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Review: The Diana F+

Benjamin Pazdernik - 12. Juni 2013

Tags: review, analog, diana, toy-camera, medium format

The Diana F+ is something very special. I received it as christmas gift last year and as I held the paper wrapped package in my hands, I never would have though that there was an actual camera inside!

Update: I switched from a simple WordPress blog to a MODX powered portfolio page for my webdesign and photography work. My (few) old posts are still accessible from the previous URLs but I don't know if I will be posting any more English blog posts in the future as it is much easier for me to post in German. Just so you know if you reached this post via Google and are wondering about the website being German. Thanks for visiting my website and enjoy the read!

This was mainly because of just how lightweight the thing was. It was almost as light as a bag of rice crackers! As I took the camera out of the plastic wrapper in which it came in, I was truly astonished. The camera has a very nice looking body with a big viewfinder prominently placed right above the lens. The viewfinder is very, very bright as there is no mirror or lens which would reduce the brightness of the image one receives when looking through it. It is of a square format, as are the images, and sits right in the horizontal center of the camera just above the camera lens. This means, that you only have to account for the parallax error vertically but not horizontally.

The “parallax error” (also called “viewfinder error”) is an optical viewing error which occurs in every non slr-camera. As the viewfinder is often found above the lens of the camera, photos with parallax error are often slightly lower than intended, the classic example being the image of person with his or her head cropped off. If the viewfinder is a little bit to the left of the lens as well (as in most rangefinder cameras) the actual photo being captured on the film is also slightly shifted towards the right.

It’s so light!

Despite weighing only 175 grams (around 6.17 ounces) the camera does not feel flimsy in any way. I have had no problem just throwing it into my backpack or messenger bag when going out and about with it. Almost all of the body is textured, making it pretty easy to hold, even if your hands are a little sweaty.

The lens and the settings

Let’s talk about the lens. Well for starters, this isn’t your highly engineered multi-coated glass lens. The Diana F+ features a 75 mm lens, which, as almost everything in this camera, is made out of plastic! All the controls are on the lens itself. Even the shutter release! There are a total of three switches:

The first one being the setting for the Exposure Mode. “N” stands for “Normal” while the “B” marks the setting for the “Bulb Mode”. For everyone not knowing what a “Bulb Mode” does on a camera: In Bulb Mode the shutter remains open as long as you keep pressing the shutter button (or lever in case of the Diana).

N stands for "Normal" while "B" marks the "Bulb Mode".

N stands for “Normal” while “B” marks the “Bulb Mode”.

The second lever, which sits on the right hand side of the lens, is the shutter release. It’s kinda weird not having a physical button but rather a lever to release the shutter and take a photo. But you get used to it after a few shots.

On the bottom of the lens are multiple settings which resemble different weather situations.

On the bottom of the lens are multiple settings which resemble different weather situations.

On the bottom of the lens is another switch which controls the exposure setting. This actually only changes the aperture of the lens and not the exposure time itself. You can choose between four different modes:

  1. Cloudy (f/11)
  2. Partial Cloudy (f/16)
  3. Sunny (f/22)
  4. Pinhole (approximately f/150)

(The f-stops of the different modes above are from lomography.com.)

I mostly opted for the second one which worked out just fine.

Focusing is a bitch…

The focus ring is the only downside of the Diana F+. But due to the high aperture of the lens, it's not that big of a deal.

The focus ring is the only downside of the Diana F+. But due to the high aperture of the lens, it’s not that big of a deal.

The most difficult thing when it comes shooting with the Diana is to remember to set the focus correctly. Since you can’t see if something is in focus through the viewfinder, I often forgot about setting the correct focus distance, which resulted with the focus being slightly off in some of my photos. In addition to that, the focusing ring is kind of hard to reach as it is a bit recessed into the lens.

There are three different markings for the focus:

  1. 1-2 M
  2. 2-4 M
  3. 4 M - ∞

Each of the three markings features an example for what to shoot with it: There’s a portrait of one person for the 1-2 meter setting, a family for 2-4 meter and a mountain with a big group of people for the 4 meter to infinity setting.

In general though, after being angry at myself about forgetting to set the focus each time I took a picture, I personally just let the focus sit on the center setting for all of my future shots. Only when shooting landscapes, which I probably will not do with a camera like the Diana, I will remind myself to change it accordingly. At least for me the camera is the perfect companion for street photography, where most of the subjects are in the 2-4 meter range. The advantage of leaving the focus in the center is, that if you are like me and often forget to set the focus before taking a photo, you don’t end up with a lot of blurry shots but in the worst case only slightly blurry ones. Since the possible apertures of the Diana start at f/11 and go up to f/22 on the “Sunny” setting, the depth of field (the three dimensional area which is in focus) is huge, meaning you don’t have to worry about focus too much if you just set the focus to the second (center) setting and leave it there for most of your shots. Also if you are shooting with a toy camera like the Diana, you are probably not after the sharpest and most accurate photo in the first place!

Flash and the only thing not plastic

diana-1The Diana F+ features a connector for a external flash, while the Diana+ does not. I am yet to purchase the flash though, which is why I can not give you any info on it. It is nice that there is the possibility to mount a flash, which I have to admit looks pretty cool!

There is only one thing on the Diana F+ which is NOT made out of plastic! And that is the tripod mount, which is positioned slightly to the left on the bottom of the camera.

My opinion?

Even though I only shot one roll of film with it, it’s already save to say, that I really enjoy shooting with the Diana F+! It is something very different from shooting with any other “normal” camera. It’s weird, fun, addictive and often times fascinating to look at the pictures when they come back from development and look like they were shot 60 years ago. The focus was driving me nuts in the beginning as I constantly forgot to set it appropriately. The price of medium format film, which you need if you are not planning to get a 35mm back for the camera, is a little high and the development costs a small premium as well. So shooting with the Diana F+ certainly isn’t cheap and you probably should think about what you shoot if you do not want to spend a lot of money just on average photos.

Here are some photos from my trip to Prague, all shot with the Diana F+ and an Ilford HP5 Plus 400 ISO:

I would recommend the Diana F+ to everyone who likes retro style images and wants to try out analog photography or lomography. The camera is not cheap but it isn’t very expensive either. You can find it for around $40 online: Lomography Diana F+ Medium Format Camera. Just think for a moment before pressing the shutter release as the cost of a photo is relatively high! Or don’t think at all and just follow the motto of the lomography community: “Don’t Think, Just Shoot!

Either way: Have fun!

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© 2014 Benjamin Pazdernik