A Sort Of Review of the Lomography Diana F+

A Sort Of Review of the Lomography Diana F+

1388 781 Craig Sinclair

If you call yourself a photographer, you probably have some level of obsession with equipment. You may have amassed an odd collection of cameras and lenses you find essential for your art, and you probably have a list of cameras and lenses that you hope to own one day. And then, like a punch in the face, you hear some schmuck named Chase Jarvis say something profound, like “the best camera is the one you have with you.” But that can’t be true, because then there’s no way to rationalize the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 ZE that will solve your soft corners when shooting in low light below f/3.5. I’d argue that maybe Mr. Jarvis’s theory is more accurately stated; “the best camera is most assuredly the one you left at home.”

Let’s turn all this around a bit with yet another pithy aphorism; when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’d add that when you only have a hammer, you better be pretty good at hitting nails. This long preamble is written in seeking to explain my irrational need to own a camera that uses 120 format film, and some of the results of that need.

I used to own a Mamiya 645 in very decent (maybe even excellent) condition, and I was quite happy with every photograph I made with it. But I didn’t use it very often. One day, upon considering the amount of dust it had collected, and some bullshit that Marie Kondo said in a bestselling book, I decided I should sell it. For no good reason. 

I mean, as a camera it was heavy, and slow, and I could only fit fifteen images on a roll of film, and the film was relatively expensive, and I had to take the film to a place to have it developed because my developing tank was 35mm specific, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with learning how to spool 120 film onto a reel anyway. But when I sold the Mamiya I immediately felt the void left by the lack of owning a 120 film camera. 

In an attempt to fill the void, I typed “Lomography 120” into the internet search engine and within the week I had me a shiny new hammer, I mean, a shiny new 120 film friendly plastic camera called a Lomography Diana F+. I’m not sure what the “F” stands for (it’s probably in the manual, if I cared to look) but my best guess is that it stands for an unprintable word which would change the rating of this article from PG to R; the Diana F+ is an F-ing crappy hammer, and an even worse camera.

[Editor’s note – for those wondering, the F stands for Flash, since the Diana F was the flash-capable upgrade to the original flash-less Diana. Today Lomography produces all sorts of Diana models.]

In the spirit of Mr. Chase Jarvis, and for the sake of this article, for a few days the Diana F+ would be the only camera I had with me. I’m not sure Chase would be happy being saddled on this same horse, his statement to the public about cameras notwithstanding. Any time I was using the Diana F+, I knew I had many better cameras at home. And I often longed for them.

What’s a Lomography Diana F+ and… why?

I have a bit of a history lesson for you, albeit one that’s un-researched and at the mercy of a failing memory, so it’s probably all wrong. Nevertheless, once upon a time there was no such thing as Instagram. Film was grainy and a lot of consumer-level cameras were pretty basic and took kind of bad photographs. Over time, cameras got better and the pictures they made looked more like the actual world we lived in, and less like the color-shifted blurry messes of many film images.

But human beings often manifest cravings for “the good old days.” We began longing for a time when the photos we collected had what could only be identified as “soul.” This really amounted to pictures that were maybe a little out of focus and maybe a little under/over exposed. The film process we were stuck with back then made lovely and romantic, slightly oversaturated mini art pieces, and it warmed our hearts to have these moments frozen in time despite the graininess and lack of detail and unrealistic representation of color that film gave us. Plus, we were all thinner and had more hair in those photographs. Film got better and better.

Then the digital revolution came along. Film cameras and the makers of film had spent a lifetime making products that fixed imaging flaws and more accurately represented reality. Digital cameras captured life flatly, truer to life than any film ever did. Then phone cameras became the dominant life-recorder, capturing every day of our lives without embellishment.

And then, as if we all went mad for nostalgia at once just few years into the raw truism of digital, Instagram arrived. Now we could shortcut the whole process of Lightroom, Aperture, or whatever existed at the time, and, with the push of a button, transform perfect and well exposed digital photographs with incredible detail for a phone camera with a sensor smaller than a pin head into something shot with a bucket and toaster and people loved it. We were back to loving the film look, whatever that is. We loved it so much that Instagram is now worth over $100 billion. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Lomography was born. 

I wasn’t in the board room when the concept of Lomography was proposed and accepted as a viable business consideration, but I imagine the conversation went like this:

“You know photographs, right?”


“We want to do that, but kind of crappy like.”

“How so?”

“While the world is embracing German and Japanese technological marvels that take perfect photographs, we want to make a camera with interchangeable plastic shims for framing, tight thumb wheels that you have to turn by hand to advance the film until you see the next frame number in a little window in the back of the camera, a vague aperture control on the bottom front of the camera, where you will most likely forget it exists making half your photographs be badly exposed or not exposed at all. Oh, and a vague focusing system that doesn’t allow you to check if what you’re taking a photograph of is in focus. You kind of have to guess.” 

