Well, not forgotten. But let’s face it, the marketing geniuses at Lomography haven’t exactly promoted the Lomo Smena Symbol. Its price on ebay reflects this. A brand new Lomo LC-A+ from lomography.com can set you back almost £300. Ouch. But you’re really buying a brand. You’re buying a brilliant piece of marketing.
The Smena Symbol (and it’s relative the 8M) costs a fraction of the price of an LC-A+. £20 should get you a decent one. Admittedly it’s bigger, clunkier, and not in any way automatic. But it is a Lomo. Really, it’s a Lomo!
Unfortunately it also has a major disadvantage for Lomographers: it actually takes pretty decent photos. Oh dear.
Everything on this camera is manual, but it manages to make itself sort of easy to use with a cleverish symbol system. Hence the name. You set the aperture without really realising it by setting the film ISO setting. 250 ISO is the maximum speed, and sets the aperture to f/16. Meanwhile setting the shutter speed involves nice little sun/cloud symbols. Sun equals 1/250sec, very cloudy equals 1/15sec.
How do I know what all these settings equate to? Weirdly both the ISO and symbol settings also tell you what aperture and shutter speed you’re using. Do you really care? Isn’t this camera meant to be taking the complexity out of photography? Presumably a camera geek helped design the Smena Symbol, and they just couldn’t resist making sure there was just a bit of technical geekery in there somewhere.
Being mostly plastic, the Smena Symbol is nice and lightweight. Not as light as a Diana or Holga, but not too bad. So you won’t be all that bothered carrying it around, if like me it tends to get used as a backup camera to a digital camera. But because of the Symbol’s size, you won’t fit it into anything other than a very large coat pocket. I don’t know quite why it’s so big. It’s not like it uses 120 film, or is full of complex electronics and gadgetry. But there you go. Soviet engineering.
So on balance the people at Lomography perhaps had a point in not promoting the Smena Symbol. It doesn’t have any of the ease of use or compactness of an LC-A, and doesn’t have the weird toy camera charm of a Diana or Holga. It does have a certain charm all its own however, but at the end of the day it’s basically a cheap, functional, bulky Soviet camera which takes reasonable photos.