Tag Archives: russian

Kitchen de light

25 Jun

Kitchen de light

Tasma NK2 film and Zenit E, light in my St. Petersburg kitchen, a delight


Don’t develop ORWOcolor (ORWO color) in C-41

3 Feb

ORWOcolor in C-41 is murder.

ORWO color destroyed

ORWO color destroyed in C-41

It is confirmed now.
Do not develop  ORWO or Svema films in C-41 chemistry.
It worse than a crime again humanity. I did it and feel sorry about destroying a film – but I did because I was deceived.

Orwo color developed in native chemistry

Orwo color developed in native chemistry

Orwocolor film test – the catastrophe and an official confirmation of long standing suspicions disproved or rather proved.

Four experiments were running concurrently
I sacrificed an ORWO Orwoclor NC 19 film for C-41 process.
I ran a test drive of Ihagee Exa (success, the Saxon photographic machine…. works, sounds like the name for a company Saxon Photographic Machine Works – )   Die Sächsische Fotografische Maschinenwerke , no does not sound good).
I test a Ferrania film (Solaris, 12 exposure roll)
and I put a strip of Tasma film to see how it behaves in Caffenol. Not bad.

I’ve been hearing fairy tales and stories of people developing ORWOcolor and Russian Svema film stock in C-41 chemistry.  What I saw were the scans of images that were grey, brownish and had almost no color in them, these were all ugly   monochromes or at best bichromes.  Colors looked weird but perhaps the film just went back, I thought, or who knows what happened to it. On the other hand intelligent people said in forums that the developer (CD1, CD2 and CD3 – CD is color developer, and the ORWO and Soviet Svema used the oldest one CD1 which is N,N-Diethy1-1,4-Phenylene Diamine Sulfate while C-41 has CD4 which is (3-Methy1-4-Amino-N-Ethyl-N-(2-Hydroxyethyl) Aniline Sulfate(Monohydrate) and should work similarly – or so I read.  They don’t. ORWOcolor and Svema films should be developed in their own chemistry and not in the C-41 soup.

DO NOT develop ORWOcolor or any pre CNS Agfacolor or Russian Svema color films or anything else that traces its origin from the old Agfa negative color films in C-41 chemistry.
Not just the emulsion might melt – it might – you will destroy the film.  You will get no colors but garbage. The film that those people develop in C-41 is just butchered, senselessly, the  deceived lomography herd is of course the most vicious sect committed to destroying good stuff with their guiding principle of the worse but really, really save the film either as a memento – keep it in refrigerator for future use – or process it in the “native chemistry”.

ORWOcolor (non C-41) would be compatible with a range of other films like all Soviet color Svema, British Ilfocolor, Japanese Sakulor (pre 1980s) and all Agfacolor films up to CNS.

Contact me if you want to process old film or want to do it on your own and need chemicals.  But please don’t butcher it in the C-41.

Kodachrome – in Memoriam – St. Petersburg and Kronstadt, post 2

4 Jan

The story of how and why I started shooting Kodachrome – belatedly, in the last months or rather in the month before its demise is in my previous post.  That post also contains pictures of St. Petersburg taken on Kodachrome while I’ll move on. Below are a few more very last pictures of a locale in Russia taken on Kodachrome, late October 2010.  Needless to say that I also took pictures of my kids and friends on Kodachrome (that was the point) but being a private person i don’t of course post those never mind I can’t see how they can be of anyone’s interest. Click any image for larger view;.


Russia on last Kodachrome, continued:

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg  St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Kirochanya 25

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - - building 24, a nice Art Nouveau building constructed for a Jewish rentier Back in 1904, has a few surviving Art Nouveau mosaics, stained glass - rare for the city that saw so much barbarism within a century - and decor elements, St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia



(phonetically Americanized mutilation Chernyshevskaya, Чернышевская). entrance too, close to midnight-.


Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street


Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green


Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome

Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome, officially the Cathedral of Our Savior, a baroque beauty of rare quality by any standard, is popularly called Smolny or Tar Cathedral though there is not tar-like about it, the origin of the name is toponymical, it was built next to the works that produced pitch pine tar for shipbuilding purpose in the age when ship used to have sails and were made of wood.



Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -night


St. Vladmir Church St Petersburg

The church dates from 1746 but its current late neoclassical appearance with numerous baroque elements is from the late 18 century (foundation laid in 1761, completed 1768) . The Cathedral and the separate Belfry is a collective work of several architects - Giacomo Quarenghi (the belfry) and the Bartholomeo Rastrelli (the main building) shared with later additions by Abraam Melnikov, Alexander Holm and Luigi Rusca. Behind the Cathedral is an ambulance station - my grandmother was born in Petrograd in 1918 and worked first as a nurse during the Leningrad Siege and after getting her doctor's diploma in 1945 as an ambulance doctor well past her retirement until 1990.



Somewhere in Kronstadt

Somewhere in Kronstadt (evil Americans and their helpful Russian idiots spell it phonetically as KronsHdadt), anyway these are ruins of apparently 19th century buildings that probably belonged to the navy.


Kronstadt fountain autumn scene

Kronstadt fountain autumn (fall scene) - a compact camera loaded with Kodachrome 200 that i took up to Umbria. Kodachrome 200 is a different film that acts differently and has ir rather had as Kodachrome is dead atrocious grain unlike smooth and silky Kodachrome 25 and 64


Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind


Kronstadt Kronshtadt

Kronstadt Kronshtadt on Kodachrome - 18th century warehouses or packhouses and old navy canals where tall ships were repaired equipped or rigged (not like American elections though) and there are ammunition, rope, ship pine tar and other stores. In state of beautiful decay.

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - Гостинный двор - Gostinny dvor - Merchant yard


lada 2105

lada 2105 on Kodachrome, Kronstadt

Film test: Свема ЦО-32д – Svema CO-32D from the year 1986

20 Nov

Color or Colour Reversal or Reversible Film

Svema CO-32D color reversible film from the old Soviet Union

Svema CO-32D color reversible film from the old Soviet Union

DIN 16 / ISO 32

Made in Russia (Soviet Union) by Svema

Estimated year of manufacture 1986

Expired 1990

Used in 2011

Camera used – Rollei SLX

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

ЦО-32Д or CO-32D
Nowadays would probably be transliterated into English by most people semi-phonetically in the as TsO-32D though it stands CO-32D right there on the box.

CO is an abbreviation that means (in Russian) Color Reversible (Film), 32 is the film’s speed according to GOST (which is same ASA or ISO) and the letter D at the end denotes in Russian (abbreviation) as it would in English D means here means  ” daylight”.

