* Prices may differ from that shown
The Diana camera in its simple black and blue colour scheme is a gorgeous looking camera, that, apart from a few springs and the like, is made entirely of plastic - lens included. The plastic lens and square photo format are what gives it its lomographic qualities. There are plenty of different ways to run your film through the camera. Using the different 'masks' (plastic inserts) that come with the pack you can choose between 12 larger square photos or 16 smaller square photos. You can also choose to shoot photos across the entire roll of film without paying attention to the frame numbers. My favourite function is the pinhole format, which is accessed via the aperture lever on the lens. This is where I've had my best results, both with black and white and colour film. I found the instructions that came with the camera a little limited in terms of setting it up. It took me a little while to figure out how to remove the rear case to load the film. It doesn't open to the side and instead slides down. The Diana is one of my least used lomography cameras - partly because of ease of use problems such as the film bunching up inside the camera and being tight to wind on, and partly because the results don't match those of other lomography cameras that I own or have tried out. Getting the 'dreamy' look that is heavily promoted can be difficult. It all depends on lighting, type of film and processing. Sometimes you get lucky; sometimes you get washed-out.
The allure of the Diana F has always been the ambiguity and mystery that can be created when using this camera. The more recent makes of the Diana still play up to this.
With its plastic casing and toy-like exterior, it does not seem like the kind of camera that real photographers would use, but when you get your first set of photos developed, the strange flickers of light that have got through via the slightly dodgy back- something that they didn't change despite it being a glitch in previous decades- and the beautiful pinks and blues that surround the picture's subject, it makes sense that this camera is growing in popularity.
The starter kit really does get the full potential out of this small retro camera. The books give a hint at what you can create, which is both inspiring and uplifting to look at. The kit also gives you features that perhaps those who aren't familiar with film cameras haven't used- filters. These create beautiful colours on normal film and really make photos individual and beautiful.
The kit has everything you could need to get the most out of this camera without being too complicated, something that matches the idea of the camera. It is not difficult to use, but it has its quirks, which make it different to disposables or other film cameras.
Photos from this camera really do take you back to another age, and put that vintage haze on events. Now the summer is here, it is a perfect time to splash out on this colourful and creative camera.
I'm not really a gadget girl but every now and then something catches my eye. Over the last couple of years I've not even owned a digital camera until my Dad gave me his old one when he replaced it - I take fun snaps on my phone and that's about it. I used my digital camera on holiday and to be honest, came home with about 12 pictures, as I was deleting them each time I didn't like them or wasn't completely happy with them, since holiday they have sat on the memory stick ever since. I remember a Kodak Instant Print advert a while ago, saying don't let digital photography take the joy out of having the actual prints, I loved it and I vowed to get all of my pictures printed - sadly, the reality is typically, you just don't bother.
So when I saw a feature in a magazine on the Diana F+ Camera I knew I needed one to bring my photos back to that lovely, exciting actuality. It's an old fashioned plastic camera, which takes old fashioned film and requires some old fashioned developing! I got the started kit for Christmas, and I was delighted! In the starter kit you get a Diana Manual, which is the basic how to load / unload the film, take pictures, etc and you also get a Diana Hardcover Lomography book 'More True Tales & Short Stories' - which is supplied as standard with all products bought from Lomography. Included with the camera and two different guides, you get two frames, shutter lock, lens cap and a neck strap.
Originally in the sixties, a small firm from Hong Kong produced this cheap, plastic camera for 120 film, called the 'Diana'; it cost around $1. In the seventies, due to the camera being pretty unpopular with the mainstream target market, they were discontinued. However, after production ceased, the popularity of the camera increased with Artsy type folk who had fallen in love with the dreamy tones and soft focus effects that the camera produced. Then, in line with the come backs of Wispas and Take that, plus practically everything else from the 70s, 80s and early 90s, Lomography relaunched the Diana in 2007. I might add, it was no longer $1, it now retails at around £60 for the camera and starter kit. All of the original materials and features were included, but there's a couple of extras these days, including add ons / upgrades which I will go in to a little later in the review.
