A Lomography Order gone wrong leads to a gamble and discovery as I try out the Moonassi La Sardina.
It was a simpler time, several months ago, when the Lomo Store launched its brand new look. New categories, a cleaner interface, and lots of new options. Suddenly, a whole bunch of cameras were available that hadn’t been for ages! I ordered myself a Zorki that I hadn’t seen in ages and a plethora of weird & wonderful films. Unfortunately, this was too good to be true. Everything I had ordered was out of stock, and I had a choice of a refund or a replacement (the Lomo team was incredibly helpful throughout). I chose the then-newly released Moonassi Dream La Sardina.
I had never used a La Sardina before, though I had stared covetously at the Belle Star metal edition, because it looks like a camera from the video game Fallout New Vegas. I had always felt that the La Sardina occupied a weird in-between place among Lomography cameras. 35mm? Naturally. Wide-angle? My Fisheye & Sprocket Rocket do that. Bulb Mode & MX? My Diana Mini does that. So I was interested to see what the La Sardina brought to the table.
The package arrived, and it needs to be said: this camera is GORGEOUS.
Daehyun Kim’s art covers every surface of the camera, even the bottom plate.
The full Dream design is compiled from multiple drawings, including A Stammerer, When It Rains, Sleepless, and others. All of his art can be viewed on his website. Also, he’s on Instagram, and liked my picture of the camera, which gave me a little thrill.
Considering the themes of dreams and sleep throughout, I named the camera Morpheus, after the main character of Neil Gaiman’s incredible Sandman comic series, who shared the camera’s black-and-white palette. Even more fitting, as Neil Gaiman is a LomoGuru himself.
Anyway, the camera. It’s boxier than it looks on the site, and quite thick, but not as heavy as you would expect.
Instead of the focus zones of a Diana Mini or the like, the La Sardina has only two, chosen by twisting the 20mmlens: 0.6-1m (indicated by a little bug) or 1m-infinity (indicated by a group of people).
The rewind knob allows for winding back to previous exposures, the shutter button has a screw-thread in the centre for a cable release, and there is a toggle switch on top. Switch in the middle means daytime shooting (locked at 1/100), switch to the left means Bulb mode, and a push to the right is MX, releasing the shutter for a double-exposure.
The La Sardina also lacks even the rudimentary sunny-cloudy exposure settings of a Diana Mini or Sprocket Rocket, meaning the exposure is set at an nice middle-ground f8. Both the lens & the viewfinder give an impressive 89 degrees of view, without sacrificing number of exposures, like an an LC-Wide or Sprocket Rocket. It came with a little plastic lens cap, which I immediately took a knife to and made into a splitzer.
Intrigued, I loaded up a roll of Rossmann CN 200 & went shooting. Immediately, I noticed some issues. The rewind knob works a treat when winding back to reshoot, but it doesn’t change the exposure count window, meaning from the moment you start rewinding, you don’t know where you are. While the 1m-Infinity setting made for easy decisions when shooting, the lens was quite loose, and when put in a bag or backpack tended to slide from one setting to the next and back. I found I couldn’t trust the camera to be on the same setting without looking, which led to a few focus errors.
In contrast, the shooting mode toggle was extremely sticky, with a lot of force needed to shift into Bulb or MX modes. Also, when shooting in Bulb mode, if I wanted to take a second exposure, I had to haul the switch to the middle, then over to the left, then when it reset to middle, haul it back to Bulb, then reshoot. The shutter release button was also sticky, but only moved down a very small amount, leading to a painful indentation on my fingertip (with a bump in the middle from the cable release thread). On the flipside, the viewfinder was fantastic, and presented an enormous field of view, and the lack of settings to fiddle with meant I was shooting very quickly, with minimal fussing about in between shots.
During the next few days, I presented the La Sardina with multiple shooting situations, including:
A sunny day in my backyard:
A walk through the city on a cloudy morning:
Some light-painting, including a nifty flamethrower shot:
A bright-and-sunny city afternoon:
A stop at a Craft Beer & Cider Festival:
And some double exposure & splitzer shots:
And the results? Amazing! The plastic lens of the La Sardina took the sometimes-bland & washed out Rossmann 200 & pumped the colours through the roof! While I lost a few frames to the focusing issue mentioned above, those with the correct setting were sharp in some spots, but lovely & dreamy in others. The wide-angle lens gives little-to-no barrel distortion, and manages to fit just about everything in.
So final verdict? I’m glad I ended up with the La Sardina. It may have its foibles, but the results speak to themselves.