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

So basically it is color reversible daylight film, 32 ISO film. If the name were to be translated as opposed to being transliterated into English, then it would be CR-32D or CRF-32D.   Creativity in approach to naming products was not the Soviet’s strongest point.

The film was made in 1986. Because it expired in 1990 and the ЦО-32Д (TsO-32D) film was discontinued in  early 1987, I assume it could only be made in 1985.

Svema CO 32 d also known as TsO-32d / ЦО 32д

Svema CO 32 d also known as TsO-32d / ЦО 32д

The film was baked in some window because the colors faded quite a bit and was tossed around because the state of the packaging is far from pristine.  Also the film was not packed in an individual canister – either made plastic like in cheapo countries or in beautiful aluminum canisters that ORWO / Orwochrom films used to come in.  The roll of film was just wrapped in a piece of waxed foil-like paper, 1930s style.

sacrificial lambs - old Svema CO-32d /TsO-32d, Orwochrom UT-18 in two flavors and an Orwochrom UK-17

sacrificial lambs - old Svema CO-32d /TsO-32d, Orwochrom UT-18 in two flavors and an Orwochrom UK-17

I bought the film on Ebay though I don’t remember how much did I pay for.

The film is dead for the purposes of practical photography though was quite usable when it was new. That alone is amazing because if you were to read through numerous Russian photography forums the impression you would get is that Soviet color film was useless.

There are quite a few though not many examples of old photos from the Soviet Union taken on the Svema CO-32d film stock.  http://images.yandex.ru/yandsearch?text=%D0%A6%D0%9E-32%D0%B4

What is this film? It is original Agfacolor slide film from the year 1936 with improved dyes. Soviet CO-1 (ЦО-1) film was the real Agfacolor and I would like to get my hands on one of those, better on a batch.

I bought my CO-32d – six rolls I think – through Ebay from a place like Bulgaria.

The test

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - my fiats in Nikolsburg - Panda, Croma and Punto

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - my fiats in Nikolsburg - Panda, Croma and Punto

I used two rolls for test though sadly I killed one during development – I promise it won’t happen again. Instead of second developer I put the film into the bleach. Amazingly the image did not disappear in an instant but during fixing stage the pictures were gone. There is perhaps a way to restore them, pull them out of there, chemically and that will be another, a different project altogether.

Exposure – I exposed originally ISO 32 film as ISO 12 which was apparently not enough. Now I think that ISO 6 would have been more appropriate.

Loading the developing tank. When I was loading the film into the tank I discovered that the backing paper grew into the film. It merged with it. The place where the film was stored all those years (shop window?) must have been pretty hot for the film and the backing paper to bake together. I had to wash the backing paper off the film.  Not everything came out.

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - a Panda in yellow
Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д – a Panda in yellow

Developing. I mixed all chemicals myself according to the ORWO 9165C procedure which is used for Orwochrom (Orwochrome) processing except three major or minor elements.

The first or the so-called black and white developer.  Soviet GOST (Svema and Tasma color reversible films) prescribes first developer with Amidol. This was probably the original Agfacolor developer. Because I haven’t found Amidol so far I had to skip that and replace the chemical with something else. Now the  ORWO 9165C process asks for a combination of phenidone and hydroquinone – I did not find phenidone either. Instead I used a developer from Bohemian Foma cookbook, originally Agfacolor 67 prescribed for Fomachrom film stock.

Here is the “recipe”

Metol     3,0 g

Sodium sulfate, dehydrated   50.0 g

Hydroquinone    6,0 g

Sodium carbonate (CAS 497-19-8)   40,0 g (I used baking soda)

Potassium thiocyanate (CAS No: 333-20-0)    2 g

Potassium bromide (CAS 7758-02-3).     2    g

Potassium Iodide (CAS No.7681-11-0(  0.1% solution   6    ml

I skipped the potassium iodide part for the reason that I don’t have it either.

At the edge of a forest between Stützenhofen and Poysbrunn, Weinviertel, Lower Austria

At the edge of a forest between Stützenhofen and Poysbrunn, Weinviertel, Lower Austria

That means that developed the Russian Svema CO-32d according to German ORWO reversible film process but for the first developer used one from Czech Foma (stolen Agfacolor) without one ingredient.  Potassium iodide is a fogging reducing agent and could be replaced with a pinch of benzotriazole but I did not bother.

The second short cut the was stop bath which I made from regular vinegar and tap water as opposed to a mixure of 99%  ethanoic acid, sodium acetate and water.  Vinegar and water dressing works as well.

Besides these two the entire process was more or less according to the sacred book of Orwo.

I developed five rolls of film altogether (two Svema CO-32d and three test rolls of ORWO reversible films – an ancient Orwochrom UT-18, an even more ancient ORWO UT-18 and an Orwochrom UK-17  (test reports are coming later).

A hint on developing Orwochrom, Fomachrom,  Soviet / Russian Tasma and Svema CO films as well as similar oddities that I never encountered but would love to get my hands on like Sakurachrome, Ferraniachrome, Revuechrome, Anscochrome, which all use Hitlerite Agfacolor technology.  I will develop those films in batches of 10 because 1 liter is the minimum quantity of ready chemical solutions I would make or I can weigh and pre-mix chemicals at the price or rather cost of about 15 euros plus shipping for 1 liter solution mix that would include everything except stop bath (get your vinegar at a local grocery store).  I would develop 1  roll of such film free of charge but you’d have to wait until there is a batch ready – I’d reckon the next Orwochrom-Agfacolor cookout will take place in about three months time.

“Raw” chemicals. I bought mine from the good people at the Calbe Chemie (http://www.calbe-chemie.de) in Germany which also used to make ORWO processing kits. Their minimum quantity is normally 1 kilo of stuff which is obviously a lot unless you plan on testing and developing Agfacolor-like films like I do.

A panda at the end of a long road

A panda at the end of a long road

The summary here though not quite yet the verdict.  When it was fresh the Svema CO-32d like the ORWO UT and UK products was a forgiving, usable film that had soft watercolor sort of quality. If one is fortunate enough to get hold of a refrigerated or at least unbaked batch today then he or she will come into a possession of a veritable treasure – Svema CO films produce is capable of producing unusual painterly effects and is easy to handle and process.

Are Russian photographers free? Some are.

26 Sep

Though Flickr I got a message from an editor of an art magazine with dual seat in London and Berlin (unlike Rome and Berlin or London and Paris pairs, this couple sounds surreally odd). She was nice to ask me  seven innoxent questions, a few were about nature of photography while others about Russian-ness or how it is perceived by others (the fair lady did not ask if  Russians guzzle vodka down from a garden hose though), but I thought I’ll post my answers for all to see because in some ways, like relationship between film  and digital (or lack thereof) could be of interest to those for whom photography is of interest.