As I mentioned the camera in it's raw form (you can buy alternative adapters) takes 120 films. These cost around £3.30 each if you hunt around the web, I buy mine from www.discountfilmsdirect.co.uk - you get 10 colour films for £31 making them £3.10 a film - which is about the cheapest I've found. Black and Whites cost coppers more, maybe £3.40 per film. From one film, you can either use one of the frames included to get 16 square prints, or another frame and setting to get 12 square prints. Developing is also important to consider when you think about making a purchase - it's not cheap at all and with the take over of digital photography there's limited outlets on the high street who can develop 120 film (as you need a dark room!).
I went trawling round a couple of the towns nearby - Jessops and our local Photo Centre did have the capacity to develop in store, but their prices seemed so expensive! And another couple of photography specialists explained they didn't have a dark room instore and would have to send them away - as I'm so impatient I just said it didn't matter!!! I looked about on the internet and found my saviour, www.photofilmprocessing.co.uk who are a UK based company, you send your film to them and get free return delivery (you can pay for recorded upgrade if you're worried about entrusting your prints to the Royal Mail!). It's dead easy, you download a form, complete it, pop your film in an envelope and send it off. They develop the film within 24 hours usually and send you back your prints, negatives and a CD-Rom with your prints digitally loaded to it. You pop your card details on the form and they process the payment once they've done the work. They are really nice, good Customer Service, prompt responses to Emails, etc and I would highly recommend them. They charge £10 per film to develop, but send in 5 films and get 15% discount, plus they do 10% student discount if you photocopy your card and send it off with your film. It may seem a lot, but in shops I was getting quotes of £15+
Back to the matter of the camera. It has a vinyl neck strap, plastic casing, plastic lens cap and also comes with a shutter lock which is basically a zig-zag shaped piece of plastic with hangs like a phone charm from your camera, that you wedge in the shutter when you need to keep it open for a while. It's a bluey green colour with black trim and back. Very retro looking. It has a simple view finder - which you have to put your actual eye to (!), a zoom twist on the lens for close ups and distance shots, it has a shutter button and a couple of aperture settings to select from including 'pinhole' (to get a soft edged pinhole camera effect), 'cloudy', 'part-cloudy' and 'sunshine'. Then you have the N and B settings, which are normal outside shots, or B for indoors. On the film housing cover at the back, there is a switch to select from 12 or 16 shots, depending on your requirements and the frame you are using.
Loading / unloading film, taking pictures, winding on, etc are all pretty self explanatory if like me you can remember the days when your film wasn't a little plastic stick with a couple of metal chips on it! But, if not, the manual includes an idiots guide to just about everything you will need to know!
The main fun with a Diana camera isn't just what it looks like - it's the way in which you stop caring about your pictures. Remember when you used to use 35mm, dropped your films in to the developer and used to be amazed when 15 out of your 24 roll came out well - the rest were like blurred or too much light, or loads of red eye with 'advisory' stickers stuck to them? Then the digital photo age took over and you could delete those rubbish shots, retake them, or choose not to develop them and instead store them on mass storage devices. Well using the Diana F+ you don't have that luxury, it's back to those unpredictable basics, clicking and knowing that you might end up with the worst shot ever where you've let too much light in or not enough light, or you've twitched when you pressed the shutter release and blurred the image. It is so exciting, you feel so much anticipation when you wait for your shots to come back.
