The newly announced Lomo LC-A 120 is about as far as you can get from a modern digital camera. It has a plastic box for a body, a fixed focal length lens and click-stop focusing that relies on your own judgement of distance – and remembering to set the focus for each shot. It does have a light meter, but this powers a simple program AE exposure system with no manual override.
Even loading the film is a challenge. It uses old-fashioned 120mm roll film that's twice as tricky to load as 35mm cassettes and gives you just 12 square images per roll. After that, you'll still need to get it processed and, if you want to reconnect with the digital world, you'll need to get your images scanned.
But fans will love the shallow depth of field and sense of space provided by the massive negatives (6cm x 6cm), and the vignetting, edge softness and random light leaks produced by the low-tech lens and plastic build.
It's a little more than just a retro relic, though. The 38mm f/4.5 Minigon lens is equivalent to a 21mm lens on a full-frame D-SLR, so you get a super-wide angle of view that's perfect for city streets and sweeping landscapes. It will also focus down to just 0.6m for surreal close-ups, too.
Previous Lomos used 35mm film, but the jump to the 120 format in the Lomo LC-A 120 is a big one – the larger negative offers four times the image area. More than that, it offers a square picture format that makes you rethink your approach to composition.
There's even a multi-exposure mode. There's no high-tech digital blending and layering here, though – the camera simply locks the film advance so that you take a second shot on the same frame of film. Or a third, or a fourth – though the picture will get progressively lighter as the exposure builds up, so there's a limit to how far you can go.
The short focal length means means although the LC-A 120 is tall and wide, it's also very flat – you could slide it into a coat pocket, for example, or a small bag.
Find the film
You can buy 120 film from the Lomography website or source it yourself – it's still available at specialist photographic retailers. You might have to hunt around a little more for labs to process your film, but once you get the results back from the lab, any decent flatbed scanner with a transparency adaptor will be able to digitise your photos while keeping their unique 'analog' character.
The only snag is the price. £339/US$429/AU$462 is pretty stiff for a plastic camera using 1970s technology. Not only that, you'll have to pre-order to get one at all.
Is it worth it? Not if you're a hard-headed technophile, but if you're a retro romantic trying to recapture those misty memories of youth, then maybe it's just one of those things you just need to try.
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