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Malta by Lubitel

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Late afternoon sun in front of the cathedral in Mdina

The Lubitel range of cameras was many photographers first experience with medium format; a marque of bug-eyed twin-lens reflexes (TLRs) built in the Soviet city of Leningrad. Lubitels rolled off the LOMO factory line in their millions. Based on the 1930s-era Voigtlander Brilliant from Germany, this simple, no-frills camera continued in production from the late 1940s until a few years before the demise of the USSR.

The last of the original Lubitel line was the 166U; made predominantly from plastic, it was a cheap way of trying out 120 film. But the 166U was not a toy camera. Much of the body might have been plastic, but the lens was proper glass.

My Lubitel 166U works like a charm, and has spent too much time sitting in the camera cabinet. A few days break in Malta last month seemed like the perfect opportunity to put it through its paces.

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Lomo LC-A 120 in Malta

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The Lomo LC-A 120 was launched in 2014, a medium format version of the Soviet-era Lomo LC-A compact that had launched a lo-fi photographic craze more than 20 years before.

The LC-A was copied off a Japanese camera called the Cosina CX-2, a zone-focus compact with a wide-angle lens that paired saturated colours with dramatic corner vignetting. Lomography first made a cult of the Lomo LC-A, then restarted the camera’s production in post-Communist Russia, then helped create a slew of new upgraded models, the most recent of which was the ultra-wide Lomo LC-Wide.

The LC-A 120 came as a complete surprise when it was launched, and got a slew of great reviews for its sharp, contrasty lens. Lomography UK loaned me one for a few weeks before Christmas, which I took down on a wintry sunny day to Brighton. I was massively impressed with the LC-A 120’s abilities, and arranged to borrow one again for a recent trip to Malta. Read More

Why film isn’t dead yet

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(Credit: Stephen Dowling)

This is a repost of a piece I wrote for the BBC News Magazine.

Photographer Patrick Joust spends a great deal of time on the streets of his native Baltimore, drawn to capture both the city’s residents during the day and the lamp-lit solitude at night. He does all of this on film.

“It’s the medium that works best for the kind of work I want to do,” says Joust, who often lugs three cameras around the streets, loaded with different kinds of film.

“These old cameras can disarm people and can be the starting point for some great portraits. There’s something more friendly about film cameras, even quaint, and I try and make that work for me.”

Joust’s refusal to move to digital might seem seriously out of step, given that the vast majority of images are now taken on a digital sensor.

But he’s part of a growing wave of photography enthusiasts who remain committed to the old technology.

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52 Photo Tips #11: Forget your flash

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Mood like this can be ruined with even the most subtle burst of flash

This is the 11th article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Electronic flash can be a lifesaver. Every smartphone, compact camera and entry level DSLR has one, giving frame filling light when needed. And flash can allow great photographs to be taken in challenging light, or to create the perfect lighting conditions to bring the most out of a subject. If you’ve ever spent time in a photographic studio you’ll know just how important artificial light can be, and how transformative it can be.

But when you’re starting out, it’s often best to leave your flash at home. While it’s true early flashes required manual input from the photographer to ensure they were exposing properly, most modern electronic flashes are blessed with a computer brain that takes all of the guesswork out of the picture.

But many of these modern flashes require a camera with an equally sophisticated brain. If you’re using a no-frills manual camera – the very best way to learn – then you’re often only limited to the camera’s X-Sync speed, which is often far slower than the camera’s fastest shutter speed. So if you’re not getting the best out of flash units – the kind of control that you would with a serious DSLR, for instance – it makes sense to concentrate instead on how to let the light around you work for you.

There are, however, ways you can get by with out flash – and most won’t require buying any more equipment.

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52 Photo Tips #10: Buy new film

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Back when summer wasn’t summer without Kodak (Pic: Insomnia Cured Here/Flickr)

th article in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

I try and take photos every weekend. Even when the weather is grey and dull, you can still find something worth capturing. And shooting on film makes me stand out from the crowd. The most common question I get asked, apart from “Can you still get it processed?” is “Do they still make film?”

They do, even if, for many people, the digital revolution killed film stone dead. And you can’t really blame them. The bricks and mortar, high-street photo chains tend to concentrate on DSLRs and digital accessories. Film, if they still carry it, tends to be kept behind the counter, freeing up all that valuable floor space for all those bits and bytes.

The number of films – and even film manufacturers – has dwindled, but appears to be reaching a natural level for those who still want to use it. But this will only continue if photographers keep buying new film.

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