Hi Amanda,

Thank you for noticing my pictures and please accept my apologies for responding so late or rather later than I should have had but alas I did not get the message in time. You see I was on a vacation. From the Internet that is. I got tired of checking my email 45 times per day and thought for one it would it would be great  if I could get disconnected for a while. Yes I know Internet is a great money making platform (even I make some money off it now and then and have plans for a few Internet-related ventures) but from the personal standpoint it is both a horrible way to waste one’s not so precious time as well as a  major productivity drag.

Though I am not hoping to make your magazine edition, let me answer your questions one by one (though I thought at least some of them were somewhat  biased, questions I mean, not my forthcoming answers, which are not) but let’s begin: better late  than never

1. 1.Your photography is very characteristic and different. What do you think has influenced you most?

I am just trying not to pay much attention to established rules as I enjoy experimentation in general, be it experimentation with cooking or with photography. Though perhaps when it comes to cooking my operational freedom is more restricted by national traditions, be those French, Austrian or old Russian, and is thus more reliant on the repositories of collective wisdom stored within confines of classic cookbooks, than would ever be the case of photography with which I am free to do pretty much anything I please.

Among photographers who influenced me most was perhaps Sergei Varaskin (http://club.foto.ru/gallery/photos/author.php?author_id=2084), he is not well known, controversial and yes, Russian or rather he lives in Russia. I discovered his creative genius just a few months ago.  As I understand in his real life he is a civil engineer of retirement age .

2. 2.Do you experiment with many different cameras? What do you see in analog photography that digital photography lacks?

Because I collect cameras the natural urge for me is to try them out as well, to resurrect them to their former photographic selves if not to their past glory. That is a sentiment that a few historic gun collectors might share because manyof them have the urge, the itch, to shoot old pistols and rifles and whatever they’ve got in their collections that when put to use belches smoke,  produces noise and even expels gunpowder propelled projectiles. Similarly to old guns (and God knows I like guns) finding ammunition for the old junk can be challenging while firing ancient pieces might even be dangerous both to the experimenter and to the spectators. It is less dangerous with cameras at least as far as the experimenter is concerned.

Digital photography is too naturalistic and plasticky. I think digital photography (done with quality say expensive equipment) enjoys almost absolute advantage over traditional film in a number of areas where naturalism is either the greatest value or is of substantial value: say in such rewarding genres as pornography as well as in commercial and product photography.  I am going to quote or misquote a flickr user who wrote something to the effect that digital photography did to film what silver-based photography did to traditional painting around 1860s or so, namely it freed it. Liberated from the restraints of naturalism and of need to emulate naturalistic ideals,  film photography can now aspire to reach the expressive heights which  were off limits to it  just a decade or two ago in the dark era when quality “mattered” most. Now a decent midrange DSLRs like the Sony A900 never mind the heavy artillery of the top end digital Hasselblad caliber, even in the hands of  neophyte rookies, deliver “quality” that less than 20 years ago was imaginable,  attainable on a consistent basis and deliverable only by the most experienced lavishly outfitted squads of pros backed by teams of fearless assistants .

Thus said I don’t believe that  the digital image taking, processing and all the marvels of the photoshop artistry on one hand,  and the real photography, i.e. classic silver based photography and wet processing on the other are related lest are identical. To me these two are different media that should not be confused,  judged by or even placed within the same categories. For example,  the value of a traditional silver-based black and white print   is to me much greater – by virtue of its material alone and skill that went into the producting a wet print – than a digital ink printout from some Epson device. The equation is similar as to way  a unique oil painting created by an artist (paintings manufactured in painting factories in China is a different category altogether) carries greater appeal never mind the value than a shiny reproduction from a color photocopier.

3. 3. Do you prefer to shoot emptiness and portray still life rather than the typical portraits? Who do you enjoy photographing?

I am an entrepreneur or perhaps  self-employed is the label that I would  be most comfortable with affixing to myself.  Thus I am not a professional photographer – a pro  is someone who does what he does for money and I don’t because  at least  in the domain of the photography I am freed from  financial restraints or considerations a professional would have to deal with. I am a private person who does not believe that life is or should be an exhibition. So the photos I take of my kids or of my friends are not for public display.

4. 4. How do you think that living in Russian is making you different as an artist?

I don’t live in the Russian Federation. I do spend a few months per year in St. Petersburg and it is too bright and excessively  unjustifiably foolishly cheery for my taste. In the summer months especially,. Russia – or that part of it –  is also pretentious in a garish sort of way never mind all the phony ostentatiousness and the fake luxuries of the Thieving Class on display over there and the loss of culture that by now seems almost irreversible.

5. 5.Many of your photos are melancholic and empty, do you see this is as part of Modern Russian?

I don’t quite understand the question or rather I hope I don’t but if I were you, and if I am getting it right, then  if  I wouldn’t commit the folly of transposing mostly meaningless photography of a middle aged man on cultural environment of today’s Russia which I’d assure you is though at this point seems utterly hopeless is not at all serious (well, that was once said about Vienna, somewhat unjustly though in a different and more serious context) and is now far more melancholic and emptier than the emptiest of my pictures are albeit even that place is not as depressing as the Swedish cinema. Though now pretty much extinct Swedish cinema is hardly a “place”

6. 6.Do you think people in Russia are really free or live under a disguised dictatorship?
I don’t think the dictatorship is in any way disguised.

And of course you can be totally free under a dictatorship. As an artist you should know that.
It benefits if the said dictatorship is of low taxation nature and does not care about artists as well,.

7. 7.How free do you feel as a Russian photographer in the whole wide world, and how important is communication with the outside world for you or your work?

There are three issues:

Firstly, I am not a Russian photographer. Strictly speaking I am not. But I am also a Russian photographer in an unusual way and I have bagged some unique experiences and possess an unusual amount of cultural insight. I am free.

Secondly, as a habitually failing entrepreneur I am looking for  venture capital partners, new contacts and people with whom I could develop a few projects and make a few bucks in the process or build up a business  or two – that would be good.   I realize that  this sort of considerations are irrelevant to any true artist. Look here, Mozart or Rimsky-Korsakov would have composed music regardless of whether they got paid or not, received favorable feedback or not (they often did not), if their creations were protected by copyright or not (they were not) and if they were online (they were not) or offline.  I think that for an artist at least too much communications is a bad thing. An artist must be able to work alone oblivious both to the world around and disinterested in the world’s opinions, prejudices and reactions.

