“Lubitel+” is for Lovers
It’s something about that plastic body. Something about peering down through that waist-level finder. Sizing up your subject with the top lens and capturing it through crispy glass lens with the bottom. It’s simply irresistible to people who love and adore life. People who are open-minded, enthusiastic, free with their ideas, philanthropic, endlessly curious, always travelling, constantly documenting, and completely awestruck by the enduring power of analog photographs. In other words – people like you!
Shooting with the Lubitel+ is different than anything you have shot before. The combination of its glass lenses, the flexible 120 or 35mm format, fully manual everything, fully automatic nothing, peering into a waist-level finder, slowing things down with focusing and dialing in the correct exposure settings, and a myriad of other analog factors make it a full-bodied experience that activates all of your senses and brings you into a special and very intimate place.
Lubitel+ pictures have their very own look and special analog character. They’re more “professional” than any 35mm camera, but less professional than a Hasselblad. Of course they are sharp, crispy, artistic, painted with light, and grand. But they’re also occasionally random, sometimes too vibrant, often vignetted at the edges, and totally flexible to your wishes and innovative tinkering. Rather than reflecting the objective reality in front of you, they reflect the subjective reality of the Lomographer behind the camera. They will make you look twice.
Grab a seat, take our hand, and let us introduce you to this passionate twin-lens lothario.
We Never Knew Love Like This Before
Back in 1946, the first Lomo Lubitel camera was created in Leningrad. With a twin-lens design (one lens for viewing the scene and one for shooting it) and plastic body, this fully manual and inexpensive medium format camera put pro-quality images within the reach of the Soviet public. Its name, meaning “Amateur” in Russian, reflected its simplicity. Several models of Lubitels were introduced until production ended in the mid 1990’s.
We’ve been well acquainted with the Lubitel for decades, and have often daydreamed of breathing new life into this beauty. From our research – both online and offline – the Lubitel is the most beloved out-of-production camera for the International Community of Lomographers. We were compelled to step up and bring this icon back to life!
The body was re-cast using a duplication of the original mold. The gorgeous glass lens was meticulously rebuilt. The bright colors, bold contrast, and exceptional sharpness of the original coated glass Lubitel lens have all been faithfully reproduced in the new Lubitel+ lens. And a host of all new features were engineered into the camera, including the ability to shoot BOTH medium format and 35mm film.
The Look of Love
The Lubitel+ is a twin lens reflex camera. A viewing lens on top looks at your subject and a taking lens on the bottom shoots them. The viewing lens feeds an image to your eye via the top-down viewfinder, a smooth and sizable piece of glass which you can peer into at waist level and easily compose your image. Controls are fully manual – and two built-in exposure guides tell you the appropriate shutter & aperture setting for any light situation. Choose your own technique for each shot: shallow or long depth of field, slow shutter speeds for blurry subjects or fast ones to freeze action.
The overall feeling of shooting a Lubitel+ is thoughtful, intimate, and quite romantic. Not to mention humorous, straightforward, intense, atmospheric, centered, focused, strange, light, silent, surprising, passionate, and amateurish in the best sense of the word! Whether you’re a twin-lens veteran or completely new to the manual thing, the Lubitel+ will take your hand and guide to you image possibilities that you’ve never before known.
We’ve Only Just Begun
The Lubitel+ is simply the camera for people who love an adore life! Its manual controls are easy and satisfying to learn. Its light plastic body makes it the ideal daily companion. As one of the last twin-lens cameras still under production – and one of the cheapest pro-quality medium format cameras on the market – the Lubitel+ is an incredible value and an exciting new tool for analog photographers across the world.
And know this: a constant stream of Lubitel+ accessories, books, bags, lenses, flashes, and everything else that you can imagine will steadily be designed with tender love and care and passionately announced to the world at large. Uniting the worlds of 120 and 35mm, the past and the future, communism and capitalism, & viewing lens and taking lens: the Lubitel+’s creative potential knows no bounds and we will rack our brains and tax our imaginations to come up with every possible way to take the most impossible images possible and showcase them in the finest publications that we can print. Down on one knee and ring in hand – we’re in this for the long haul.
Square Shots, Sprocket Holes, and Sweet Nothings
Perhaps you know – or have heard of – or might be part of a married couple who needed to put a little spice and romance back into their lives. You know, they rent a nice hotel room for the night. Get a sitter for the kids. Go out for a high-class meal, and then – ooohh – he’s got a present for her… and that present is nothing other than sexy lingerie … and she puts that Marvin Gaye album on, and all of those old sparks fly once again.