“You think that’s a good idea?”


“Go for it, but only if you can make the cameras completely out of plastic including the lenses and in a variety of bold colors that will assuredly offend anyone who considers owning one. And we can include a collection of photographs in a hard cover book that suggests brilliant photographs can be taken with this camera, and we don’t even need to use this crap camera to take the pictures in the book. The end user will just have to take it on faith that we used this plastic junk to take those photos and that any crap they come up with is a result of their ineptitude, and not the camera’s fault, even though it’s probably the camera’s fault.” 


Thus, the Lomography Diana F+ was born.

Truthfully, LOMO cameras existed before this. They were originally made by the Soviet Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association, who made their earliest cameras in the 1930s and who’d eventually amass three Orders of Lenin for their efforts.

The Chinese company Great Wall Plastic Co. would copy the playbook of the Russians. The original Diana was born in Hong Kong in the early 1960s. Throughout this decade and into the 1970s, Great Wall Plastic Co. made their LOMO-like toy camera in 120 format out of cheap plastic. By the 1980s, the Diana ceased production. When the word “Lomagraphy” was trademarked by the Lomographic Society International (Lomographische AG) in Austria, they reintroduced a whole new range of Diana cameras to market. 

Practical Use and Thoughts on the Diana F+

Well, anyway, I have a Lomography Diana F+ camera. I bought it used and it’s the black and blue color variant, and it cost me $40 Canadian. It came with the original box and the hard cover book that was packaged with it, and I figured at the very least the book was worth ten dollars. The person I bought it from said she ran exactly one roll of film through it. I imagine that’s how most Diana F+ experiences pan out, despite the fact that, as I write this, I’ve run six rolls through mine. 

There is nothing about the Diana F+ that will instill any confidence in the user in regards to how the photographs may or may not turn out. There is a sense of disbelief that the little toggle to the right of the lens does anything at all, though it is in fact the shutter release. You will fight the flimsy film advancement wheel and you will think you hear the film being torn apart inside the camera as you advance it. You will look for the next number in the sequence of frames to appear in the little red window on the back of the camera signifying you’ve done your part in advancing to the next frame. You will have no faith in the framing of your subject through a joke of a viewfinder, and you will trigger the shutter, and move on. Maybe you got a picture. Maybe you didn’t. 

I kind of wanted to hate this camera. I wanted to be offended by the quirkiness, the “camp” qualities of the object. I wanted to be embarrassed by the bright blue plastic body of the Diana. I wanted to loathe the pseudo artsy images it produced and to be angry at the vignetting you get from the Diana F-ing plastic lens. I wanted to rail against its crap build quality. I wanted to finally declare it was a piece of junk. But I didn’t. 

Don’t get me wrong, the Diana F+ is indeed a crap bit of kit, but in the end it doesn’t promise to be anything more than that. As of the writing of this article you can buy the Fujifilm Instax variant of the Diana (in the same offensive blue as mine) for just $99 Canadian ($68US-ish), or a 35mm film compatible fisheye-capable piece of garbage for $69 Canadian (under $50 US) brand-spanking-new. The only expensive-ish Diana you can buy is the Diana F+ “DELUXE” kit, which includes a whole mess of hot garbage, like four interchangeable “lenses,” various color filters for no good reason, and something called a “splitzer.” That’s a lot of stuff.

Any self-respecting photographer will get sick of the novelty of this camera in about a month, or six rolls of film – whichever comes first. At least, I did. But in the end, the whole deal costs less than a good night at the bar, and as much as you’ll be embarrassed to admit it, you’re going to like the photos you get. And when you’re done with it you can use the camera to pound some nails. It’s a terrible hammer, and an even worse camera. But I’m glad I own one. 

Post Script 

I found myself at the film lab picking up the last roll of film I had put through the Diana F+, and because I had loved/hated the experience I thought, what the heck, two more rolls of Portra 400 please, I’ll give this camera a bit more time. I got home, scanned the film, and loaded up the Diana F+ with a fresh roll. The film I picked up from the lab was as pleasing as ever with quirky, badly exposed squares of film with strangely out of focus bits, and a general loveliness of an undefinable quality. The last two images were a bit more out of focus than the rest, but not offensively so. This is what we will call “foreshadowing.” 

I went for a walk with the Diana and then, as photographers are wont to do, I found a thing that I wanted to take a picture of. I retrieved the Diana F+ from my bag, removed the lens cap, composed the shot, and then remembered the need to focus and adjust the aperture. This was when I discovered the lens, well, it was simply gone. Gone missing. Nothing left where the little piece of plastic had once been except a gaping hole. Realizing I was religious about keeping the lens cap on when not in use I knew it had to be nearby. And there it was, on the ground, staring up at me, half of a broken Lomography Diana F+ lens laying in the grass. 

