The REAL Action Sampler
By Rob Turner
19 Aug 2008
The Lomo 135VS (writen as "BC" due to the Cyrillic typeface) is a bit of an oddity when compared to most western cameras, but upholds the Russian camera making tradition of designing improved "copies" of western and Japanese cameras. The 135VS is loosely based on Rollei 35 with the addition of a spring driven motor drive system. This is the camera's most distinctive and useful feature, and allows the photographer to take short stop motion style movies and multi image montages (similar to the Lomography Actionsampler), which unfortunately, cannot be included in this article due to JPG's photo guidelines, but are viewable here: http://tiny.cc/Hr2Y2
Apart from the motor drive, the Lomo is a pretty basic camera, it shoots normal 35mm film and has a fairly simple Industar-73 (40mm, f2.8) lens, which is scale focused with no rangefinder. The shutter is also rather basic, having speeds from 1/15 to 1/250 seconds, plus bulb mode. Exposure can be calculated using a disk on the top of the wind dial to set the exposure based on the conditions. The film speed is set (both in Russian GOST and DIN), as the GOST values don't line up with the standard DIN values for film, the calculator is pretty useless when accurate exposure is required, so I tend to either guess (using the "sunny-16" rule) or I use a handheld meter. Another odd thing about the camera (probably bored from the Rollei 35 design) is that things normally located on the camera's top, such as the flash shoe and rewind crank, are located on the bottom, making flash use difficult.
I tend to use the Lomo to take short, stop motion style videos, making the spring motor vital. My camera can manage around 8 frames at roughly 3 a second (depending on how fast my finger is), but I have heard this is a rarity amongst these cameras. To get the best from this camera, It is a good idea to use a fairly fast film (I tend to use ISO 400), this means you can keep your apertures fairly small (above f8 is best in my experience) and your shutter speeds fast to minimise hand shake. The camera loads up like any other 35mm with the exception that the film runs from left to right, rather than vice-versa. To load the film, first remove the whole back by turning the catch on the bottom to the red dot and sliding the whole back off. When the film is in, wind the motor up by turning the large knob on the top counter-clockwise until it stops, you're now ready to go!
Take a meter reading/guess your exposure and set the aperture by using the ring with the white dot around the front lens element. The shutter speed is set using the ring around the lens mount, it uses a system of weather symbols, but actual speeds are indicated using the index on the bottom of the camera. Focus by either guessing the distance or using the very useful icons in the viewfinder. They work in a similar way to the ones on a Holga, giving rough distances for a portrait (1m), a couple (1.3m) a group (3m) and a cityscape (infinity). The distances are indicated by a needle in the viewfinder. Keep the apertures quite small to decrease focusing errors. Now the fun part! When you have a nice moving scene to shoot, quickly, but smoothy press the shutter multiple as fast as possible until the motor won't wind on any more. Congratulations! You have captured your first "micro-movie"!
I tend to get scans of my film made so that I can manipulate them as I see fit. I either blend them all together to make a montage similar to the Lomography Supersampler, but with much higher quality. But also, I use Quicktime pro's "open image stack" function (set to 3fps) to make a short stop motion movie (examples available here: http://tiny.cc/Hr2Y2)
In conclusion, the Lomo is a very fun, interesting and different camera to use, I am yet to find anything as strange or fun, I hope my article inspires more people to go out and try one.