When I first got my LC-Wide last year a few days after it was launched, I initially wanted to write a review about it after shooting a couple of films with the camera. Yet, something held me back -- I felt that this camera possessed so much potential and undiscovered talents in it -- something that would not be justified with just an article after only such a short time using it. I gave myself about one year to know the camera inside out before writing this review.
Before I go on about the images that it could produce, I must start by crediting the packaging design team for the amount of effort in the LC-Wide’s box. One year had passed and I still could not have imagined a better packaging that matched the excitement of getting a new camera, in addition one that celebrated the immense promise that the LC-Wide brought.
You could have asked: we’re talking about the camera here, but why am I focusing on the packaging? As a design student, it was very hard for me to ignore the impact of a successful packaging. LC-Wide’s box put other modern, mainstream brands’ digital camera packaging to shame. As a starter, it came in a huge wooden box; the camera itself was housed within another smaller cardboard box; the camera was wrapped in a finely designed wrapping paper, not some bubble wrap; the film canister was made from metal with gorgeous graphics; and finally it came with two hard cover books. Two, not one; and yes, hard cover. The entire unboxing experience was exquisitely crafted to inspire and excite. Comparing modern digital camera packaging which were monochrome, overwhelmed with words and lots of plastic, it displayed the LC-Wide as something that you will want as part of your life. Of course, this was probably one of the reasons the camera was selling at a higher price, but it was well worth it.
Next, to the camera itself. The LC-Wide is solidly built, and weighted just right. Users of LC-A would notice that the lens cover slider wasn’t as smooth as it had to accommodate two openings, but that is not a major problem. The main talking point was the protruded part which had the little red ends on it, which did not give the camera the best ergonomics. It was true as placing your finger in front of it would risk the wide lens capturing glimpses of your finger as well, but then again, you will learn to adjust to this eventually. In my case, I usually grip my camera like a hamburger — top and bottom — to avoid this and had gotten used to it.
Now, to the images. I guess I need not explain how wide this camera can go, but as a simple rule, I never trust the viewfinder. The camera captured quite a bit more than shown on the viewfinder, and the final images do not have barrel distortion as seen in it. Nevertheless, I have to say that the wideness is incredible for the overall size of something so pocketable. The sharpness and the depth of field is also really good. At 17mm, the lens also had an advantage — you can shoot in low light handheld and still get away with a clear enough shot. Using the focal length to shutter speed rule, this camera can handle around 1/20 seconds with no problem if you can stay stable enough.
One thing I also liked about this camera was the quickness in operation. With just two focusing zones, it made using the LC-Wide incredibly quick and easy: up for near (0.4m to 0.9m), down for far (0.9m to infinity). As a general guideline, I usually use the near setting for things within my reach. Nevertheless, one interesting thing to note is that the LC-Wide can focus nearer than 0.4m. I tried measuring the subject distance of 0.4m and placed the camera much closer than it, yet the final image is still pretty sharp. Partnered with its ultra-wide focal length, we can still capture sufficient background and context for a great image. I usually like to keep the near setting as my default focus distance, even when shooting landscapes sometimes – just find something as a foreground and the image would look great.
The best part, of course, is the self-portrait sweet spot is right in the middle of the near zone. Our arms, fully extended in front of us while holding the camera, is around 0.6m from our face, which is at the optimum distance of the near setting. As a result, this camera easily produces the best and clearest self portraits. As a matter of fact, I’ve never gone wrong with self-portraits while using this camera.
The camera has 3 formats: full frame (FF), half frame (HF), and square, in order of my preference. I find half frame incredibly intriguing, not just because I can shoot double the amount of photos, but having two images side by side sometimes tells a better story than just a single image. Sometimes, unexpected images ended up side by side which gave a cool composition to the overall photo. As a rough rule of thumb, when I shoot in half frame I usually switch between a near and far (or contrasting) subject. While I am aware of the continuous panorama mode (shooting half frame without the frame mask) I personally prefer to have the mask on.
There are a number of things I felt that the camera could be improved. First of all, the little notch that we use to alter between FF and HF at the bottom of the camera was too easily switched accidentally. Sometimes unexpected overlapping happens because I was shooting in FF and when I put the camera back into my pocket, clicked to HF and I ended up only winding halfway for the next shot. Secondly, loading a new roll of film is a little tricky with this camera — maybe it’s just my unit, but the film spool does not take on and pull the film leader as easily as my sprocket rocket. Nevertheless, both issues do not bother me much now after a long time using this camera, since the quality of the images it produced compensated those minor nuisances.
As a conclusion, this is an incredible, incredible camera, and is now my default choice especially for travels. I know a lot of people out there often associate Lomography with toy cameras, but this is no where near it – in fact, this camera is on its own league. Although it comes in a premium price, try to save up for it: to think that this camera would not go out of date makes it a really good deal. Now we just have to hope that film would continue to survive so the legacy of the LC-Wide could live on.
The Lomo LC-Wide boasts the newly-developed 17mm Minigon Ultra-Wide Angle lens. This 35mm camera wonder is the perfect companion for your photo expeditions. It produces eye-catching splashes of colour with astonishing saturation and contrasts with the added versatility of 3 different formats. Open up to a new photographic experience with the LC-Wide, available in our Shop.