[S-series] Lomo LC-A Minitar-1 2.8/32 Art Lens – Lomography review

Hi Lomographers,

Good morning! Today I’m back here to talk about Lomography’s remake of a classic optics. It is the LC-A Minitar-1 2.8/32 Art Lens aka the lens on a LC-A compact film camera. In case you don’t know what’s a LC-A: click here.

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I’ve been longing for a LC-A for a long time now. I wanted one to know why and how it achieved its cult status among Lomographers or the casual street photographer who’s got money to burn via film, if you catch my drift.

But because its a camera that’s achieve cult status, its pricing is steep. Therefore, I just can’t justify the purchase of one, unless I win the lottery, I’ll just ‘whack’ all the lomo-cameras and Pentax 67II etc etc etc. I love film cameras, how they look and how each and everyone of them has their own character, even if you load the same medium into them, they still come out looking drastically different. Its like magic.

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And so I heard Lomography made a lens based on the fixed lens on a LC-A, I just have to get one… Well, I can’t justify the purchase yet again.. So I emailed them and ask if its possible for me to loan one for a couple of weeks. They agreed and so here’s the loan copy at my door! Let’s open that tastefully designed box and dig in!


DESIGN

It was a small box, so I expected the lens to be small too. But I was still surprised when I opened it. This is smaller than my ‘small’!! Its like a miniature lens model someone made during their free time. I thought this was a prank!

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Then I open the lens cap and saw the optics..

Oh my goodness, its real…

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Yeah, let me put aside all that drama. The controls are simplified, the aperture ring has a tiny nub for you to turn. The ring rotates smoothly without any stops, so most of the time, I’ve no idea whatsoever what value I was on unless I check the dial.

Focusing is done with the outter nub and the focus throw is super short. The scale only has 4 values, 0.8m (min), 1.5m, 3m and INF (Infinity). If you need to fine tune your focus, you’ll find it challenging with such a short focus throw. But do know that this lens is build for other purposes rather than shooting in a studio, so most times I’m totally fine with its controls.

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The lens is really really tiny, I have to emphasize that point, because I really haven’t seen a lens this small made for full frame cameras..

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See how it measure up with my Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 4.5/15 III and Zeiss Batis 2/25? Both lenses were not really big compared to those DSLR zoom lenses, but the Minitar-1 looks like a miniature abomination borne out of the other 2 lenses…well I meant it in a good way. 

Its made of mostly metal and yet weighs next to nothing. I couldn’t find any info about its weight, but I think it hardly matters right? On my A7II, I think my M-mount adapter is bigger and weights more than this lens..

One thing I don’t like would be the metal screw-on lens cap. For one, its really small. Like a local 50 cents coin, and the screwing-on part is like what-the-heck? Try screwing a coin onto the lens, I bet you 8/10 times you’ll drop it. So I just kept the lens cap at home and go out with the lens naked all the time, like a true exhibitionist lens.

Here are some boring specs I got from the official site:

Focal Length 32mm
Aperture f/2.8 – f/22
Lens Mount Leica M-mount
M-mount Frame Line Triggering 35/135
M-mount Rangefinder Coupling Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 0.8m
Filter Thread Measurement M22.5×0.5
Construction Multi-coated lens, 5 elements 4 groups


USING IT FOR REAL or REAL WORLD USAGE

So I’ve already told you how this thing works, but for me when I’m out shooting with this lens, I usually just ‘zone focus’. That’s like me putting on a generally middle of the road aperture like f4 or f5.6, then I left the focusing nub on 1.5m or 3m. Then I just go out and snap away.

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When you meet situations when you need to dial to INF, just turn it all the way down. Then once you’re done, just turn it back to the focusing distance that you’ll most likely use.

This way it just makes you stop thinking too much about all the technical stuff like what aperture you should be using and whether is it in focus and so on. You just go out and shoot with just your eyes and your instincts. You see a scene, you feel intrigued, you snap, and you move on. Simple. Its blazingly fast and really fun to shoot this way. Too bad for the really loud shutter slap of my A7II, if not I’ll be out in a crowded place and snap at those clueless buggers going about their daily routine.

The Sony A7II doesn’t even have a mirror in it but when I take a picture, Claire could hear it like 3 metres away, in a crowded street. She likes it that way though, so she will know when I take a picture and she can adjust her poses. This loud noise is so not stealthy, I get lots of stares when during our travels when I try to take some street photos thanks to that. I kinda miss my Canon 6D that I sold off, its got a ‘silent shutter’ function that I love. I hope the next A7 budget model will address this issue… the A7r  series are too expensive and the file size are too big for a casual hobbyist like myself.

Ok back to the Lomo lens, its got the potential to be the ultimate street shooter’s lens IMO.


IMAGE QUALITY

While I know this quality thing can be affected by the camera and the setting used, I can’t be bothered to do a scientific study on this topic. So I’m just gonna list my equipment and show the photos I took, you be the judge. 

  • Sony A7II camera – set to ‘A’ mode and ISO between 100 – 3200
  • Hawk’s Factory M-E mount adapter with close focusing helicoid ver.5
  • erm, if it matters.. Topo Design Camera Strap with Peak Design Anchor Links

Below are some photos I took over the week with the lens:

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f5.6

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f2.8

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f2.8

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f8

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f2.8

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f2.8

Well I like bokeh so I like shooting wide open at f2.8. The thing I noticed is that even at f8, the vignetting is still there. And at f2.8, you can see the obvious lost of sharpness in the corners. But everything in the centre is still really sharp IMO.

I especially like the swirling bokeh effect when the background is really messy as seen on the 5th image.

Overall this lens is not a high-end performer, hence the moniker ‘Art Lens’. That must have been an indication that this is a flawed lens. But to me, the lens isn’t flawed, the ‘flaws’ are its ‘character’. Just as how i loved the soft focusing Zeiss C-Sonnar 1.5/50 lens, I love this Minitar-1 Art Lens already.

Alas, its a loan unit, so I have to part with it real soon. It will definitely be in my shopping list though, when I got the money to burn.

Cheers people, hope you enjoyed my writing.

Simon Tey