Modern Japan with a Lomo LC-A

In part I of the series Manny Santiago looks at Modern Japan via the Lomo LC-A. The LOMO LC-A (Lomo Kompakt Automat) is a fixed lens, 35 mm film, leaf shutter, zone focus, compact camera introduced in 1984. The design is based on the Cosina CX-2, the main difference being that the lens bezel is fixed (unlike the rotating one of the CX-2). The original LC-A lens was manufactured by LOMO in Russia. This changed in 2007 and lenses on subsequent models have been made in China. Some LC-As were sold badged as Zenith, or Zenit, a trademark of KMZ (Krasnogorsk Mechanical Works).

The only automatic function offered by the LC-A is exposure. All other functions — winding, rewinding, focus — are done manually. Aperture could also be set manually, through a lever system, though exposure is completely automatic when the camera is set to “A”. The shutter speed is fixed at 1⁄60 s and ranges from 2 minutes to 1⁄500 s. The aperture range is f/2.8 to f/16. The automatic exposure system compensates for changes in light levels after the shutter is opened by increasing or decreasing the shutter speed. This, in conjunction with the rear-curtain flash-sync, results in interesting effects with flash photography in low ambient light levels.

The lens is focused by selecting one of four zones (0.8 m, 1.5 m, 3 m or ∞). Setting it to ∞ in low light settings allows for long exposures. When cross-processing slide film, these long exposures can result in extraordinarily strange color effects, one of the reasons the LC-A became such a cult camera.

The Modern Japan Gallery