Sunday, 7 July 2013

My first beauty, the Smena 8M (photos)

I want to tell you about how I became interested in film cameras. 

Last Summer, my dearest cousin visited me all the way from Israel, and brought something I've never seen or used before (if you don't count those times when I was a baby and I used to play with film cameras, I would open them all the time, and ruin the film). It was the FED 5. I thought it was beautiful. It was like an artifact, like something out of a soviet museum. The vintage look of it attracted my attention. I was excited to learn how to use it. 

Before getting my hands on the FED 5, I only had experience with digital cameras, the Canon 550D was my companion, so this analogue world was brand new to me. The rangefinder camera was all manual, and fiddling with the speeds, exposures and other buttons was a joy, I really did feel like a child again. Unfortunately for my cousin, I kept forgetting to focus when taking pictures, so I ruined some film, and I still occasionally make the same mistake. 
But the most exciting part was developing the film. I can still remember the anticipation and excitement of waiting for it to develop. I couldn't wait to see how the photos turned out. That was the main thing that sparked the love for film cameras in my heart.

This summer I decided to do something so obvious I can't believe I've waited all year to do it, that's buy my own film camera! Of course this market was brand new to me, and I didn't know anything about any of the old film cameras, but I researched, and came across the Smena 8M. It was perfect. Small. Vintage design. Soviet. A real beauty. A beginners toy. 

Lithuania is a post-soviet state, so you would be able to find such cameras everywhere. I went to the local Sunday flea market where there's dozens of them, and you could guess, when I saw my Smena, I was beaming. It was in great condition. With it I also received a black leather case that says Ломо (Lomo in Russian) on it, and a flash called Saulutė (Sun in Lithuanian). All for just 20 litas! That's about 6 euro! A bargain, bought it straight away. Unfortunately the flash doesn't fit properly, it has a slightly different hot-shoe construction, but with a little tweak I think I'll be able to get it to work.

My baby, my beautiful Smena 8M. 
It was hard to get used to it, but after reading the instructions 5 times slowly, I finally understood them. Using it is so easy, it's definitely not for advanced photographers. I learnt that the hard way.

It has some flaws. 
The viewfinder is practically useless, it is a window far away from the lens and some photos don't come out with the composition that you wanted, slightly too high, too far to the left or right etc. Some great photos were ruined this way. The focusing is also not exact, you focus by selecting the approximate distance from your object, 1 meter to infinity. The lens even has little pictures of people and buildings on it to help you focus. The shutter speed can be selected in two ways, the first is with the pictures provided on top or the shutter speeds on the side. So once again this camera is really easy to use for people who don't know which shutter speed to use. The plastic casing creaks when you handle the camera, but what do you expect, it's 30 years old.

Don't look away from it yet though!
Light leaks are common, but I like them, so I don't mind. I bought this camera specifically because of the photos that it takes. Sharpness is great when you get the focus right, and saturation of the photos is really good as well, so when the photos is composed and focused well, expect it to look good. All in all it is a really fun camera, and I'm happy with it.

Here are scans of some of the photos I took.

Triple exposure

Double exposure

Red lens flare

Nice greens in this photo
 The colours are slightly off, the photos look much better in person.
That's it for now, hopefully I didn't bore you to death, and thanks for reading!


  1. hey great first blog :D it was really interesting to read :) and the pics are class :')

  2. I'm only slightly interested in photography and such. I've been told I'm quite good but I don't really have any motivation to drive onwards with it. It doesn't bother me too much. This is a very well written piece. Well done.

  3. i'm jealous i've been hunting down that camera for years!

  4. I have had one of these for a while. The USSR did make some interesting cameras. There was nothing like this in the US at the time which I think is too bad. It seems like it is a good affordable camera to learn with. And it is capable of some excellent results as your photos demonstrate.