Medium format might have been nudged aside by 35mm, but it never disappeared.
It did, however, become a medium more for the professional or the dedicated enthusiast rather than someone who might take a camera along for a two-week summer holiday.
As the prices of film cameras have rebounded in recent years, the cost of premium medium-format cameras like the Pentax 67, Hasselblad 500 and Mamiya 7 has become truly eye-watering.
Those who don’t want to exchange a kidney for a bigger negative do have a few options, however. One has been to go down Plastic Fantastic Boulevard and the fuzzy, indistinct, possibly out-of-focus vision of the Holga and the Diana. Atmospheric and capable of beautiful results, but very simple and limited photographic tools.
Back in the days before 35mm took over, however, there was a plethora of more affordable TLR cameras, usually with simpler lenses and fewer shutter speeds than the premium models. In the USSR, this style of camera never went out of style – in fact, it outlived the Soviet Union itself.
The Lubitel 166U was the ultimate model in a long range of Lubitel (Russian for “amateur”) cameras made by LOMO in Leningrad. Based on the Brillant camera made by Germany’s Voigtlander, the Lubitel range had a Triplet-style three element glass lens and a range of shutter speeds and apertures. The 166U, first released in 1983, was produced until 1996 and production was started again in the 2000s by toy-camera cheerleaders LOMOgraphy. Even today, you can find one of these easy to use cameras for less than £40.
In Kosmo Foto’s latest video, we look at the Lubitel 166U and whether you should grab one if you want to dip your toes into the world of medium format.
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