Smena Symbol - An Unbiased Review.


An odd but pleasing combination of battery-free all manual controls and a small size (fits in large pocket). made in the USSR in the 1980’s.

Photo from: thecamerasite


Triplet 43/40 mm lens The aperture can be adjusted by this little ring around the lens. hard to do if you trim your nails closely. f4, 5.6, 8, 11, and 16. Shutter speeds are 1/15 to 1/250 (weather symbols for assistance) and there’s a B setting for longer exposures. don’t use ISO 400 and above in bright sunlight. It’ll get over exposed. Focusing is easy. just twist the lens barrel. It’s numbered from 1 meter to infinity with metric and British standard units.


The Smena Symbol is not ideal for people who have to shoot quickly and lack the time to adjust shutter speed and aperture and focus and crank the film. You have to think some before “just shoot”. It’s waterproof enough for some rain and going to the beach. You can take it pretty much everywhere else. It gives sharp pictures without a lot of fuzz or color distortion. So they’re not very “Lomographic” color-wise unless you modify your film. Definitely capable of taking more serious photos.


Instead of a button on top to open the shutter, there’s a lever next to the lens. It’s more ergonomic than you’d think. There’s a hotshoe for flash on the top center, and a tripod screw on the bottom. No lens cap or hole for a neck strap, but it comes with a case that covers the lens and has a strap. Be careful when loading the film; the little tooth on the film spool (where the film loads onto from the cartridge) doesn’t catch the film sometimes. Try using tape if you have that problem. Focusing is unaided, since this is a very basic camera and lacks a range finder. doesn’t sell this camera anymore, but over 10 million were made before it went out of production in 1993 and there’s probably some floating around at a thrift store nearby or on resale stores online for thirty, twenty dollars.

Anyways, the Smena Symbol is easy to use (if kind of slow) and it takes excellent photos that can range from totally Lomographic to classic and composed. It all depends on what the photographer does. You have a lot of control. The LOMO Smena Symbol does not guarantee photographic awesomeness unless the photographer had it before buying the camera.

written by rose_screw_selavy on 2010-03-24 #gear #review #smena-symbol #35-mm


  1. lolfox
    lolfox ·

    Good review.... I agree that this camera does indeed require patience but it can be very rewarding and i love its retro look...

    I would give a word of warning if you use the flash.... leaving the flash switched on tends to charge up all the metal parts, giving you repeated eletric shocks which can make for quite a hair raising experience.

  2. nural
    nural ·

    My hubby took posession of our new Smena, thats the only cam he uses nowadays!!

  3. ohfishal
    ohfishal ·

    This could easily be a review of my Hanimex BL35 !!
    Amazing! I don't know what year it was made though.
    The only difference is that it has the sutter release is in the regular spot.
    All the little idiosyncrasies such as the of the lack of lense cap but inclusion of a case fit perfectly with my Hanimex too.
    See my photo album for results :)

  4. soapimpression
    soapimpression ·

    Nice review. I got one for about £12 with the case. Bargain! My only worry is that the shutter release lever is slightly flimsy and feels like it could be prone to be prone to snapping if just thrown in a bag without the case (which is pretty big and slows you down even more). My favorite thing about this camera is the film crank. Soooo satisfying!

  5. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    haha - this is a camera for me! ... hmmm.

  6. rose_screw_selavy
    rose_screw_selavy ·

    PS: i was wrong; lomography actually does sell this camera (as of march 24 2010). when i was writing this article, it was out of stock for a few days.

  7. rose_screw_selavy
    rose_screw_selavy ·

    ...not to mention that the lens makes fluorescent lights look green

  8. stouf
    stouf ·

    Yeah ! Great review ! Love the last shot especially !

  9. holydarkyfied
    holydarkyfied ·

    nice camera, can be found for 10$ on ebay, I bought mine on this website and the shipping from Ukraine cost me more than how much I paid for it lol
    I love it

  10. iamtheju
    iamtheju ·

    This is the first review of this camera that has actually reviewed it. all of the others I've read just tell the spec and point out the obvious. I have the camera but it's been causing me a lot of grief. I need to work out what the issue is before I waste more film :(

  11. saliminternationalekhan
    saliminternationalekhan ·

    Great review thanks for the detail

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