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:
Table of contents
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).
* FOR CLARITY, YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THE BUGGER.
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This article provides updates to the original posted here.