The perfect camera for begginers, and also for Lomographers who want to learn the basics of photography.
Is it really necessary to have another review of this camera? Is there enough information about it already? Maybe yes, I can’t deny it. But even then, I feel like making a claimable review of this grand, old Soviet analogue camera.
Claimable indeed, because she has been considered as the ugly duckling of Lomography so many times, and this shouldn’t be that way. In analogue photography, beginners hardly ever choose the Smena 8M as their entry door into Lomography. And so do veterans: they don’t even know the basics of photography techniques. They are scornful of this camera, not able to be a rival in beauty with partners like the Lomo LC-A, the Holga or the coquette Diana. I have to admit I was the last kind of guy: the Smena 8M was something totally disposable for me: a machine from the past, uncomfortable in her use and really poor in her results…
First of all, let’s get through the coldness of her technical features: 40mm f/4-16 lens, 1/250 to 1/15 shoot speed, bulb mode and almost 1m to infinite focus. As you can see, I am not too specific because there’s not much more to say. But all this scarcity about the Smena 8M comes to nothing in the moment you load a film roll in this little Russian.
She will be really generous to her owner, who will see her charm after a period of adaptation. I say this because you won’t find an ISO selector: depending on the film you load, you have to select the lens aperture on the Smena 8M (f/11 for a ISO 200 film, f/8 for a ISO 100 film). The speeed will be selected by turning a ring in our lens from a sunny day to a rainy condition (with intermediate posibilities). Thus, if the day is sunny and bright, the speed must be adapted immediately to 1/250. If you get raining conditions and we select the cloud with rain in the ring, the speed will decrease automatically to 1/15. What’s the problem of this? Easy: if we use a regular film like Fuji Superia 200 in a sunny day, we will have to set the aperture at f/11, and the speed at 1/250 (bright sun figure in our lens). With f/11 we will get high depth of field but… what if we want to shoot a portrait of somebody and get a blurry background? For this purpose, we should open the lens more, but with a bright sun in the sky and maximum speed, we cannot reduce the exposure time, so we would overexpose the film inevitably. Therefore, the best option for this camera is to use a 100 ISO film and wait for a less sunny day. That day, your Smena 8M will become more versatile (I guess Russia is not as sunny as Spain, from there it is maybe her limitation). What is true though is that at f/11 and under every weather condition, the camera takes wonderful pictures.
But after all, in her limitations lies her actual power. This camera allows you to learn the basics of photography (aperture, speed, focus) at a bargain. That’s the reason why it is the perfect camera for Lomographers who have already shot tons of pictures, but they don’t know any basics or photographic technique. Once you are in control of the little Smena 8M, you won’t have any trouble with other cameras. In the same way, beginners can also find a real gold-mine, as it can be used without using her viewfinder (which is not too useful), shooting from the waist, or composing double or long exposures, turning her upside down, loading her shutter a hundred times (movement that looks like a revolver hammer) almost without thinking (shoot!). To sum up, this is the camera which fits better into the Lomographic rules.
Regarding to the results, you shouldn’t expect perfection, expect the unexpected! It’s hard to imagine the quality of the pictures this camera comes out: you will get a quality that has nothing to do with toy cameras. Hues will always be vivid, and bright greens and deep blues will take over your photographs. The conquer is guaranteed from the very first roll film.
The Lomo Smena 8m is a classic mid-80s icon dug deep from LOMO factory. Its 3-element glass Triplet lens yields eye-popping colour and contrast, and its manual settings gives you full control over your images. Get your hands on this piece of photographic history here.