At first I was afraid my urge to buy the Lubitel 166+ wasn't more than another breakout of GAS. Honestly, I was convinced that it would end up next to its older brother, a vintage Lubitel 2, sitting on the shelf looking pretty, but mostly just gathering dust. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong!
One of the first cameras I bought when I started this analogue adventure was a second hand TLR, an old Lubitel 2. I mainly bought it because of the very iconic and distinctive look of a twin lens reflex camera. When I first got it, it took me a good while getting back into full manual control mode. And though I wasn’t unhappy with the results, it wasn’t my daily go-to camera. So when my eye fell on the Lubitel 166+ it took me a really long time decide whether I should invest in this rather expensive piece of equipment. Cause after all, I already had its twin brother sitting on the shelf, not seeing too much action…
After saving up some piggies I bit the bullet and ordered a brand new Lubitel 166+. As with most Lomo cameras, unpacking it was a very exciting event. Lots of bits and pieces cross your path on your way to the main surprise: the actual camera. There it was! I held in my hands what I had been dreaming about: a shiny new Lubitel 166+! Not wanting my dream to turn into the dust-gathering nightmare, I decided now was as good a time as any to prove myself wrong! So I loaded her up with film and started shooting.
Round 1: Lubitel 166+ vs. an inexperienced Lomographer
I started of completely unprepared, without reading a single letter from the manual. I easily managed to load a XR 50-200 redscale film. Figuring out in which position to put the little red window in the back wasn’t hard either, as it is very well indicated and pretty obvious. The one thing that was going to help me get exposures right was a light meter app I had put on my iPhone. Other than that, I left it all to chance and common sense.
My first impressions when using the camera were better than I ever expected. Everything runs and turns smooth as butter: advance dial, aperture and shutter speed rings, focusing rings, … And most impressive of all: the viewfinder! It is a dream to compose your image on this big and bright screen, with the split image focusing working like a charm. When that first roll of film was developed I was pleasantly surprised! Especially by the capabilities of the lens: impeccable focus! Spot on! What a difference to the old Lubitel 2. This round goes to the Lubitel 166+.
At this point I was already convinced I had made the right decision buying this camera, and given my low level of experience, things could only get better!
Round 2: Lubitel 166+ vs. The Sun
A couple of rolls later I realized that being in full control of all the camera’s settings wasn’t as scary as I thought. With this new found confidence, I started to challenge my camera rather than being challenged by it. One of the first things I wanted to know was how well it would respond to full sunlight. And I mean pointing it straight into the sun! Needless to say, the Lubitel took this one home without as much as breaking a sweat!
Round 3: Lubitel 166+ vs. 35mm
One of the goodies included with the Lubitel 166+ is a Lubikin set. The set consists of 4 pieces that, when strategically placed, transform your medium format camera into a 35mm camera. Using it this way will let you take 23-24 pictures on a 36exp film, as frames are larger than usual (35 by 55mm). One of the nice things is that the sprockets are exposed, which ads a nice touch to your photos. This way I can make Sprocket Rocket like photos, but without the limitations of fixed shutter time and small apertures, resulting in better exposed images!
As much fun as the Lubikin set is, it isn’t without its flaws. The first film I ran through has a giant scratch running the entire length of the film. Carefully sanding down the culprit corners has helped, but not completely solved my problem. I’ll have to commit myself again to finding the problem area and sand some more.
Round 4: Lubitel 166+ vs. Masks
The next challenge I set the Lubitel 166+ was masks. How well would it handle itself if I let my artistic side go wild and produce some masks for it? Answer: extremely well! Passed this one too, with flying colors!
Even the beware-of-the-dino mask I made for my nephews birthday came out great!
Round 5: Lubitel 166+ vs. Filters and Splitzers
At this point I felt like I had enough experience with this camera to really step it up. So I decided to make some real Lubitel Magic. The idea was to combine a splitzer with color filters. The splitzer I made myself, the filters I bought online. The first attempts were a bit hesitant, but results are getting better and better every time!
Round 6: All Lubitel 166+ owners vs Lomographic Society
As most Lubitel 166+ know, this camera is so beautifully designed that it comes with built-in capability to interchange the viewfinder and the back. And those accessories would come to us soon! Or so we were promised 4 years ago… I don’t know if they’ll listen, but maybe if we all stick together we could at least remind them that we want those accessories, that we need them!
You may have guessed by now: I am completely and utterly in love with the Lubitel 166+! It has won every single fight I picked with it, fair and square. Bottom line, this Lomographic beauty is my best analogue investment ever!