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For Christmas I was lucky enough to get a Diana F+ camera along with 5 colour films and 1 black & white one - I borrowed a Tripod off my Dad (which he then gave me) and I have spent the last few months experimenting. One of the things I found a hindrance with my Diana F+ was the fact it only took 120 films, which were both expensive to purchase initially, but were also very expensive to have developed. This meant there was less experimenting and more praying the shots came out, which took the fun out of it slightly! I decided to buy a flash attachment for it and also a 35mm back so I could carelessly snap away and really get to grips with it, but they each cost around £40-£50 so I knew that was out of reach for a little while.
Then about a month ago I was browsing lomography.com and I came across the Diana Mini with Flash Package; the Diana F+ little 'sister' which was basically exactly the same as the Diana F+ but smaller and used a 35mm back - plus it came with a flash which was interchangeable between the Diana F+ and the Mini. So I decided I would buy this second camera instead of the attachments for my original camera. The price tag was hefty, at £80 it was as much as the individual attachments I needed, but by this point the need for a second camera had become overwhelming (shallow, I know) and I really wanted it!
I scoured eBay and came across a couple priced at a much more affordable £60; then I stumbled across one for £50, or best offer. I offered £40 (you don't get if you don't ask!) and the seller came back with £43. AND it had free postage & packing. I paid up straight away and eagerly awaited my parcel.
When my Diana Mini arrived it came in the cutest compact box. The camera box slides out from the side and under the camera box there is a cool hard back book which splits in half from the middle like a set of doors and gives you lots of tips about how to get the best pictures. It includes millions of tiny images which provide inspiration for taking shots. Then under the brightly coloured, yellow, cardboard camera box there is an instruction pamphlet which includes a 'map' of the camera and all of its component parts. There's a really cool Diana poster included; which if you're a photography geek like me you can pin up on your 'inspiration board' (whole other story!).
On to the camera, it's made of lightweight plastic, meaning it sits on to any tripod regardless of weight tolerance. It's a catchy vintage teal and black colour and is tiny; measuring just 10 x 6 x 7.5 cm and weighing in at around 500g (excluding flash). The camera has two settings for Daytime and Evening time, and a cloudy / clear setting too. The lens has 4 different zoom settings which range from up close to 4m+. The viewfinder is tiny; this is probably the hardest bit of the camera to get used to in my opinion as you have to really squint through it! There's a generic Tripod thread, which will allow easy attachment to any tripod and there's a shutter release cable thread too and I'm planning on buying a shutter release cable so that I can take some self-portraits!
There are two frame sizes to choose from. 24mm x 24mm or 24mm x 17mm. When I had my first set developed, I used a company who are experienced in lomographers sending their films in. They printed the 24x24 shots on to 6x4 paper, so I had to slice off the extra 2 inches as the shot is printed 4x4. I read some advice that I should only shoot my whole film in one or the other format as it can become confusing for the developer - i.e. the half size rectangular films 24mm x 17mm are printed 2 images to one 6x4 print. On a 36 exposure film (35mm) you can get 36 square prints, or 72 half size prints (though you get 36 actual pieces of paper with 2 to a sheet). If you mix formats on one roll, the developer will be really mystified!
The back comes off easily and it's simple to load a film. The film is inserted in to the left hand side (upside down with film canister 'tail' facing down over), then the film is eased across the feeders and the back piece is locked in to place and then the back cover is replaced and it's as simple as winding the winder until the display moves from E to the first dot (only every 3 pictures is marked numerically . . 3 . . 6 . . 9). Finally, snap a picture, wind it until the display clicks over one place and off you go! Once you've finished your film, winding is fool proof - honestly, I can't count the number of films I've snapped over recent months using an old camera I had. There's a little button on the back cover underneath the camera next to the Tripod thread - this is depressed then the winder is turned anti-clockwise. It slackens off when the film has finished winding.
The flash is the best part. The Diana range is 'light hungry', in order to take an image there needs to be maximum light to expose the film. Meaning at night or even at dusk there is no chance of getting a decent snap. Hence, my needing a flash! It's almost as big as the Diana Mini, but it looks amazing, it's vintage teal coloured and using it makes me feel slightly like a news reporter! As well as the flash and adapters, there's also a pack of colour gel slides, which slip in to the bulb. It's not obvious at first where, but check in the instructions and it tells you where they go. You get about 10 different colours and you can of course mix and match them! I shot some pictures of the same café in different colours then have arranged them like an Andy Warhol. It looks pretty cool!
There's also a neck strap attached to the camera - very cool when you're strutting your stuff, and wearing the camera out - which you should always do - you don't want to miss a trick! Then there is a dust proof lens cap too, to keep your lens in great condition.
The total package including the flash is absolutely amazing for £43. But still good value at £80 from lomography.com. I doubt very much there'll be another seller on eBay with that kind of discount on it again! Alternatively if you have a Diana F+ and a flash, you could always get a 35mm back or a Diana Mini on it's own for about £40. I highly recommend it; it's an amazing adventure looking forward to getting the pictures back and pasting them in to scrapbooks to chronicle your photography experiences and the Diana Mini is your best bet if you want to shoot lots and experiment loads!