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Chapter 11: 1984: The LOMO LC-A Goes Public

Originally conceived as a Soviet version of the Cosina CX-2 from Japan, the LOMO LC-A (Lomo Kompakt Automat) was aimed for the Soviet masses and was first released in 1984. Initially, 1,100 units were slated to be manufactured each month - solely for the Russian market and after overcoming a few bumps in the road, everything seems to be coming up roses for the production of LOMO LC-As.

An article in the internal company newspaper reporting on the start of LOMO LC-A serial production, 21st May 1984.

Lomo LC-A
The Lomo LC-A (Lomo Kompakt Automat) is a 35mm camera that was produced by LOMO PLC in St Petersburg, Russia. It was originally conceived as a copy of the Japanese Cosina CX-2 to serve as an automatic camera for the Soviet masses. The ultimately quite different LOMO LC-A was invented by chief-engineer Mikhail Grigorievich Kholomyansky and his team and was first released in 1984. The camera is famous for it’s slightly oversaturated colours, crisp sharpness and perfect vignettes (the tunnel effect on its photos) that it produces as well as the smart zone focusing option and the extraordinary automatic exposure function. The camera chooses the correct aperture and exposure automatically by day and night as it is able long time expose and image up to one minute. In 1994 a bunch of Austrian students discovered the camera in Prague, then the capital of Czechoslovakia, invented Lomography and went to great lengths to keep its production alive. They succeeded until early 2005 when Russian production finally ended. As one chapter ended another began and the LOMO LC-A was quickly followed by the LOMO LC-A+ at a new production site.

“Everything is ready” said Mikhail Grigorievich to Olga and rubbed his raw hands together. “Our department has performed first- rate work for the mass production of the 450 individual parts of the LOMO LC-A and all the moulds for each part have been manufactured in record time. The production halls are packed with the best workers direct from LITMO University for Optical Precision Mechanics and we already have 20 people for the repair shop to provide guarantee should any work need to be done on the LOMO LC-A” answered Olga and Mikhail joked: “Just in case there should ever need to be any repairs!” The Chief Engineer and Production Manager were visibly satisfied and in their cold native Russia. “Dawai, dawai!” (Come on!) the both chirruped, turned off the yellow light of their tired desk lamps and made their way through the long corridors of the LOMO PLC factory to their cars, which were parked in front of the building on Chugunya Street, St Petersburg.

The First LOMO LC-A series went into mass production in 1984. Initially 1100 units were manufactured each month, solely for the Russian market. Following this first series and the ramp up period which lasted approximately half a year, Lomo LC-A production was well underway. Up to 1200 people worked solely on the camera, 500 of whom were assemblers. Assemblers are the employees who put component mechanisms together and prepare the final assembly, namely, the piecing together of the final camera. In contrast to the experienced and time-honoured final assemblers most of the assemblers were young women. These were directly recruited from one of the optical technical universities and incorporated into the production force of the LOMO LC-A. The production manager Olga Tsvetkova clearly preferred the young labour force to the existing workers at LOMO PLC – it was much more efficient and easy to teach the young workers than retraining the existing labour force. After the final assembly the finished camera needed only to be checked and then packaged. The second major stage of the camera production involved the engineers, who worked complicated mechanisms such as the aperture and electronic circuit boards. The majority of these engineers had a diploma from LITMO Institute of the “Technikum” (Technical School), which M.G. Kholomyansky and Olga Tsvetkova had once attended.

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