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Chapter 5: Birth of the Lomo Kompakt Automat

The clammy hands of the Director General trembled as the Vice Minister left the room with the full aura of his position, "And you, Mikhail, have done a great job. Despite everything, I must say that the camera's closing mechanism isn't half bad, and also the click that sounds when I take a photo is notably melodious to my sensitive ears. Keep up the good work that way the honour of your factory with its three Orders of Lenin can be assured". The first prototype of the Lomo Kompakt Automat, shortened to LOMO LC-A, was officially accepted and mass production was able to begin.

Mikhail Grigorievich Kholomyansky
Born in 1941, Kholomyansky joined LOMO PLC at the age of 18 as a trainee. After studying at the Institute, he immediately joined the LOMO PLC photo-department in 1964, where he worked until 1991. When the order from the Soviet vice-minister of Defence I.P. Komitsky came to assemble an exact copy of the Japanese Cosina CX-2, it was the 40-year old engineer Kholomyansky who took over the task and constructed the LOMO LC-A with his team in just one and a half years. Kholomyansky is now director of a hi-tech optics medical device company. He has been married to his wife since 1964, has two children and three grandchildren and enjoys living in his Dacha on the outskirts of St Petersburg.

Spring 1982, St Petersburg, 11pm. “I just hope that this won’t cost me my neck and that I don’t end up getting exiled to a labour camp in the Siberian Tundra” This thought kept pounding through the mind of 41 year old Chief Engineer, Mikhail Grigorievich Kholomyansky, who was busily working away at his wooden work bench on the finishing touches to his newest creation: a fully automatic camera. Under the strict supervision of the robust Olga Nikolaevna Tsvetkova, the production manager, he had spent almost one and a half years with his team working in the spacious halls of the LOMO PLC works practically day and night In order to satisfy the highest demands of the Soviet Union, and In particular those of Vice Defense Minister Igor Petrovich Kornitsky. The latter had thrust a foreign camera model under his nose and barked: “I want a camera just like this, Simple, manageable, functional and fully automatic. The Japanese know their trade well but our goal is to produce an even better and cheaper Russian camera for the entire communist world!”

Like an echo the minister’s words still resounded in the ears of the engineer, while the strict and expectant gaze of Michail Panfilovich Panfilov, Director General of the LOMO PLC factory one of the best optical foundries of the then Soviet Union and manufacturer of optical devices for science, space and the military, bored into him. “I must deliver a perfect copy of the Cosina CX-2. But I can’t put this closing mechanism together 50 easily; our Soviet technology isn’t good enough. I only hope the Vice Defense minister won’t be too angry with me for this”. A bead of sweat formed on his brow and slowly wound its way over the round nose and down to the unshaven chin of the nervous engineer.

A year and a half earlier, Vice Defense Minister Komitsky alighted from the “Cologne Hauptbahnhof-Moscow Byelorussia Waksal” express train with his thick fur hat, padded coat and great visions and took a deep breath of the icy winter air of motherland Russia. Shortly afterwards he dispatched his orders to the famous optical institutes, the State Optical Institute GOI and the LITMO Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics in St Petersburg, which at that time still proudly bore the name Leningrad:

“Make the optical calculations for an excellent lens and tell me immediately where I can find the best factories for the construction of a modern camera, such as I saw with my own eyes at the Photokina Cologne.” as he commanded in his directive. The experts, bearded specialists for precision optical calculations, did not beat about the bush and immediately recommended two factories: “Comrade Kornitsky, there are only two producers for such complex undertakings that can be considered: our St Petersburg friends from LOMO PLC, long established professionals in mass camera production since 1930, and the Kiev Arsenal factory – these have already made by order copies of the legendary Contax II and III which are of proven excellent quality”.

So it happened, that simultaneously LOMO PLC, more precisely the team around Mikhail Kholomyansky and Olga Tsvetkova, worked on a Cosina CX-2 Copy and the Kiever Arsenal on a Minox 35EL. This was very similar to the Cosina compact 35mm camera, but was produced in Germany. LOMO PLC had a slight advantage at the start as the astute director Panfilov knew precisely that the Cosina CX-2 was the camera which had fascinated Kornitsky at the Photokina in Cologne. ’’An exact copy of it", said LOMO PLC Director General Panfilov, “will cause our honoured comrade Vice Defense Minister to dance with joy and the LOMO PLC-factory will enjoy great fame and glory.”

“What’s this supposed to be then, the thing looks completely different to the Japanese Cosina!” his outrage resounded out into the spacious corridors, so that the golden brown office doors of the Director General began to shake. “If you are going to copy a camera then please do it right and not with this dull square casing. Looking at it turns my stomach!”

Mikhail Grigorievich sat slumped in his chair with red, bleary eyes and quietly listened to the anything but praiseworthy comments of the minister. “If he knew that I had intentionally ordered the design to be different to the Cosina in order to avoid any arguments with the Japanese…has the honourable minister never heard of patent law?” thought the overtired engineer. "Well ok then/’ Kornitsky agreed and delivered the tense comrade factory manager Panfilov the redemptive words, “this square box casing can be changed can’t it? So build me a new package for the thing at lightning speed. If you alter the hideous upper part, you get the order.” The clammy hands of the Director General trembled as the Vice Minister left the room with the full aura of his position, “And you, Mikhail, have done a great job. Despite everything, I must say that the camera’s closing mechanism isn’t half bad, and also the click that sounds when I take a photo is notably melodious to my sensitive ears. Keep up the good work that way the honour of your factory with its three Orders of Lenin can be assured”. The first prototype of the Lomo Kompakt Automat, shortened to LOMO LC-A, was officially accepted and mass production was able to begin.

The Vice Defense Minister was in a good mood as he sat in his train on his way back: to Moscow. He dreamt of the fully automatic camera for each good Soviet citizen and thought mischievously that the LOMO LC-A Is also two and a halftimes cheaper to produce than the somewhat better quality Kiev 35A Camera (the Minox 35EL Copy), which the Arsenal Factory had presented to him.

Have the full glory of the book

written by cruzron

1 comment

  1. yerzmyey

    yerzmyey

    Hehe, I even didn't know that LC-A stands for Lomo Compact-Automat. :)
    Thx!

    7 months ago · report as spam

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