The key to keeping the spirit alive is VARIETY. Doing the same thing gets repetitive and a bit boring. Change it up and inject some fresh passion into your Lomographic relationship! No matter what your mood, the Lubitel+ has a film format to match it. By tweaking a few knobs, inserting a few bits here and there, and spooling on a fresh film roll or two, you can choose from one of four fantastic analog formats:
Square 120 (6x6)
The all-time Lubitel classic. 12 shots on one roll.
35mm Portrait Panoramic (58x33)
We’ve all used 35mm film before. But this, my friends is something entirely different. For even if you’ve been around the block with 35mm film more times than you care to count, the union of PANORAMIC sized images (58mm tall!), exposed SPROCKET holes, and a fresh PORTRAIT format will let you see a new – and irresistibly tempting side of 35mm film that you never know existed before.
Rectangular 120 (6x4.5)
16 lovely landscape images on one roll.
Endless Panorama 120
Shoot an unlimited amount of frames with no space between them.
Engineering the Lubitel+
Engineering the Lubitel+ was a true and honest-to-God “labor of love.” This massive effort consisted of pulling apart the original Lubitel, recreating its finest parts, improving some nagging issues (like that tough focusing screen) and adding in new features (such as the 35mm kit).
Original technical drawings from the 70s (courtesy of our friends at LOMO PLC), guided us every step of the way, and after many late nights, many plane flights, and many pots of strong coffee – our Lubitel+ became a reality.
As one of the most beloved analog cameras in the world, we were careful to preserve and faithfully reproduce its most crucial features:
The Lubitel Glass Lens
This is quite literally the beating heart of every Lubitel camera – and is directly responsible for the signature “Lubitel Look” – of tack-sharp, contrasty, colorful, and soulful images. Like the original, the Lubitel+ features a multicoated glass lens that delivers all of these famous effects.
The original Lubitel was cast in plastic to (1) keep the price affordable and (2) allow this “amateur” camera to be easily carried around by eager tourists and photography students. This nod to frugality gave the Lubitel one of its most important distinctions: it’s one of the world’s only truly portable and lightweight pro-quality 120 cameras. Carry a Rolleiflex around all day, and you’re in for one hell of a sore neck. With the Lubitel, you can carry it day in and day out with nary a care.
Things are wide open. For every shot, you can choose your own aperture, shutter speed, and focus. This is truly “auto-nothing.” This affords you total control over everything that happens. Want to blur a moving subject? Want to take a shallow depth-of-field portrait? No problemo. And for you greenhorns, working your way around a manual muchacho like the Lubitel+ is a great way to learn the basics of proper photography exposures.
Top Down Viewer
The Lubitel+’s viewfinder is on the top of the camera and enclosed by a pop-up metal hood. You compose your image by peering down into this and adjusting the focus knob. This has the triple bonus of (1) making your composition & shooting a bit slower and more thoughtful, (2) giving you a large surface to compose your image on (rather than a tiny viewfinder), and (3) allowing you to shoot all sorts of candid shots. When you’re staring at your feet, most folks don’t even realize you’re pointing the camera at them.
Standard Cable Release & Tripod Thread
Long exposures are a treasured commodity by Lomographers. But an unsteady camera can lead to shaky, blurry pics. To that end, the Lubitel+ accepts a standard cable release – allowing you to open the shutter without any danger of shaking the camera with your itchy shutter finger. Pair it with a tripod (screwed into its handy tripod thread) for extra stability.
We’ve built a prince’s ransom of improvements into the basic Lubitel design. As Lubitel devotees for countless years, we had a few “pet peeves” that we wanted to change. Here’s the bigger and the better:
As detailed in the Film Formats section, you can easily convert your Lubitel+ into a 35mm machine with the included “Lubikin” set – allowing you to snap vertical panoramic images with exposed sprocket holes. Oh yes!
Endless Panorama Format
Just like with the Diana F+, you can shoot an endless stream of images with no space between frames – thereby crafting a uniquely analog panoramic image which can stress the entire length of your film!
The Lubitel+’s new standard viewfinder glass is perfectly flat ground glass and covers 100% of the image. The original viewfinder used curved glass, was a bit tough to see in any angle other than head-on, and only covered 80% of the image.
The Lubitel+ lens focuses to 0.8m, while the classic Lubitel lens only focused to 1.4m. This means stronger and more intense portraits and close-up shots!
Zone Focus (just like the LC-A+!)
The Lubitel+ features a easy zone focus mode which snaps to the familiar LC-A+ distance settings of 0.8m, 1.5m, 3m, and infinity (allowing you to truly “be fast”).
