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My Two Camera Month Project - September 2021: Lomography Lomochrome Metropolis 100-400, Lomo Smena 8M & Minolta Minoltina S

Each month for a year I will use one pair of cameras, then next month switch to another pair. They are all fixed-lens compact cameras. I will use the same film stock in both cameras. Each month I will share my impressions from using the cameras, while showing the photographs I make.

Part #5: September 2021

Film type: Lomochrome Metropolis 100-400 ASA exposed at 100-200 ASA.

The first camera is the Minolta Minoltina-S

I wrote about this camera elsewhere. It is a luxurious feeling camera, with great specs: a Rokkor f/1,8 40 mm lens; selenium fuelled light meter (which still gives good readings); full manual control; a small form factor; and a compact design. It appears to be top-of-the-line quality. And it is the smallest of the non- or semi auto-exposure Minoltas of the era.

The focus throw is commendably short - much more so than compared to the Smena T-43 lens. The viewfinder is big, and has a lot of space around the framelines, making it easy to compose with an eye to what happens outside the frame.

I would recommend this camera before any Canonet QL17 GIII or Yashica Electro cult classics.

Lomo Smena 8M

I had so much fun exposing this roll! It had slipped my mind that I owned this camera. Actually it was for sale in my Etsy shop, purchased for that reason a year or two ago. But I saw some posts with people using it and it seemed fun to try, so I 'deactivated' the listing in the shop.

The first thing that I realized when I picked it up was that the finder isn't designed for people with glasses, like myself. I couldn't see the edges of the frame. As luck would have it I had the pieces for an external finder laying about on my work bench. With the help of some electrical tape and glue I soon had a working finder stuck to the cold-shoe. It had the field-of-view somewhere around 35 mm so I adapted my compositions knowing that.

The Smena is very easy to use. There's almost nothing out of the ordinary if you're used to older compacts.

The one thing that sets it apart is the ability to double expose. On the lens there is a lever that you use to cock the shutter. It can be released even if you haven't advanced the film. Alas: the camera has no double exposure prevention that most cameras of the era do, thus making it versatile in experimental purposes. Many a photographer has expanded on this on blogs and vlogs. I only made a few double exposures on this roll, but will make more in future. My only other 35 mm camera with this function is the Chinon CE-4 SLR.

A few times the cocking lever was blocked by my fingers, so I expect a few wonkily exposed photos. This is something you have to get used to, or you'll be disappointed with the handling of this camera.

Another issue with handling is the shutter button. On my specimen I sort of have to push it down and to my left for it to release the shutter. I remedied this quirk by adding a soft release which makes it easier to do the wiggle motion with the button.

The camera is very light, and is easy to slip into my jacket pocket. 

I can't say much more about the camera. If you like using zone-focus and viewfinder cameras with lenses that produce slightly excentric photographs this one's for you.

The film: Lomography Lomochrome Metropolis 100-400

That's a mouthful for a name. These two rolls are the last two of the batch of ten that I bought a few years ago. I like how the photos from previous exposures look. As you may know, the film is meant to give your colour photos an 'under-saturated' look, while also having rather strong contrasts. I love any colour film that does not give me a realistic look, thus prefer to use this one, as well as redscale and expired films.

What drew me to buy the Metropolis film was the example photos Lomography published giving the impression of b&w photos with kind of added pale or washed-out colours. That's how I strive for my photos to look when exposing the film.

The weather was often overcast during this late August and early to mid-September so I exposed at 100-200 ASA to get decent exposure times. 

Minolta Minoltina S exposures

This is the only exposure from a sunny day. All the following are from days with overcast weather.

Lomo Smena 8M exposures

Here's one of the instances where my finger caught the shutter tension lever by accident. It happened 4-5 times.

I have to admit that I had difficulties finding focus with the T-43 lens. I usually tend to take photos with subjects in the 1-3 meter range. On this roll I didn't nail focus properly in that range even once. I don't want to project my failures on this unwitting camera, but for now I have to conclude that 1,5 meters is more likely to be the closest focus range with larger apertures (f/2,8-f/5,6). At least that's my working hypothesis for the moment.

In conclusion

These two cameras may seem as dissimilar as 35 mm cameras get. Design vs plastic; Soviet vs Japanese; etc. Well, here's my reasoning:

The Minoltina is a slick honed and toned rangefinder camera capable of rendering pin sharp exposures. While the Smena is a plastic box with all its disadvantages on display: cumbersome shutter lever; looong focus throw with a wobbly lens; tiny finder pushed to a corner...

On the other hand...

The way I use the two cameras are very similar: I have full manual control over exposure - as per usual I use my trusty Iko-Phot light meter and rarely use the ones of cameras. For most of the photos this month I exposed in rather good light situations, with zone focusing. It's a tool that lets you know approximately what's in focus and what's not in good lighting situations when apertures of f/5,6-f/22 can be utilized. 

With this reasoning I'm saying that in the case of this Project month all that separates my use of these cameras are lens characteristics. All else (apart from the double exposure feature of the Smena) in terms of feature use is the same.

Either high-end or low-brow - most cameras are fun to use regardless of their status or glitz.

Now, what about the film?

As you can see it's a bleak affair. Blues and yellow tints aplenty, not much of other colours. Reds turn much paler, as can be seen on the red Volvo and the timber house wall.

However bleak, I like it when colours are 'wrong'. So, I almost never use 'normal' colour film. These 'off' colours are what I throw into the bargain nowadays. But in hindsight, all but a few of these here photos could have been just as nice looking exposed on black & white film.

As for subjects, in this case the photos are a bit uninspired, mostly because of the weather (and subject matter) changing to autumnal, but also the deadline experience hanging over me.

My experience with using Lomochrome Metropolis film is okay, considering I didn't pay the full cost for the ten rolls I bought (a couple of years ago through the Kickstarter campaign introducing the film). I would never consider buying it today, given the hefty price tag.

It's great that you tagged along! Do visit my Etsy shop for cameras and related stuff, the facebook group on modding lenses and cameras or my Instagram account ourbooksmalmo.


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