I’m the second owner of this camera on my seventh roll of film. This added to the one roll the previous owner had shot brought my Lomography Diana F+ up to a lifetime total of eight rolls. And I had worn it out. 

Here’s some quick, inaccurate math (all in Canadian dollars); $40 for the camera, plus seven rolls of film (about $98) times twelve exposures per roll, and another $60 for developing. We’re looking at about $2.35 per frame, and I still have the hardcover book, right? 

As an extreme comparison, take a Leica M Type 240 and a Summilux 35mm f/1.4. The cost of that kit divided by $2.35/picture means you’d have to take about 9,000 photographs to break even, and I’d argue there is a much greater ratio of “keepers” in the Lomography photographs than from the typical digital camera. 

But it’s not really about the math, right? There’s an intangible quality to the Lomography Diana F+ photographs; something that one might argue isn’t possible with a modern Leica, or even traditional film cameras, and that adds value in some odd way. The fact that the camera is essentially garbage after seven or eight rolls of film is not important. I won’t be buying another. But still, no regrets.

One last note for the record – I own a Stiletto titanium hammer. I take my hammers seriously.

Get your own Lomography Diana F+ used on eBay

Buy it new from B&H Photo here

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Craig Sinclair

Craig Sinclair was born in Ontario and is a University of Toronto School of Architecture graduate living in Vancouver for the second time. His photography explores the underlying narratives existing in found contexts. There is beauty in the ordinary, a concept he explores by taking a photograph every day; an exercise he began in 2007 and continues to this day.

All stories by:Craig Sinclair
  • Nice one, Craig. Not sure if I should have postponed my breakfast.
    Know what you mean about hammers. I take mine seriously, too, but in a different way: I have six.
    Cheers, T.

  • Hello Craig, I’ve really enjoyed your review which I read with a perpetual smile on my face. I can’t argue with any of the points but, you’ve got a great set of results (including the vignetting) which are far better than any other I’ve seen with a Diana.
    Back in the day, I recall the Diana and all its variants being sold in toy shops here in the UK so that kids could ‘click’ away, usually without film, along with Dad. Your shot of the car dashboard also reminds me that the very same toy shops also sold stick-on plastic steering wheels for similar reasons. As an aside, the confectionary shops also sold sweet cigarettes. Aah, the 1950s – a classic decade.
    Best Wishes.

  • Chase Jarvis’s statement is often taken out of context, like it was here. The phrase is the title of his book, The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You: iPhone Photography and was more of a push back to camera and photography snobs who think photography is MAINLY about choosing the right equipment and who had a tendency to look down on smartphone photography. It was just like in the early days of 35mm film photography when medium format and large format snobs looked down on the “small and poor quality” film format.

    • I think I was trying to be sympathetic to Jarvis’s statement in the spirit of what you’re talking about, sorry if it wasn’t clear. I mean, that’s what I was alluding to with the Leica comparison when suggesting the ratio of keepers you get with the Diana F+ is probably higher than what you’d get out of much more expensive and, as you say, the “right equipment”. It’s not about the camera, except that it’s about the camera, if that makes sense. Thanks for your feedback. It’s an interesting topic. The other quote I’m aware of is “the best camera is the one you left at home.”

  • After reading that boardroom meeting description, it’s clear that someone’s been watching Camera Conspiracies lol

  • During my student years decades ago at Penn State, I worked at a camera shop where we sold dozens of Diana’s for about $5. I think that one of the art professors wanted everyone in his classes to have the experience of using this gem. Admittedly, I never had the pleasure of seeing any of the results. Thanks so much for your enlightening and entertaining article.

    • Sounds similar to (I think “The Art of Photography” YouTube channel said) some famous photographer who said that every photography student (this was back in the ’60s or ’70s?) should use a box Brownie for the first year. Once you can take good pictures with **that**, then you truly know what you’re doing. 🙂

  • hold on to your Diana. without the lens the Diana makes an excellent pinhole camera 🙂

    • …or you could lay it on its back and use it as a pencil tidy.

      • Well the film is in it so it will get at least one run as a pinhole camera. After that it might go on the shelf. Or, since the lens is plastic in a plastic housing, I might try gluing it back together with superglue. But I don’t have a lot of faith that this will be the last repair it needs….

  • I hope you’re not offended when I say I really like the pics! But man, those rims on that BMW 7 series are sweet.
    Feel good that you got that many rolls of film out of the Diana. I bought a new old stock (NOS) Lubitel 166 – the Moscow Olympics edition no less. Really nice lens, really difficult to focus (the ground glass screen pretty much was useless. I got one excellent roll of film out of it. Roll #2 the film transport started to act up – 6 pics out of what should have been 12. Roll #3 – kaput.
    So my Lubitel pretty much lasted 1.5 rolls of film!

