Photography these days, as a hobby, sometimes feels like the perfect storm. You can accumulate a lot of gear ridiculously cheaply and the pro gear of yesteryear can often be bought for less than the price of a roll of film and processing. Before I start totally gushing about the Lomo 135bc, allow me tell you how I came to own this camera. Film photography enthusiasts usually have a lot of cameras and I’m no exception. Recently I found myself reaching the point that I call Vintage Camera Critical Mass. This the point where your collection of cameras is so large that it starts attracting more cameras all by itself, without you ever visiting a camera shop or bidding on eBay. People just start giving you old cameras that they’ve found for pennies in a charity shop, or dug out of a box in their attic.
This is a really beautiful thing for friends and family to do, and I always try to shoot a roll of film through the cameras, so that I can make a print and give something back to the person in kind. Sometimes I find myself shooting totally uninspiring junk cameras and trying to make the best of it, and sometimes… This camera. Wow. Just wow.
I can’t start gushing yet! I haven’t finished the story :)
Chris is one of my favourite colleagues. He keeps bees, which I find pretty fascinating. He has a blog where he takes a picture of the same mountain behind his house over and over again, documenting the changing weather patterns and infinite beauty. He has a unique outlook on life that’s just inspiring. One day he gave me a camera case. I can’t remember if it was his, or a family members’, but he’d found it, saying it hadn’t been used since the 80s and asked if I would like it?
I opened the case and got a bit excited when I read the large letters "LOMO". I knew nothing about the 135BC so ran a quick google search. My excitement grew as I found that it had a weird clockwork auto advance function. I wound the camera up, pressed the shutter button and listened to the spring winding on the mechanism. I pressed it again, and it wound on again. I pressed it twice in quick succession and it miraculously didn’t jam. I wound it up one last time and pressed the shutter button as fast as I could, 8 shots, each winding on perfectly. By this point I was beyond excited.
I got home, loaded it with expired Velvia and carried it with me over the weekend. I shot my kids (a lot), some landscapes and some abstracts. When I got the film back from processing I was amazed at the colours and the contrast of the lens. Very retro. Very Lomo. I wanted to give the 135bc a chance to shine with a more standard film. A few months later, when I was commissioned to produce a music video on film and on the Lomokino. I took the 135BC with me loaded with Kodak Portra 400. I shot a few quick scenes by winding the camera up all the way and going trigger happy on the shutter button as fast as I could. I sequenced the images at 5 frames per second and they just looked amazing. Full of life and bright colours.
I seriously cannot get enough of this quirky looking compact. Definitely one of the best products of Vintage Camera Critical Mass.
Simeon Smith is a writer and performer of electronic music, a bass player and a producer for other artists. He takes an old Leica camera from 1938 everywhere. He's a bit of a hoarder. As well as an old camera collection and crates full of vinyl, he also has a weakness for guitar pedals and designer toys.