The point upfront: this camera is worth every cent! So collect piggies, save money or ask your relatives and friends to pool together for a Christmas or birthday gift. I can honestly say that this is the best camera that I own!
Maybe you experienced the same feeling I had back then when I did not own a TLR camera. I saw all those outstanding and breathtakingly sharp photographs of community members in medium format which can make you think: “I want that cam!” The pictures that impressed me the most were those of @jennson’s.
But the moment I looked for the camera in the Online Store I knew that my budget is not enough for a Lubitel 166+. So I was looking for a nice alternative. In a really naive way, I focused on a Lipca Rollop. I bought one via some strange online platform and the moment I got it I noticed that it is not properly working anymore. The seller got it from his father who passed away and gave me back my money and told me I should keep the camera.
I then had a look at what other users owned and that’s when I found out about the Seagull 4A. I quickly bought one on eBay that same day and when I got it, the story was the same with the Lipca camera: it wasn’t working. I got the money back and sent the camera back to the seller. Again on the same day I bought myself another one on eBay. Same story: I got the cam but it did not work. I asked the seller if I could open the camera before sending it back and he agreed. Without knowing anything about it I got it repaired and I used it often. But as the camera is bulky and pretty heavy, it is not a camera you want to carry with you all the time.
But at some point I had enough piggies and on top of it, I had a Lubitel voucher and I said to myself: now or never. As I already had a TLR, it wasn’t hard for me to handle the camera. The handling of the camera is really easy even though you don´t have a light meter. There is an exposure guide on the back of the camera which is quite helpful. Right on the first roll I took this nice ghostly double exposure:
With the apertures from f/4.5 to f/22 and exposure times from Bulb, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250; the camera offers enough settings to handle all light conditions. On the contrary to the Belair camera which is in the same price range, the Lubitel 166+ has big advantages. Right on hand is the possibility of focusing. The viewfinder of the Lubitel is excellent. No estimates, just focusing. I really saw only few pictures taken with the Belair that can come close to the sharpness of the Lubitel. Amazingly, the difference is quite far even in the infinity range. Here are a few examples:
The automatic exposure of the Belair is a big bonus for the camera because you don’t have to do settings for each and every single shot. But in dim lighting conditions, the light meter of the Belair camera isn’t really reliable. Meaning with dim lights you’d better use the Lubitel and a light meter.
Another plus of the Lubitel are the features and the build. The tripod mount is in the center of the camera which gives the camera more stability when compared to the Belair. Even if you don’t use a cable release, I think that using it is essential for a camera like this. Also, the ability to rewind the film and expose shots again after shooting a few frames is simply great.
The 35mm set of the Lubitel is nice too, but my first attempt was a disaster. And looking at other community users’ works, there are only few who even gave it a try. I strongly believe that I have bad luck with my cameras but nothing ever broke on my Lubitel. This is what everyone would expect from a camera of this price range.
And as I have two good working TLR cameras on my shelf, it is a choice of weight and convenience. The Lubitel is unbeatable when it comes to everyday use. With a weight difference of I think almost 800 grams, the decision is not that hard to make.
What is missing to proclaim the Lubitel 166+ as a perfect camera? Well, the maximum focus of 80cm is sometimes not enough. 40cm would be brilliant. And I guess some are missing the self-timer but I know from some other “mechanical” cameras, these are not properly working and the little lever is easily stretched when the camera is placed inside a bag. Some might also say that the possibility to change lenses would be great. Generally, I would second that motion but to be realistic, this would put the camera in another price range.
Finally, I want to suggest something that really has to be improved: the lens cap always falls! At first sight, it looks classier than the Seagull 4A’s cap but the lens cap of my Seagull never comes off when I keep it in a bag. I just take my Lubitel out of my bag without the lens cap all the time. Although, I do place it inside another linen bag to avoid scratches.
If you want to experience analogue photography with all its quirks and amazing effects, if you’re looking to shoot crisp medium format pictures, easy double exposures you want to carry your camera with you all the time; then look no further. The Lubitel 166+ is the right camera for you.
Should you need more convincing, you should check out other members’ Lomohomes. In my personal collection you’ll find illustrious Lubitel users. But I have to warn you: there’s a good chance that you’ll get hooked.
Thanks for reading!
à la… bloomchen