And so, we come to my favourite camera, the jewel in my photography crown (my cheap blue rucksack). It’s one of a limited run of 1000 “Explorer Nocturne” Diana F+ cameras made by Lomographische AG, based on the Great Wall Plastic Factory‘s original Diana box camera, a cheap camera (mostly sold as a novelty item or even given out as prizes at carnivals and funfairs) whose production run (and that of its imitators) appears to have ceased in the 1970s. While I believe 35mm variants of both the original and modern versions of the camera exist, mine shoots medium-format 120 film.
Despite the modern “Diana+” having been upgraded from box to system camera (technically), it still “suffers” from the characteristic blurriness/softness of focus, colour fringing, abnormalities in colour rendition, vignetting, and light leaks associated with the original. Of course, these inclusions are the product of technical flaws in the physical process of capturing the image, and as such if taking flawless photos is your thing, this is not the camera for you. But this (to the converted, at least) is their very appeal. In the age of photoshop and DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses; large, high-end sensors; and megapixel counts approaching 50 (such as the Nikon D850), one would struggle greatly to justify the use of analogue cameras at all if it weren’t for these most perfect imperfections, a “fingerprint” of not only the model used, but even of a particular camera itself.
As I have previously discussed, I am particularly fond of artistic and abstract photography in general (much more so than I am of the various forms of “documentary” photography in which technicality can so easily take precedence over aesthetic), and 19th and 20th century pictorialism and the “are-bure-bokeh” style of the Japanese Provoke photographers in particular. This camera’s “flaws”, when embraced and even exploited and intentionally exaggerated can have a significant artistic effect. What’s more, the manual winding of film allows for multiple exposures in a single frame, which can make for some particularly interesting effects (see example below). The addition of its beautiful looking flash, which has a slit for gel filters, further enhances the photos dream-like qualities by allowing “colour-splashing” images.
Beyond the benefits of digital photography I have previously discussed, I would argue that the greatest downfall of analogue photography is faced if one has to rely on external companies for the development, scanning, and printing of your rolls. I am currently researching the best development tanks and chemicals for developing my own photos at home, as well as researching scanners and scanning frames for 120 film, due to having had no end of trouble with my local photo shops. Firstly, it is exceptionally expensive: £17/$22 per roll. Secondly, 120 is often no longer developed in-house (it’s a fairly rare film format nowadays), and so I have to wait at least a week for my negatives to be ready for scanning. Then the scan itself presents the largest problem: I have had to return three times already for my most recent prints, which firstly were scanned at too low a resolution and printed very poorly, the next time they were correctly scanned but photos were missing, and those that hadn’t been lost were incorrectly cut (and somebody has put something sticky on my precious negatives!), and as such I am still awaiting my most recent photos as this “goes to press”. The truth is, the modern day photo shop is dying. The staff are often unfamiliar with handling film as it is seldom used, and as such the product is frankly sub-standard. If you are lucky enough to have a local shop that is still run by genuine enthusiasts who live for photography and take great pride in their product, please do everything you can to support them, and let me know where I can find them!
But, as they say, one sometimes has to suffer for their art…
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