On-Camera Exposure Guides
Setting the manual exposure of the Lubitel just got a lot easier with the help of two handy exposure guides (one aperture-priority, one shutter-priority) printed right onto your camera.
Sync any standard hotshoe flash – including the Colorsplash flash or Diana Flash – perfectly with your camera.
Rewind your 120 rolls
With the Lubitel+, you can rewind your film before the end of the roll. This allows you to trade film rolls with a mate rewind to a past frame and shoot on it again. This is one of the only medium format cameras in the world that can do this!
Interchangeable back and Viewfinder
Consider these a little “investment in the future.” The camera back can be removed – which will come in handy for some top-secret interchangeable backs coming down the pipeline. Likewise, the waist-level viewfinder can be removed so that a different style of viewfinder – or another focusing glass – can be put in its place. Stay tuned, as these two features will shortly become invaluable extensions of your Lubitel+’s abilities!
Born From the Ashes
To put things in perspective, let’s first take a look at the time frame. The Soviet Union stood victorious in the aftermath of World War II and laid claim to Eastern Germany. With this new territory came a crucial resource for their burgeoning nation – the knowledge and tools of the world-famous German optical & photographic industry. Whole factories were dismantled and shipped East – destined to supply the Soviets with world-class means of documenting their daily lives and great loves.
One beneficiary of this new technology was “GOMZ” – which elegantly stands for “Gosularstvennyi Optiko-Mekhanicheskii Zavod” (State Optical-Mechanical Factory). Established in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) in 1932, this was one of the oldest Russian optical companies. In 1965, they changed their name to something a bit more familiar to folks like us: Leningradskoe Optiko Mekhanichesko Obedinenie (Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Union) – or simply, “LOMO.”
About one year after the war’s end, GOMZ introduced a brand new camera. Dedicated to and named after the Soviet Union’s Communist Youth Organization, this small twin-lens medium format camera was called the “Komsomolets.” On the surface, it was an obvious copy of the Voightlander Brilliant – a ground-breaking TLR camera that was created nearly 10 years prior. It featured a glass lens and a lightweight Bakelite (an early form of plastic) body. Despite the Komsomolet’s simplicity and clear “homage” design, it was a pretty incredible achievement for a country that just emerged from a huge and damaging war.
The Amateur’s Delight
After several years of producing Komsomolets, the GOMZ factory proudly introduced a new camera with a radically important feature – coupled lenses. This meant that focusing the viewing lens focused the taking lens in kind, allowing the photographer to hone in precisely on their subject. This camera was given the name “Lubitel” – which roughly translates into “Amateur” in Russian. From these humble beginnings, a grand lineage was born.
Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll take you through each individual Lubitel model and details their many charms and features – so we don’t have to get into the specifics right now. But chew on this for a second – from the Lubitel’s original conception in 1949 to the end of its production in the early 90’s, something between 4 and 5 MILLION cameras were produced. That’s somewhere between 8 and 10 MILLION little Russian lenses mounted low and high. Given these staggering numbers, it’s easy to appreciate the impact that the Lubitel had on its fans and owners – both inside and outside of the Soviet Union. Allow us to take you through it’s grand “family tree” – beginning with a few individuals that predated those fateful days following WWII.
Komsomolets “ Young Communist”
1946-1950 / Approximately 25,000 units
Central shutter with B, 1/25, 1/50. 1/100s
T-21 80/6.3 taking lens, 75/4.5 viewing lens
Appropriately named after the Communist Youth organization “Komsomol,” this camera is one of the very first products created by the burgeoning Soviet photo industry. It is also the very FIRST TLR camera created in the Soviet Union. Overall, it’s pretty much an exact copy of the original non-focusing Voigtländer Brilliant, albeit with a few simplifications to the body design. It’s produced in Bakelite – a predecessor to modern-day plastics. Although the focusing Voigtländer Brilliant was released eight years earlier, the Komsomolets was modeled after the first Brilliant, so the taking and viewing lenses are not connected.
As with the Brilliant, the Komsomolets has a small internal compartment for storing filters and supplementary lenses.
Produced 1949 –
1956 / Over one million units
Central shutter “ZT-5”: 1/10 – 1/200s
T22 75/4.5 taking lens (coated), 60/2.8 viewing lens
The successor to the Komsomolets has one major innovation – as inspired by the 1938 Voightlander Brilliant – a coupled gearing to connect the taking and viewing lenses, allowing each to be focused in sync. It’s shutter had a larger range of speeds, and its taking lens both opened.
