In order to understand the aim of this kind of camera, it’s needed to know exactly the history of the camera and why it was designed like this. Through the history it’s possible to recognize why many functions and main features are like that. Let’s start from the previous Lubitel models, which were the basis for the design of the Lubitel 166 Universal.
The ancestors of the Lubitel 166 Universal (and so also of the Lubitel 166+) are quite interesting: many features were at first applied in these camera and then improved in the final model.
It’s the very FIRST TLR camera created in the Soviet Union. In reality, it is amazingly inspired (or, as many people say, “copied”) by one other camera: the Voigtländer Brilliant. What Lomo engineers did was simplifying the body design. The black product of the case is called Bakelite, which is the material used after WWII as an alternative to modern plastic materials. The not so cool thing about this camera is only a missing technical feature (because it’s more or less only a piece for camera collector): the main lens and the viewing lens are not connected, so they don’t move together.
Curious detail: the Komsomolets has a small internal compartment for storing filters and supplementary lenses (an other effect of the inspiration from brilliant).
LUBITEL [1949 – 1956]
The next model, finally takes one of the main features that will contribute to the amazing Lubitel’s success. The first official model that deserved to have the “Lubitel” name had a coupled gearing to connect the main lens and viewing lens, allowing synchronized focusing mode. New features: shutter with a larger range of speeds, f/2.8 capability and a wider angle of view.
The name “Lubitel” is the rough translation of “Amateur”: the goal was to produce a camera made for ordinary people, but at the same time for photography students, who needed a camera for the first, elementary and ultra-simplified approach to photography. It was needed to make a cheap product, so it was chosen again a Bakelite case. The success of this camera made appear a Chinese copy of the original Lubitel with the hilarious name, “Changle” (1961).
Alessandro Panelli (aka yo.panic or .panic) is a Medicine and Surgery student, a photographer and a writer from Padova (Italy, near Venice). Read more about Alessandro’s work and life here or add him on Facebook or Google+.