Thirdly, for me personally, as for a hobby photographer, the Flickr has been an source of both inspiration and enlightenment not merely because I got occasional feedback but because I learn from the work of others, sharing is a mutual and  rewarding experience.

Once again thank you for asking for my opinion.

Camera test: an early Komsomolec (Komsomolets)

1 Sep

Komsmolets (Komsomolets, Комсомолец)

The Long Story of the Komsomolets

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is a Russian camera made by LOMO / Gomz inLeningrad,St. Petersburg, from 1946 to 1951. I own 2 specimens and both are of the 1947 vintage. One camera works pretty much like if it were new and the second one has a problem with the shutter. The release lever is loose in its socket, doesn’t fire when it is supposed to but thank Lord it looks fairly repairable, like if someone attempted to disassemble the contraption but then got interrupted by a call from the kitchen and had to put things back hastily together.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Komsolets is a first postwar consumer camera that was designed and made in a in a bombed out and burnt factory complex located in city that just lost over half of its population to the brutal three year long  Nazi siege,  one of the most horrific events in the World War. It was sold in a market that was hungry for any photography equipment and would consume anything.  Its history and its appeal has its roots in the siege ofLeningrad, the defining experience for all who survived it (the before and after thing, like the atomic bombing ofHiroshimaandNagasakibecame the before and after moment for its survivors); the survivors of the siege at the Lomo made this little camera after the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

As the Nazi hordes approachedLeningrad, in the  Fall of 1941 the Soviet authorities outlawed photographic cameras. Yes they did.  Every inhabitant of the city had to turn in his or her camera. The reasoning of that was fairly simple, there should be no record of what was about to transpire save for the official one.  By Nazi hordes I don’t mean the Germans because the invasion of the Soviet Union was an international affair let by a NATO-style coalition which at its utmost geographical stretch may be even exceeded current NATO – fromFinlandtoSpain.  WhenLeningradwas besieged the Northern approaches were encircled by the Finns asFinlandwas an enthusiastic Hitler’s ally and a leading Nazi power (more politically correct way of saying this is an Axis power). WithoutFinlandthe encirclement ofLeningradand murder of over one million civilians that ensued would not have been possible. BecauseFinlandbecame Soviet Union’s “friend” after the war all references to Finnish war crimes (which by far exceeded anything Germans did in the territory), political and popular racism or toFinland’s role in the siege ofLeningradwere suppressed by Soviet authorities. The encirclement was complete when southern approaches to the city were seized by the Wehrmacht units supplemented by a motley force that resembled the recent  Coalition of the Willing – from Estonian SS murders to Franko’s Spaniards, and from Romanian units to Norwegian SS volunteers.  Leningradremained besieged and encircled for almost three years until the siege was broken and remaining the Nazis later themselves encircled and killed off. When the Soviet authorities realized that the city is encircled, shut tight in fact,  they decided they need to do something about population control. The city had two or two and a half million inhabitants though perhaps almost half of the population had wisely fled by then. My grandmother didn’t. She spent the entire siege in the city from the first to the last day. She had to become medical doctor in 1942 but by 1942 the medical school was shut down because there were no professors and no students and the buildings were locked, frozen solid or burned out. She became a doctor of medicine in 1945, the first year the school opened.  When I browsed through her photo graduation album, I realized that out of entire group of perhaps 30 fresh doctors of medicine, there was only one, just one male graduate.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

With the city encircled in the late 1941 the authorities passed emergency decrees confiscating all photographic cameras and all radios. The punishment for disobeying the ordinance was espionage charge and death. Only one person was convicted of possessing and using a camera illegally, a fellow named Alexander Nikitin, who was turned to the authorities by his own neighbors, as usual, but got a milder five year sentence in imprisonment, possibly of starvation, in a couple of years  In 2002 three negatives he took which were kept in KGB archives all these  years were professionally enlarged and exhibited as part of a larger Unknown Siege or Unknown Blockade (Неизвестная Блокада) photo exhibition  together with photographs taken by reporters whose works likewise were classified and stored in secret archives.  Professional photographers employed by Soviet news agencies and newspapers could photograph almost freely but the pictures they took were subjected to military and political censorship with expectant results. Over 90% of all images were classified.  Nikitin’s photos (the condemned amateur photographer who escaped execution but instead died from in a camp) show that the authorities were not exceedingly paranoid in their fears of what subjects would amateur photographers pick when they permitted to.  Nikitin photographed bomb damage. There were way worse things to photograph.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

In late 1941 theLeningradauthorities turned all private phones off for fear that phones could be used to spread panic among large numbers of people.  Phones remained turned off until 1944.  I became distracted from the topic of Komsomolets camera, which is unique in the way that this was the first postwar camera made in ravished burned out and to a great extent an extinct ghost-like city, and sold to public that was deprived of opportunity to take pictures with own cameras for almost four years.  If you did not turn your camera in, there was another problem – film and photographic supplies were unavailable throughout the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Soviet film manufacturing facilities were located in the territory overrun by the Nazis, were used for the Reich’s benefit and were destroyed at the end.  This explains that although there are literally countless tons or tonnes (if those are metric) of war images taken by ordinary Wehrmacht personnel photos from the opposing side are non-existent.  All just major German film manufacturers like Agfa and Perrutz operated throughout the war and even provided mail-in processing services for the troops in the field, but like with weapons industries and automotive manufacturing, the entireEuropemade stuff for Hitler and contributed to the Nazi cause.   Czech Foma , Belgian Gevaert, Italian Ferrania and Lumiere inFrancemade film stock and supplies until at least the middle of the war when pursuing hobby of photography and cinema became a somewhat lesser priority for the Nazis.  The other side left little amateur photographic evidence: Soviet soldiers were not allowed to have own cameras until later in the war but even if they were they was no film except what they could get from the dead Nazis.  The 1945 Victory Parade inMoscowwas filmed on captured German Agfacolor stock which then was flown in to defeatedBerlinfor processing.


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

The Soviet experience of confiscating cameras and radios from the citizens inLeningradwas by no means unique.  Nominally “democratic” Czechoslovakia confiscated all private radios from its German speaking citizens right before Hitler’s march into Sudenland and in 1945 the “democratic” Czechoslovak state requisitioned cameras and watches along with other valuables from 2.3 million individuals, who were also stripped of their citizenship, all rights to property and then expelled (perhaps as many as 240 000 were murdered because they were alleged to be German). I have no idea what didCzechoslovakiado with all those cameras but apparently they still provide inexhaustible supply of merchandise for Czech antique shops.

RevLomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Komsomolets was a special camera because in the minds of people who made it and who bought it, the Komsomolets signified a return to normal life or to a semblance of normal life.  From what I understand the film production was not restored for a few years, so the situation must had somewhat resembled the digital age, getting a film camera was easier than finding film.

Komsomolets is supposedly a knock-off from German Voigtländer Brillant. Or rather from an earlier version of Brillant because it is not a true TLR but a fake, a camera that appears like a TLR but is in fact just a box camera with no focusing arrangement, the user has to guesstimate the distance and the top part of the structure with the faux focusing lens acting purely as a decoration..

Why it is supposedly based on Brillant? Well, a number of fake TLRs were produced, most notably in theUS(a number of Argus cameras or Spartus Super R-I) though Komsomolets does remind one of a Brillant in styling perhaps more than other contemporary imitations.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Komsolets, a relatively rare camera, is often advertised as a copy of Brillant. Ebay sellers form the former Soviet Union have a tendency to say this less than half truth in their description of the merchandise they put up for sale. Brillant (and I own one or two of those apparatuses) is a better camera. It produces square images that are reasonably sharp without much vignetting while Komsomolets, at least the earlier models that I’ve got, is equipped with the simplest T-21 anastigmatic lens (there was a prewar Czech tank, Skoda T-21, though it was hopefully not related to this pathetic lens). The lens produces horrific vignetting and is quite blurry, perhaps blurrier than late plastic lenses of Holga and Holga-like toy cameras.  Though technically not classified as such, for all known purposes Komsomolets is a toy camera that has somewhat complicated controls.  Brillant is not a toy – it is a better built piece of equipment that is also more useful than Komsomolec (Komosomolets).


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

The main difference between the two is of course that most later, post 1937, versions of Brillant were   true TLRs even equipped with an exposure frame counter (like the Brillant I have) while Komsomolets is a pseudo-TLR, the upper lens really serves no purpose,  in fact it could as well be a box camera.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

In an inexact translation Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is normally rendered as a Young Communist. That product name alone would be shocking to Nazis and Americans (especially of the 1950s variety, when the USA assumed the role of the global anti-Communism crusader and accepted Third Reich’s heritage it preserves so diligently and the role it so dutifully carries forward until this day) but at the same time the name was of course totally innocent sounding to most Russians of the era. Now  it does strike one, even a Russian speaker, as both grotesque and dated.  Komsomol is syllabic  abbreviation that meansUnionof the Communist Youth and Komsomolets is a masculine noun produced from that abbreviation. Komsomol had members as young as 14 and membership in Komsomol could have lasted until early 20s (officially and much later the age was extended to 28 to keep older functionaries in place). Since a Komsomolets was someone in his or her teens, it is obvious that the camera was targeted at the group of very young users.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in   Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Why did Lomo or Gomz decide to develop a fake TLR is beyond comprehension . In capitalist economies of the day where matter of market prestige was important, the advent of fake TLR or pseudo TLR was understandable or can at least be explained rationally. A person who could not afford an exorbitantly expensive Rolleiflex or even Rolleicord, or other great twin lens reflex cameras made in other countries like Semflex in France or Microflex in Britain, could always buy a fake TLR and look like the rich fellow in a Horch (Citroen, Rolls Royce) who had the real thing: a fake TLR from the 30s and 40s as a progenitor of fake mobile phones from the early 1990s. Prestige pressure was probably not that great in the Stalinist Soviet Union, especially in respect to a product made for kids and young adults, and the manufacturers could have just saved some raw materials and labor and produced a very good box camera instead but for some reason the designers at Lomo – and the party apparatchiks who had to approve every decision at the planning authority – went along with a fake TLR. Perhaps even they thought it would be cool to give survivingLeningradkids a visual resemblance of something that at least looks like a Rolleiflex.


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  some street flowers in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - some street flowers in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Nonetheless, the body of the Komsomolets (that sounds quite macabre) was later used for producing the first generation of the Lubitel cameras.  A Lubitel  means an amateur in Russian which, like in the original French sense of the word amateur, signifies someone who loves the thing he does, like photography, but not necessarily does it poorly or inferiorly to a pro, who in turn can be quite inferior to a good amateur in all respects, the difference between the two is that a professional who does the work for money, a photographic mercenary,  while an amateur is someone who does it out of sheer pleasure or love (for the occupation and art of photography in this case). Obviously in modern American English the meaning of the word has somewhat mutated from the value of its original French importation and the amateur now is just somebody who is a dilettante.

Unlike Komsomolec the Lubitel that followed it was a true TLR and quite remarkable photographic instrument considering its very low retail price.

The Summary:

Komsomolets is a twin lens reflex camera that uses 120 format film and produces 12 images in the so called 6×6 format.

From 1946 until 1950 the first two versions of Komsomolets cameras were equipped with simplest T-21 (Triplet) lenses. The lens was 6.3/80 and had centrally built shutter (had to be cocked manually before  each exposure) , and a modest exposure range of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and Bulb.

The last, 1951 model, came with a much better T-22 lens, the same lens was used in the early Lubitel cameras.

The very first models of Komsomolets were supposedly equipped with a mechanical frame counter, I never saw a specimen of those mythical species. These are proto-Komsomolets.

The second version of Komsomolets, known as the Model I or Issue I (Выпуск I) – and  from 1946 to 1948 had the inscription Ленинград (Leningrad) underneath the lower lens, I’ve got two of those and had one tested with film.

The third one, named Model – Ia or Issue – Ia (Выпуск Ia) was identical to the previous model but had no wordLeningradunderneath the lens.

The last one or the Model II or the Issue II ((Выпуск II) had a different T-22 lens and was replaced by the Lubitel in the year 1951 (Lubitels were made from the year 1950 onward so for one year at least Lomo made both Komsomolets, a pseudo-TLR and Lubitel, a real TLR in the same body, concurrently).

In total almost 400 000 Komsmomolets cameras (some 370 000 to be precise on official count) were made.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  a tram (street car) stop in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a tram (street car) stop in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

The conclusion:

Komsomolets (Komsomolec) cameras, at least the first models with T-21, are a photographic curiosity. A collector of Soviet cameras might buy one for his or her collection but as far as photographic capabilities of the cameras are concerned, they are quite limited.

If one is to shop for Komsomolets with practical photography in mind, I would suggest getting the last year model with a T-22 lens but better still go for a cheaper and more  capable Lubitel.

