- Produced 1991-? (1999) LOMO, St. Petersburg, Russia
- Film type 135 (35mm)
- Picture size 24mm x 36mm
- Weight 250g
- Lens Minitar 1 1:2.8 32mm (4 elements in 4 groups)
- Focal range .8m to infinity in 4 zones
- Filter size n/a
- Shutter 2 blade behind-lens
- Shutter speeds 2m-1/500 aperture-priority automatic
- Viewfinder telescopic with bright line frame
- Exposure meter CdS with over/under LEDs
- Battery three SR44 / S76 silver oxide button
- ASA 25-400
- Hotshoe (sync at 1/60)
- Thumbwheel winder
- NO SELF TIMER
The LOMO Compact Automat (aka LC-A or LK-A, or to many, just ‘LOMO’) is an admitted knockoff of the Cosina CX-2, which is itself an attempt to make an inexpensive version of the Minox 35 without replicating it entirely as KMZ did later with the Kiev 35A. It shares the same body style as the Minox but rather than a pop-out lens, it uses a moving lens element for focusing a la the Olympus XA / XA2. Small, light, slips in a pocket, and besides the decent coated lens its nicest feature is that it can take exposures of up to 2 minutes, making it a popular nightclub shooter.
I’ve heard that these are fun cameras. I’ve also heard that some of them work. If mine worked* I would probably think it was fun, but, well, it doesn’t. I inherited it from a friend who got it as a gift and got to use it once before it committed suicide, then she gave it to me saying if I could fix it I could keep it. I tore it down to the printed circuit boards, and brought it back up, but it still doesn’t do more than click, wind, and light an LED. No shutter movement. Not an uncommon occurence, I take it, after reading the now-defunct lomo forums online about LOMO problems. After tearing it apart I can see why they’re tempramental – they’re not very well manufactured. The solder points are particularly poorly done. The lens looks decent though.
I know that those who have working examples are fiercely devoted to them in spite of their tempramental nature (the cameras, not necessarily the people!). Maybe that’s part of the fun, like with Diana cameras and that other plastic camera with questionable quality control, the Holga. In fact the LC-A have a bit of a cult following. It’s this part I’m having trouble with. You see, the success of the LOMO Compact Automat LC-A is basically an unlikely and absolute triumph of shrewd modern marketing. The LOMOgraphic Society has done a brilliant job creating a subculture dedicated to integrating the use of the LC-A into a global youth lifestyle. Really. brilliant. See for yourself.
Now I’m all for a movement to push the boundaries of photography, especially one that encourages amateur photography in the way the LOMOgraphy movement does. Even more so I’m all for a movement that encourages the use of film cameras!! The reality is that the LOMOgraphic Society are also the sole legal importer of these cameras and the street price has risen dramatically since they got that honor. Before that, this was just an unknown, cheaply mass-produced Russian camera. Go ahead and read all the literature, I acknowledge that they’re fun compact little cameras that are capable of taking decent pictures. But the fact that you can get a high-quality XA2 (the closest equivalent XA) for less than half the price of the poorly manufactured LC-A should make you think twice. Have I used an LC-A myself? No. Have I tried? Yes. To resurrect mine, I began by looking online for advice and found that a large number of these overpriced cameras have sticking shutters that are best unstuck (the popular advice goes) by ‘rolling it down a flight of carpeted stairs’ or giving the camera a good whack to get it working again. In my case, new batteries and a near-comlplete teardown and rebuild got the wind mechanism and the meter working again but still no working shutter. Not even after a good whack. For reference, these go for upwards of $75 (used!) on ebay at the time of this writing while the sadly neglected XA2, with its frowned-upon zone focus like the LC-A, goes for less than $20. *sigh* More for me I guess 🙂
As I mentioned I took it all the way apart, checked the solder points, checked the wiring, checked the shutter movement and the mechanics, all seem ok. Without an ocilloscope and some actual knowledge of electronics I don’t know what else I can do.
I was reluctant, then patient, for a long time and then eventually (2006) found a second LOMO CA for a nice price, this was a factory refurbished kit with all the trimmings, basically guaranteed to work as it has actually been returned, repaired, and whatever else refurbishing entails. Even came with two rolls of “LOMO” (Agfa) film! For the low low price of $55!
My first roll of film through this camera was a disaster. I kept forgetting to set either the aperture or the distance, or both. Not a single decent picture on the whole roll. I guess I kept thinking its focal ranges were more like the XA2, which I came to appreciate so much more after this attempt. I got smarter on the second roll, shooting only on the A setting and paying closer attention to the distance to subject (and listening for the second click!). My whole plan for the test roll was to use the camera in low light situations taking pictures of colorful items, as this was supposed to be one of the selling points of the LC-A: its colorful contrasty pictures and good auto-metering. So my self-assignment was, basically, collections of pretty bottles, either in bars or liquor stores.
Aaaand after all that, I didn’t really turn up any standout examples, except one photo which was taken in daylight of something completely different, which I think came out very well (and exactly as shown, uncropped). The rest of the photos on that roll all more or less well-exposed, but most are vastly out of focus or at the very least unsharp. Granted, it’s difficult to handhold a 2s exposure when you have a drink or two in you and are trying to be discreet about your snaps, even if you rest your elbows on the bar like you’re a tripod. But this scenario is where I was told the LOMO shines! Still, it was fun trying. But I don’t think this camera will replace my XA2 as my everyday shooter.
Note – at wide apertures there is a pretty obvious center spot of near-sharpness fading off quickly. At smaller apertures this lens is indeed sharp and contrasty. Depth of field at wide aperture is very short.
Tips & Tricks
One good tip: in low light, don’t move until you hear the *second* shutter click, the first is the shutter opening and the second is it closing. One unique feature of this camera is its ability to take exposures up to two minutes! It does have a hotshoe in case you want to try a flash, but that kind of goes against the grain of the spirit of the LC-A.
Shutter doesn’t fire if the lens window is closed, which is a good thing, keeps it from taking pictures of the inside of your backpack.