Even in the futuristic society we live in, it seems as though tech enthusiasts thrive on viewing the world through the eyes of the past. Take Instagram for instance – it simulates many older cameras right on your smartphone, right? However, consider the possibility of being able to do that for real, and instead of using a still camera, doing it with an old-fashioned movie camera.
Fortunately, with the LomoKino from Lomography, you can! MakeUseOf was recently able to wrangle in this old-timey movie camera for a review. Below you’ll find all the details on how the LomoKino works, so take a look. By the way, we’re giving 5 Lomokinos away — you might want to stick around for this.
What is a Lomokino?
The LomoKino is a 35mm analog movie camera that screams vintage. It’s as if it came directly from the set of an old-fashioned Buster Keaton movie! The camera utilizes any 35mm film that you may have laying around, and seeing that it is completely analog – not digital in anyway – you’re looking at something that is not commonly used these days. Basically, your smartphone can’t compete with the LomoKino.
The product is manufactured and distributed through the Lomography Online Shop, a company that was started in 1991 after two Vienna students stumbled upon the Russian Lomo LC-A+, a purely analog camera that offers the vignetting and light leaks modern digitals don’t today. After falling in love with the joy of analog, the shop was opened, offering all sorts of classic-style, analog cameras that show beauty through their flaws. Along with this came the $79 movie-making LomoKino, a toy camera that pays respect to the past.
We’re reviewing the Lomokino and LomoKinoscope package, but we’re only giving away 5 LomoKinos (so that there’s no confusion later on). When received, the product box contained a fair amount foam and plastic, a suitable protection solution considering the nature of the product. Granted, opening the box itself was a little bit of a task. Strangely enough, the bottom of the box seems more like the lid, so make sure you don’t open it upside-down (like I did). Just be careful – you don’t want to ruin your LomoKino on the first day, right?
In the box, you’ll get your LomoKino, instruction manuals (one of which is a LomoKino-created flip-book!), and an interesting book entitled Inventing the LomoKino. Realistically, all of these were packaged very nicely together, but due to to the nature of the packaging (small bits of cardboard and plastic), it would be hard to repackage it all if ever needed.
Overall, the packaging did a good job of keeping the LomoKino safe. The company didn’t try to swoon me with any flashy containers or gimmicks, so it worked out.
The camera is very cheaply made, and that goes for the LomoKinoscope, too. But seeing that it’s a plastic toy camera (like the Holga), this is totally expected. You just likely aren’t going to go out and shoot the next Transformers using the LomoKino. Or maybe you are. You may just be that much of a genius.
Both products included are also very lightweight, and the cranking mechanism on each made me occasionally cringe. At times, I was afraid that it was going to break off. However, the pay-off is worth being careful, and seeing that I can’t find anything else really like the LomoKino, there’s nothing really to compare it to.
The LomoKino utilizes a loading-mechanism that requires removing the face and loading the film around a top spool and into a bottom spool. As expected, your first few frames are going to be totally obliterated, but after a few tries, you’ll get the hang of it. However, be careful when removing this face. You’ll have to squeeze two buttons on either side of the camera (same for opening the viewer), so don’t apply too much pressure.
All in all, what I want to say here is this: the LomoKino is essentially a toy (which is not an insult). Honestly, I would even go as far as to say that it’s a good design for what it is. For all the times I thought it would break, it wouldn’t.
What you have to keep in mind is that there is nothing electronic or digital about the LomoKino. It shoots at about 1/100 a second (so in theory it could pick up more detail than a standard video camera, but it lacks the resolution), is totally manually cranked, and only offers three apertures: f/5.6, f/8, and f/11. Beyond that, you don’t need to worry about batteries whatsoever with the LomoKino or for its Viewmaster-esque LomoKinoscope. Below are a few more tech specs:
- Exposure area: 24mm x 8.5mm (so it’s a really wide picture)
- Frames per roll (36 exp.): 144 frames (but you don’t have to use 36 exp.)