With shipping on Ebay Komsomolents would cost an international buyer anything from 50 to 100 euros. The price inRussiaor formerSoviet Unionstates would range from 30 to 50 euros, therefore this piece is more expensive than far more capable Lubitel.

Komsomolets like early Lubitel uses 27mm (supposedly) push-on filters but Rolleiflex 28.5 filter fits as well. A way to reduce vignetting somewhat would be getting a lens hood (27, 28 mm lens hoods are readily available).

I ran my test with two rolls of film – a black and white Ilford PAN F (was sorry to waste the film on a Komsomolets) and a roll of expired Ektacolor 160


Film Test: Svema Foto 32

19 Aug

Film Test

Today is the Anniversary of the so-called anti-Gorbachev putsch or coup which failed because organizers of the coup were yokels or possibly did not want to win.  The coup to preserve the Soviet Union was followed by another constitutional coup of Elcin (Yeltsin as his name is spelled phonetically) and two other accomplices, that led to the dissolution of the USSR and in the words of Vladimir Putin to the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.  I was even more catastrophic that conventionally assumed because the causes of the disaster were so foolish.

Svema Foto 32

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993

A few weeks ago I was lucky to buy not 30 rolls of Lucky but  of Svema Foto 32, Russian black and white film made in the old Soviet days. My batch was made probably sometime between 1989 or 1990 and expired in 1993 (after Soviet Union’s self-caused dissolution).

There is a strong sentiment in Russia, especially in two of its consumerist centers, Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad in Soviet days though that  toponymic appears and sounds so awkward   to my eye and ear ) that can be expressed as “we cannot make anything”, what they mean that Russians cannot manufacture anything and whatever they make is vastly inferior to comparable foreign stuff.  And there is truth to that, as inhabitants of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Soviet Nomentlatura and the Thieving Classes indeed cannot produce anything of any value. So when they say “we cannot make anything”,  it’s true as they cannot make anything while other people can.

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

One discovery for me was the Kiev 60 camera which is an exquisite piece of photographic equipment but even now you hear from predominantly Muscovite human  garbage that the camera is not worth its weight in pig iron.  That it is totally worthless, unreliable,  incapable of producing any sorts of photos except for childish snapshots and even Pentacon Six is a better piece of equipment. As I discovered it is not. Pentacon Six is less reliable but the finish is a bit better while design is… I would rather stick with square-ish looks of a Kiev.

As of Soviet photographic film, the stories I hear was that the film was just awful. Horrible grain.  Cracks. Human hair sticking out of emulsion.

Enough of folklore.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Oh though wait a minute. The film is ASA/ISO 32 (odd Russian rating but it corresponds to the GOST value, so the film speed was supposedly ASA 32, not more conventional 25 or 50). It was made by two factories.  Svema and Tasma. One group of old timers say Tasma made somewhat better emulsion while others say that Svema produced film was superior though quite possibly the film was identical. While researching the history of black and white film production at Svema and Tasma, I discovered that they shared technical staff.  So engineers and chemists from Tasma would travel to Svema facility for production runs and emulsion cooking and vice-versa which tells me that the film they produced was more or less similar.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

A motorcycle rider, Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in tSvema Fotohe summer 2011

While Tasma survives in a zombie-like state by making chemicals and special application industrial films, the Svema factory is long dead as it went extinct together with the Soviet Union.  I found a small series of photos taken in the ruins of the Svema plant last year, though text is in Russian and is perhaps not accessible to those who neither read the language nor are capable of using translate.google.com, black and white images serve as a visual witness of what has become of this film manufacturer.

I shot two rolls of Foto 32.  This was not a scientific test. Far from it. I ran two rolls through a Kiev 60. There are no artistic merits to  those photos,  I just walked around and shot the Svema Foto 32 film to see what if anything comes out of it.

a sailboat -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a sailboat - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Although 20 or 21 years passed since the film was manufactured the fogging is insignificant, the grain obviously increased as it should have had but  I can’t say it is all that horrible. In fact I am satisfied with the results and can well guess what this film was like when it was fresh.

a mask -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a mask - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

It was exquisite.

When the stuff was fresh it was beautiful black and white fine grain film that was probably comparable to Ilford PAN-F 50.

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Very good stuff.


Developed in Tetenal Ultrafin and fixed with an old ORWO fixer.

sailboat 2  - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

sailboat 2 - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Camera Test: Smena 8M

31 Jul

The Camera Test

A Lomo Smena 8M

(cameras from my collection)

I grabbed a Smena 8m (I’ve got a bunch of those things), cut two strips of film – wouldn ‘t waste the whole roll on something so useless, one of black and white Tasma NK-2 and another strip of a long expired Agfa color Vista, and run through the camera under different conditions just to see what would come out.

The experiment is hardly scientific as I am not the kind of person who writes down exposure times, aperture values, developer temperature (I don’t even bother to measure the temperature of black and white developer, though color is a different story).

A few snapshots of my Smena 8m and a few black and white and color images taken with that particular Smena follow this longish narration.

Smena 8m

The Story.


With 21 041 191 million copies made by LOMO from 1970 to mid 1990s, this is supposedly the planet’s most mass produced photographic camera.  If we take all Smenas into account, from the mythical prewar proto-Smena to the Smena 35, the number of those things made would probably be double the 21 million figure or … 40 million cameras?

This meant that every kid in the former Soviet Union had one because Smenas were cheap (though Smena 8m was not the cheapest camera, the Etude was more than twice as cheap).

Smena is a fairly uncomplicated – though not that simple – viewfinder camera.

It requires some photographic skills, attention and a great deal of stubborness to get any kind of useable pictures out of it. As most kids – from 7 year olds to early teens, the category that I would associate with Smena users in those long gone years,  have short attention span and cannot guesstimate aperture (most adults can’t do that either) the results folks got were poor at best and the camera did a great job at dissuading people from pursuing their photography hobby further. Because  minilabs were a rara avis in the 1970s and 80s Soviet Union and that most people want cameras to take recognizable photographic mementos of their precious selves and “their friends and relatives”,   at the first opportunity Smenas went right to the trash can.  It also explains why among the masses in Russia the switch to Oriental point-and-shoots in the 1990s was both instantaneous and complete and why the country abandoned film altogether – faster and with a greater zeal that in such developed places like France, the US, Japan or Germany, where film still hangs on. Though barely.

