Smena 8m Review : Good clean plastic Fun

smena 8M
Smena 8M 35mm Camera (late 3rd Series)

This little plastic corker was one of the best selling classic soviet Cameras of all time. But why does a plasticky unmetered camera with 1950’s mechanics still deserve a loyal following. The answer is its simplicity and its killer lens.

Civic Duty
Carlisle Civic centre, July 2014. Smena 8M with Kodak BW400CN

The Smena (in Cyrillic characters Смена) series began life in 1953 and were an instant hit in the old Soviet union. The mechanics only mildly evolved over the models although the 8m represented an abrupt styling change to a more angular 70’s style. It was a huge success even by the series standards and had a 25 year production run from the start of the 70’s right into the mid 90’s selling along with it’s more traditionally styled brother 21 million units. Both were cheap but reliable and good shooters.

Lomo  Smena/Смена 8M  Specs

  • Lens:  40mm Triplet 1:4
  • Focus: Scale
  • Metering: None
  • Aperture: f/4-16
  • Shutter: 1/15-1/250 + B
  • EV 100asa: 8-16
  • Filter-Thread: 35.5mm
Ice Cream
Dumfries Car Boot, July 2014. Smena 8m with Expired (2005) Jessops Diamond 200 film

The key here is the triplet T-43 lens which sound like a tank model but it  beguiles an otherwise cheap plasticky camera as it’s  very sharp and a good choice . The lens mount allows the user to set both aperture and shutter speed. You can do this to your hearts content but the smena is geared for easy shooting for a rookie and it does this by  locking the aperture for a certain film speed on the aperture dial (so 200ASA = f/16). All you need to do then is match the 5 weather pictograms on the shutter ring to your current weather condition (so sunny weather is 1/250sec, bit hazy 1/125 and so on). This works pretty well and as I shoot usually 200asa on it I’m happy at sticking with f/16 on a point and shoot.

Dusk Filaments
Dumfries, 2014. Smena 8M with Kodak BW400CN

The exception is the heavy rain setting (aka 1/15sec ) which is too slow for hand use (especially with the shutter kick) . However luckily you can set the Smena to what you want (traditional shutter speeds are on the underside of the shutter ring)

You might wonder what I mean by the shutter kick. Well the major down side of this camera is the shutter cocking. By the 1970’s most 35mm cameras were cocked by winding the film on but remember this camera shares 1950’s mechanics. The film winder doesn’t cok the shutter, you need to do this separately with a lever on the side of the lens. When you hit the shutter this kicks back up. This increase the risk of shake (hence 1/15 isn’t usable) particularly as you’re likely to catch it with your finger (trust me ! –  you will)

August Sky
August 2014, Dumfries. Lomo Smena 8m with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200

The body is predominantly plastic. Worth noting the film take up spool is removable (it was common in some USSR camera as allowed you to use an empty film casette onto which the exposed film would be loaded meaning no rewind when you shot a roll – often using re-useable cassettes with bulk loading). Make sure your spools (mines wasn’t and whilst I got 6 take up spools from Ukraine for just over a five the spools cost more than the camera !!). You’ll need to manually re-set the film counter. There is no rewind button.

In the mind for summer
Accidental Double Exposure, 2014. Smena 8M with Kodak BW400CN

The camera has PC sync for flash and is cable threaded but has no timer. It also can take 35.5mm filters which can be found (or use step up rings – I use a 35.5 to 49mm plus a 49-52mm). Worth noting that the camera doesn’t have double exposure protection and the film winder will allow you to advance after the shutter button has been depressed even if the shutter doesn’t fire. These make accidental double exposures or missed frames likelyThe viewfinder is not the best in angles too.

Despite these short falls the camera excells due to the lens and simplicity. Okay it ain’t no low light shooter with a 1:4 lens and it doesn’t quite reach my EV17 target but  it is a surprisingly able camera

Wooden Box
Dumfries, 2014. Smena 8M with Kodak BW400CN

Several different minor style revision were made over the 25 year run and there is some collecting going on.  Some are sold with the cyrillic Смена marking, some with Smena and some with both. There is also the  relatively rare Cosmic 35m rebranding for the UK market. Some have older GOST (pre 1986) film speeds and other have more modern ASA/Later GOST rating (GOST realigned to ASA in 1986). With a bit of luck you can source a working one with case and that all important spool for a few quid on Ebay. It’s more retro styled but mechanically identical sibling the Smena 8 is also easily found as is the Smena Symbol (sold in UK as Cosmic Symbol) which has shutter cocking built into film advance

Alternatives

  • Smena Symbol –  More Robust self cocking big brother
  • Halina 2000/3000 – Haking’s closest with or without metering
  • Franka 125 – German scale focus manual camera

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