Lomography has reached back into the past, rummaged around a bit, and pulled out their own version of a 35mm movie-maker. Novelty it may be, but at £65, that dinky black LomoKino box is one of the Austrian brand's cheapest-ever analogue cameras.
If you're unfamiliar with what Lomography does, hark here for 30 seconds: they've made a name for themselves by reproducing old soviet cameras, such as the LC-A and Diana, but do also invent brand new products, such as the LomoKino. With their cameras being famed for producing photos with saturated colours, vignetted corners or just dreamy washed-out effects, I grasped the Lomokino eagerly and took to a North Devon village for some handle-cranking fun (the results of which you can see below.)
Point the camera, choose the aperture, and wind the handle: it couldn’t be easier to use, though admittedly the backwards way of loading the film might confuse some people. Definitely read the manual folks; you don’t want to get this one wrong.
Shooting with the LomoKino is really easy, but it's worth pointing out that you have to turn the handle harder than you think you should. As there's no microphone for capturing sound (not that 35mm film can record it anyway), you don't need to worry about yelling out to your friends "shit! Can you do that again?" nor worry too much about keeping the camera upright and steady -- any shakes just add to the "homemade" quality of your film.
If you take your finished roll of film to a Lomography LomoLab (there are two in London, but they do accept postal orders), they will turn your 144 photo frames into a movie, and place the .mp4 movie file on a CD for you (alongside the photo stills) from £10 each (£12 for black and white). If you purchase the LomoKinoScope viewer as well (basically a viewmaster that you insert the film in), be sure to specify you don't want the negatives cut if you take it to a non-Lomography branded photolab.
If your photolab can't turn the stills into a movie for you, you'll then have to cobble the frames together using iMovie or similar software, but this didn't take me longer than five minutes to do. Lomography's got guides to all the major video-editing suites on their site, so you can follow them easily.
Pleasingly, the CD Lomography gives back to you a few days later actually contains the photo stills as well, with four stills appearing per frame. You can of course choose to order prints as well, but that's probably overkill if I'm honest -- nonetheless, it's almost like having an Actionsampler bundled into the one black box.
As the camera shoots around 3 - 5 frames per second, you can record something like 30 - 50 seconds of "video" on each roll, which is a surprising amount. There's actually a handy gauge on the side of the Lomokino, showing you how much film you have left to shoot on, though it erred towards generosity, showing the film was almost finished when really we had a lot left.
Knowing film reacts well to sunlight, I pointed the Lomokino at the sun on each roll of film I shot, but unfortunately it just gave the film a more washed-out look, rather than the saturated colours and darkened corners I was hoping for. It's beautiful, but not quite the effect I was going for -- next time, I'll try a different roll of film (I was shooting on Lomography's own-brand ISO 800 film.) The other examples I've seen from the LomoKino are much better than my first two attempts -- check out the example here.
Given the £65 price-tag, it would be unfair to say Lomography should've added a switch for changing between ISOs, like its premium LC-A+ and LC-Wide have, but perhaps we'll see a more high-end 35mm shooter come out of their development labs further down the track.
There's an Inverse-Galileo viewfinder at the top, which can fold down and clip into place when not in use. I actually stopped using it after a while, preferring instead to "shoot from the hip" as Lomography is wont to saying, as squinting through the tiny viewfinder (especially while wearing glasses) proved troublesome.
Worryingly, the handle is crafted from just a couple of pieces of plastic, meaning if thrown in your bag without clamping the handle down, it could easily break off. It’s part and parcel with these plastic cameras, but after hearing a few complaints about the flimsy plastic shutter releases on the Diana range of cameras, I would’ve liked to see Lomography invest more time into developing sturdier hardware. Saying that though, there are no quibbles about the rest of the camera’s hardware, given it’s essentially a black pleatherette box in the style of an old Kodak Brownie.
At £69, it’s not going to break the bank if you only use it a couple of times a year, and indeed, it will provide a lot of fun and attract curious questions. You could argue that you can pick up a cheap Super8 camera from eBay and produce much more amazing movies, but have you ever actually picked one up? Most of them weigh a tonne. I don't have anything against the more serious analogue cameras of yesteryear (I own several myself), but Lomography's appeal lies in its easily-accessible, fun products.
While I hardly barely any quibbles with the new LomoKino, I would love to see Lomography add this functionality to its new flagship the LC-Wide, to give that overpriced camera more value, and help us analogue fans cut down on the amount of plastic cameras we cart around with us. Won’t you think of our poor back and shoulders, Lomography?
PS: Special thanks to my husband Jim and friends Tasha, Tim, Sarah (and their gorgeous daughter Ava) for being actors in my little movies. Not forgetting doggies Elvis and Herbie; I couldn't have made my masterpieces without you. Oh god, now I'm gushing like Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars...