Olympus xa lomography. LOMO Compact Automat (LC-A)

LOMO Compact Automat (LC-A)

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. 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.

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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 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.

Related Links

  • The helpful LOMO FAQ
  • The LOMOgraphic Society
  • Alfred has an opinion on the LC-A
  • As does Lomo Joe
  • An informative Photo.net thread on Minox 35 series
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Lomo LC-A – 7 Alternatives to the Classic Lomo – by Alan Duncan

The Lomo LC-A has become the iconic ‘marmite’ camera of our times. Whether you love or hate this Soviet era zone FOCUS compact and what it has come to stand for (or not) – there is no denying its popularity. In fact, it has become one of the more expensive 2nd hand compacts out there at times rivaling the cost of the Legendary Stylus Epic. But there are alternatives…

Here’s my list of 7 Lomo LC-A alternatives that are a bit easier on the The cameras here have either similar spec or quirks to the LC-A – there’s no AF here, just scale, zone or fixed FOCUS. I’ve left out the LC-A as it is too pricey close to the original, abet more shoddy if you’ve read Frank Lehnen post, as well as its other siblings the LC-A wide and 120. I reviewed all of the cameras below in more detail over at my blog.

So close but so far… Halina Micro 35

Revue 35FC (aka Halina Micro 35)

We kick off the list of Lomo LC-A alternatives with the so called Hong Kong Lomo (also sold in the US as Ansco 2000 and Revue 35FC in parts of Europe). Haking had a reputation for making cheap version of other cameras which were often better than you might think. The micro 35 sadly isn’t one of them. It’s a shame really as the camera on some levels is really quite interesting and has potential. Like the Lomo LC-A it was styled one suspects on the Cosina CX-1 or CX-2. It has a novel slide up mechanism to the front which protects the lens and viewfinder and comes equipped with auto flash and a winder lever. It’s also quite well made for a Haking.

Then there’s the downsides.

Despite its looks what we have here is a fixed FOCUS camera with no exposure metering (bar to turn the flash on). Lens-wise the Halina is a best “quirky” as in pretty mediocre. Focus is okayish a few metres out but nearer or farther thing get soft and there is some pincushion distortion. You could live with this but the exposure system doesn’t help. The camera is typical of a slew of entry level flash compacts that had fixed FOCUS and shutter speeds but adjusted the aperture to match the film speed such as the better Olympus Supertrip. These cameras relied on film latitude to give an exposure range of around 4-5 EV stops before at around EV(100) 11 triggering the flash system. Haking appear to have stuffed up the exposure calculations and I find this camera tends to over expose in really bright condition. Ideally you’d want to use 400 ISO film to help depth of field but the over exposure seems worse at this speed. It’s Hong Kong Lomo status makes it one of the most expensive second hand Halina costing up to £30 on eBay, shame really as they made much better PS that go for less. If the spec appeals I’d by a Supertrip or Konica Pop instead.

Back in the USSR – BelOMO Vilia series

Our next Lomo LC-A alternative is the BelOMO, another former Soviet Union (FSU) camera marquee based in what is now Belaruse. The Vilia series are more conventional designed and arguably were more of a rival for Lomo Smena/Cosmic Symbol. The original Vilia is a manual set affair. You set the GOST film speed (about 0.8 that of ISO so 100 ISO/ASA equates to 80 GOST) which in turn set the shutter and you adjust the aperture for weather. This is shown in the viewfinder by pictograms. The viewfinder is probably the worst I’ve ever looked through (and I’ve owned 3) as its coating makes things somewhat foggy and blurry.

The lens is quite quirky not as clinically sharp as the smena 8m or symbol but has its own optical aberrations. 2 automatic exposure models were also made the Vilia Auto (selenium metered) and the Siluet Elektro (battery powered CDS metering). The BelOMO doesn’t pick up the Lomo cache like the Smena Symbol so you can often find for around a tenner.

Starter for 10… Fujica 35 Automagic

Auto exposure can be traced back to the pre-WWII era with the Super Kodak Six-20 which was a commercial failure. But in from 1956 a host of cameras began to use automatic metering via battery free selenium cells. This technology is probably best associated these days with each Olympus Trip 35 and its progenitor half frame PEN E series cameras from the 60’s. In 1958 Fujica launched the Automagic which arguably was one of the cameras to set the standard for the next decades.

This Lomo LC-A alternative is bulky and feels more like a prototype. It’s auto exposure system controls the movement of aperture blades with the shutter speed being fixed. Focus is by moving a small ring just around the actually lens and inside the half cyclops selenium array. Despite this it is a stylish camera and one I find to be a talking point. Yup a Trip 35 is much better clinically but that isn’t the point here. The lens does add a slight colour cast and has some imperfection but give rise to quite pleasing images. A tenner again should see you right for one.

The 120 Choice – The Holga 120 series

Okay you might call foul here with a 120 film camera but I’d argue the plastic Holga gives as close an experience to the LC-A unless you wanna spend almost 300 on a LC-A 120. Granted you get limited choices of shutter speed and aperture – but this camera vignettes well and the lens both in plastic and glass option have their own signature characteristics.

Unlike their traditional rival the Lomography Diana F, they accept a normal flash and have built in cable release. You can also run 35mm film thru easily enough either DIY or with one of the dedicated 35mm backs. Although Holga is now dead as a manufacturer the 120 series is available is bewildering array of models and colours. The plastic lensed 120N pictured here can be found for around the £30 mark BNIB.

The mutant Lovechild – FED 50

Back to the FSU for this stonking but quirky compact that looks and feels like product of a drunken one night stand between the Olympus Trip 35 and the Lomo LC-A. Not that common in the West, this delightful camera can be imported from its native Ukraine or other FSU states for around £25-30. Like the Trip 35 you have a conventional 60-70’s compact body with a battery free cyclops selenium array on lens bezel (a bit odd as a 80’s camera).

Is it a worthy Lomo LC-A alternative? Well, it offers in viewfinder icons like the Lomo LC-A and a variable shutter speed up to 1/650. You also have the option of both a Bulb mode and fa flash mode that allows you the potential for manually setting the aperture. The lens is good too (FED was better known for its Leica like rangefinders) but does add a slight colour cast. The exposure is quirky and notoriously fickle but the camera can deliver some lovely shots.

Cosina CX-1 CX-2

The CX-1 2 are cracking little compacts but are sadly probably known more as the camera copied for the Lomo LC-A (lomography’s own literature confuses which one was the inspiration – the CX-2 is better spec’d and is more common and cheaper)

Incredibly similar to the Lomo LC-A, even the lettering used seems from the same font. The only outward difference is the whole front of the lens turns to uncover lens and shutter. clinically sharp lens with fewer quirks. It looks shot wise like a typical Japanese zone/scale FOCUS PS. In some ways a more hand able camera than the XA2 but just not quite as sharp IMHO. Worth seeking in the box set with the motorwind unit and the dinky flash unit. Only issue is cost it is rarer and has a cache thanks to the Lomo link. That said you can still get a camera for 30 or less

The Bargain Cult Classic – The Olympus XA2

No surprise this is here as often compared to the Lomo LC-A and has its own cult following. The XA2 is a quasi-zone FOCUS ultra-compact developed from the iconic XA rangefinder and shares the same clamshell design.

A huge success for Olympus and one wonders if the Cosina CX1 was an attempt to rival… The cameras despite its tiny size is technically better with brilliant Zuiko lens and comes with an electronic timer feature. It isn’t a true zone FOCUS as the in good conditions is intended to be used as fixed FOCUS although there a 3 zones for lower light. It also uses a proprietary flash mount and then there’s the membrane shutter (love and loathed). Its shots are clinically great although perhaps lack any characterisation like the Lomo LC-A (why it is so popular as a back up or carry compact. Although popular doesn’t demand the anywhere near the price of the LC-A and with lucky can be got for a fiver.

The Plastic Wonder – Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim

Topping out this poll Lomo LC-A alternatives, the Vivitar IMHO isn’t on paper an obvious choice with an all plastic with fixed everything (FOCUS, shutter and aperture) from the toy class. But the VUWS has become known as the poor man’s Lomo LC-A and for once it is a name deserved (although your definition of poor might differ).

It is a storming camera with a wide angled plastic lens. It is much better than it sounds and has its own characteristics and it vignettes well. The camera holds tolerable FOCUS across a wide range but is limited due to the fixed exposure. You’ll either love or hate its flare rings if shooting into the sun. The VUWS is believed to have been originally a promo give away item but later appeared in thrift stores. Nowadays has acquired cult status so expect to play for an original don’t spend more than £20 as the camera is still made under various brands such as the Superheadz Wide and Slim which on a good day can be found online for that.

…And What’s not in

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and my views on Lomo LC-A alternative options changes over time. I did a similar list at austerityphoto last year and whilst some cameras here were in others weren’t. I’ve dropped the mighty Olympus Trip 35 and other 70’s Japanese Zone FOCUS compacts as they give too clinically good results without quirks (and besides the Fujica is here to represent them).

But what do you think should be in or out ?

Olympus xa lomography

A fixed-FOCUS point-and-shoot 35mm film camera, the simplest of the Olympus XA capsule camera series.

T he Olympus XA Capsule Camera series, which includes the original Olympus XA, Olympus XA2, Olympus XA3, and Olympus XA4, is one of the series of 35mm film cameras manufactured (by Olympus) in the ’80s that have remained favorites not only film camera collectors but film camera enthusiasts as well.

Aside from all these preferred choices, however, there is still Olympus XA1 to consider.

The Olympus XA1, introduced in 1982, was a fixed-FOCUS point-and-shoot and the simplest of the clamshell design, with the lens protected by a sliding dust cover as found on the rest of the series. The camera comes fitted with a D.Zuiko 4-element in 4-groups 35mm F4 lens, which has a universal FOCUS range from 1.5 meters to infinity.

Exposure is automatic by a built-in selenium meter, and the camera operates on a programmed shutter speed range from F4 at 1/30 second to F22 at 1/250 second.

The shutter release, a button instead of the electro-pad of the others, is coupled to a red pop-up flag mechanism that locks the shutter to prevent underexposure in low light conditions.

The camera will only operate with the film speed setting of ISO 100 or ISO 400.


OLYMPUS XA1 REVIEW AND SAMPLES Video by Damian Brown Photography travel photography geeky olympus olympus xa1 review rangefinder rangefinder camera collection film photography 35mm film The Olympus XA was a 35 mm rangefinder camera built by Olympus of Japan. It was one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made, together with the Contax T.

Basic Camera Features

The Olympus XA1 is normally sold as a kit with the Olympus A9M external flash unit. The A9M is a purely manual flash unit powered by a single AA battery.

The D.Zuiko 35mm f/4 fixed lens sits protected behind the capsule cover until it is opened, showing the lens surrounded by bubble modules with the selenium cell behind it. On the lower part of the lens is the latch lever that turns on the flash unit. The viewfinder is on the upper part of the lens assembly.

On the left of the top plate of the XA1 is the film rewind crank, which will be half-covered when the capsule cover is opened. The shutter release button, the only protrusion out of the body when the capsule is closed, and the film frame window are located to the right of the top plate.

Located on the bottom plate are the film ISO selector dial and the rewind release button. The XA1 does not have a tripod socket.

The back of the XA1 is plain except for the viewfinder eyepiece, which is again covered when the capsule cover is closed. The film forward wind is on the right shoulder of the camera body, and the film back is a fixed hinge type. Film loading is a standard easy load layout with the film chamber, shutter frame, forward sprocket, a multislot take-up spool, and the standard two blank shots to load the film to frame 1.


The XA1’s viewfinder is a simple bright frame finder with etched frame lines and the red pop-up shutter lock flag display when activated.

Flash Unit Adaptability

Like the rest of the series, the XA1 is also designed to be used with the proprietary XA series flash units. Though the model was sold mainly with the A9M flash unit as a package, it will also work just as well with the A1LM, A11, or A16 units. By itself, the XA1 does not need any batteries to run or operate.

Using The Camera

The compact clamshell design is ideal for sliding in and out of your and is just as handy to hold in the palm of your hand. Slide the clamshell open to uncover the lens, which also activates the camera’s selenium metering, and you are ready to go.

While some moan at the lack of the red membrane touch shutter, as the rest of the series has them, the shutter of the XA1 is mechanical, does not get stuck, and you know what, the XA1 is the only model in the series that you can do exposure lock with.

The camera does not have a self-timer and the back-light lever which the others have. The fixed f/4 lens does not need any focusing effort on your part, everything between 1.5 meters to infinity will be in FOCUS. There is no manual override option for exposure, as what you can do on the Olympus Trip 35, either. All these make the XA1 sound like an ideal street shooter actually, where you can shoot from the hip, held up above your head, or while groveling on the ground, and such. Wouldn’t that be great?

Exposure Lock Trick

As can be seen on the Olympus Trip 35 and the Pen EF, the XA1 uses the red pop-up flag system which will activate and lock the shutter in insufficient light conditions. If you are into some creative shooting, you can overcome this by first pointing the camera to a brighter light source, one which will not trigger the red pop-up flag, half-press the shutter, bringing the camera back to the scene you want to capture and press the shutter release home.

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A Couple Shots

So how was your session with the camera? I thoroughly enjoyed mine, in good lighting condition, the renowned Zuiko glass is all glam and glamorous, as you can see from the photos posted here, grain and all.

I will continue using it as a fun street shooter, getting yourself lost in the crowd, with a good 35mm lens to boot. Images might not be as clear and sharp in lower light conditions, but I suppose you can overcome that with the tricks you have up your sleeve.

Olympus XA1 Instruction. 35mm-compact.com Use this link if you are looking for the XA1 instruction, the pages are scanned individually. This is the only site I found on the internet so far, the download is free.

Looking Forward

So how was your session with the camera? I thoroughly enjoyed mine, in good lighting condition, the renowned Zuiko glass is all glam and glamour, as you can see from the photos posted here, grain and all.

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olympus, lomography, lomo, compact, automat