I have a love/hate relationship with Lomography. I'll start with the latter part of the equation first. The cameras are overpriced and they fail way too often. I work in a camera store, we carry Lomography cameras, I get to see the defective rate firsthand. It sucks. Now for the love part. I love what Lomography does. I love how they have built up and pushed a very distinct corner of the film market. The world of film photography is a bigger place in large part due to Lomography's work. They have brought out films. I have had a lot of fun with Lomochrome Purple and Turquoise. They have the only 110 film on the market that I know of. They offer cheap (both in price and quality) alternatives in 35mm and 120 to the pricier Kodak and Fuji films. I love the breadth of ideas they bring to the market with their equipment. A spinning 360 degree camera? A point and shoot fisheye? A petzval lens for that swirly bokeh? A medium format camera with an astonishingly wide 38mm lens? They do all this. I just wish they did it at a higher level of quality. Lomography is great at coming up with fun new ideas and bringing them to fruition but it never seems like they stick with the ideas to make sure they get refined to any degree of reliability. This wouldn't be such an issue if the cameras weren't so expensive.
I can coalesce this experience into my introduction to the Lomo LC-A 120, that aforementioned wide angle medium format point-and-shoot camera. The idea of the LC-A 120 is great. Take a camera that makes 6x6cm negatives, give it an onboard meter for controlling exposure, allow zone focusing which is simple and quick and then ice the whole cake with a surprisingly sharp and crisp 38mm lens. Is it as nice as the 38mm on a Hasselblad Super Wide? Don't be silly, of course it isn't. Then again the Hasselblad costs 3-4 times as much and won't fit in your pocket. But even at $400 I wouldn't mind the price for a brand new medium format camera that can do what the LC-A 120 does. Many used medium format cameras sell for at least this much and most of those sell for a lot more than this. $400 isn't too bad. But the first LC-A 120 I laid hands on only gave me six exposures on a roll of film. Half the time it sounded like it was firing but the film was blank. This is particularly frustrating for a photographer like me who really picks and chooses his photos. I don't double up or bracket much, I don't need to, I just make sure I get it right the first and only time I fire the shutter. I trust my cameras to hold up their end of the bargain and actually make that exposure. And then weeks later when I finally finish a roll to find out that half that span of time was never recorded in exposed silver halide is disappointing, to say the least.
I fiddled with the batteries in the camera and by taking them out and reinserting them I got the camera to make 10 exposures a roll. But the the frame spacing was wonky, I lost the last exposure off the end of the film. Then my batteries got drained because of a design flaw. When I put new batteries in I ran into the same old problem of getting 6-8 exposures out of 12. I recently took this camera back out of storage at work (we could never sell something this inconsistent) and rejiggered the batteries. It made about 20-30 test exposures straight... just long enough for me to begin to feel something resembling confidence in the camera and then... miss-fire. Three more good fires and then another dud. Ten more correct fires and another missed exposure.
I wrote to our Lomography rep about this problem. He was very helpful and Lomography sent us a replacement camera which seemed to test just fine; it had no issues. So we sold it and the customer seems to be having good luck with it. We ordered another and that one seemed ok, too. But when your initial impression is so hit-and-miss it becomes hard to shake that.
Still, I have taken this camera out and used it. Why? Because when it works it makes nice images. It really does. I actually like using it. I have to admit I didn't have to pay for it either. Lomography essentially gave my work the faulty first camera. So now it has become the staff camera. I can accept a free camera that is glitchy much easier than I can accept a $400 camera that is that glitchy.
I am not intending this to be any sort of formal review of this camera. I am not even sure what my bottom line opinion of the camera is. Is it good? Or negative? Ha, mind the pun. I just wanted to share some of my own behind-the-scenes thinking in terms of using this guy. I will keep taking it out, I will keep making images, or thinking I am making images, with it. Maybe at some point I will get the kinks ironed out in it. I hope so. I have made some images I really like with it thus far.
I would like to make more.