When you get a shot back you instantly analyse it even if it's terrible quality, to see if there's some saving grace - maybe you've captured a speeding car in the background that's blurred in to a line of colour, or the sun has created an ethereal glow around your subject (ethereal rather than red advisory sticker saying warning too much light, shoot with the sun behind you!!!). Then the clearer shots become boring and you crave the weird effects that you get from mishaps and just letting go. Particularly cool effects are taking pictures out of a car window at night - obviously not whilst you're driving, get someone else to drive you, pictures in the wind with hair whipping around your face, the sea, birds flying, someone riding a bike, bright flowers with dew all over them. It's immense because the possibilities are endless and the most boring digital shots can be taken on a Diana F+ to make true magic!
My first roll of film came back completely blank, it only cost a couple of quid for developing because I hadn't exposed the shots enough to let enough light in. the developing company called me to let me know what had happened - another nice touch, they don't just churn out the pictures and send them to you! I've improved a bit since then though and now I am managing to get quite decent images, with plenty of practice - I do really want a couple of the attachments described below though to make my images turn out even better.
You can purchase a Diana camera with all of the accessories available for around £200, not bad when you consider the individual prices, but I would recommend a starter kit if, like me, you haven't really got a clue and just want to dabble in lomography as a hobby. But some of the accessories I find particularly appealing can be bought alone and include:
- Flash: You can buy a flash bulb for the camera which is particularly useful if you want to do indoor shots without having to leave the shutter open up to a minute to get enough light in - I think the subject's jaws would ache saying cheese for that long!
- Ring Flash: This is a circle which fits around the lens and has 4 colours to create hazy, dreamy, seeping tones. You can change the colours too, using gel slides.
- 35mm Back: You can adapt the camera so that it uses 35mm film which is more commonly available, cheaper and much easier / cheaper to get developed. It still gives great effects too.
- Fish Eye Lens: Take pictures which make your subjects look like they are looking in to the back of a spoon. This blurs the edges to create a fish eye effect.
- Tripod: for shots where you do need long exposure (i.e. hold the shutter down for a while) then a tripod is a cool addition to the kit to give you the option of doing more formal portraits, etc.
I found a definition for Lomography online from Wiki, "an approach to photography that emphasizes casual snapshots, sponteneity, ubiquity, randomness, and close-ups, rather than being concerned with the technicalities, aesthetics, and the conventional world of photography" I think that sums up my beloved Diana F+ and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to adopt a new hobby, or is already a photography enthusiast.
Thanks for reading!
I am a photography geek and film holds a special place in my heart, digital may be cheaper and more convenient but nothing beats the look of film! I am especially intrigued by medium format 120 film so the new trend for 'lomography' and the much mooted Diana intrigued me.
I have got some amazing shots out of this little plastic thing, with that famous dreamy look and soft focus glow. However I cannot help but be unimpressed by this camera, especially it's marketing.
What I find irksome is the promotion of ;crazy colours' and 'high saturation' images by the cameras makers, with little or no recognition that this is primarily down to the film choice and processing method and NOT the camera. I find this misleading, especially as it is seemingly aimed at an amateur audience who are likely to be unfamiliar with these facts.
I also think it is grossly overpriced, it can cost up to £50 for what is essentially a very cheap plastic camera, with a very limited set of features. Don't get me wrong I love it's plasticy-ness but it is just not worth the money. Especially as you can pick up much higher quality vintage cameras, often with super shrap glass lenses and excellent build quality, online for the same price or less and achieve the 'lomography look' through film choice and processing methods. I have no problems revelling in the cheap plasticy feel of the camera, but a cheap plastic camera should be just that, cheap!
The camera controls are awful, the shutter release is awkwardly placed the focusing is simple but produces very unreliable results and the film wind on knob is atrocious, you can spend five minutes struggling to get to the next frame!
Overall this is a charming, quirky little camera but the reason for my low score is that it is very overpriced for what it is. It is a cheap plastic camera with an inflated price tag, which is even more of a kick in the teeth given the high cost of the 120 film it takes, which is expensive to buy and process (unless you are in possession of a dark room) and very few high street photo labs will accept 120 films for development. With the flashy, misleading advertising and it's status as a fashion accessory, this really is more style than substance.