La Sardina "Capri"

Minolta SLR with cheap 28mm macro lens
Fuji Superia 400
Probably 1/30th second @ f/1.7
Home scanned



120studio.com
December 22, 2014


Background


La Sardina from Lomography is a 35mm film camera.  It has one shutter speed, one aperture setting, and a simple, non-interchangeable lens.  That puts it pretty firmly in the "toy camera" category.

The camera has been on the market for a couple of years now, but I decided to do an in-depth review.  

Is this camera worthy of a "classic review"?  Let's find out.


A Quick Note


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In This Article


The Sardine Can That Takes Pictures

A New Old Design

Build Quality & Light Leaks

Shutter Speeds

Lens

Focusing

More About Focusing

Wide Angle Distortion

Other Features

Similar Cameras

Conclusion







The Sardine Can That Takes Pictures


The Lomography La Sardina is approximately the size and shape of a sardine can.  That's about where the similarity ends, though. 

You can get La Sardina in any number of different patterns and themes.  There's everything from the plain white DIY edition to the fancy, neo-retro Old West Belle Star edition.   There's also the classy-looking St. Moritz, the stylish Capri Saracena, and quite a few others.

Clearly, Lomography is playing the collector angle here.  They're counting on the likelihood that you will become hopelessly addicted to these cameras and want a shelf full of them.

Could that happen with this camera?

Let's find out.



A New Old Design

The book included with La Sardina has pictures of a vintage toy camera known as the Kandor Candid.  This is actually the one that inspired La Sardina;  the resemblance is striking.

The original had a 50mm Eyvar lens (whatever that was) and shot 127 film.  Who would have guessed?

La Sardina updates the Kandor by using 35mm film and a 22mm ultra-wide lens.

By the way, La Sardina Splendour edition (I totally want one of these) is made to look very similar to the original Kandor Candid. 



Build Quality & Light Leaks

Many toy cameras are prone to light leaks.  The hope is that you'll get mild ones, not the kind that wash out your whole picture.  When everything goes well, genuine light leaks are among the coolest effects you can get with film.

I've tried a couple different La Sardina cameras.  On one of them, the back stays on solidly.  Thus, no light leaks.  The other one... well, you'd better use electrical tape to hold the back on the camera.   Even when it locked, the back would wobble.  That was a well-used camera;  I wouldn't be surprised if any La Sardina would start to do this after you've run enough film through it.

Note that some variants of La Sardina are covered in deck-chair cloth.  Electrical tape won't stick very well to this, so you'll have to tie the camera shut with string or an elastic band.   That's if you care about preventing light leaks;  maybe you don't! 

Thing is, if the light leak is severe enough, and you let the camera sit where light can get to it, you could lose the pictures you've already taken.   Basically you'll have to shoot a test roll. 

Aside from the occasional loose back, the camera seems to have a pretty good build quality (for a toy). 

Any brand-new La Sardina shouldn't have light leaks, as long as you don't pull the back of the camera while there's film in it.



Shutter Speeds

Bulb, Normal, and MX (Multiple Exposure), controlled by a mode switch in front of the viewfinder.

MX allows you to keep tripping the shutter even when you haven't advanced the film. Each time, just re-actuate the MX switch, and you can trip the shutter again.

Bulb mode is for tripod, preferably.  If you really want, you can shoot hand-held in this mode, but you'll probably get some blurring.

The shutter button is threaded for a standard cable release, which is a very good feature.



Street Scene, Filtered

December 2014

Lomography La Sardina
Fujifilm Superia 400
Colored filter (-3 stops)
Bulb mode (braced against a light post)
12 seconds


Lens

This camera has a 22 millimeter, single-element lens.  As you would expect, it has corner darkening and edge blurring.  But then again, that's why you're looking at a toy camera.

Probably, some copies of this camera will be sharper than others.  

Take note that early versions of this camera had a collapsible lens.  Before you could even use the camera, you had to pull out the lens assembly and turn it clockwise until it locked into place.  Newer versions of the camera have the lens permanently extended already.  Some people have broken their cameras, thinking they had to lock the lens. 

Because this is a meniscus lens, expect some serious chromatic aberration (CA).  As you would expect, it's going to be worst when you photograph high-contrast scenes, such as tree branches against blue sky.  Purple fringe city! 


In the Autumn of December

December 2014

Lomography La Sardina
Fujifilm Superia 400
Normal mode (1/100th)


But it's all good, because this is a toy camera, and "effects" like CA are not entirely unwelcome.  Besides, if you really want to, you can correct out the CA in software.

Want some heavy corner blurring with your CA?  You got it! 

If you're from the world of Holgas and Dianas, you already know and love these features. 




Focusing

La Sardina is marked with only two focus zones: close and far.  The "close" setting (0.6 meter) has a pictogram of an insect.  The "far" setting (1 m to infinity) depicts a group of people. 

This is an ultra-wide lens, so one meter to infinity sounds plausible. 

For a 22mm lens at f/8 (full-frame), the hyperfocal distance is 2 meters.

The thing is, that doesn't mean they necessarily set the point of focus at 2 meters.  I kind of hope they didn't, because that means anything beyond 100 meters will not be acceptably sharp at f/8.

Since it says "1 m to infinity", though, I suppose they did.

That leaves two alternatives if you want sharper pictures...

One, photograph stuff that's fairly close to you (2 to 10 meters).

Two, get an Ultra Wide & Slim to photograph stuff farther away.  The Ultra Wide & Slim is a better landscape camera, because it uses f/11.  The drawback is that it doesn't have as many features, and the lens is one stop slower.  That means you'll have to use a faster film in the Ultra Wide & Slim.



More About Focusing

A 22mm lens at f/8 is not going to have much background blurring, but anything outside the hyperfocal distance will be a bit soft.  

If you have the camera right up against something at the close-focus range, you will definitely notice this.

You can actually focus the lens anywhere in between the two settings. At least that's true with the newer La Sardina.  I don't know about the older ones, because they won't even work if the lens is not in the right position.

If you're photographing someone standing one to two meters away, that's when I would set the focus halfway between near and far.  I say this because wide-angle lenses have a very compressed focus scale.   Halfway on the adjustment is not halfway into the depth of field.

I figure that on the "far" setting, the sharpest point of focus should be about 50 meters away.    With 22mm at f/8, though, the depth of field is pretty far.




Wide Angle Distortion


Many digital cameras have built-in correction routines for lenses.  If it weren't for these, you would see a lot more digital photos with dark corners, barrel distortion, and chromatic aberration.

This is a film camera, so it doesn't correct for any of that.  La Sardina has a 22mm lens, which puts it in the ultra-wide category.  Barrel distortion is not as bad as I expected, unless you're not holding the camera parallel to the front of a building or something.  Then you'll start to see the characteristic wide-angle distortion. 

Well, actually you'll probably notice it all the time.  Remember:  uncorrected, low-tech camera here.  And it's all good.



Although Lamps Burn Along The Silent Streets

December 2014

Lomography La Sardina
Bulb mode

This was focused halfway between "close" and "far".


Other Features


The viewfinder is one of the highlights of this camera.  Except for the focus, it gives a good approximation of what the lens sees.   With a lens this wide, parallax error is not really a problem.

This camera also has two tripod sockets, one on the long side and one on the short side of the camera.  This is a really nice feature.  Actually it's something you'll rarely see on any other camera.  With an ultra-wide lens, you can do short Bulb exposures without a tripod, but the image will not be sharp.  Use a tripod for best results. 

La Sardina allows re-winding of the film whenever you want.  You can wind it back to any point on the roll, even if you're not done with the roll.  Use this feature together with the "M" switch (multi-expo), and you can have all sorts of overlapping random pictures.   There's a lot of creative possibility here.

This camera seems a bit less fragile than the Diana Mini.  It's still a toy camera, and it's still mostly plastic, so I wouldn't be too careless with it.  One thing I would suggest is to take your time, read the manual, and learn all the features.   If something is not working, don't force it. 

That said, overall I would say this camera is actually quite well-made.  The plastics don't seem to be as brittle as I've seen in some other toy cameras.

Because La Sardina has a fixed aperture and fixed shutter speed, you'll have to go out there and seek the right lighting conditions.  Either that, or use a tripod and set the shutter mode to Bulb;  then you can press and release the shutter for different amounts of time. 


In the Autumn of December, Part II

December 2014

Lomography La Sardina
Fuji Superia
Normal shutter mode (1/100th)

 

Similar Cameras

I already mentioned the Kandor Candid, but that's a collector camera, and it takes 127 film.

There are a couple of modern 35mm cameras that are functionally similar to La Sardina....

1.)  Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim

2.)  Powershovel / Superheadz Ultra Wide Slim series

Like La Sardina, both these cameras have 22mm lenses with a fixed aperture.  Unlike La Sardina, the aperture is f/11, not f/8. 

The Vivitar is no longer made. 

The Powershovel / Superheadz camera is marketed with a number of different model names (White Slim Angel, Usagi, Tomodachi, etc.)

If you want sharper landscape photos, get one of these Ultra Wide Slim cameras from Superheadz or Vivitar.

If you want to take photos of objects or people two to ten feet away, get La Sardina.
 
If you want to use a flash, get La Sardina.  It can be fitted with a Fritz the Blitz flash unit.  (Or, get one that includes the flash, such as the Fishers Fritze edition.)

If you want to shoot multiple exposures or night photos, get La Sardina.

La Sardina with f/8 allows for use of slower films in daytime.  Along with its other features, this makes it a more versatile camera.




Conclusion

La Sardina has toy-camera simplicity, yet it offers a couple of the more advanced features.   These, together with the super wide-angle lens and the reasonably good build quality (for a toy, anyway) make this camera worth having.  

In fact, there's something about La Sardina that could probably induce someone to acquire a whole shelf full of them. 

There are a lot of cameras that can be had for cheaper than La Sardina, but not a lot of them have 22mm lens, Bulb mode, or the other features this camera has. 

Worth getting?  If you're a toy camera enthusiast, then you'll probably want one of these.  Even if you're a beginner to film photography, you could have tons of fun with La Sardina.   As toy film cameras go, La Sardina is a classic in the making. 

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Please help me keep this website on-line by purchasing any of your stuff (including this camera or film) through the links on here.

              

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