Diana F+

December 25, 2012

Recently I was able to borrow one of the new Diana F+ cameras for a few weeks as preparation for a class I was teaching. I was aware that the Lomo people had produced this model but hadn’t had much interest in it as I already have two Holgas and a 1970s Diana. These are my thoughts after exposing about ten rolls of Tri-X. Overall I was pleased with the camera and would recommend it to anyone wanting to photograph with a Diana type camera. Of course you could buy an original Diana however I believe they fetch high prices and you may not be able to buy one right away. I got mine years ago, but from memory I was patient and watched ebay for months until I managed to get one at a reasonable price. The key elements of toy camera photography for me are the look of the images – the dreamy mix of sharpness and un-sharpness, as well their primitive nature that encourages a giving up of control and openness to chance; leading to the question – is the new Diana as suitable for this type of photography as the models it is emulating?

diana F jackets on bed blog

The photo above was made with Tri-X processed in Maco RO9. I used the N shutter, the cloudy aperture and fired the flash. The kit flash was one of the things I liked most about this camera. My ’70s Diana doesn’t have a flash or any way to attach or trigger one, although there was an old version that could. My Holgas don’t have integrated flash but they both have hotshoes that I can put any flash onto. The flash is important with these toy cameras due to their limited exposure controls. The shutter speed options are ‘N’ which is about 1/60 and ‘B’ which is bulb. Bulb is OK for low light but there will be camera shake if hand held and often I don’t want that. There are three aperture settings but they are all quite closed down – about f/11, 16 and 22. So the flash provides enough light for a properly exposed frame without shake. I also like the look of flash as well as the fact that it is a look that is particular to stills photography.

Another interesting flash option with this model is the possibility to detach the flash and in its place put a piece that has a hotshoe on top which then allows you to use any flash – I successfully triggered my Canon Speedlite with this. You could also put a hotshoe PC sync adapter in and fire studio flash with the camera, or use pocket wizard triggers, which opens up some interesting possibilities. Of course this can also be done with a Holga with a hotshoe – one reason why I recommend people to buy that version of the Holga rather than the one with built-in flash.

diana F summer opening sleeve blog

Above was made at a gallery opening, also flash at the cloudy aperture. The instructions say you should use the sunny aperture with flash but I found this gave underexposure. I pretty much used the widest aperture for everything except direct sun. For this frame I held the camera out and pointed it at the scene, rather than using the viewfinder to frame. As I mentioned earlier the simplicity of toy cameras can guide us into photographing with a different approach than that which seems to be encouraged by technically complex cameras such as modern DSLRs. With limited options there is less chance of over-thinking the photo, which I believe then opens up the potential for pleasant surprises. In this frame I like the odd geometry and the sense of depth from the big arm leading to the small legs – not something I would be likely to have done deliberately.  I also like the look of the lens, particularly the unsharp rendering of the shirt sleeve.

diana F summer opening legs blog

There are more possibilities with this model that I didn’t get around to trying, such as the option to use it as a pinhole camera. There are also extra bits you can buy to make the camera do other things such as expose 35mm film rather than 120, attach a cable release, and some add-on lenses. I did briefly try the Splitzer – a gadget that masks parts of the frame for multiple exposure and that seemed something that would be interesting to explore further. All of that depends how much you want to spend and how complex you want the experience to be. My main criticism of the camera is that it tends to wind the film loosely which is also a problem with the original model. In this case I think they should have done something similar to the modern Holgas and stuck a bit of foam in the take-up chamber to get the film to wind tightly – that would be the first thing I would do if I bought one. I’m not planning to buy one as I already have enough cameras but I would recommend one to anyone who wants to do this sort of photography. If you are on a budget you could probably do just as well buying a cheap Holga on ebay and adding a cheap 1980s type flash to it.

diana f car interior blog

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