The Lomo Smena 8M: A Russian 35mm camera from the 1980s, 30 March 2024

The Lomo Smena 8M: A Russian 35mm camera from the 1980s, 30 March 2024

About a month ago I picked up a camera on a whim. It was a Lomo Smena 8M, the ninth camera in the Smena range from the Russian company Lomo. I have a few Lomo cameras already, the classic Lomo LC-A, the stereo Lomo Sputnik, and the Lomo Symbol, which I don't think I've ever used. I picked this one because it has a really well-regarded lens, the classic Triplet T-43 4/40 lens which I have seen converted to use with micro four-thirds mirrorless cameras and I reckoned at a pinch that if the camera was a dud I could take the lens and use it with a digital camera. 

When it arrived, the LOMO Smena 8M was in lovely condition but it was cheap because it doesn't have a take-up spool. Unlike most other cameras, which have a fixed take-up spool built into the camera, the take-up spool in the Smena 8M was removable, I'm not sure why, and sometimes this can get lost. However, I have read that an ordinary 35mm spool from a cassette would work just as well. I have a few refillable 35mm cassettes and so I took the spool from of one of these and fitted it into the Smena, and it worked! I need to cut the film to fit the spool properly, but it's not really an issue and the camera loaded with ease.

Someone online compared it to a Holga, but aside from its build quality resembling a toy camera it's much more versatile than a Holga, with its glass lens and range of shutter speeds and apertures. It does have some little foibles regarding cocking the shutter and rewinding, and it of  course needs a take-up spool, but on the whole the Smena 8M was a lovely camera to use.

Regarding rewinding, the Smena 8M has a rewind knob that seems to cause no end of confusion online and on YouTube as it's almost impossible to turn in its 'resting' position. I read of people struggling with the rewind knob, unloading the Smena in a darkroom, all kinds of horror stories, but in fact rewinding is really easy. All you need to do is lift up the rewind knob, hold down the shutter button and turn the knob. The film will rewind easily and you can see the spindle turning. Actually, I had more problems with the zone focussing, as the turn on the lens is nearly 360° and I ended up spmetimes setting focus to 1,2m when it was meant to be infinity.

I took the Smena 8M with me on a trip to Costa Nova near Aveiro during February, loaded with Ilford FP4 especially for the #FP4Party. I ended up not using it that much, and wasting a few images because I had the focussing set incorrectly, but I really loved using it and honestly cannot wait to take it out again. For metering I relied on my smartphone app 'Camera Meter' and on a lovely sunny day had a shutter speed of about 1/250s.

The results will certainly not win any photography competitions, but it was more of an experiment to see if the Smena was working than anything else, and I have to say it was a delightful experience. The resolution of the lens was amazing. For example look at the window of the houses below. In the blue sky above the little dot in the middle is a motorised paraglider, and if you zoom in you can just make out the shape of the propeller. Astounding. 

I finished off the roll with a walk around the block, and of course stopped to take a photograph of my favourite tree and well. In fact I thought I would try to make a trichrome image so used red, green and blue filters. With the lens adjusting the shutter to compensate for filter factor and the images came out really well. The trichrome wasn't brilliant, but it certainly worked and I'm keen to try the Smena 8M with other films and in other places. 

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