Up to a nice n’ bright f/2.8 and had a wider angle of view. The name “Lubitel” roughly translates to “Amateur” – the type of person who would have been a seriously lucky goose to have one of these appear under the Christmas tree. Like the Komsomolets, it was produced in Bakelite. And just for kicks – a Chinese copy of this original Lubitel emerged in 1961 under the mysteriously hilarious name, “Changle.” “Amator” , “Kalimar”, “Global” were also export names for Sweden, USA and Australia.
Produced 1955 – 1980 / Over two million units
Another Bakelite beauty, the Lubitel 2 is pretty much identical to the original Lubitel, but with a few small changes. A gentleman by the name of G. Barkovski, is credited with the creation of this “upgrade.” Most notably, the camera now featured a self-timer and flash snyc. It also has a small housing on the side for two lens filters.
As you can see from its production dates, the scope of its manufacture is HUGE. We’re talking over two and a half decades of Lubitel 2’s! An interesting note is the Bakelite texture from camera to camera. Bakelite molds only work for so long before they have to be replaced. As they wear out, they’ll impart different patterns and “mistakes” to the body parts that they produce. If you compare a few Lubitel 2’s from different years, you’ll often see a marked difference in the texture. Lubitel 2’s were produced with both Latin and Cyrillic nameplates – and were produced for a variety of export markets and foreign partners. One notable variant (pictured here) is the Kalimar TLR100 – which is simply a re-branded Lubi 2.
Produced 1976 – 1986 / Approx 70,000 units
Starting in ’76, the Lubitel was cast in modern-day plastic, rather than Bakelite. The original 166 is a somewhat rare model – as it’s production number (70,000) is far beneath the mammoth quantities commanded by the other models. It featured a few significant improvements over the Lubitel 2, namely a film counter (rather than a red window) and a coupled advance and shutter cock. One of the most collectible variants was made in 1980 to commemorate the Moscow Olympic Games.
Produced 1980 – 1990 / Approx 900,000 units
This model took the innovative Lubitel 166 and simplified it. Gone is the film counter and coupled shutter & advance. In exchange, you get a set of handy weather symbols to guide your exposure settings.
Note that Lubitel 2 and Lubitel 166B were also produced in india by Cinesales Corporation.
LUBITEL 166 UNIVERSAL
Produced 1983 – 1993 / Approx 400,000 units
It’s with this beauty that the folks at LOMO in St. Petersburg closed the book on classic Lubitel production. This camera is essentially identical to the 166B, but includes a mask for two film formats: 6x6cm and 6x4.5cm. It was actively manufactured until 1993.
SPUTNIK STEREO CAMERA
Produced 1955 – 1973 / Approx 400,000 units
This three-eyed beauty is often mistaken for a pair of Lubitel 2’s which have been joined at the hip. Although they share a lot of the same basic mechanics, the Sputnik is definitely a separate beastie of its own.
But given its similarity, we decided to feature it here as a “family friend.” Fashioned in Bakelite, the Sputnik was created at the LOMO St. Petersburg factory and featured twin 75/4.5 lenses, speeds from 1/10-1/250, and a ground glass waist-level viewfinder. Each click of the shutter fires two nearly identical images – with “nearly” being the operative word. Both shots have a slightly different perspective – allowing you to get the full 3D effect when you view them with the included – and very special – stereo viewing glasses.
A few months back, we held the “Lubitel Lovers” rumble, in which classic Lubitel owners were asked to submit their finest images and love notes for the “Love from Waist Level” book. These four Lomo Romeos and Lubitel Lolitas took the top prizes and were asked, “how deep is your love,” with an engaging Q&A. Have a look at their online interviews and seriously passionate Lubitel galleries:
The Lubitel+ is – first and foremost – an individual. It has its own unique creative strength. Its pictures have their very own look and special character. You can easily see the analog nature of each image, the love and care of the Lomographer behind every individual situation, the grand history of this long-standing camera and philosophy, and – most importantly – the entire never ending world of unexpected effects and creative surprises. Lubitel images are sharp as a tack and bursting with colors and contrast. The image often darkens and gets a bit blurry at the edges, drawing your eye into the center and defining your subject within a soft-sided frame. Like a true lover, they are loyal to the objects of your affection (your subjects) and capture their beauty to the fullest extent.
You’ll want to slow it down and take your time. Each shot requires an aperture setting, a shutter setting, and a focus setting. Embrace all the little dials and knobs, and throttle down a bit.
