So here is my Lubitel story, maybe it's not as glorious as some of those mythological flee market find stories you always hear, but its my story and I'm stickin' to it.
So here is my Lubitel story, maybe it’s not as glorious as some of those mythological flee market find stories you always hear, but its my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
In early September 2007, I was browsing and ebay search for “lomo” as I often do, searching for mysterious products or other fun photographic toys I have never heard of, when I came across this little Russian TLR gem called a Lubitel. This was before the days of the LSI refurbed Lubby maddness (but not by much). I had always wanted a TLR but could never justify spending hundreds on a Rolleiflex or similarly fancy black box, but this little devil was going for a mere 35 dollars! I was sold instantly, I happily bought it on the spot and spent the next two weeks harassing the mailman, and fanatically watching my postbox.
When the camera arrived I was immediately disappointed. The camera I received was not the 166 Universal pictured in the auction but a 166B, that did not have a PC flash sync, uncoupled shutter and film advance or a cable release socket! On top of this it appeared that some previous owner had taken a chisel to the film rollers; they were covered in dents, gashes, pockmarks and all kind of other damage. Of course the seller happily offered to refund my purchase if I mailed it back it first, less shipping costs, insurance, and a 25% “restocking fee”; or in other words pretty much the entire purchase. So….. I decided I better just use the damn thing. I put two rolls of HP5 through it using the sunny 16 rule as I didn’t have a hand held meter, and after developing the film in my bathtub I discovered that the film advance was also broken and most of my images were partly overlapping each other. In spite of the circumstances it would have been nearly impossible to be genuinely upset at that moment as I was totally blown away by the sharpness and contrast of the images that did turn out.
I printed a few shots in the darkroom with no glass and no contrast adjustments and they were simply stunning. I was instantly hooked! Even with questionable exposure calculation and crappy darkroom techniques I still had managed to shoot a few of the best medium format images I have ever taken. I promptly made it my life’s ambition to find a more functional specimen, and ebay was the last place I was going to look. I traded my broken Lubitel to my (former) roomate for a cup of overpriced java, at a local coffee house, and as I sipped my delicious caffeinated beverage I pondered where the best flee markets in my area were, and the extent of my bartering competency. I’m still looking for my new Lubby, she will find me one day.