Camera Obscura

Recently I went into a Leica store in Beijing. Sure, the brand has revived. But it looks like it is more about special editions than about special cameras. I am waiting for the Hello Kitty Leica. Please don't ask for it! They will make one! Don't get me wrong: the M9 is a wonderful camera. So are others. But first of all, I don't think many professional photographers can afford them. And secondly there are quite a few compacts in the range which are surprisingly close to some Panasonic models. The staff in the shop was by the way incompetent and unfriendly. But this might not be Leica. It's China.

Now I just discovered that Hasselblad seems under the same urge of entering the "mass market" of the new rich. The Hasselblad Stellar is nothing but an overpriced Sony RX 100 , both with the same Zeiss lens. No difference except three times the price and a bit of design makeover. The Hasselblad Lunar is the excellent Sony NEX-7 (have one) with a nicer design and a leather case making it five times the price. If I would be a Private Equity company, I would probably do the same thing. As a professional manager also. Shareholder value, I know. But as I always looked up to the great cameras of Leica and Hasselblad for their technical abilities, I feel I will rather stay with my Fuji X-100 and Sony NEX-7 and read the specs more carefully before being impressed by legends. 


In Germany we have traveling shows coming to the villages and setting up what we call "Kirmes". They bring roller coasters, carousels, lots of beer and "Schiessbuden" (shooting budes). 35 years ago one of those also came to Feldkirchen and I was already quite good sniper at the age of 10, I took a rifle and won a Russian photo camera called "Diana" with one shot. Given the fact that in Roman Methodology Diana is a goddess often seen with bow and arrow, I found the way I got her quite matching and amusing.

Diana was always a camera you could do things with, which you could not do with other cameras. And the reason was: it was so cheap, that if you crash it, it does not matter. I even fixed it to a kite get a bird's view. The shutter I operated by a pendulum mechanism which just made click on a certain angle (which corresponded to the pre-calculated flight height). Then I put it into a sewage pipe and used it for my own kind of underwater photography. I have to say though, that there is not much to see in the lakes and ponds of the Westerwald. What else can be said about Diana? Well, just that it was a really bad camera - 35 years ago. It is really not much different from a Camera Obscura, just that it has a lens and not just a hole. And I guess it is simply put one of the world's worst cameras.

Now, something called Lomography has become a fashion and Diana (and her sisters) are reborn. Strange for me, because every mobile phone can take better pictures than a "Lomo". In the online shop, you have the choice between many different models in the range between about US$ 50 up to over US$ 100. People meet for Lomo-Events and pin their photos to walls and talking pictures with it seems a cult. In the Lomography shop which I found today were a few girls which only had frames for glasses on their noses. This is also a strange fashion I have now often seen in Asia. I suggested that if did not forget to put glasses in their frames, their might actually be able to see how bad their pictures are. But they just giggled. Never mind. I think it is actually think it is nice they have a hobby like that and I regretted a minute later that I said something so nasty.

I took the picture of the shop above and post edited it with a cross color algorithm and then a preset function called "Toy Camera". But it is still not what a Diana would make it look like. Today's Dianas I have seen are actually not made in Russia, but in China. Would be nice if the good old (and I mean literally "good old") Voiglaenders also could make it back like this. And when I think about all the old Chinese camera brands which are actually so much better then a Lomograph, then there are quite a few nice things which can be done to get them alive again.