For months, I stalked the Diana Mini on the Lomography shop and eBay, admiring its compact cuteness and its two modes to photograph in, but inexplicably hesitant to buy one. Then the white Diana Mini came out and I decided to go for it...
The Diana Mini! I am guessing that if you made your way to the Lomography site and this article, then you probably already know a thing or two about this camera. But, just in case, I will start from square one.
The Diana camera, which used 120 film, was originally created in the 1960’s. It had a plastic lens and its cheap manufacturing often resulted in light leaks. Interest in this wonderful toy camera has resurfaced recently thanks to the Diana F+, which is Lomography’s replica of the original Diana. Finally, a few years ago, Lomography began to produce the Diana Mini, a 35mm version of the Diana F+.
One of the most popular features of the Diana Mini is its ability to take photos in two modes: square (24×24 mm) and half (17×24 mm). That’s right – a 36 exposure roll can give you 72 shots on the half-frame setting! What’s also nice is that it comes with a neck-strap. There are two aperture settings, sunny and cloudy, and four approximate focus distances: 0.6 m, 1-2 m, 2-4 m, and 4 m to infinity. Normal and bulb are the two shutter speeds. Unfortunately, there is not hot shoe mount because it accepts only Diana flashes, but there are Diana-to-hot shoe converters available.
Its built in ability to do multiple exposures is one of the key features that attracted me to this camera. The old-fashioned look of the flash is another huge plus. And I love that the Diana flash comes with twelve color gels. You can imagine the fun double exposures this can result in! And of course I love the way I can turn a 36 exposure roll into 72 photographs. However, sometimes it can can seem to take forever to get through 72 shots. Even so, I prefer this over the square-frame mode, which leaves a lot of black space and that seems kind of wasteful to me.
As much as I love this camera, I do have a few criticisms. First, film rolls from this camera, photographed in either mode, have totally confused one-hour labs, so I have to bring it to more professional places, which is starting to add up. Maybe I keep getting confused or lazy one-hour lab technicians, but it happened to my sister with her Diana Mini too. Second, I try to carefully store it in my bag, but still the switch for the shutter speed easily gets moved to “bulb” without my knowledge. Sometimes it takes me several shots to realize this and so I end up with blurry results. Third, twice I have randomly had my film just freeze up around the 30 exposure mark. This is an issue my sister has also had and there is an article with a method to fix it, but I don’t want to risk ruining my camera. It is actually not right that the Lomography Society produces a camera with such a wide-spread problem.
Some of those issues have made me weary of recommending this camera to others, but I hope this does not diminish your interest entirely. I love this camera and realize that sometimes issues may come with any plastic camera, but I just want to be honest and put these warnings out there. Otherwise, it’s a lovely and very portable little camera. It has worked well for doubles. And once, while using it, I had a lady approached me to say she had a Diana in the sixties which she had forgotten about until my Mini reminded her. The Diana Mini has given me some really dreamy and wonderful shots; it turned out to be a great investment!