The story in brief. I am not write a novel about the genesis of Lomo (it is the child of the First World War, and that’s another story altogether), or what became of it, or what happened to the earlier prewar Smenas (they are extinct) or why did they go extinct.  In the 1970s and 1980s Smena was the second or third  cheapest camera on the market.  The Soviet Union had a command economy that in the 1960s and 70s (under Chruşev and Brežnev, also spelled semi-phonetically in American English as Khrushchev, though there is no k, sh or ch in his actual name ) allowed less initiative on the manufacturing and distribution level than was the case under Stalin (though other things were notably easier and should I say… safer and less scary).  It seems the production choices were determined arbitrarily or by chance. Some party idiot went somewhere, saw something and decided that the same thing has to be replicated in the USSR – sort of blind importation of ideas, concepts and even product designs without comprehending what are they for or knowing their cultural or aesthetic background. In the 1970s some high ranking Soviet parasite went to some civilized country like France and saw that the French drive bright colored hatchbacks.  Two things followed. First – no black cars were allowed for ordinary people (actually that might happened even earlier, a sensible restriction though  – I would ban black cars in Russia today as well, though for the opposite reasons because  there are too many of them and cities look like they are taken over by the mafia and funeral agencies, which is partially  true).  Second – all new cars introduced for the consumer “market” from the mid 1970s onward were hatchbacks. No sedans. A similar thing happened with the cameras. Today’s hypercentralized authoritarian Russian Federation functions in exactly the same way – an unelected or nominally elected official just comes up with something he stupidly borrowed from somewhere else and it becomes the rule or worse the law.  But let’s get back to the cameras – in the late sixties and early 70s, the Soviet planning officialdom decided that amateurs are going to use 135 format (35mm that is) film.  That meant that although old cameras like Lubitel were kept in some minimal production and even the cheapo Etude was made in modest  numbers, all new mass produced cameras were to be of 35mm format.  All slide projectors were also to be of 35mm format (so people with medium format cameras stopped shooting slides unless these guys were pros doing work for magazines or publishing houses). Because there were no minilabs in the country and people actually made prints at home – in either improvised or more-or-less permanent darkrooms, amateur photographers needed enlargers. You could get your prints done by a lab of course but it took time and was fairly expensive, more expensive than if you made your own prints. In this respect Soviet photo amateurs were similar to their brethren in Western Europe and North America in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1950s but not 1970s as that was the era in which minilabs already reigned supreme.  I am using the word amateur here in the original French sense or someone who loves what he is doing –   while professional is someone who merely does it for money, perhaps poorly, so I would not automatically rate a pro higher than an amateur.  So what happened next was that affordable medium format enlargers disappeared by command.

If the cheapest 35mm camera – a Smena 8m – cost 16 roubles and the least expensive 35mm enlarger was 13 roubles, then the combination maked sense.

But you could not get a low cost enlarger for the  medium format – so for a Lubitel at 20 roubles or Etude (which I read was just 6) the enlargers available were all “professional” and say, sold, in the 600 rouble range. That made no sense. Perhaps a Kiev 60 at 600 roubles and an enlarger at 600 roubles made sense to a pro but not a Lubitel at 20 and enlarger at 600 for a high school kid.

It meant in turn that a far more capable LOMO camera, such as Lubitel, did not sell well – because enlarging in the medium format got difficult (no enlargers) and the lower segment became dominated by Smena, an inferior product.

The name

Smena is a word that cannot be simply translated into English, the literal translation means a change or a time shift – in the sense of a different factory shift. In this case I would roughly translate it as (new) generation or replacement with the allusion here being that this camera is made for a young generation.

Design.  Not bad, clean Soviet industrial design. Decent finish – no nails or pieces of wire sticking out. It has worse finish and the camera is visually less attractive than its German contemporary – the Beirette VSN. On the other hand, Beirette is a gentle, soft piece of machinery that breaks down  easily. Finding a working Beirette VSN nowadays is difficult. Finding a nonworking Smena is difficult. Smena is almost indestructible.

My experience with Smena 8. Many people from the former Soviet are attached to Smenas for emotional reasons.  They say the camera is great and easy to use and that it produces quality images.  In reality it is a camera that is difficult to use and the images that come out of it are  mediocre though they can be unusual.  The first Smena I got was at the age of may be two and a half or three or as long as I can remember myself there were a few Smenas used as toys – just thrown into my toy box. A got a new working Smena 8m at the age of about 10 and there is a picture I took of my brother when I was 11 and he was 3 and a half – I have a print that I did myself. The print is blurry – but well it is something.  Using my own resources (a long story) at 13 I undertook a trip on my own to Central Asia – which wasn’t that difficult as I flew with Aeroflot and the relatives met me in the airport of (ancient) Samarkand at the other end of the journey – which was a journey as with stopover it took about one day to get there. I shot a few rolls of ORWO Orwochrom slide film – in Samarkand and Boukhara – not many rolls, like four altogether, because the film was very expensive, and back in Leningrad I developed those slides on my own as well. They came out well but got lost somewhere. I cannot find them.  Because results for the most part were patchy, color film  expensive, I stopped taking pictures.  Already when I escaped from the Soviet Union – still a teenager – I got a present from my Austrians, a small Kodak Instamatic camera.  It was 1988 back then and now when I look at the Instamatics they appear bizarre and ancient. Mine used flashcubes and produced square color pictures.  I loved it. So much better than Smena 8 – at least for someone who just wants to take snapshots.

I just finished developing the film I put through my Smena 8m. There are two important observations.

The shutter release is extremely tough. This makes the camera highly unsuitable for the 10 year old category of photographers for the simple reason that they would get blurry pictures.  In my experience, the desire to pursue photography, when it happens, goes from least complicated to more complex. First you just want to take snapshots, and then perhaps you would want your hobby to evolve into something else.  Smena is a camera with actual manual controls and you need to think in order to use them.  Taken together – tough and hard shutter release and somewhat complex manual controls make it a difficult camera for most adults to use never mind children and adolescents.

Economics.    in the 1980s the price of a new Smena 8 was 16 roubles which translated into the equivalent purchasing of about 70 euros today (the estimate is  fairly rough).  As a comparison – the price of a new Pentacon Six was 750 roubles (if you could get one), of a Kiev 60 it was whopping 600 roubles, a Zenit E series retailed in the range of 120-130 roubles while the cost of a  brand new piano was the same as of a Kiev 60 or around 600 roubles. The price of a new car like Zaporožec 968 (spelled semi-phonetically in English as Zaporozhets), a badly executed copy of the NSU Prinz, the muted Russian answer to the much more amiable and cuter Trabant was 4500 to 5500 roubles. The cheapest photographic camera, a medium format Etude, with a plastic lens and 6×4.5 negative frame had a retail price of just 6 roubles. You could buy 100 Etudes for the price of a single Kiev 60.   Prices now – Lomography.com retails a Smena 8 for unbelievable, breathtaking, astonishing, mind-boggling and outrageous 80 euros. This is a shameless rip-off.  If you look through  classified ads and flea markets, the price of Smena 8m   in Russia and the former Soviet Union now ranges from 2 to 10 euros. That is what this camera is worth.  Though I’ve got a deep suspicion it is worth nothing. I’ve got a bunch of them and I don’t recall paying more than 10 euros even for “like new” specimens in the original factory packaging.

