1979 Smena 8M (USSR)

The Smena was a toy camera made by the LOMO factory in Leningrad. It had a plastic body, plastic leaf shutter and very basic controls but, unlike other toy cameras such as the Holga, it had a glass lens. Many Soviet photographers started out with a Smena as a child, in fact mine has an inscription inside the case saying that it was a 9th birthday present to Slava from his grandfather.

The camera is very primitive, even for such a low-end piece of kit. The viewfinder is just a straight-through window that’s not coupled to anything, there’s no way to check focus except by guessing the distance and checking the focus scale or the zone markings on the lens. Winding the film on doesn’t cock the shutter, you have to cock it by way of a lever on the lens and shutter speeds are limited from 1/15th to 1/250th of a second. The lens is a LOMO T43 40mm, f/4 and, as might be guessed, it’s not very good, nor is it interchangeable. The small black ring that rims the lens glass is actually the aperture selector, it’s incredibly fiddly to use and the shutter isn’t very reliable anyway so aperture selection is more an exercise in optimism than anything else.

There’s  coldshoe on the top and a sync socket underneath in case you want to use a flash on this thing. On mine the shutter doesn’t reliably close properly, it tends to leave a pinhole gap in the centre so there’s a 50/50 chance of crazy lightleaks on each frame. Recently I saw a young tourist in the town where I live using one to photograph the local monuments. I told her I was impressed at her dedication to lo-fi photography and we had a bit of a chat about hilariously bad gear. The Smena is cheap and there are millions of them floating around but even at the price it’s not worth the effort. If you want a fun, toy camera then an LCA or a Diana would be much more reliable than this. I got mine for free with another camera that I bought, I wouldn’t have one otherwise.