“Do You Name All of Your Cameras…?”


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Back in April I was at my local car boot sale scavenging for cameras when I came across an original Diana camera.  It was in its original box with one of the previous owners name and address written on the bottom and even had the instructions with it.  The only thing it was missing was a lens cap, but having never really been interested in the Diana range of cameras I didn’t know at the time that it was supposed to have one.  And I probably wouldn’t have cared – I certainly don’t now.

The chap was also selling something calling itself a ‘Vista Colour Camera,’ and bundled the pair together after some haggling for the princely sum of just £8.  £4 for an original Diana in its box isn’t to be sniffed at.  £4 for a boxed Vista Colour Camera…? Well I’m not sure about that one.  I’ll talk more about that monstrosity another day because its now fast approaching July and I’ve still not really tried it out.


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So a little bit about the Diana…  As I understand it, they were marketed by the Great Wall Plastic Company as an inexpensive gift/toy camera in the 1960s.  I don’t know if it’s made or Bakelite or some type of more recent plastic but it’s certainly very 1960s in its aesthetic.  You probably know already but since about 2007 Lomography have been selling a cloned ‘new’ version of this camera called the Diana +.  Hipsters want them now I guess…

Plastic lens – Check.  Ability to focus – Check.  Well sort of.  You’ve got a basic focusing ring that screws the lens towards and away from the film plane.  Options for 4 – 6ft, 6 – 12ft and 12ft – Infinity are marked on the front of the lens barrel but in the couple of rolls of film I’ve put through the Diana none of these have seemed to make the slightest bit of difference.

I think that the blue top plate looks fantastic.  In the sun it’s a cool baby blue.  Right now under a light in the kitchen its kind of grey with a blue hue to it.  The graphic design work on the stickers on top are a work of art, and leave you in no doubt which type of film to stick in there…!  Oh and turn that film advance and listen to the wondrous noise that comes out of it.  Its like a kids bicycle when the spokes are covered in those clicked clacker things.  It’s awesome really. 

Mounted in this top plate is a big bright viewfinder so you can see what you’re pointing it at.  Although it’s not coupled to the lens and has no parallax correction markings so if yore attempting to shoot something vaguely close up be prepared to compensate for this. 

The actual body of the camera is black and has this disgusting ‘pebbledash’ finish to it on both the front and the back.  The texture feels pretty shitty, but at a guess I’d say the thought behind it was probably grip in the hand.  I mean its pretty heavy.  Once loaded with a roll of 120 roll film it weighs about as much as a roll of 120 roll film…

It has three aperture settings (and I use that term loosely) that are simply marked with the standard recognisable ‘Cloud’, ‘Sun/Cloud’ and ‘Sun’ symbols. 

These apertures are not formed by blades how you may be familiar with in a modern lens, rather simply just a plate that moves behind the lens when actuated by the selector switch underneath.  This plate has two different sized holes (apertures) in it, which correlate to the Sun/Cloud and Sun settings, and for the Cloud setting the plate moves aside.  Just make sure when you’re changing your settings that the aperture in the plate sits central as it has a habit of not centring itself. 


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As for shutter speeds well what a choice you have here.  You’ve got your ‘B’ for bulb setting and your ‘I’ for…well to be honest I actually have no idea what the ‘I’ stands for…?  The ‘I’ setting is the normal picture taking made where even if you hold the shutter release down you’ll still get the same single exposure time.  I don’t know what this exposure time is; at a guess I’d say 1/60sec.  God knows what it is now probably at least 50 years since manufacture…

The shutter release button isn’t really a button, more of a lever.  Move from top to bottom and the bottom of the stroke is when the shutter is released.  There is no lock to prevent you making multiple exposures, but I guess that that is part of the charm of a Diana.

No tripod attachment thread.  Although nobody has probably ever needed one I struggle to think why the Great Wall Camera Company or whatever they were called thought people would like a bulb setting on their camera but no real way of steadying the camera other than the old ‘sit it on a wall or similar’ technique.

 

Now lets talk briefly about light leaks.  You know that the Diana’s and the Helga’s and all the plastic pieces of crap like this leak light onto your film.  Hell that’s part of the charm isn’t it?  That’s why you wanted one?  Right?  Meh…

Light leaks are present at the top of most images taken with this one.  I think it’s the red film number window.  Actually it’s probably the crap fit of the entire casing as well.  The damn thing is only held together with one lock (again, term used loosely) on the bottom of the casing, and that’s unlocked itself several times already…

Light enters the lens and is inverted thus producing an upside down picture on the film.  That would mean that the light leak being at the bottom of the camera, where the film number window is, puts the results at the top of the image. I guess that this could be sorted with black electrical tape over the window and possibly around the edges of the casing, but imperfections like this are why people want these stupid things aren’t they?  It’s like ‘in-camera’ Instagram or something…

 

So what do the images that it takes look like?  You know exactly what they look like…Square, 4x4cm (ish) frames with massive vignettes and with focus that drops of enormously at the edges of the frame.  But that doesn’t matter because chances are the centre of the image isn’t going to be razor sharp.  Or even just sharp sharp.  It’s going to be soft.  Soft as a soft-boiled egg.  But no really even if you actually used the focusing scale on the lens it’s hit and miss as to what you’re gonna get out of it.  And even then you’re beautiful image is going to have an enormous light leak smeared across it.  But you already knew all of this.  That’s why you wanted a Diana in the first place.  Be it one of the new variants from Lomography or an original one like this one. 


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No flash sync and no light meter. It’s just a plastic box with some springs in it.  Normally how I like a camera to be, but it’s the emphasis on that word ‘plastic’ that doesn’t really do it for me.  Don’t get me wrong I like the images that come out of it, but the visual aesthetic of each of these images is always the same, regardless of the photographer or what they do with the camera.  It seems to be that a Diana is suited best to a sunny day (its definitely a summer camera) and a beach.  But it would probably get all clogged up with sand because the panels fit so freaking badly…


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Oh yeah.  And the strap is too short for a fat man.