This is an instant camera built for the Internet generation that has no online functionality whatsoever, but speaks the language of the new generation. It has a selfie mirror, instant printing, colour filters, personalised adjustable settings and a 3-in-1 lens system. Lomography are a new name harnessing old technology, and after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign they managed to pull in over $1 million of funding for their instantaneous photography venture. Now they're onto their second camera, starting at £179 is the Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide (ours is the Victoria Peak Edition), and we’ve been getting used to this new, yet old, wave of photography to see if there’s any need for it?
Those unsuspecting people who we’ve shown the Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide Camera to have genuinely believed it’s a retro piece from decades ago. So it definitely manages to facilitate a believable time-gone-by styling, with the blocky shaping, protruding 90mm lens, huge flash and that peculiar glittered black linen material on our Victoria Peak edition - we like it! Another thing is that it has proved itself to be well built: we’ve dropped it on more than one occasion and, apart from mild scuffing, it resists serious damage both aesthetically and functionally! Worth noting is that, to allow the camera to house the wider Instax film cassettes (which are, incidentally, a pop-in-and-out affair to load), it’s 25cm long, making it important to remember to have a bag with you in which to carry it when on your travels - this is not a small object and definitely not pocketable. Powering this camera are 4 AA batteries that are still going after three sets of film capturing 30 photos in total. The Lomo’Instant Wide camera does tell you when it’s running low on power via a flashing blue LED on the film counter display that also illuminates constantly when amply powered. The lens-cap cleverly doubles as a two button remote control for timed or instant photo taking: ideal for family portraits where the handy tripod mounting point comes into use also.
Ease of use
Whilst it is a chunky camera, holding and generally operating it has always felt surprisingly ergonomic. The shutter button is large, satisfying to press and located on the front of the camera. Photos subsequently appear from the top. What’s special about the Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide is that it has manual settings. We can adjust the exposure level (-1, 0, +1), toggle flash, take one photo on top of another via the mix setting and adjust the shutter speed. There are three settings: automatic mode, that we most frequently utilise; bulb mode, which keeps the shutter open for as long as you like, and finally there’s an option to shoot at 1/30th of a second - intended for studio use with a flash via the PC sync socket. This side of the Lomo’Instant camera became familiar very quickly to us as we already know a bit about photography, but the 'helpful tips' cards in the box will simplify the controls for beginners. If Lomography want to take their instant camera game to the next level, they need to figure out how to digitally visualise what’s going to come out of the camera before taking the photo. An LCD screen, or possibly Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone, offering an impression of what your image will look like when adjusting settings in real-time, we believe would be a hybrid digital-analogue masterstroke!
There’s a different psychology to photography with instant film. Having only 10 photos on each cassette of film was nerve-racking to start with and created a hesitant approach to photography - something that we have to actually thank Lomography for. You see we are guilty of having become shutter happy with digital photography - capturing dozens of photos in every shoot! But one thing we can unanimously say about the Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide is that we’ve enjoyed the thoughtful and highly prepared approach to photography that it enforces. The whole process becomes more meaningful as a result.
We can definitely take great photos with the Lomo’Instant Wide, but getting there requires patience. Being able to have control over the shutter speed, focal length and exposure, to the extent of having a long or multiple exposure on one frame, has enabled us to capture some interesting pieces. Albeit in the learning process we’ve thrown away nearly a third of all the photos we’ve taken due to stupid things like forgetting to use flash indoors and the fact that the -1 exposure setting isn't quite low enough on truly blue sky days, causing smeary washed out images without a coloured gel filter being included. With gels over the lens the image is protected from wash-out and can make interesting end results with multiple exposures.
We’re mostly accustomed to the character of the Lomo’Instant Wide now, yet it still surprises us. Indoors, with the flash, it performs well and in its own character obtains a more dated look under artificial light. Outdoors is where the most fun can be had, and that's especially true on slightly overcast and generally duller days, with the sun behind clouds resulting in images that demonstrate a balanced level of exposure to contrast and obtain deeper colours too. When the sun was tucked away we could soak up really saturated natural greenery, vibrant flowers, deep blue shimmering lakes, etc. Our photo collection shows the flexibility of the Lomo’Instant in varying lighting conditions and scenarios - it has charm. Capturing wide angle shots with the lens set at infinity didn't feature any distortion, and together with a lengthy depth of field, the Cornish landscapes proved no problem at all. Yet judging the closer lens settings of 0.6m to 1-2 metres by eye is trickier and not very forgiving if miscalculated. Get it right and images appear clearer than the infinity setting, particularly with the full might of the 0.6m focal length that pulls the subject into the foreground and pushes everything else into a mystified distance - fantastic for visually pleasing self portraits.
The Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide makes photography meaningful and spurs an inner creativity with its mixture of manual adjustment features. It isn’t a strictly earnest camera and nor is it a toy, instead it can capture highly stylised photos that appeal to our fun and experimental side. There’s unquestionably something magical about hearing the whine of the motor dispense a new photo ready to be viewed, shared or recreated. And seriously, Lomography, think about that LCD or App real time print representation idea we had for your future products!