Here we go again. This time around I will be recounting my time shooting with the classic Lomo Lubitel 166B. A quick google about this camera and you will come across numerous posts, reviews and listings to buy these things used on eBay.
The reviews seems to be divided with people loving them, hating them and a few in between. One thing that is certain though is it stands as a classic Lomo medium format camera. Heavy vignetting and dreamy images invoking memories and feelings of another time long ago.
After reading up on this camera last year as I was getting back into film photography I knew I had to get one. I came across a used one for about $40 USD on eBay and pulled the trigger and waited for at least a month while the camera was shipped from somewhere deep in the Ukraine. It finally arrived and I was so excited to open it up and it seemed to be in almost new unused condition. It came with a strap and nice leather case. I was quite happy with my purchase.
Fast forward one year and I finally got around to putting it in my camera bag for a little photo mission a couple of weeks ago! I had loaded the camera up with a roll of Fujifilm Acros 100 II that I had bought in the summer. That in itself was a bit of a challenge as I hadn’t loaded 120 film in at least 15 years.. Once I got the film on the spool and closed the back I stared winding the film, looking in the little round window on the back of the camera watching all these markings on the film go by.. right by the number 1! dang it I had blown one frame already! Ha, at least I knew what to look for as I shot the rest of the roll.
So out on my photo mission after I had taken the shots I was looking for with my F4 I pulled out the Lubitel 166B not really knowing what to expect. I had read that it was hard to shoot and not the best camera to start with for medium format. Perfect I had thought. I used my little hand held light meter to dial in an exposure making sure that I was using a decent mid range f-stop, f/8 or f/11 and a shutter speed to match. There are a bunch of little metal things sticking out of the lens that are used to do this, along with the lever to cock the shutter and the shutter release (that is a little too conveniently located right underneath) I definitely shot a frame mistakenly as I was cocking the shutter.. I unfolded the viewfinder and framed up some shots. I did use a cable release after the accidental misfire. Framing is fun, it felt like I had had a few drinks. The image in the viewfinder is upside down and backwards, so everything is the opposite of what you need to do. It takes a bit to line things up but I was digging the waist level, looking down approach to shooting.
I was excited to see the results so I brought the roll down to Galaxy Camera here in Ottawa to get developed. I was told that the Fujifilm Acros 100 II was one of the sharpest black and white films out there. I got even more excited with what I thought would be the most epic photos I had taken in years. Forgetting everything that I had read a year ago about the camera. Forgetting about the vignetting, soft focus, dreamy and unpredictable shots..
Again I was excited to go and pick up the photos from the lab. I pulled out the little index sheet and lo and behold I did indeed get some shots. There were exposures on the film so that was a win. However they were all soft with nothing in focus anywhere? How could that be even possible? Everything that I had read came flooding back in my mind and I remembered that I shouldn’t have had such high expectations. Although the images have grown on me and do have a life of their own.
I have shot a couple of more rolls and am now curious to see the results. However my expectations aren’t quite as high as they were. All in all it is a fun little camera, quirky to shoot, totally original images and super cheap. Sharp? definitely not. Dreamy 100%.
Take care and happy shooting,