One day while browsing the internet for photo exhibits or something, I came across lomo.com. It was a lot less sophisticated back then, and focused on the Lomographic Rules of Photography (or something like that) which I found to be very interesting. I fell for the hype, paid too much for the camera, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I recommend that everyone have at least a brief flirtation with a Lomo LC-A, and though I don't see it as much of a long term photographic tool, many would disagree.
The Lomo LC-A can be bought new for $150 from Freestyle Camera or $180 (new higher price!) through the Lomographic Society. The Lomographic Society (from here on "The LS") bought exclusive distribution rights to this camera, so they can charge anything they want, and they do. The best place to buy this camera is on eBay, but read my eBay article before you rush over and Buy It Now from a scam seller... you've been warned. You shouldn't pay more than $95 for a New In Box or $65 for a mint camera, no box.
It's actually a very solidly built camera for its price (ie. the eBay price). It is mostly metal, with a rugged finish, which is very grippable, and fully covered lens and viewfinder (when not in use). You slide a switch on the front of the camera, and the metal shields move away from the lens and viewfinder, ready to use. I had dropped mine a few times with no adverse effects.
The shutter is rather quiet, not subtle and muffled like a Leica M, but more of a quick snap. The manual winder resembles those of disposable cameras (the spoked wheel you rotate with your thumb) and has about the same zip noise to it. Focusing is manual, so it doesn't make a sound.
Well, you almost can't see through it. It's tiny and dim. The LS, however, says that you don't need it anyway, and that you should shoot from the hip. It does have a little focus indicator, which is mostly useless, and 2 red lights. One that comes on to let you know the battery is still good, and one that comes on when the shutter speed is slower than 1/30th sec.
Most people just put the camera in A mode, which is Priority. In fact, the LS says this about the other exposure settings: "For the numbers above "A" - forget about them!" The other numbers are actually manual apeture settings in full stops from 2.8 to 16. When you select these, the shutter speed is automatically set at 1/60th sec, for manual flash photography. In practice the P mode works just fine, and shutter speeds go from 1/500th to a full 30 seconds. Yes, that's a long ass exposure for such a simple camera. By the way, you also manually select the film ISO speed with a really difficult to use selector dial, it goes from 50 to 400 in full stops.
Focusing is done manually with a little lever (no focus ring here!), with a type of scale focusing known as guesstimating. There are four click stopped focus distances, 0.8m, 1.5m, 3m, and infinity. Just try and guesstimate the distance of your subject, kinda move the lever until you think you've got it right, and shoot! Even with the depth of field you get with the fairly wide 32mm lens you still will shoot mostly out of focus, unless you just shoot landscapes at infinity, but then why use a Lomo?
Image quality :
Horrible. That's supposed to be part of the appeal though. With the long shutter speeds you get with the ISO 100 film they recommend (which is crap junk garbage film) you get very saturated colors and so much motion blur you can't even tell that it's also out of focus, but even tripod mounted shots have no clarity. The lens also vignettes like you have never seen. This is also part of the appeal of the camera, as The LS states on their website:
"...produces an awesome effect called "Vignetting." Look closely - you'll notice that the corners of your Lomographs are slightly darker and a little softer, in contrast to the lighter and sharper center. This tunnel effect yields a clear and vivid subject, with the corners acting as a natural "frame," directing your attention to the center. You see, lomographs simply have more content!"
I think everyone should read the 10 rules of Lomography, try out the camera, and move on. It does get you to think outside of the box for a bit, even if the website is cheesy and rather condescending (it is a hell of a marketing scheme though, because it works!) I'm glad I owned one for a while, but I don't think I took a single decent image with the camera. It was fun trying to "shoot from the hip" though, and I have lots of butt shots and lots of shots of absolutely nothing. Don't buy from lomo.com or Freestyle though, get it on eBay from a reputable but cheap seller, and then you can resell it for near what you paid for it when the novelty wears off.