This is one of the first pictures I took on Lomography’s new Diana Instant Square. Swansea Castle, originally built in 1107, curves around the edges of the wide angle shot with the eyesore of the early 70s BT tower standing just behind it, and I stand here, in 2018, taking photos of the seagulls circling the scene.
Swansea, my home town, much like the Diana camera, is lost in time. Swansea, like the Diana, resists calls to modernise, instead adopting creatives that don’t quite ﬁt in. Like me. And if you’re reading this article, probably also like you.
And that’s right, you don’t buy a Diana camera, it adopts you.*
The new Diana Instant Square is the latest in a line of recreations of the 1960s plastic camera from Lomography, and there have been many. And you could call me a bit of a Diana fanboy as I’ve shot on MANY of these cameras, from original, slow, 1960s models all the way through to the new 35mm and 110 ﬁlm iterations from Lomography.
In a moment of genius when Lomography re-released the Diana 25 years ago they made a number of lenses for it, and this really enhances the pallet of this camera. Sure, the original 70mm plastic meniscus lens is a classic, but the new lenses expand the horizons, and can be used on the new Instant Square Body. The 38mm Super-Wide is by far my favourite providing some tasty lens distortion to the dreamy, sometimes swirly images. Just as with the original, the smallest apertures on the camera give reasonably sharp images for a plastic lens, but as you widen the aperture to let more light into the camera, the images get softer.
Shooting with this camera was so much fun that by the time The Ofﬁcial Shoot came around, my models turned up and I only had a couple of packs of ﬁlm left. Luckily, I have one of the little adapters that lets you mount the Diana lenses to your DSLR, this let me try out different shots with the lenses before committing them to the instax ﬁlm, and while I much, much prefer working with ﬁlm, this hybrid approach lets me keep work affordable.
Anyhow, the Kickstarter for the Diana Instant Square is now live, and you can pick one up for a discount by backing the project, which is already fully funded, before July 20th.
Things You Should Know Before You Decide If The Diana Instant Square Is For You.
Now these things aren’t good or bad. But you should think about them before you get started.
- This is a manual camera. As someone who usually shoots in manual this is awesome. I decide the parameters used to take the photo! But if you’re hoping to take some fun instant photos with a ﬂash while drunk at parties and gigs, you might want to get an automatic camera like the brilliant Instant Automat Glass (Oh, look! I reviewed it just here!!)
- It uses Instax Square ﬁlm. Instax is a good, modern instant ﬁlm, it’s available widely, and isn’t too expensive. It is currently limited to 800 speed ﬁlm, and given fujiﬁlm have built their camera systems around the 800 speed ﬁlm, I can’t see this changing. It’s slightly smaller than old school Polaroid 600 or SX ﬁlm, but looks great and when properly exposed can be sharp as hell - photos I’ve scanned from Instax Mini retain their great look at 4 times the size.
- Set aside some cash. Sure, you can just buy the base camera, but really you’re buying into a camera system. The Diana + range has a number of lenses and accessories and it could get out of hand pretty quickly! You could ﬁnd yourself buying another lens, then buying a medium format body for the lens you just bought so you can try different ﬁlms, then buying a 35mm back for the body you just bought… all the while also buying ﬁlm for the camera. For my money, the Super-Wide lens is a must, and if you don’t already have a medium format Diana body, you can pick them up pretty cheaply… so maybe factor this into the cost.
I’m positively evangelical about how great these plastic cameras can be, and with this new kickstarter I’m looking forward to welcoming more photographers to the Church of Diana.
*FOR CLARITY, YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THE FUCKER.
Massive thanks to Lindsey and Dan for modelling for me.
August 5th is #DianaDay, so ahead of the geeky camera festivities, here’s a review:
Questions people get asked when out and about with film cameras:
· Can you still get film for that? (Yes, obvs. I’m shooting on it so… Duh.)
· I think I’ve got one of those lying around, is it still worth money? (Probably, no)
· Why are you still shooting on THAT?!
No camera brings that last question out like the Diana.
I mean, to the undiscerning, there’s nothing good about it.
It’s plastic. Pretty much all of it. There’s a metal spring to trip the shutter, and some of them have metal tripod mounts, but other than that, this thing is flimsy, bendy, crack-prone plastic.
The lens? Yup, that’s plastic too, and of the plastic lens cameras out there, this is one of the most basic and least technically-thought-out lenses. It doesn’t respond to normal metering, as the light bounces around so much inside the plastic, it’s kind of like taking a shot through the bottom of a milk bottle.
It’s bulky, and the top is bright blue. You’re more likely to look like a kids TV presenter than a photographer when using it.
It’s big and bulky and plastic and the image quality is…
A brief history: It’s the 1960’s. Companies in Asia are starting to make butt loads of plastic novelty items. Promo items, Giveaways, prizes, junk. One of them makes the Diana camera in the cheapest possible way to get images from medium format 120 film. A load of other companies rip off the design and make dozens of clones. Fast forward to the early noughties and people are still using the camera to make artsy, soft focus images. Lomography, marketing miracles that they are, start making these old cameras again, almost identical to the originals in every way.
There are two debates that have been talked about on photography forums ad infinitum:
Old 60’s Diana vs New Lomography Diana: Second hand prices are around the same. Results are around the same. Take your pick, people, but don’t discuss it on the internet.
Diana vs Holga: Holga cameras are similar plastic medium-format and pretty crappy cameras. In my book, Every Shot Matters (plug alert!) I ridiculed this argument because, well, the Diana isn’t as good. I don’t get as consistent results as with the Holga. The Diana seems bulkier and even flimsier than the Holga. That said, in the race to the bottom, the Diana wins, hands down.
Which is why I still occasionally shoot with this thing. It removes all technical control from the photo, and adds so much randomness, you’re left guessing. And that’s the beauty of this camera. The zen of letting go. Did I get that shot? No way to tell. You’re left pushing the shutter for the sheer joy of it. And it’s just so addictive.
If you’ve never tried one, get your hands on a Diana ahead of August 5th and join me. If you’re local to Swansea drop me a message and we can head out together.