Skip to content

Diana + A Review\Wishlist

September 14, 2009

I spent a little time this weekend cleaning up my camera shelf. I’ve just finished a few rolls, and was putting some cameras away, and generally making room for some other stuff.

One of the recent rolls I just had developed was a roll of 35mm Ilford 3200 that I ran through my Diana +, shooting mainly in broad daylight. It came out wonderfully overexposed and grainy, with very sharp contrasts between light and shadow. A lot of pro photographers, and many amateurs who’ve gone digital must think that I’m wasting film. I’m not a toy camera zealot, and use my Nikon D50 as much as some of my other cameras, but I do like the ability to experiment with ideas that only toy cameras can give you.

I’ve only run less than half a dozen rolls through the Diana + (most of them 120), so I can’t say how well the camera stands up over the long haul. I can say that I definitely have a love\hate relationship with my ‘Plus’.

I’ve mentioned some of these things in a review I made when I first bought the camera, but this was before all the accessories came out. I’d like to take a more detailed look at what I feel are the pros and cons of the camera.

A few quick sidenotes:

Lomography is an actual Russian company that has been making cameras for years…the Lomographic Society International is, essentially, a separate company that has bought the foreign distribution rights to Lomography’s cameras, as well as distribution rights to many other cameras, like the Holga. They are two distinct companies, and it’s unfortunate that LSI’s marketing efforts have had the effect that many folk consider them the same entity. I’ve had this pointed out to me, and I still have trouble separating them in my mind.

When I refer to toy cameras, I’m not talking down. I love them. I use the term more as a classification for cameras that are generally not as well constructed as ‘pro’ cameras. Pros use toy cameras for both artistic effects and everyday studio and photojournalism work (David Burnett has won photojournalism awards for his work with the Holga). Many times, the term ‘toy cameras’ is used to refer to an approach where photographers shoot like there’s no tomorrow with no pre-planning. This is only one way to approach photography, and there isn’t anything wrong with it. But the subject matter or approach isn’t what I’m commenting on here.

First, the price and packaging. I hate them both, with a passion. The price, as far as I can see, has a direct relationship to the over-the-top packaging and ‘free’ books you get with most Lomography Society products. I don’t want the books. I don’t want the garish packaging. I don’t want instructions that are a fold-out, neon poster. I want something I can fit in my pocket and gives me clear instructions and details about the camera. I think the Lomography Society would get more sales if they served not just the ‘analog love’ folk, but also those wanting to use their products in a more systematic way. Neither group can claim theirs is ‘the right way’ (many photographers use both methodologies interchangeably), and LSI’s products would be stocked in more stores if they made the attempt to not present themselves as belonging to only one camp.

Second, the Diana + vs. the Diana F+ (let’s skip the two clones that don’t accept the accessories made for the + and F+: the multi-pinhole and Mini Diana +). Why make two cameras when the only difference between them is the lack of a hotshoe? The price difference between them is a serious gap, and the original Diana + doesn’t seem to be as aggressively marketed or stocked in stores that carry LSI products. This leads me to conjecture that, whatever the reason for the two cameras, the non-flash version was a bit of a blunder on LSI’s part. Or, they were testing the waters before they came out with the flash model and all the accessories.

Either way, it was a major loss of faith for me. They could have offered an upgrade discount to all the customers who bought the Diana + prior to the flash model’s announcement. For a camera that they’ve built such a large system around (in toy camera terms, anyways), having a model that doesn’t support a hotshoe doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And they’ve built a fairly large accessory system around the Diana +\F +. Let’s look at it briefly (note: I’m going to list what I own, not everything available, with the exception of the Instax back):

Interchangeable lenses:

  • 75mm (the default lens all Diana’s are shipped with)
  • 20mm fisheye (comes with an eyepiece to see the fisheye effect while composing the shot)
  • 55mm (comes with an eyepiece to see the fisheye effect while composing the shot)
  • close-up attachment for the 55mm lens
  • 38mm (comes with an eyepiece to see the fisheye effect while composing the shot)

That’s 4 lenses with an additional close-up lens that fits over the 55mm, all plastic.