Possible use: can’t think of any.  But wait… because the lens is so contrasty, produces  shallow images even at the highest aperture setting and distorts colors, the camera can in theory be used for weird looking painterly still-life photography.  The problem of course is that getting decent enlargements from 35mm film is a challenging (or let’s be honest, an impossible) task. You can also somehow attach a magnifying or close-up lens or hold one in your hand if the exposure time is long enough and make weird semi macro images though I haven’t tried that. With its informal Leninist motto of “the worse, the better” Smena 8m can used by the lomographers because the pictures it takes are bad and thus are suitable for lomography purposes (the Lomo compact is an overall better camera, besides it is automatic but unlike Smena 8, the Lomo Compacts are notoriously  fragile and unreliable).

The Verdict. This camera is both waste of money (certainly at lomography.com prices) and of film. Yes, you can obtain passable pictures with this piece of equipment but you can likewise get far better pictures with other kinds of camera. Cheapest Zeniths and Prakticas, never mind magnificent early autofocus Minoltas though not earlier fully manual Minolta SLRs which for some reason are pricier than 1980s AF models though you can use an autofocus Minolta in fully manual mode  (I bought my specimen of Minolta AF 7000 for 5 euros) are incomparably better. There are so many analog decent cameras that are now dirt cheap that I am puzzled as to why anyone,  myself included, would waste film with and on this unloved Soviet monstrosity.

Technical data (roughly translated from Russian):

“Smena-8M” is  a small format compact camera, intended for a wide range of amateur photographers.
The viewfinder camera has a coated lens, a full frame viewfinder,  pictographic distance scale, a central shutter and a flash hotshoe. The camera is capable of producing high quality black and white and color negatives (perhaps a mild exaggeration here).

With the help of pictograms and distance symbols even amateurs with rudimentary photographic skills can take quality pictures in and outdoors.
Film rewind mechanism permits using a single cassette but  the design of the camera also provides for operation with two cassettes, which is convenient as it saves the photographer the necessity of rewinding exposed film.
All these qualities, as well as simplicity, reliability and modern appearance make the camera “Smena-8M” attractive to both beginners and experienced amateur photographers alike.
The camera can be operated under  temperatures in the range from -15 to +45 degrees Centigrade in the absence of direct solar radiation or strong precipitation.

Date of introduction – 1970.
Manufacturer – Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO)

Film format – 135, mm – 35
Negative frame size, mm – 24×36
The number of frames per  the film – 36 (well could go up to 40 or as few as 6:)
Lens – coated three element anastigmat T-43:
– Focal length, mm – 40 /- 1:4
Shutter speeds, s – 1 / 15, 1 / 30, 1 / 60, 1 / 125, 1 / 250 and “Bulb”
Distance scale, m – from 1 meter  to “infinity”
Scale diaphragm or aperture values  – 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16
The scale of the film speeds in GOST / ISO 16, 32, 64, 130, 250 (GOST is similar to ASA and to ISO); DIN 13, 16, 19, 22, 25
Thread diameter at the lens rim filter – SpM 35,5 x 0, 5 (what is 35.5mm filter?)

Retail package contains:

1. The camera “Smena-8M” – 1 pc.
2. Film spool – 1 pc.
3. Carrying case – 1 pc
4. Instruction Manual – 1 copy.

A few photos of my Smena 8m

Smena 8m

a Smena 8m from my collection

And a few images I just took with this Smena 8m – for entertainment purposes. Note if I used better film, not expired Tasma for black and white and Agfa Vista for color, images could have come out better, but I am not going to waste a roll of Ektar on a Smena. Those pictures are deliberately taken in “different styles” to show what camera can do (not much).

Komsomolets and his bottles

Komsomolets and his bottles -

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) and his bottles – picture taken with Smena 8m camera on Agfa Vista 200 expired (1996 film), overexposed and overdeveloped for “painterly” effect. Lomo Smena 8m

Who knows

Some idiots - well perhaps geniuses - but I hate men wearing slippers (and even sandals are disgusting) -

Reval or Tallinn - night street shot with Lomo Smena 8m on

Reval or Tallinn – night street shot with Smena 8m on Agfa Vista 200 film (hopelessly expired). Lomo Smena 8m

Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping?)

Alexander Nevsky Cemetery Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping?)

Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping) at the Alexander Nevsky Cemetery. Lomo Smena 8m and expired Agfacolorn Vista.

Grave of Hyacinthov Giacintov

Grave of Erast Giatsintoff (Giatsintov, Hyacinthoff) and his daughter

Alexander Nevsky Cemetery. Grave of Erast Giatsintoff (Giatsintov, Hyacinthoff) – mayor of Reval (currently Tallinn) from 1905 to 1908 and administrator for Wesenberg (Rakovor, Раковор, Везенберг, Раквере, Rakvere) from 1885 to 1905. Lomo Smena 8 M – Agfa / Agfacolor Vista expired.

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll . lomo smena

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll film with Lomo Smena 8m

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll film with Smena 8m, expired Agfacolor Vista 200

mannequin or dummy - lomography lomo smena 8m

mannequin - smena 8m tasma nk-2 film

mannequin or a dummy, lomo smena 8m – Tasma nk-2 black and white film, developed in Rodinal.

Reflection in a puddle


puddle – lomo Smena 8m and Tasma NK-2 film

the herd is moving aimelessly

the herd

bottles and low quality camera porn

bottles and low quality camera porn

Bottles, low quality camera porn, books, flash, Tasma NK-2 film, lomo Smena 8 m

night street - same view with Smena 8m and black and white film Tasma NK-2

night street - same view with Smena 8m and black and white film Tasma NK-2Camera test Smena 8m - walking aimlessly and taking snapshots of thing

Camera test Smena 8m – walking aimlessly and taking snapshots of things, in this case of my bookshelves with Smena 8 m on Tasma NK-2 black and white Russian film, developed in Rodinal

white on black

half and half, black on white, white on black, Russian Tasma NT-2 film, Lomo Smena 8m, Rodinal

That’s it.

That’s the end of this test; I am going  post pictures taken during experimental test drive of another junk camera from my collection soon.