There is no doubt in our minds that UK-based Steve Lloyd has a deep understanding of the more technical sides of photography. He set up Chroma Cameras in 2018 and is responsible for designing, producing and 3D printing a range of large and medium format cameras. When we sent him a prototype of the new LomoGraflok to test out he could hardly contain his excitement. In this article, Steve talks to us about his experiences of using the LomoGraflok on a local, lunchtime walk and why there has been such a positive response to this new, must-have instant back.
Hi Steve, welcome to Lomography, please tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, I'm Steve Lloyd and I’m the owner, designer, manufacturer, marketer, accountant, and coffee maker for Chroma Cameras! I’ve been a professional photographer for around 12 years and started Chroma Cameras in 2018. Outside of my workshop, I’m married to Hayley and have two great kids, Jake and Chloe. Along with building custom cameras, I’ve also recently worked with Jason Lane from PictorioGraphica to bring our ChromaGraphica dry plate holder to the market.
How long have you been shooting large-format?
I built my first large format camera in 2015, a custom Polaroid 110, having previously built a range of 35mm/medium format cameras before that. I remember the first sheet of the slide I had developed absolutely blowing me away and thinking that it looked like a stained glass window in my hand.
From that point, I was hooked! Since then, I’m still a sucker for slide film, particularly Velvia 50, but don’t get much time to actually expose any film myself. However, seeing results shared by photographers in the Chroma Family all around the world always makes my day.
What do you like most about the shooting experience with a large-format camera?
I’m an engineer at heart and love the technicalities and tactile nature of large format cameras. Whilst carrying my Olympus OM4 or Yashica 635 is slightly more convenient, being able to really compose an image exactly how I want it on a Carbon Adventurer, or know that I’m going to get a massive negative back from a handheld camera like a SnapShot always excites me. Having learned more about dry and wet plate photography over the last 18 months, I’m really looking forward to trying wet plate myself soon.
Have you taken instant photos with a large-format camera before?
Although not quite large format, I’ve previously built a one-off Instax Wide Camera with a Kiev88 lens and a new electronic global shutter that I’ve been working on for a while. Having a fast aperture lens, coupled with Instax wide film gave me a taste for what was possible and I was really excited to get the opportunity to try out a LomoGraflok unit myself.
Tell us about your experience using the LomoGraflok Instant Back and what you like most about it?
A large-format compatible Instax Wide back has been something that lots of people in the analogue community have wanted for a long time, so I was really excited to get the chance to borrow a LomoGraflok unit myself. Rather than taking it out with my Carbon Adventurer field camera, I really wanted to mount it to a SnapShot to give me an instant handheld large format camera and it didn’t disappoint!
Whilst I’ve seen other photographers use the LomoGraflok like a traditional Graflok back, switching between the ground glass to focus/compose then the Lomo unit to expose the film, I wanted to try “shooting from the hip” so took it out with me during a lunchtime walk. Using zone focusing and a simple optical viewfinder gave me the freedom to walk around without carrying a bag full of kit, or even a tripod, and really enjoyed the entire process. Over the space of an hour, I got through 4 boxes of film, both colour and black and white, and I found the whole experience really relaxing. Whilst my Schneider 75mm lens really needs a lens hood to stop some flare, the LomoGraflok unit worked flawlessly, delivering an enjoyable instant experience.
What is your experience of the large format community, what kind of people are they what makes them gravitate towards this format?
I’m a huge fan of the analogue community and have always tried my best to give back to it as much as possible, as Chroma wouldn’t exist without them. Having seen the large-format community, in particular, grow massively over the last 4-5 years, it’s really difficult to put everyone into a single box. There are just as many photographers who have recently moved into the large format as there are those who have been using it for half a century, and everyone in between. From my own experience, one thing that brings everyone together is sharing knowledge/experiences and I think the excitement around the LomoGraflok unit, and Instax film in general, is definitely building.
Do you see yourself using the LomoGraflok again?
Definitely. Whilst I enjoy exposing sheet film, there are times when Instant film offers a unique outlook. In particular, many studio photographers miss the opportunity to take an instant photograph to check a scene setup/lighting. Until now, there hasn’t been a way to do this for a considerable amount of time, so I’m excited about being able to use Instax for this. In true Chroma style, I’ve already been working on an accessory unit to work alongside a LomoGraflok and seamlessly integrate it into a sheet film process. I’ll have some more details about that soon.