Film backs:

  • 120 back (the default back all Diana’s are shipped with)
    • supports 12-shot 5.2×5.2cm, 16-shot 4.2×4.2cm, and 16-shot 4.6×4.6xm
  • 35 mm back
    • supports 24x36mm, 33x34mm, 24x48mm, and 33×48 negatives sizes
  • Fuji Instax back

Flashes:

  • custom Diana F+ flash that looks like the old flashcube flashes of yesteryear
  • Diana F+ flash adaptor to allow hotshoe flashes

This is a big system, allowing for more flexibility than most toy cameras would allow.

I’m very happy with this system. You could carry all of this in a single small camera bag, and be able to adapt to a wide variety of situations. In general, they did a fair job, and better than most manufacturers competing in this area of the photography market.

But.

There are flaws. And many missed opportunities. Here are a few things that I would have preferred be done differently.

Expensive to modify

Diana +\F+ cameras clock in at $70\$100 Canadian when you buy from a store, a little less online. This is a lot for what is, essentially, a hunk of plastic. There are a few things I’d like to try, but the expense of buying another camera if I mess up is something that’s always in the back of my head.

No glass

I know this is probably going to get me flayed in some quarters, but really, why not a glass lens? Or a teleconverter? I consider this a big miss.

The lens mount

It’s very fragile, and prone to light leaks. Some may like the leaks, but for those that don’t there’s no way to eliminate them, because the assembly is too close to the shutter, bulb, and aperture switches. You can’t tape over this part of the camera. Also, the mount is custom…a simple screw mount would have allowed you to put filters behind the lens (allowing them to keep the focus dial on the front of the lens) and they could have made adapters for other lens mounts. The wider variety would have made the camera much more appealing to folk who had lenses light enough to be mounted on the plastic frame.

The focus controls

They are, of course, identical to the original Diana. By doing so, another opportunity was missed to have a filter thread on the front of the lenses. The screw lens mount suggestion above would make that irrelevant, I suppose, but it would probably be better to accept filters in front of the lens. You could also use the Cokin system of filters.

The apertures

The Diana has four true apertures, including what they call a ‘pinhole’ aperture, but seems much too large to be a true pinhole. This is much better than the Holga, and a great feature, but I think this was another missed opportunity. They could have, like the Lensbaby, made this part of the camera capable of accepting different aperture settings, including custom shapes, zone plates…maybe even slits. By slavishly duplicating the controls of the original Diana, they missed the ability to have the aperture section be customizable. Done correctly, you wouldn’t need to create a separate multi-pinhole camera that doesn’t have access to all the accessories made for the Diana +\F+.

The 120 film mount

It’s ugly and fragile. Much worse than the Holga. It’s very hard to get the take-up spool not to slip off. One simple extra part here would have immensely improved the camera.

The Diana F+ flash mount

Honestly, why not just put a hotshoe there? Why wasn’t there a hotshoe on either camera? Even if the hotshoe didn’t actually do anything on the Diana +, it could have been used for adding other accessories, like a spirit level or light meter. It could even have been used for the additional eyepieces shipped with the 20mm and 38mm lenses (in the same way that the eyepiece for the Fisheye + camera is made). Again, this would have really improved the camera overall.

Click click click click

Forget stealth shooting. The noise the film advance makes can wake the dead. The shutter is also fairly loud. Really, I’m not sure if you could make them silent without significantly increasing the cost of the camera. So, really, a minor quibble.

In conclusion

Phew. After that, you’d think I have absolutely nothing good to say about this camera.

In it’s defense, I’ll say this: I love the camera. I really do, despite all I’ve said. It’s solid, has a great line of accessories, film backs, and lenses, and performs really well. You do have to know what you’re doing to get good shots out of the camera. But it’s easier than you’d think, and the results can be spectacular.

Then why all the complaining? These are all things that bother me because, to my way of thinking, they represent missed opportunities to make the Diana +\F+ really stand-out cameras.

Advertisements
3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2009 4:20 am

    camera lomography make a cool pic I like that

  2. September 25, 2009 4:23 am

    I love lomography camera It;s funny

  3. September 28, 2009 11:33 am

    I love camera lomography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: