#Camerathursdays is our quasi-weekly series that lets us, the people of Blurb, show off the cameras we use and love. We’ve featured 20 cameras so far and surprisingly we haven’t shown a camera from the folks at Lomography. Until now. Much like the instant, disposable, and box cameras we’ve featured here, the Diana+ is a bit idiosyncratic, a camera that’s prone to aberrations and accidental beauty.
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The Diana+ camera is a remake of a toy camera that was popular in Japan in the 1960s. Technically it’s a medium-format camera – it uses 120 film (60mm wide, with various image formats available, depending on the the camera). The last time I had used film that big, I was taking photos with my dad’s Kodak Duaflex II twin-lens reflex, which he gave me after he bought a 35mm camera.
The Diana+ is all-plastic, with a few, very thin metal parts. While loading the film, the spool kept falling out, but I finally got it to wind. Did I say it was all-plastic? Yes, that includes the lens. And so it’s very lightweight. When you press the shutter lever on the front edge of the lens, you have to brace the body of the camera to avoid tilting it during exposure.
It has manual focus (3 zones) and manual exposure (3 stops plus bulb). But the maximum aperture is only f/11, so on a sunny day it’s hard to go wrong. Unlike the original Diana, you can remove the lens and use the pinhole feature. I tried this with a 20-second exposure, with foreground items and far background, expecting infinite depth of field, but resulting image was too blurry to appreciate it.
Even with the lens installed, the image is not sharp. Medium-format gives you a huge film frame (4 times larger than 35mm) and big sharp pictures are guaranteed with other MF cameras, but not with the Diana+. However, the expected vignetting and chromatic aberrations in the corners were in almost every picture.
You have to remember to wind the film or else you will have an unplanned double-exposure (which happened to me multiple times). And speaking of film, at 12 exposures per roll (or 16 using a smaller frame), this camera is not cheap to operate. Figure about a dollar per picture, after paying for film, developing, and basic scanning.
I know this all sounds very negative, so to speak. But using the Diana+ taught me some things that I did not expect.
First, this low-tech technology is like a riding a horse. You don’t have complete control. It will do things that simply surprise you. It will most often frustrate you, and make you remember that you are just a human. You have to adjust to it, and then just move on – to the next film frame. Whereupon you will probably make the same mistakes, or new ones. And the results will confound modern-day notions of “quality.” The ruined look — fading, decay, damage, corruption – is the prized goal.
And second, I learned to like square. After years of wider and wider (3:2 with 35mm film and then 16:9 with digital compacts), I found 1:1 to be a most pleasant place. With square, you really do need a subject, and it’s front-and-center. There’s no “tall” or “landscape.” Later, I went back to my digital (Canon ELPH 100) and dialed up the 1:1 setting – went out and took a hundred square pictures, smiling the whole time.