Deadstock Tale by grimbyname: Smena Symbol

8

In the summer of 2006, while doing a bit of mindless web wandering, I discovered the weird and wonderful community of film-addicted lomographers, and wanted to join in. Looking through the homes and shop, while waiting for a Fisheye 2 to arrive, it didn't take me long to discover that I already possessed a bona-fide lomographic Russian deadstock tool, a Symbol bought for me by my father in the early eighties. He was a keen amateur photographer, owning both Zenit and Praktica SLRs, a Zorki 4K rangefinder, all with a variety of lenses, and his own black and white darkroom kit too. For some reason he'd decided to buy a Symbol each for me and my mother, most probably because they were cheap, about £8 if I remember correctly. I already had a Fed 4 (a 'proper' camera with coupled rangefinder and built-in light meter) that my parents had bought me for being a smart lad for passing my 11-plus exam for the grammar school, so the Symbol, UK branded as Cosmic rather than Smena, saw little use, and I don't even know if any pics remain from its early days. Smena means 'Young Generation', which is when I first became acquainted with the Symbol. Cosmic sounds rather fantastical, spacey even, or perhaps an exclamation from a zoned-out hippy. No matter, I'm not afraid to admit to having been all those things at one time or another. And the photographic evidence of much of that is hopefully locked in a secure vault somewhere. Anyway, I digress.

In the summer of 2006, while doing a bit of mindless web wandering, I discovered the weird and wonderful community of film-addicted lomographers, and wanted to join in. Looking through the homes and shop, while waiting for a Fisheye 2 to arrive, it didn’t take me long to discover that I already possessed a bona-fide lomographic Russian deadstock tool, a Symbol bought for me by my father in the early eighties. He was a keen amateur photographer, owning both Zenit and Praktica SLRs, a Zorki 4K rangefinder, all with a variety of lenses, and his own black and white darkroom kit too. For some reason he’d decided to buy a Symbol each for me and my mother, most probably because they were cheap, about £8 if I remember correctly. I already had a Fed 4 (a ‘proper’ camera with coupled rangefinder and built-in light meter) that my parents had bought me for being a smart lad for passing my 11-plus exam for the grammar school, so the Symbol, UK branded as Cosmic rather than Smena, saw little use, and I don’t even know if any pics remain from its early days. Smena means ‘Young Generation’, which is when I first became acquainted with the Symbol. Cosmic sounds rather fantastical, spacey even, or perhaps an exclamation from a zoned-out hippy. No matter, I’m not afraid to admit to having been all those things at one time or another. And the photographic evidence of much of that is hopefully locked in a secure vault somewhere. Anyway, I digress.

Fast-forward to 2006, and my discovery that my Symbol was now my passport to lired my father’s old Praktica MTL3 along the way for some film classes I’d done, I happened to have a roll of 800 speed Kodak kicking around, slapped it into the almost-as-good-as-new Symbol, set the aperture to f/16, and went out into the summer sun (we had some that year). The only other things to fiddle with were the shutter speed (one of the symbol-operated bits, although given the great light I probably just left it on 1/250), and manual distance and symbol focussing – by my best guess and not that critical with f/16 depth of field to play with. I was a very happy-snapper, young again, lomographing around the hills and fields near my house, and when the prints came back, what a revelation! Rich and beautiful sharp images from the T-43 triplet lens, and colour rendition much more satisfying than the digital shots I’d been rattling out more recently. I was hooked, and wondering why it had lain unused in a drawer for so long.

Since that ‘first’ roll two years ago I’ve racked a few more through the little plastic wonder, all with great results. It really does do all that a much more grown up camera can, is compact and light to carry – easily slips in a jacket pocket – and simple to use if you’ve got a basic grasp of photography beyond just point-and-shoot. There’s something really pleasing about this cheaply-made yet robust fully manual camera that I just love. For me that’s perhaps also got something to do with upholding the family tradition of photography on a shoestring with eastern-bloc kit.

I also have to admit that my Symbol-ic introduction to lomography has since seen an almost ridiculous explosion in my film camera collecting habits, something that seems to afflict many lomographers. But, in spite of all the various cameras I now own, in various states of both repair and disrepair, I still have a real affection for my little Symbol. It’s my symbol that I was lomographer before I even knew what one was.

As a post-script, before I became a lomographer my father had offered me his Zorki (I’d already got his Praktica, and the Zenit was long gone), his darkroom kit, and my mother’s other camera, a Lubitel 2. Thinking that film was dead in the water and the future was all digital I turned him down and he sold them all on. Regrets? Yes, I’ve had a few.

Regards
Graham Winder
lomohomes.com/grimbyname

Visit the BRAND NEW Smena Symbol microsite!

written by pan_dre on 2008-09-16 in #news

8 Comments

  1. hanspan
    hanspan ·

    gorgeous images, and good words :)

  2. anarchy
    anarchy ·

    Lovely =)

    And yes, camera collecting can reach rediculous proportions... A few weeks ago I decided to gather my cameras that I have left at various locations across this land and was quite surpriced by the fact that I have a total of more than 30 cameras... Now I'm working on a schedule with different missions for each camera. It's going to be a fun filled autumn this year =)

  3. kylewis
    kylewis ·

    Graham, great review and I do know what you mean about collecting!!
    I'll have to submit something to this.

    @anarchy ha! living up to your name!!

  4. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    OMG! Graham, what a f******g great gallery you've add to your no less than great review!
    BRAVO!

  5. grimbyname
    grimbyname ·

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Pan_dre, there seems to be a chunk of text missing from the paragraph following the first set of pics, after 'passport to'. Just a couple of sentences, but it makes no sense as it is.

  6. holydarkyfied
    holydarkyfied ·

    great great great great article! :D

  7. nattykins
    nattykins ·

    Just resurrected mine again Gray!

  8. stipley
    stipley ·

    Great article! I have just ordered one and really looking forward to using it and feel reassured that it will produce some exciting results. Your pics are superb. I can totally agree with the camera collecting! "Cyrill the Symbol" will be number 9...

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