Them: “Wow, that must be a really old camera”
Me: “Well, it was made in 1986”
Them: “Does it work?”
Me: “Yes it does and it takes great pictures”
This is how many conversations begin when I’m using my Lubitel and it’s at this point that I can educate the curious masses about lomography and lo-fi photography. At first I fell in love with the Lubitel’s looks too, but if beauty is more than skin deep than this little camera is beautiful to the core.
After diving into lomography with a Holga I wanted my next camera to come with a few more bells and whistles and a little more reliability. It would also have to look as good as it performed and be relatively inexpensive. TLR cameras are endlessly fascinating to me with their alien good looks. The vertical lenses are so very flounder-like on the front of it’s boxy frame. I found a Lubitel in need of a home on eBay and after an agonizing month-long wait, it arrived at my house.
My Lubitel had been sitting virtually untouched at the top of someone’s closet since it’s production, a fact that was reinforced upon opening the box covered in cyrillic writing. It smelled of communism and sensibility. It’s construction and heft told me I had a real workhorse on my hands. The Lubitel is all these things plus, like other lomocams, it has it’s own personality.
Persnickity at times and stubborn at others, the Lubitel always delivers a phenomenal picture as long as you treat it right. In getting to know my camera I’ve realized one needs plenty of time. It takes awhile to figure out all those switches and knobs as the Lubitel is a bit more complicated than your typical analogue instrument. It also takes awhile to properly take a great picture. You must set up your shot and focus then check to make sure all settings are correct. Cock the shutter, then hold your breath and trip the switch for a medium format work of art. I find that using my Lubitel is rather Zen-like at times. It’s as if I have to be ‘in the zone’ to make all the elements of my picture align.
If you treat your Lubitel right it will be a wonderful machine for many years. I’ve found that, just like you, the Lubitel needs a little tune-up occasionally. When those gears mesh together you get great results but when they’re out of whack the Luby develops a thousand-yard-stare type of focus that’s only good for taking far away landscape shots. I just tuned up my Lubitel recently and have achieved some great results in my last few shoots. I’ve even gotten some consistently great macro shots lately.
I love taking my Lubitel out for a spin. It’s a real conversation starter so I have to make sure to be in a sociable mood when using it because inevitably someone wants to know, “Does that camera really work?”
Here are some of my crazy macro shots, all cross-processed Fuji film.