#OldCameraChallenge: The Lomo LC-A, where it all began

Today my model of the camera that started off the whole Lomography movement arrived, the Lomo LC-A. I hadn’t actually planned to purchase a 35mm camera, as I feel I have enough cameras (from 110 to 120/620) to keep me busy for a good while. However, I recently learned of ‘EBS’ photography, where both sides of the film are exposed, and realised that the cameras I had were not really suitable (I would rather ‘flip’ over a 35mm film in a cartridge than try to flip a 120 spool). Rather than buying a 35mm SLR, which for me would be returning to the perfectly exposed and focussed images that I have been deliberately trying to avoid for a while, I thought that I should be looking for something a little more … basic.

So the search began for a nice little 35mm camera that would allow for a certain flexibility in terms of manual features while retaining the vintage aesthetic I was looking for. It was on a Portuguese website called OLX that I found this little Lomo LC-A. With what’s going on in the world at the moment I was a little reluctant to invest in a Russian camera, but I figured that a 1980s camera couldn’t really be at fault, and I have no idea how long this camera had been in Portugal anyway. So I liaised with the seller and within a few days a nicely packed parcel was delivered.

I was disturbed to discover when it was first unpacked that the camera failed to operate. It would wind on, and the mechanism would ‘click’ but the shutter didn’t move. I quickly discovered that there was already a 12-exposure roll of film in the camera, which I carefully unloaded so I could see the shutter mechanism, before confirming that the camera was working. Checking the battery compartment revealed three LR44 batteries, which looked fine, but on closer inspection there was a lot of green corrosion around the terminals and it appeared they were either dead or very weak.

Fortunately I had some new batteries to hand, and swapping the old batteries for new ones brought the little Lomo instantly back to life. Once I was sure that the camera was working properly I reloaded the film and will use the remainder of the frames for a test run of the LC-A.*

Much has been written about the LOMO Kompact Automat (LC-A) over the years suffice to say that it was produced by LOMO PLC in St. Petersburg in the Soviet Union from 1984 until 2005. The camera was a cheaper copy of the Cosina CX-2 and was sold under Ломо for the domestic market or LOMO or ZENIT for export. Of course, what the LC-A is really famous for is that it was the source camera for the whole Lomography movement.

You can deduce the year of production of an LC-A from its serial number, where the first two numbers are the year that the camera was manufactured. The serial number of my LC-A (8643942) dated the camera to 1986, which probably makes it one of the earlier export models.

It’s a chunky little beast, and although diminutive and of a similar size to a typical point and shoot camera it is quite heavy. So let’s have a look at how the camera works. Although it’s quite straightforward, it is always worth revisiting all the features and functions of a new camera.

Either side of the lens are two toggle levers. To the right of the lens (looking at the camera from the rear viewfinder) is the aperture selection. If the lever is at its lowest point, in the ‘A’ position, the camera is in full auto mode. Here it will select the shutter speed and aperture for you and no further adjustments are required.

If you toggle this lever to one of the aperture numbers, between f2.8 and f16, the shutter speed will default to 1/60s and this is used when you are using flash.

On the opposite side the toggle lever is for the zone focussing, which can be set for 0,8m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. Remember that all of these measurements are in metres, not in feet.

To the right of the lens and above the zone toggle lever is a little wheel where you can set the film speed: between 50—400 ASA. The little glass bubble above the ASA setting wheel is the exposure meter. Make sure that you don’t cover this when you are holding the camera to take photographs.

The top of the camera is quite basic, there’s the film rewind/camera open lever on the left hand side and to the right is the shutter button and a film counter which shows how many exposures have been used. There’s also a flash hot shoe, and in my version I was lucky enough to still have the original hot shoe cover.

The bottom of the camera just has a lever under the lens housing, which opens the lens and switches the camera on, a tripod thread, and a little button which you press to rewind the film. There is also a cover for the battery compartment, which takes three LR44 batteries to power the camera.

The next thing to do with the LC-A is to give it a quick clean and remove all of the dust and grime that has accumulated over the years. Although the LC-A came in its original plastic box, and was complete with the wrist strap, I really don’t think it has been well looked after. However, after a good clean I will load a Lomography 100ASA film into it and take it for a spin.

This is probably the penultimate analogue camera that I will add to my collection. There is one more camera that I am looking at getting from OLX but there is no guarantee that it will arrive. Notwithstanding, now that I have practically every small and medium format size of film camera I have promised my better half that I wouldn’t get any more until I have made good use of the ones that I have already.

*I saved the film that was already in the camera and took it to the nearby woods to finish the film. I should have been wary when the film counter exposed 14 frames for a 12 exposure film. Suffice to say, on developing the film there was nothing there. It wasn’t unexposed, on the contrary, the whole film had been exposed to light at some stage. Which was a shame.

Published by Keith Devereux

'Let me close my eyes and sense the beauty around me. And take that breath under the dark sky full of stars.' Mira Furlan

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