Camera Review: Diana+

The Lomographic Society revives a plastic classic and adds some new features.



The black and robin's-egg-blue Diana of the '60s and '70s is back -- with some major upgrades as the Lomographic Society's Diana+ (direct: $50). It's now packing heaps of megapixels (with a 120-capable film scanner -- not included!), a 33% increase in apertures on its 75mm lens (it now goes to f/gazillion, aka "pinhole"), and a built-in frictional torque Image Stabilization system (otherwise known as a tripod socket).

Yes, we're talking about a 120-film based chintzy plastic camera with a plastic lens that's fully manual. No CIPA battery life rating here -- there's no battery! Burst rate? As quick as you can crank the winder -- but don't do it too fast or you might break something!

Optical viewfinder? But of course! Just don't forget to remove the lens cap or you'll get blank frames.

Even loaded up with 120 film, the Diana+ weighs less than the battery of a Canon EOS 1D Mark III! There's no vertical grip option, but that's not a big deal, since it's a square format camera anyways. The entire English User's manual is just over 6 pages, about the same as just the table of contents for the Olympus E-3!

Metering system? What metering system? You've got to use the ultra-scientific "educated guess" method based on the Sunny 16 rule.

Get the picture yet? The Diana is a simple, cheap camera. Auto-nothing. It's almost a true Point-and-Shoot, though you do have to remember a few important things:

-That optical viewfinder isn't coupled to the capture lens, so you can't tell if the lens cap is off.

-You have to focus the lens using the distance scale, which again is easy to forget.

-You've got to remember to wind the film after each capture or you'll get multiple exposures -- unless you want multiple exposures.

-You can shoot pinhole shots with the lens attached or remove the lens completely for a true pinhole exposure.

-Yes, we learned most of these lessons the hard way.

Despite the mistakes and missteps along the way, we had a lot of fun with the Diana+. As much as we love new technologies and advances in image-making, it is very refreshing to go back to the basics and simply frame a shot and click a mechanical shutter. Camera shake, motion blur, overlapping frames due to inaccurate hand-winding all add to the charm and mystique of the low-budget experience.

We're not even going to bother to attempt to test the lens distortion and vignetting -- believe us, we don't need lab numbers to quantify the dramatic vignetting, especially when shooting without either of the framing masks installed.

But as we reported back in January 1971 in a piece titled "$1 Toy Teaches Photography" sometimes learning or relearning the basics is as simple as picking up a cheap plastic box and framing something interestingly and accepting the quirks and nuances and limitations of the camera system -- light streaks, vignetting, and all.

Yes, the Diana+ costs a bit more than a dollar these days, but it's still less than a decent compact digicam. And for many a photographer yearning to get back to the basics for a change, it just may be the thing.

MORE DIANA+ INFORMATION It's a store. It's a fan site. It's the home of the Lomographic Society, which sells Lomos, Dianas, and many other retro camera kits. There's also a ton of resources and links to other cheap camera sites.

Flickr's Diana+ Group: Of course there's a Flickr Group for the Diana+, along with another group for the original Diana and clones.

Soho Photo: Soho Photo will host its tenth annual Krappy Kamera Exhibition on March 4-29, 2008. It's too late to enter for this exhibition, but there's plenty of time to get ready for the next call for entries.

Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity, by Michelle Bates: This book about Dianas, Holgas and other plastic cameras is a great inspiration for the cheap camera enthusiast.

The Detrich Collection: The original Diana inspired tons of clones and knockoffs. Allan Detrich collected a ton of them, and now they all live at the Lomographic Society. A cool new well-written blog all about Dianas -- with current eBay prices, tips, tricks and musings and more.

Fans of the White Stripes may also want to check out the limited edition MEG Diana+ model (Direct: $180.) that comes with even more accessories and a red, black, and white color scheme.



Select your negative in Adobe Bridge and double-click to open into Adobe Camera RAW.


Click the General settings tab and cool the Kelvin temperature way down. Then pull the tint towards the green side until colors look near-normal.


Next, fine tune the exposure settings. Keep in mind that many of these settings will have the reverse effect, since we inverted the curve. For instance, pushing the exposure into positive values will darken the image.


Now, you can further fine-tune exposure using the Parametics curves adjustment settings. Use the force for this -- it's hard to explain how it works -- until it feels right.


For this image, we played with the saturation sliders a bit, too. Experiment a bit. It really can't hurt.