The Lomography Diana F+ ($89 direct) is the classic toy camera. It’s shoddily constructed from flimsy-feeling material, uses a plastic lens that is anything but sharp, and is prone to light leaks—but that’s all part of its charm. If you’re a fan of the Instagram look, and are willing to put the extra time and money in to shoot with film, the Diana F+ is an appealing camera. But it’s definitely not for those who value image sharpness above all.
The camera is washed in a black and teal color scheme, with a teal flash. It measures about 3.75 by 5 by 3 inches and is quite light, thanks to its plasticky build. The lens is a 75mm focal length with three aperture settings—they’re labeled sunny, partly sunny, and cloudy, but in reality they are f/11, f/16, and f/22. There’s also an f/150 pinhole setting; to utilize that you’ll need to remove the lens by twisting it off. The standard shutter speed is 1/60 of a second, but there’s also a bulb setting that will keep the shutter open for as long as you hold the lever release down, and a shutter lock that can be used for very long exposures—the type you’ll need to capture pinhole imagery. The removable lens also lets you replace it with a fisheye, wide-angle, or telephoto optic—each of which sells for around $30. The film advances via a manual dial, and if you’d like to take a double exposure, you can simply fire the shutter again without winding.
The Diana F+ includes a detachable flash, which makes it useable as an indoor camera—it’s relatively slow aperture will make most indoor use difficult, even with very fast film. If you use color negative or black and white film, you’ll have some room to guess exposures based on the aperture logos—ISO 400 speed is an appropriate estimate for the settings, as it generally has a good amount of wiggle room with the exposure. If you’re planning on shooting with slide film you’ll have to be a bit more cautious, and a light meter is recommended there—for best results, take a reading first and then load the appropriate film speed based on the conditions you’re under.
There’s an optical viewfinder to frame photos, but it’s not the most accurate at closer distances. It shows the square aspect ratio of which the camera is capable. If you shoot photos without the included exposure mask you end up with shots that fill a 6-by-6-centimeter frame, but show heavy darkening around the edges. There’s a mask included that reduces the photo size, but eliminates the vignette—personally, my preference is to shoot the whole frame. Chances are you’ll be scanning negatives or prints for online sharing, and you can always crop photos at that stage in the game.
If you’re looking to get into the hipster-throwback photo scene, there isn’t a more classic toy camera than the Diana F+ with which to get started. Its plastic lens captures dreamy images, and it’s actually a pretty versatile toy camera thanks to its pinhole capability, interchangeable lens functionality, and the included detachable flash. Medium format film is readily available online, and while most drug stores won’t process it onsite, they will send it out. If you want to scan your negatives for online sharing you can do so at home with a flatbed scanner with support for transparencies. The big negatives offer a lot of resolution, so you’ll be able to pull more detail out of them when compared with 35mm film. Sure, you can use a smartphone with Instagram or Hipstamatic and add some blur filters to the edges of your image, and you’ll have the versatility of being able to change from color to black-and-white with a tap on your phone’s screen, but sacrificing that convenience makes it possible to capture surreal images on actual film—a tactile feeling that can’t be matched by phone cameras and software filters.
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