Free to a good home

Picture lubitel_lomo.jpg As announced previously, I shall soon take on my next intercontinental move. And with it, comes the quintessential thrice-a-decade shot at Zen-Buddhist enlightenment, by shedding my lowly physical existence of all the useless materialistic junk I have accumulated over the past few years.

Put simply: I wanna travel light, when I leave in December. We all know that is not going to happen, but if at all possible, I would love to avoid reiterating last September’s episode of little old me, in the middle of Narita airport, handing over copies of Nietzsche’s Morgenröte and Russell’s History of Western Philosophy to hapless passersby, in a desperate effort to bring my luggage somewhere closer to the maximum weight allotted (including the extra 50% charitably granted by a sympathetic airline employee).

This Autumn cleaning, though, is more about uncluttering my life, getting rid of things I would never consider giving up, just making sure I keep my addiction to shiny baubles and uselessly expensive clothes under control. This is my own personal version of zen detachment: splurge on mindless consumeristic shopaholism for a few years, then strip it all down to three suitcases, the moment I skip the country.

And don’t think for a second that I am the unmaterialistic, happy-to-live-off-water-and-air, sort of guy: not only am I ridiculously attached to my things, but I also have this near-clinical tendency to pack every single bit of paper, receipt, bill etc. in the vague hope they’ll be of some use one day.

In this spirit, I have decided to offload my camera. Not any camera, mind you, but my faithful old Lomo Lubitel 166U.

Saying the любитель 166U was made by the Leningradskoye Optiko Mechanichesckoye Obyedinenie (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Union) in the early 80’s should give you an approximate idea of what we are dealing with. It was bought for less than $20 equivalent in roubles in a rather decrepit Moscow store, about 10 years ago. Although brand new then (came in a sealed box), it had already been sitting there for a good decade. Much like these rumoured Kalashnikovs made entirely of ceramic so as not to trigger metal detectors, this camera is pure plastic (with some glass for the lenses).

The Lubitel has made its reputation ever since as a cheap amateur camera that lets you easily take somewhat blurry artsy overexposed shots of people, without needing much of a formal training. Truth is: if you are half a photographer (Goddess knows I’m not, but having been assistant to one, I know the basics), you can take very decent pictures. Given proper conditions you might even come out with great pictures (the kind you usually only get with a $4K Swiss-sounding camera brand). It uses 2″1/4 rolls and a pretty wide aperture at its maximum setting, which means even your most underexposed mundane pictures will come out looking like the work of some seventies New York photographer if you squint a little.

As for me, I used it as my party camera: while the number of settings (all manual, of course) would usually be enough to confuse the most sober photographer, it turns out that overlooking most of them and just plain point-and-shooting with the focus on infinity gives, in 9 times out of 10, a very satisfying result. The tricky part was always to remember to advance the film manually. In fact, more than tricky, it’s damn near impossible, when down to your last 10% of neuron supply and pupils the size of a 500 yen coin, to spot the small, barely visible, indicator on the back of the camera that lets you see the numbers printed on the back of the film… My solution was to go by an approximate count and hope successive exposures wouldn’t overlap, that is: when I even thought of advancing the roll altogether. The results were often, to say the least, experimental (lots of double-exposures, some of them really neat).

On the upside, its mechanical timer feature allows for fun party-friends groupshot (quite a few hilarious morning-after lying in the grass, we had with this one). Manual release means you can do really fancy motion effect. And vertical viewfinder has the common advantage of letting you take your pictures inconspicuously (none of the disruptive effect an eye-level camera has on the subject).

It has always been my lucky camera, in that not only did it make for an easy conversation opener at parties, but also never ever got lost or stolen, despite my off-handed way of disposing of it for the night, once I’d get tired with the photographing and on to the dancing (usually left it with a few items by a tree or in a corner of the club, depending on the sort of venue). The point of using such a cheaply bought camera was, after all, not to worry about it.

One morning, leaving some southern California beach party, I couldn’t find it where I’d left it and was about to leave with little regrets (I had made the most of it after all) when I got a friendly tap on the shoulder by some unknown girl who handed me the camera: she had spotted me taking pics earlier on, found it somewhere on the ground, went looking for me… She accepted our invitation for a ride and breakfast, ended up moving in with me a week after, shortly before we left for a two-month road-trip down Baja California’s beaches, still to this day, one of the best Summer I’ve ever spent…

Do not mistake hazardous retrieval with shoddy treatment of the camera itself: I took the utmost care of it, always used the protective cover and, even in the middle of the desert, not a single grain of sand or speck of dust ever made its way to the lens or the inside of the case. All that, regardless of the fact its bulky make would probably sustain being ran over by a Soviet tank with very little damage (alright, maybe not: it’s still plastic… but you could safely drop it a few times).

And with all that being said. This camera is up for grabs!

Obviously, it has sentimental value to me, but I have barely used it in the past two years. Dragging it to wherever next I’m moving, likely wouldn’t make me use it more. Sad as it is, I tend to prefer the convenience and safety of my tiny digicam nowadays: certainly not the same fun, but fun nonetheless. As for the old Lubitel, it is currently sitting and collecting dust on my shelf.

In a word, it is clutter, and clutter is the last thing we need in our life, right this moment.

So if you are a photography enthusiast looking for some argentic love, or simply an amateur, decided to put in the extra effort for the result, this is your chance. I’m not asking a penny for it (alright: a beer would be nice), just the assurance that it will go to someone who will actually use it, not flaunt it to their friends once or twice and get discouraged (it is tedious to use, compared to modern electronic cameras). Since I’m not looking to make my life complicated either, it is reserved in priority to locals who can arrange to pick it up somewhere in the vicinity of Shinjuku before the end of the month.

Along with the camera (an authentic original LOMO Lubitel 166U), are the following goodies:

  • Original rubber case with leash and lens cover.
  • Relatively new release cable (this one is 3-year old, I think).
  • 6×6 to 4.5×6 adapter (you can shoot pictures in either format).
  • Electronic flash with synchronizing cable (the camera has a mechanical-to-electrical trigger, as well as a rack to mount the flash on)

I don’t think I have the manual anymore (and it was in Russian anyway), but you can easily find detailed instructions for it on the Web (not that there’s anything difficult about it either).

Contact me if interested (in the comments or contact form above).


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