Smena 8M

My Smena arrived from Russia yesterday! The seller didn’t bother to clean it before he packed it, and it smells like it spent decades stuffed in a closet with someone who had a 3-pack-a-day unfiltered Sobranie habit, but it’s a real Soviet camera and it works! I can’t wait to try it out; I won’t have to wait long, as the next Lomographers meetup is this Saturday in Jackson (Louisiana, not Mississippi).

A lot of the so-called problems that I’ve read about this camera seem to be exaggerated. Supposedly it was very light, and combined with the stiffness of the shutter button, and the placement of the shutter cock which guarantees it will snag on your finger when it comes back up, it’s common to get camera shake blur in your images. I must hold my cameras differently than most people, because I haven’t noticed the shutter cock getting in the way. (That sometimes happens with my Land Camera, though.) It weighs about the same as my Lomo LC-A+, and while the shutter button is a hair stiffer than normal, it’s not like, outrageously hard to push down.

Another deal-breaker for a lot of toy camera enthusiasts is that the manual controls are confusing. Well, if they are, then they haven’t been using toy cameras for long, because they’re not only perfectly straightforward, they’re actually more helpful than most. Take setting the shutter speed: on top of the dial is a little array of clouds/sun that illustrate a variety of natural light settings from full sun, no clouds in the sky to heavily overcast, it’s storming right now. But if you prefer going by fractions of a second, no problem, those are at the bottom of the wheel, from B to 1/250.

smena controls

Same thing with focus: it’s marked both by distance in meters, and little drawings that suggest settings for what you’re trying to focus on. Head and shoulders of a person for the closest setting of 1 meter, through 2 heads and shoulders (1.5 meters), a little group of full figures (4 meters), and a group of trees (8 meters), to infinity. And aperture setting is totally normal, the ring is around the lens and goes from 4 to 16.

The only thing I’m kind of worried about it the film counter, which is separate from shutter cocking and fully manual. There’s a little dial with hashmarks that supposedly tell you when you’ve wound to the next frame, but a lot of people consider it to be totally worthless. Hopefully my first roll doesn’t come back with a lot of halfway double exposures.

Speaking of which, I think I finally figured out why I’d been getting so many double exposures with my Rollei A110 (which I got for hella cheap because it was broken, and then fixed). Lomography designed their 110 cartridge film to work in their Baby Diana 110, which shoots square photos. (I think making non-120 film mimic the square format is like something that would give Howard Roark fits, but never mind.) So each advance only moves the film enough to advance it to the next square frame, which is only about 1/2 as wide as a regular rectangular negative. Unless you’re shooting it in the Baby Diana 110, you need to advance it twice. I tested this theory (and really Lomography, thanks for the heads up–the Diana wasn’t even the first 110 camera they released!) at St. Mary’s in Weyanoke and sent the film to Dwayne’s a couple days ago, fingers crossed that my theory is right.

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