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Quick camera review: a week and a half with the new Lomography Diana Instant SquareQuick camera review: a week and a half with the new Lomography Diana Instant Square

Quick camera review: a week and a half with the new Lomography Diana Instant Square

I’ve written a bit for Lomography before and got a random email out of the blue asking if I was interested in testing out their new Diana Instant Square camera. I didn’t even know they were launching anything before the email came through. All in all, I had around ten days with the camera and lenses – not long enough for a huge review but enough a quickie as it were…

Here’s what I cover:

 

 

The test kit

What I was able to test out a preproduction Diana Instax Square and lens kit: basically a Diana Deluxe Everything Kit without the film back and masks and pretty much identical to the Diana Instant Square Classic Supreme Kit on Kickstarter right now.

Lens-wise I was able to try out the Diana F+ 20mm fisheye lens, 38mm super-wide angle lens, 55mm wide-angle lens, close-up lens and finally the 110mm telephoto lens.

This is one of the first pictures I took using the 38mm super-wide angle lens. Swansea Castle, originally built in 1107AD, curves around the edges of the wide angle shot with the eyesore of the early 1970s BT tower standing just behind it, and I stand here, in 2018, taking photos of the seagulls circling the scene.

Swansea, my home town, much like the Diana camera, is lost in time. Swansea, like the Diana, resists calls to modernise, instead adopting creatives that don’t quite fit in. Like me. And if you’re reading this article, probably also like you.

And that’s right, you don’t buy a Diana camera, it adopts you.*

The new Diana Instant Square is the latest in a line of recreations of the 1960s plastic camera from Lomography, and there have been many. You could call me a bit of a Diana fanboy…I’ve shot on MANY of these cameras, from the original, slow 1960s models all the way through to the new 35mm and 110 film iterations from Lomography.

In a moment of genius when Lomography re-released the Diana 25 years ago they made a number of optional lenses for it – they really enhance the pallet of this camera. Sure, the original 70mm plastic meniscus lens is a classic but the new lenses expand the horizons, and they can all be used on the new Instant Square body.

The 38mm Super-Wide is by far my favourite providing some tasty lens distortion to the dreamy, sometimes swirly images. Check them out.

 

 

A word on Diana lenses

Just as with the original lenses, the smallest apertures give reasonably sharp images for a plastic lens, but as you widen the aperture to let more light into the camera, the images get softer.

Shooting with the camera was so much fun that by the time The Official Shoot came around, my models turned up and I only had a couple of packs of film left. Luckily, I have one of those little adapters that lets you mount the Diana lenses to your DSLR, which let me try out different shots with the lenses before committing them to Instax. While I much, much prefer working with film, this hybrid approach lets me keep work affordable.

Here are a few samples from other frames I shot on the wide-angle, fisheye, close-up and telephoto lenses.

 

The 20mm fisheye lens

 

 

The 38mm super wide angle lens

As with the other that follow, click/tap an image to view them fullscreen.

 

 

The 55mm wide-angle lens

 

 

The close-up lens

 

 

The 110mm telephoto lens

 

 

Things you should know before you decide if the Diana Instant Square is for you…

This is a manual camera. As someone who usually shoots in manual this is awesome: I decide the parameters used to take the photo! But…if you’re hoping to take some fun instant photos with a flash while drunk at parties and gigs, you might want to get an automatic camera like the brilliant Instant Automat Glass (I reviewed it here!)

It uses Instax Square film. Instax is a good, modern instant film, it’s available widely, and isn’t too expensive. It is currently limited to 800 speed in all formats (Mini, Wide and now Square), and given Fujifilm have built their camera systems around the 800 speed film, I can’t see this changing.

Instax Square is slightly smaller than old school Polaroid 600 or SX-70 film, but looks great and when properly exposed can be sharp as hell – photos I’ve scanned from Instax Mini retain their great look at 4 times the size.

Set aside some cash: sure, you can just buy the base camera, but you’re really buying into a camera system. The Diana F+ range has a number of lenses and accessories and it can get out of hand pretty quickly!

You could find yourself buying another lens, then buying a medium format body for the lens you just bought so you can try different films, then buying a 35mm back for the body you just bought… all the while also buying film for the camera.

 

 

So, in conclusion

For my money, the Super-Wide lens is a must, and if you don’t already have a medium format Diana body, you can pick them up pretty cheaply… so maybe factor this into the cost.

The Diana lenses look great on the larger format. At 62x62mm, Instax Square is slightly bigger than a 6×6 frame on the normal Diana F+ (56x56mm) light does drop off in the corners but for a big fan of vignetting and all things lo-fi – like me – this is a plus.

The soft telephoto lens I think looks better on Instax Square than on medium format film – I’ve always found it a bit “meh” before now.

Importantly, you can actually get your framing right, which is always a ballache on the Fuji Instax Mini. I’ve found the Mini to be harder to frame with its square viewfinder and although the plastic viewfinders for the Diana Instant Square are never going to be perfect they’ve solved any framing issues I had in the past.

I’m positively evangelical about how great these plastic cameras can be, and with this new Kickstarter I’m looking forward to welcoming more photographers to the Church of Diana. Speaking of which, the Kickstarter for the Diana Instant Square is live until July 20th, and you can pick one up for a discount by backing the project (about 30% off the kit I mentioned up top).

~ Simeon

 

* FOR CLARITY, YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THE BUGGER.

 

 

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This article provides updates to the original posted here.

About The Author

Simeon Smith

Simeon Smith is a freelance digital creative with an analogue heart. He lives and works in South Wales with his family and pet tortoise, and carries a 1938 Leica IIIa with him at all times. He has been called a hipster, but when such comments are made he just ignores them and wipes the coldbrew coffee from his waxed mustache nonchalantly.

3 Comments

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  1. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am also a Lomo fanboy and is the proud owner 11 Lomo cameras! I just thought it would’ve been cooler if they made their most universal camera even more universal. After backing the Instant, Instant Wide and Square, I feel I will pass on this one. Knowing myself tho, I will probably pick one up when I see a new color that clicks with me.

    Reply
  2. Hey, Jean-Marc, Simeon here! As far as I’m aware a back for the existing body couldn’t be made to be full-frame Instax Square without modifying the body. The apertures are also different given that this new camera will only be used with iso800 film. TBH I prefer a well designed instant camera, and a well designed 120 camera, to a clunky back for an existing camera that sacrifices user-friendliness in favour of compatibility.

    With regards to this being released on the coat-tails of the Lomo Instant Square, I think a lot of the R&D for the Instant Square transferred over to the new Diana. Lomography probably count on a lot of fanboys, like me, buying many cameras that we don’t need. I prefer this to the Lomo Instant Square, but if you already have a Lomo Instant Square and are happy with it, I doubt the Diana will change your life.

    Reply
  3. Looks interesting but I still don’t understand why this needs to be a new camera and not a back for the Diana F+ (they already have one for Instax Mini). I would’ve bought one if I hadn’t already backed the folding instant square camera.

    Reply

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