a very nifty method of choosing sunny 16 via a series of symbols.

If you know your stuff, you can go deeper with the camera and set it fully by setting your aperture and shutter speed.

Smena 8M – The Technician

Why ‘the technician’? because the 8M has, through numbering systems multiple ways to assure a good focus through something called hyper focusing, along with complete manual numbering systems. The film counter is a bit of a trick to get working, so you’ll have to be interested in getting under the hood a bit, and the take up spool can either be an empty cartridge, or a used 35mm spool. Either requires scissors and tape.

To use a flash, you need to know about hot-shoes, pc connectors etc. It doesn’t have a live hot shoe, so you’ll need to buy one. When you do it works great with the colorsplash flash (my favourite low-cost light-weight flash).

Lastly the viewfinder is so far away from the barrel, at close distances it is virtually useless – you’ll need to enjoy guesswork.

You need to be a bit technical and a bit enthusiastic to have fun with the 8M.

Take a look at some community shots using the Smena 8M below:

Credits: paper_doll, mcrstar, tsnsak & scootiepye

Smena Symbol – The Mechanic

Photo via Lomography Online Shop

The Symbol features many of the same features as the 8M though is much heavier as it is metal, and less info on the barrel, so hyper focusing is out.

Mine arrived a little ‘out of sorts’. Although it seemed to work in nearly every way, the hot shoe (built in on the Symbol) didn’t.

I wanted to use a flash so I took the top off the camera and with some fiddling, got it to work. Which broke the counter. So I had to take the top off to fix the counter. Which broke the hot shoe. I finally figured out that making the hot shoe work put pressure on the counter. To reset the counter needed a little squeeze in the right place. Therefore I name the Symbol The Mechanic as you’ll need to be one for day to day use!

Take a look at some community photos shot with the Smena Symbol below:

Credits: adamo-75, tupiniquim, toonboy7 & zark

Smena 35 – The Plastic Fantastic

Photo via sibu_sen

The other two Symbols are very Russian, and very practical in design and quite pretty in a utilitarian way. The 35 is more like an early 90’s European camera. I love the look, but it may be an acquired taste.

Of all three Smenas, this was the only one, fully featured, that I could pick up and just use. It required no fixing, no messing around with. Cock, aim, focus, shoot, flash. Brilliant.

Still fully manual, the 35 has the least info on the lens barrel, but is the quickest to load, operate and use. I found it the most enjoyable of the three to use and can easily see it becoming, alongside my LC-A+, my go to camera. You won’t believe how light it is.

Here are my test shots with the Smena 35:

Credits: adam_g2000

In summary, I like all the Smena’s, I have a little of each of their personalities in me, so I can see me using all of them for different things. The Symbol is my least favourite. It cost the most for the least return. It hasn’t the convenience of the 35 and it hasn’t all the features of the 8M. It’s a bit redundant. My favourite is by a margin the 35. It’s convenient, the photos it takes are sharp and it just works.

written by adam_g2000 on 2012-06-04 in #reviews


  1. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    thanks for sharing this article! I want Smena 35 :D

  2. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    I love my 8M because I can made double exposures!

  3. dikasapi
    dikasapi ·

    this article makes me miss my smena35.. she's broken now :'(

  4. nerpman
    nerpman ·

    Very nice! I've had the idea of a Smena in the back of my head for a while and this is just the article I've been looking for.

  5. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    I am a little jealous. I wanted the 35 when I bought my cmena but all I could find was the 8m. Not that I am complaining. But now I am trying to figure out how to get 35 in the house without the wife going ballistic.

  6. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    Great article, you really cant go wronf with any smena, though in my opinion the older you go the better quality they are.My personal favourite is the smena 8 (not to be confused with the 8M.)

    @neanderthalis smena 35 are readily available brand new on ebay from russia, for around around £25, i have heard that the smena 35 is a little on the un reliable side though.

  7. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    I remember I had a great feeling with the Smena 8M and loved how it handles the light... but the camera stayed in France since I left for Raiatea, but is safely stored (with a lot of others of my vintage camera collection in a secret place, ha ha ;)) and I'll be happy to have it again in my hands! :)

  8. robotmonkey1996
    robotmonkey1996 ·

    I had a Smena 35... which fell apart new out of the box. I picked up a heavily used Smena 8M and it's still good to go. :)

  9. droogieboy
    droogieboy ·

    Really helpful review. I own the Symbol and the 35. I love the retro style of the Symbol and it feeling heavier in your hand, but the 35 is the more useful camera for me as it takes 400 ASA film

  10. lomonesia
    lomonesia ·

    i love Smena 8m.But,where i can buy Smena 8m?and maybe something like Canon AE-1,Where i can buy those camera?

  11. foodeanz
    foodeanz ·

    Thanks for sharing...next, Smena 35...hehehehe

  12. gemma81de
    gemma81de ·

    I bought the Smena 8M years ago when I didn't have enough money for the LCA. I really loved my Smena back then but haven't used it in a long time. Now I really wanna take her on a tour again.

  13. lenire
    lenire ·

    awesome write up

  14. kwkclick
    kwkclick ·

    @lomonesia - Check normal photography online stores like bhphotovideo.com. They have multiple AE-1's and several other manual focus Canons for sale in used 35mm camera department.

  15. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    yes that's true smena35 is enjoyable!

  16. plasticfantasticnancy
    plasticfantasticnancy ·

    Great article! I'm excited now because I just bought an 8m, can't wait to use it

  17. jvujnovi
    jvujnovi ·

    Very useful article. I wanted a smena for some time. I think I'll a 35 first and then an 8m. The 35 sounds like a good starter smena.

  18. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @jvujnovi one person had a bad example sent to him, but mine worked perfectly. In all honesty you might find it a good starter and the last you'll ever need. Check out my latest album, you might just be blown away by what it can do! How sharp that lens is.

  19. jvujnovi
    jvujnovi ·

    I got the smena 35 and I like it alot. Some things took getting use to (shutter cock, putting film rewind back into position after removing film), but once I got used to it it's almost easier to use than most manual cameras! Lomography should really consider manufacturing it.

  20. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @jvujnovi Ha you got one at last! Excellent. I'm pleased you like it.

  21. davecmorrow
    davecmorrow ·

    Well, now I know which Smena I am going for :) Great article!!!

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