I might just be attuned to the theme, but I hear and read a lot about storytelling in photography. This, of course, is what photo essays are about - the narrative form perfected by Life magazine among...
When photo.net asked me to review the Lomographic Society’s LC-A+ 35mm point-and-shoot film camera, I was intrigued. I’d always liked the old Olympus XA camera series and I’d been reading about the two cameras’ similarities. And, with Olympus’s decision last year to no longer service 35mm film cameras, and the numbers of them dwindling at resale shops, I was eager to see if the LC-A+ could be an adequate replacement.
I was also interested to discover if Lomography made cameras for people who don’t neatly fit into the Hipster demographic or aren’t terribly interested in novelty, plastic-lensed cameras. Lomo’s marketing materials are clearly aimed to attract young, slim, city dwellers with a love for overly saturated or cross-processed imagery. And, while I feel young, I’m clearly not as thin as I once was and my tastes have become far more desaturated.
When the demo camera arrived, I opened the mailing container to find the camera bubble-wrapped with three rolls of 400 speed Lomography color negative film – no manual, no documentation, and nothing else in the box. I resisted the urge to look online and download a manual, thinking instead that this might provide a good out-of-the-box usability test.
First, let’s review the tech specs
Angle of View
63 degrees (wide normal)
Manually adjusted range focus from 2.5’ — Infinity (using 4 presets)
unlimited low (remains open until properly exposed), 1/500 max
100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
X-sync, hot shoe
Tripod socket (mm)
standard (I found this to be slightly larger than normal)
9 oz without film, 9.8 oz with 36 exp. film
New LC-A+ features
Multiple exposure switch
Film ISO settings for 800 & 1600
Film cartridge window
Standard cable release
Front groove accessory mount
Using the LC-A+
The only way to really test a camera is to carry it around and use it for a few weeks. So, after giving the camera a quick inspection, I opened the back and popped in a cartridge of Lomo color negative film. It quickly fed into the take up spool and was easily loaded without incident.
The little sprocket wheel used to set the camera’s ASA speed wasn’t easy to move into the proper position. I found myself having to try several times to set it accurately. Generally this setting isn’t changed too often so I marked it up as a minor inconvenience.
The camera’s sliding lens protector also smartly covers the viewfinder window and acts as a shutter lock. Anyone who’s used a rangefinder style camera is aware that it’s notoriously easy to cap off a few shots and later discover the lens cap was on! The cleverly designed protector eliminates that misfortune. And by locking the shutter release, accidental—in the pocket or camera bag—misfires are a thing of the past. The slider switch to open the lens protector is well placed on the front of the camera below the lens and is easily accessible.
The manual range focus adjustment lever is something that might easily be overlooked by those accustomed to auto-focus cameras. The lever is conveniently located on the front of the camera next to the lens and has 4 position settings. Its placement is made for easy transitions when taking the camera from the bag to my eye while opening the lens protector and adjusting focus all at the same time.
When looking through the viewfinder the scene appears to have a moderate amount of barrel distortion. It isn’t enough to be intruding, but is interesting considering the lens imparts a degree of pincushion distortion—the opposite of barrel—to each captured image. You can see an example of pincushion distortion in the photograph of the lockers. Look at the way the top and bottom of the lockers bend toward the center instead of running in a straight line.
There are two red indicator lights in the viewfinder. When you push the shutter release button part way down, one or both may illuminate. The left one signals that the camera is ready and the batteries are good. The right one glows to indicate a low light situation and warns of a slow shutter speed. I found this two-red-light system confusing at first. It would be more intuitive if a green light were used to indicate readiness.
Use in the field
Overall the camera is easy to use, well designed, and a lot of fun. The lack of on-camera controls puts the emphasis on composition. I did find that while focusing was easy, images in bright situations had a greater chance of being in sharp focus than those in more subdued light. As aperture increases and depth of field decreases, I found fewer crisp clean images. However, the pictures shot in bright light or at infinity focus are each fantastically crisp.
One of the new LC-A+ features is the double exposure switch. This little slider on the bottom of the camera resets the shutter so that you can make as many exposures on one frame as you like. I tested the feature and it works as expected. It’s not the sort of thing I use every day, but it’s nice to have the option.
The shutter release button was a little loose feeling and required more effort to push down than I would have liked. I contacted Tom Abrahamson of rapidwinder.com and asked to try one of his Mini-Softie release buttons to help smooth out the shutter release. And, while his Mini-Softies are wonderful devices, it didn’t seem to hold well in the cable release socket on the LC-A+. I tried it on several of my other cameras including a Bessa R3-M and a Zorki 4K and it worked magic on those delivering the promised stability at lower shutter speeds. I understand it’s not common to use a Mini-Softie on a Lomo point and shoot, but I thought it’d be worth a try.
I would occasionally find the camera upside down in my bag and the shutter release part way down. The shutter is protected from firing, but the red indicator light was on and I imagine draining power from the three small LR44 batteries.
Lomo color negative film
The 400 ASA Lomo color negative film was fine. The film scanned well and my Epson V700 flatbed did a fairly good job of getting the white balance correct without manual adjustment. The images shown with this article are all made on the Lomo film, scanned full frame, with no retouching, and only some simple level adjustments and minor sharpening to account for the loss from scanning.
The Lomo LC-A+ is a well made, fun, compact point and shoot 35mm film camera with a terrific fast lens that delivers quality images. It has a number of similarities to the old Olympus XA2. To enjoy the camera, you have to surrender to the idea of relinquishing control over shutter speed, f/stop, and minute focus adjustment, but once you do you’re free to concentrate on composition and framing, and you might just find yourself having a whole lot of fun.
I’m glad to see Lomo continuing to expand their film camera line. If you’re looking for a take-anywhere compact camera that’s not terribly expensive, you might consider the Lomo LC-A+. There’s a lot to like about the camera, hipster or not….
Tom Persinger is a photographer, writer, historian, and the founder of F295.