Plan out each little bit and savor every single moment. Size up your subject, get close, No batteries are needed. Lubitel love is simply powered by gears, cranks, springs, and a little bit of your affection. And remember, true love cannot be rigid or stubborn. Shoot 120 or 35mm film. Take two, three, or fifteen shots on the same frame. Take a perfect endless panorama. Or shoot a huge, overlapping, multi-exposed behemoth image that spans the entire roll. Carefully focus and plan each shot. Or (quite literally) shoot from the hip with the camera at your waist level, a focus zone sorta set, the aperture & shutter more or less correct, and your finger blazing away at the shutter release every second that something attractive crosses your eye. Love stories are boring when the ending is always the same. Use your Lubitel+ to tell an entirely new tale.
But don’t just take our word for it. Experience a bit of burning Lubitel Love for yourself via our amorous sample galleries.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Given our immense love for the classic Soviet-era Lubitel - and the sheer amount of Lomographers who are hopelessly devoted to it - we couldn't leave it out of this gallery. Please note that some of the square medium format images were taken with a Lubitel - not a Lubitel+, and were graciously submitted to us by the Lomographic Community. The other formats, like 35mm and Endless Panorama, are unique to the Lubitel+, and come exclusively from that camera.
Five Lubitel Love Positions
When it comes to the Lubitel Love manual of tips, tricks, and techniques, you and your fellow Lomographers will be the ones writing the book. As owner and primary Lomographic spouse to a new Lubitel+, you’ll surely explore its every nook and cranny, every knob and lever, and every setting and attachment in your quest for the most impossible images of the most impossible situations possible. When you happen upon a new discovery, a fancy shortcut, or a freaking mindblowing technique that no one had ever considered, then please try a little tenderness and share it with the Lomographic Community at large. A little donation in the love bank can pay you handsome dividends in the future! In the meantime, to get your love juices flowing, here are five “positions” that we’ve enjoyed many times. To see more tips & tricks see the tips section on the website!
With the Lubitel+, you can fire as many times on the same frame as you like. Don’t take this lightly –this is powerful stuff! Fire it during the day to superimpose one subject on top of another. If it’s bright out, underexpose by two or three stops to prevent overexposure.
Shoot a subject normally and then flip the camera upside down to make the two halves reach out and touch each other. Use a combo of flash and non-flash exposures at night. Shoot a roll, rewind it, and give it to a friend to shoot in their camera (maybe even a different type of camera). Seriously folks, the possibilities are endless!
Long, Strong & Bound to Get it On
Few things compare to the sensation of viewing a tack-sharp and glowing-out-of-control long exposure image at night. Brilliant artificial lights, cars turned into streaming star trails, and moving people rendered as ghosts are just a few of the available delights.
If you’ve got time & equipment, then pop the Lubitel on a tripod and screw in a cable release for the sharpest possible image. If not, place the Lubitel+ on something sturdy, draw a breath, and press the shutter as smoothly as possible. If you’re shooting square images, then remember – your Lubitel can be standing up or pressed sideways against a wall – it doesn’t matter for the final shot!
Light Up Their Life
The Lubitel’s handy hotshoe makes for easy flash shots. And its glass lens \ makes for seriously rich and detailed flash portraits. As such, you should explore every avenue for interesting artificial light images.
At night, put your shutter on “B,” hold it open, and fire the a flash manually off camera to illuminate your subject from the side, top, or bottom – casting all kinds of interesting shadows across their face. Or keep that shutter open and use a flashlight or mini-led to literally “trace” them with streams of light.
Slide film is great for scanning and treating your folks to charming projection shows, but any Lomographer worth his/her chops will tell you that cross-processing (developing slide film in negative chemicals) is the freaking bees knees.
It takes that lovely and sublime slide image that might-have-been and blows it out into a hyper-saturated, insanely contrasted, and wildly color-shifted little jewel. The results are wonderfully unpredictable, and vary from film type to film type and from lab to lab. You quite literally never really know what you’re gonna get. For really understated and grainy images, you can also do the reverse (process negative film in slide chemicals).
Playing the Field
A beautiful aspect of the Lubitel is that the shutter and advance are not coupled. Sure, you can shoot a frame, look at the little numbers in the back, and advance to the exact start of the next one. But try shooting a roll blind.
Take a photo and advance a little bit – whatever you think is proper – and shoot again. Take a far subject and then - immediately after – a close subject. Your ultimate goal should be an enormous, unpredictable, multi-exposed, and overlapping serial image.
Toss in a flash here or there, and change the orientation of the camera. Use slide film with normal slide processing for extra-easy scanning after development.