    Funny thing, I advertised it as broken on craigslist in LA, and it was snapped up by someone who didn’t care, for $40. It cost me $25 so I guess all things considered I did ok. By the way, it had a softer shutter release than my Rolleiflex 2.8GX…

    • Thanks! Yeah, as much as the camera is/was frustrating to use, I am happy with the photos I got out of it. I mean, are they technically good? Nope. But there’s something about them….

      1.5 rolls in your Lubitel? That sucks. At least you got your money out of it, and then some.

  • Brilliant way to put it…like a love hate relationship. I have all the Diana bits, including the mini. I shouldn’t like it, but I do. It always seems like it could be a waste of film, but it’s not. In the end I love my crappy camera.

    • I loved mine too until it broke. But having it break so quickly has put me off trying to find a replacement. Hopefully you have better luck.

      • Commenting from the future (late 2022): I’m on my third roll on my 35mm Ilford Sprite II. The look is pretty much what I see from other people’s Holga results — but because it’s 35mm you get more shots per roll. I also like the fact that if you remove the battery, the “activate/deactivate flash” gives you two different (fixed) apertures — so, a little bit of flexibility.

        Recommend. 🙂

  • I enjoyed the review 🙂
    Are you sure it’s broken? I just got a Diana and happened the same..I was very disappointed at first, but then I checked the manual – the lens could be removed and the camera could be used as pinhole. That’s what happened – the camera has been in my bag and the lens has turned from t and untouched from the camera.

  • Some tech analysis would be useful than a long winded rant. The Lomography Diana F+ lens is attempted to be bad quality, but ironically is better quality than original due to modern production line industry standards. The Original Banner the most fundermentally basic in the long line of Diana clones was superb for its dreamily characteristics and Debonair 120 cameras with similar modes to Diana F+ also made better images. Diana F + has a shutter speed of 1 / 50 sec and f range of approx 11, 16 and 22, aswell as the rather pointless pin hole made only truly a pin hole camera when lens is uncoupled.

  • My Dad (who used a Leica in the Korean War…) bought me one for Christmas in 1968 – I still have some of the prints from the way backs… all B&W – all dreamy like 60’s memories – no postcard perfection… it was just the thing I need to start concentrating on composition versus expectation and perfection – the end result – I was given a 126 ZEISS Ikomatic in June of 1971 and all of a sudden my images had cred. Years later I still have my first Pentax K1000, Rolleiflex and Rolleicord. Great blog you have here – thank you!

  • Nice rant, nice read but i 100% don’t agree with your opions, or with people who were born into a digital wolrd and live through “normal” stuff in a retrospective gadget way. Your Diana shots here are amazing, why are you lamenting? keep shooting! Diana is a F+ thats for sure but after a while or dozens of rolls later you can’t go without her. none of mine ever break, they have technical lacks but …F+! after you lost your lens you could have shoot a pinhole shot at least, very unsporty! you hurt her feelings and mine, thats for sure!

  • Hi Craig, what a wonderful little read. Great review for what is a piece of crap. I had an original one bought for £8 (ebay) and sold for 10…’addy daze ! I managed 1 roll and had enough. I couldn’t get on with the ‘it might be in focus but probably not’ kinda thing so backed it.
    Anyway, fab article, great sence of humour, I think thats why I got to the end and informative. Thanx again man



  • I know it’s quite old now but just read this review and had to share how much I enjoyed it! I’m VERY new to photography and haven’t read many reviews or blogs as I assumed they might be too focused on specs etc. but this was brilliant. Looking forward to reading more!

    For what it’s worth, I have a Diana F+ and a Diana Mini, and I love them! But then I’m no photographer, haha…
    I picked up the hobby after seeing ‘Lomography’ stuff as I have quite a technical job with a big focus on precise data and predictability, plus spent many years fiddling with stuff in Photoshop as a marketer, so I wanted the opposite of that. Something messy, low-tech and imperfect where I can allow myself to F+ up with some terrible results and have a laugh 🙂

    I do love looking at ‘proper’ photography but would personally rather just play with a toy camera. But as a ‘lomo’ lover your review made me laugh even more, especially imagining that board room meeting! I like to imagine they went: “The worst part about making those stupid Instagram-style photos is that it’s convenient, instant and free – how could we make this process painful, slow and expensive?”

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Craig Sinclair

Craig Sinclair was born in Ontario and is a University of Toronto School of Architecture graduate living in Vancouver for the second time. His photography explores the underlying narratives existing in found contexts. There is beauty in the ordinary, a concept he explores by taking a photograph every day; an exercise he began in 2007 and continues to this day.

All stories by:Craig Sinclair