Smena 8M 35mm Viewfinder Camera

#CameraReview Smena 8M 35mm Viewfinder Camera

Introduction and Overview

Looks like I am jumping straight into the deep end of the pool with this really exciting old school everything manual Smena 8M 35mm viewfinder camera. Produced by the LOMO factory of the Soviet Union, the Smena 8M was in production from 1970-1985, made it to the Guinness Book of Records as the most popular camera in the world, with a record sale of over 21 million copies. How's that for a fact?

Smena 8M, Front right
Though built on the cheap with plastic and brushed aluminum components and is often referred to as a toy camera, the Smena 8M has a surprisingly well-regarded scale focus multicoated fixed glass lens, the LOMO factory designated T-43 40mm F4.

The lens, which is awesome for a cheap viewfinder camera, should auger well against ghosting, flare, or loss of contrast as you would otherwise get.

In use, everything on the camera is manual, from loading and unloading the film, advancing the film frame, doing the mental on the Sunny 16 rule for aperture and shutter speed setting, actuating the leaf shutter, and releasing the shutter itself. The Smena 8M does not need a battery to operate, it does not have a self-timer, neither does it have a dial for film ISO speed setting.

LOMO Smena 8M | King of multiple exposure All set to go? Straightforward and simple as it is, having fun with the Smena 8M means that there is still the small learning curve you have to come to terms with.


Basic Camera Features

The Smena 8M, though technically a very competent camera, is simplicity itself. The boxy plastic body is adorned with a brushed aluminum top front plate displaying the branding exercise which may be slightly different depending on the model number and iteration of its built cycle. A version of the camera with a black nameplate and an ultra-rare all-black version is also available.

Smena 8M 35mm Viewfinder Camera

The lens mount housing is central to the front of the camera, placed just below the brushed aluminum nameplate decal. Surrounding the front lens element is a ribbed aperture ring which can be rotated to adjust the 8-bladed aperture to the value shown in red on the lens front. This lens and aperture control mechanism is housed within the focusing ring, which is the whole front nose of the lens.
Smena 8M, Front
Focusing is done by rotating the ring to line up the metric distance scale or graphic icon against an arrow pointer located on the apex of the focusing ring housing. The aperture numbers down the sides of the focus ring indicate the depth of field scale. The numerical are equally adept when the camera is used for hyperfocus shooting.

Next is a thin metal ribbed-edge shutter speed ring which will adjust the leaf-spring shutter for Sunny 16 lighting ambiance, or for shutter speed from B, 1/15 to 1/250 second. Adjusting the weather condition from Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Cloud, Full Cloud, and Rain Cloud will correspondingly change the shutter speed setting form 1/250 second down to 1/30 second. Nudge the pointer beyond the Rain Cloud setting and the shutter speed will go into B(ulb) mode.
Smena 8M, Top
The shutter is actuated by pressing the leaf shutter lever down until it clicks into place and you are now ready for the shot.

The top plate of the camera is equally simple and uncluttered. There is the shutter release button fitted with a screw-in cable release socket, a cold shoe, and the circular silver film rewind knob. The rewind the film you need to pull the knob slightly out from the body and press the shutter button before you start rewinding, which might take you ages to finish.
Smena 8M, Back
On the back of the top plate, from left to right, is the viewfinder window, film counter, and film forward crank. The film back is plain.Smena 8M, Bottom
A tripod socket is located on the bottom plate of the Smena 8M.
Smena 8M, Film box
The film box is tight and tidy and should not be a problem if you are familiar with loading film cameras.


Viewfinder Readout

The viewfinder readout of the Smena 8M is nothing more than a plain glass 1:1 tunnel view of the image you are framing. The viewfinder, being located on the top left-hand corner of the body, is practically useless when viewing images at close distances. In such a situation the best is to just frame and shoot by guesswork.


Loading and Unloading Film

The film counter of the Smena 8M is still a mystery to me as to how it works. What I normally do is to rotate the counter until it sets itself to 0 (zero) before loading the film, wind, and shoot normally until the film roll reaches its end. The loose take-up spool that should come with the camera is something you will want to make sure that is is always there and is not missing from the package.

The Lomo Smena 8M - Loading 35mm Film Slot the end tab of the film spool into the vertical slit of the take-up spool, wind it forward to ensure that the film is wound securely, and slide both the film canister and the take-up spool into their respective chamber in the film box. Make sure that that the film is slightly slack but secure across the picture frame and the ratchet tooth of the film forward crank is properly engaged before closing the film back.

Rewind the exposed film back into its original spool before you unload it from the camera. To do this, pull up the silver rewind platter slightly up from the top plate, use your left thumb to press the shutter release and the right hand to wind the platter clockwise all the way until the exposed film is completely back in its canister.


Using the Camera

As mentioned, using the camera is fun, and easy. The key is the basic understanding of the Sunny 16 rule and the film ISO speed, which you will set soon as the camera is loaded with the film roll of your choice.

The chart below, an extract from the manual, shows the aperture setting recommendation.
Smena 8M, Exposure Chart
The corresponding values for the classic GOST system are as follows:

  • F4 - GOST 16 - ASA 25
  • F5.6 - GOST 32 - ASA 50
  • F8 - GOST 64 - ASA 100
  • F11 - GOST 125 - ASA 200
  • F16 - GOST 250 - ASA 400

Next, set the camera's shutter speed according to the lighting condition, use the weather icons to guide you by. For interiors that are reasonably well lighted, you can use the rain cloud speed of 1/15 second. Use the focal ring next to set up the subject distance, do this by estimating the distance or by using the engraved distance icons.

Cock the shutter, frame the image, and shoot away!

Smena 8M 35mm Viewfinder Camera
A more adventurous option is to work around with the camera's aperture setting for more creative effects. You can, for example, use a large aperture (F4) for a close-up image shot against a blurry background. Just remind yourself that for each step that you enlarge the aperture (say, from F5.6 to F4), you should also increase the shutter speed (from 1/30 to 1/60) to compensate for the increased light, and vice versa.


Flash Photography

Flash photography, if you are into it, requires you to have another really old school item, a manual flash with a PC wire. Once fitted to the camera, you will have an added advantage that the flash will sync at all shutter speeds available on the camera.


Multiple Exposures

How about a chance at doing unlimited multiple exposures? Sure, it is just as easy on the Smena 8M. Just cock and release the shutter again, and again, after each shot, until you are ready to move on to the film frame.


More Than What Meets The Eye

Well, have fun with the camera then. I am sure that there is a lot more than you be creative with the camera, and as they say it, 'Keep The Images Coming'.



Resource Links:
Smena 8m Review : Good clean plastic Fun
Comrades, the Lomo Smena 8M! - The Film Photography Project

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