- Frame rate: Approximately 3-5 fps
- Taking lens: 25mm
- Angle of view: 54 degreea
- Film counting: Volume display (red flag meter)
- Focusing : 1m – inf., 0.6m close-up (press button)
- Viewfinder: Inverse-Galileo foldable viewfinder
- Flash sync: X-Sync (Hot-Shoe)
- Tripod mount: Standard 1/4″ tripod screw
For my first time shooting with the LomoKino, I popped in some black and white film that I found at my grandfather’s house, and that’s when I realized one of the nice things about the LomoKino – it uses pretty much any form of 35mm film that you have. However, being a digital kid, I forgot that exposing any amount of film to light will totally ruin it. So while I got some frames right, others were blasted because I actually ended up opening the contraption to check on the film.
Overall, my footage wasn’t great. I decided to go around my sunroom shooting handheld like the scenes from Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan while cranking along, and it just looked bad. With that being said, it is recommended to use a tripod with your LomoKino. Granted, due to the plastic nature of the product, I found cranking it to be a little tough.
The cranking goes for the same with the LomoKinoscope – the viewer for your footage. Once you get your developed film, you actually have to place it in the LomoKinoscope’s included canister by wrapping it tightly around a spool. I found this to be a little challenging but not impossible. In fact, I kind of appreciated being able to do things manually rather than depend on a computer.
What you need to do with the LomoKinoscope is press your eye up to the eyecup and hold it to a source of light. Crank (as much you can), and you’ll be able to see your footage go by. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as much like motion as I’d like to, but I’ll speak more on this.
Using the LomoKino and the LomoKinoscope
As I mentioned before, my first-time out with the LomoKino was simply in my sunroom with a black and white roll of film, and at that point, I didn’t know what I was doing. With that being said, if you haven’t messed with loading film in a while, it’s going to take you a little time to get started. For my second time out shooting, I decided to just go grab some outside color footage of my dogs (Laci and Scooby). Playback of this footage was better this time, but there were gaps between frames, and I couldn’t get it to crank enough to where it looked like actual motion.
Overall, I found that in the short time I had the LomoKino I wasn’t going to be making super-artistic, Instagram-like videos that I saw all over the Internet. Like I said, it’s going to take a little bit of practice with this thing if you’re not used to analog equipment.
Speaking of seeing those LomoKino videos all over the Internet, there’s something you need to know. When you take your film to the developing center, you’re going to receive negatives, right? So with that in mind, you’ll actually only be viewing your negative footage with the LomoKinoscope. Granted, you could be using color reversal film, but that’s another story.
But the question is this: how in the world do those nifty videos get on the Internet?
Simple answer: request a photo CD when getting the film developed.
In order to upload your footage online for everyone to see (and not in the aforementioned choppy, hand-cranked format), you need to take apart each frame individually, put them in order using your favorite video editor, and then reverse the colors. All this can be done by just getting the photos in a digital format. At this point, the analog magic is kind of taken away, but it’s the only practical way of sharing your videos properly.
The instructions suggest scanning the film negatives, but when I tried (because I was not aware of the CD option), I did not think about how conventional scanners don’t have backlights. So unless you have a film scanner, get a CD when you get your film developed.
Should you buy it?
Coming from a camera enthusiast, I’d say go ahead and buy the LomoKino. It’s a fun little toy, and with proper planning and execution, you could come out with something pretty nifty. If anything ever serious came out of it, I suppose that it would be akin to a music video being shot entirely with an iPhone – creative, but not practical.
With all of this in mind, just recognize that the LomoKino is definitely a novelty. You won’t be using it much. However, I think it’s worth having – if anything, it’s a window into the past, and for just $79 from their online store, I think it’s worth it.
But guess what, readers – we’re giving FIVE LomoKinos! Below you’ll find all the info to join the giveaway.
How do I win a LomoKino?
It’s simple, just follow the instructions.
Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, June 1st. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.
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