There are three types of Smena that are readily available, the 8M, the Symbol and the 35. This comparison helps to make the choice of which one to get a little simpler.
I recently decided I’d like to add a Smena to my arsenal. After looking around on-line I came to the conclusion that I had three choices (there are more models, but these are all very similar) which had the same lens.
If the 8M, the Symbol and the 35 all have the same lens, and very similar functionality, which Smena should I choose? The decision was simple, as they were all very cheap, and shipping for three was little more than one. I bought all 3.
This is not a review of the lens, the photos it takes; there are plenty of those already, and I thought you could benefit from my experience in using them.
Here’s a little quick info. The Smena, unlike the LC-A, is a fully manual camera. Due to this it requires a little more technical knowledge to get going. You need to, at least, understand how to choose the right film for the right conditions.
Once over that hurdle, even an amateur can use the camera, due to a very nifty method of choosing sunny 16 via a series of symbols.
If you know your stuff, you can go deeper with the camera and set it fully by setting your aperture and shutter speed.
Smena 8M – The Technician
Why ‘the technician’? because the 8M has, through numbering systems multiple ways to assure a good focus through something called hyper focusing, along with complete manual numbering systems. The film counter is a bit of a trick to get working, so you’ll have to be interested in getting under the hood a bit, and the take up spool can either be an empty cartridge, or a used 35mm spool. Either requires scissors and tape.
To use a flash, you need to know about hot-shoes, pc connectors etc. It doesn’t have a live hot shoe, so you’ll need to buy one. When you do it works great with the colorsplash flash (my favourite low-cost light-weight flash).
Lastly the viewfinder is so far away from the barrel, at close distances it is virtually useless – you’ll need to enjoy guesswork.
You need to be a bit technical and a bit enthusiastic to have fun with the 8M.
Take a look at some community shots using the Smena 8M below:
Smena Symbol – The Mechanic
The Symbol features many of the same features as the 8M though is much heavier as it is metal, and less info on the barrel, so hyper focusing is out.
Mine arrived a little ‘out of sorts’. Although it seemed to work in nearly every way, the hot shoe (built in on the Symbol) didn’t.
I wanted to use a flash so I took the top off the camera and with some fiddling, got it to work. Which broke the counter. So I had to take the top off to fix the counter. Which broke the hot shoe. I finally figured out that making the hot shoe work put pressure on the counter. To reset the counter needed a little squeeze in the right place. Therefore I name the Symbol The Mechanic as you’ll need to be one for day to day use!
Take a look at some community photos shot with the Smena Symbol below:
Smena 35 – The Plastic Fantastic
The other two Symbols are very Russian, and very practical in design and quite pretty in a utilitarian way. The 35 is more like an early 90’s European camera. I love the look, but it may be an acquired taste.
Of all three Smenas, this was the only one, fully featured, that I could pick up and just use. It required no fixing, no messing around with. Cock, aim, focus, shoot, flash. Brilliant.
Still fully manual, the 35 has the least info on the lens barrel, but is the quickest to load, operate and use. I found it the most enjoyable of the three to use and can easily see it becoming, alongside my LC-A+, my go to camera. You won’t believe how light it is.
Here are my test shots with the Smena 35:
In summary, I like all the Smena’s, I have a little of each of their personalities in me, so I can see me using all of them for different things. The Symbol is my least favourite. It cost the most for the least return. It hasn’t the convenience of the 35 and it hasn’t all the features of the 8M. It’s a bit redundant. My favourite is by a margin the 35. It’s convenient, the photos it takes are sharp and it just works.