T
he Lomography Diana Mini is the cutest little camera I ever saw.   It's plastic, it has two aperture settings (f/8 and f/11), and there's only one shutter speed (about 100th of a second).   You focus by setting a plastic dial on the front of the lens assembly.  It's a plastic toy, and it works!   Best of all, it makes square pictures on 35mm film.  That's highly unusual.  In fact, I can't think of any other 35mm camera that does that.

Upon revisiting the Diana Mini after a long time (this article is from a couple years ago), I find it a refreshing break from "serious" photography.  But maybe it could be "serious" if you're an artist.  No one says your art has to be sharp as a Carl Zeiss lens.  The only thing that kept me away from the Mini for a while was a stuck shutter, which it appears I've fixed with some powdered graphite.  I had taken the camera half apart before I realized the repair was that simple.  I've put a lot of rolls through that Mini, and it's still working.

Anyway, the square pictures are tons of fun, and film gives that nice mellow tonality that digital still doesn't offer after all these years.   Looking at this gallery again, I'm already nostalgic.  I think I'm going to bring out the Mini this spring and shoot some Velvia 100.  It's all about fun... don't take yourself too seriously with this camera.

Then again, taking yourself too seriously is kind of tough when the camera is teensy and made of blue plastic.



Then One Day, A Mysterious Pair of Boots
Agfa Precisa 100



The Leica crowd seem to look at all this with a sort of amusement.  To them, Lomography is a bunch of hipsters photographing each other in oversized plastic sunglasses.  But really, ask yourself this.  
Can your Leica make real cows look like scale models in a diorama?    Yeah, I thought not. 



Toy Farm Scene With Toy Cow
Superia 100



This camera can alter reality.   I bet yours can't do that.  So don't get all Leica-snobbed out on me, m'kay?

You know, I wasn't even into toy cameras.  But then I saw the photos.  I don't know what it is.   These pictures are not quite like anything else. 



Is That Even Real?
Superia 100



The surreal look of these pictures is a function of the plastic meniscus lens and its short focal length (28mm).  Wide-angle distortion, vignetting, and occasional center overexposure... the Diana Mini has it all.   It also takes square pictures.   What more could you ask for?



A David Pearce Kind of Sunset
Fuji Superia 100



One thing that's nice about the Mini is that it takes 35mm film, whereas the Holga takes 120.  Although I prefer 120 for its higher resolution, 35mm can be developed at the one-hour photo.   So get a Mini and start takin' pictures with film. Tell these fat CEO's you don't need no steenking digital.

If you ever get stuck in a rainstorm, just make sure you dry the Mini out thoroughly.  Don't heat it.  Just put it in a dry place where it can air out (metal springs and moisture don't go well together), and you'll be good to go for next time.  No electronics to short out!



Fuji Superia 100



The Diana Mini also does half-frame pictures.  I like the square ones better, but half-frame pictures are cool because you can fit 48 pictures on a roll of 24, or 72 pictures on a roll of 36.  Just be sure you don't try to switch the frame size partway through a roll.  Either do a whole roll of square or a whole roll of half-frame.

By the way, another review points out that the Diana Mini is not the most robust camera.  Although it does have some metal parts, there are a lot of plastic parts that could be brittle.   I don't know what kind of plastic it is, but I can tell it's not something to roughhouse around with.   Obviously, don't get dirt on the lens either, because you can't just use your shirt tail to clean it.   (Not that you should do that with any camera!)

Just know the camera's limitations and you should be OK.  I have run dozens of rolls of film through my Mini and it's still working without a hitch.

If you have a moderate amount of fine-motor skill, I don't think you'll have too much difficulty with this camera.   I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I did once or twice have a film jam in the Mini, and the way to fix it was to go into a totally darkened room and open the back.  Advance the film with the back off.  Then, put the back on again in the dark room.  Make sure the back goes on properly, and don't forget to engage the locking lever.  It could take a couple frames to get everything back on track, but go easy on it and it should smooth out again.  Don't torque it;  remember it's made of plastic.

The Mini has a bulb setting.  That means you don't have to use it only during the day.   This is a huge area of artistic possibility.  200 or 400 film is what I use for night shots.  A typical street scene at night with streetlights is going to be 4 to 5 seconds on the "Sunny" setting (f/11) with 200 film.  If the streets are bright, try 2 or 3 seconds. 

If you're using 100 film you'll need to go 8 seconds, or put it on "cloudy"(f/8) and go 4 to 5 seconds.   For night shots, obviously, bring a tripod.  It is better to hold the shutter open and then use the lens cap to start and end the picture.  You didn't lose your lens cap, right?



Kodak Gold 200



Make sure you don't leave it set on "bulb" for the daytime.   I did that once with my Holga.   Ever since then, I put a piece of tape on the switch.

If you shoot slide film in the Diana Mini, there's the option to cross process it (C-41).  A lot of slide films will give a bluish or greenish hue when cross-processed.  Astia 100 will give a red-magenta hue, but it's hard to find in 35mm.  Velvia 100 will give reddish-purple hues when xpro'd.  Of course there's also the legendary saturation when you process Velvia through regular E-6 the way it was meant to be.  This requires sending it out to a lab that does E6, since one-hour photos don't have the capability. 

You can buy Velvia online here.  It's where I get mine.  If you use any of the links to buy your stuff, it really helps me out.

Not every lab will do cross processing.  You could ask ahead of time, or you could just hand them the film and not say anything.  Some one-hour photo places won't do it if asked, because a lot of them seem to think it ruins the photo chems.  It doesn't.  That's an old wives tale, unless you do huge amounts of cross-processing without changing the chems.  One-hour photo labs change them every night anyway, I'm pretty sure.  Or at least they should.

This next picture was taken with cross-processed Agfa Precisa 100 (the newer stuff, not the old).   It goes more green than blue. 

Here you can really see the classic "Lomo" effect.   This is not a photoshop filter, either.   (I am pretty sure this was a Noritsu film scanner, by the way.)  Photo labs tend to scan pictures with very high contrast, sometimes too much;  this picture would look a lot better if I scanned it myself.



Agfa Precisa 100 (Xpro)



By the way, many people ask how to get the really high saturation with the Diana Mini.  Slide film has the highest saturation, especially if you underexpose it a bit.  The Diana Mini has only f/8 and f/11, so it's very easy to have that happen.  Cross-processed slide film can have even higher saturation plus more contrast.

The easiest way to get saturation, though, is check the scan settings.  They can make all the difference.  Most scanner software has a saturation control.  Some have color technology that corrects for the film's base color and restores fading. 

One more thing.  There is a Diana Mini deluxe kit that comes with a flash.  It's the same flash they make for the Diana F+.  It is good for taking pictures of fairly close objects (3 to 6 feet away).  If they're a bit farther away, I use the "cloudy" aperture.  Or, there's always 400 film.  It's impossible to predict what to use for every situation.  Better to try a roll or three and get it right.

That's part of the fun.   Happy Thanksgiving...



Superia 100



If you're looking for strobist-quality portraits or Leica-sharp images, look elsewhere.  The Diana Mini is what it is... a plastic toy "Lomo" camera that takes unique-looking pictures.   I have used quite a few different cameras, and I keep picking up the Mini again and again.




Agfa Precisa 100


The Diana Mini is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it.   You can buy it online through this link.    If you're looking for the one that comes with the flash, you can get it here.  If you use any of these links to buy your gear, it helps support this site.

           

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you enjoy my work.








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