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
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
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
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?
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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...
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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