The original Diana camera is a 120 format toy-camera like the Holga but it was manufactured 20 years earlier in Hong Kong and it shoots in 4×4 rather than 645/6×6. Moreover, instead of being sold as an economical camera to the working class people, it was mostly exported to the west to be given away as prizes and promotional items. According to an online source, it was wholesaled at a price of $0.50USD/unit in the 1960’s. Until being discovered by artists for the impressionistic and pictorial quality in the images it produces, this toy-camera (and most of its clones) stayed pretty much as a “toy” because even a baseline 126 Kodak Instamatic can suppress it in every way.
The modern day Diana camera, called the Diana+, is made by Lomographische AG (the company that promotes “Lomography”). It was redesigned and improved to be a full system camera. First of all, the user now has a choice to shoot either 16 frames of 4×4 or 12 frames of 6×6 (with more vignetting of course) on a roll of 120 film. These options are made possible with a removable mask (as shown in figure below).
In addition, the camera can also accept a 35mm film back which shoots wide format images with exposed sprockets and an instant back (see figure above) that takes Fujifilm Instax Mini. The lens of Diana+ is also interchangeable and beside the standard 75mm, there are five other lenses available: a 20mm fisheye, a 38mm super wide-angle, a 55mm wide-angle, a 110mm soft-focus telephoto, and a “premium” 3-elements glass 75mm (possibly a Cooke Triplet derivative). The system also includes a small “dedicated” flash, called the Diana Flash, that uses a single AA battery and have a very short range of 3m at ISO400. This retro-styled flash uses a “2-foot” connector that is proprietary to the Diana+ camera and thus an adapter is needed if one want to use it on other cameras. For the same reason, an adapter is also required to convert the proprietary mount on the camera into a standard hot-shoe (see figure below).
Though being a full system camera, the Diana+ remains a toy-camera and thus range of exposure settings is limited. Figure below show the two only shutter speeds, N and B. The “N” is approximately 1/60 seconds and “B” opens up the shutter as long as the release lever is being pressed down. Unlike the Holga 135BC, using a cable release on the Diana+ requires an adapter.
Focusing of the camera is based on a 3-zone system (see figure above) : 1~2m, 2~4m, and 4m~infinity. However, since there is no click-top on the focusing ring, focus can be adjusted steplessly just like a scale-focusing camera. While the focusing mechanism is built into the lenses, the aperture control is actually a part of the camera body like the shutter. The Diana+ uses a symbol-scale, rather than f-numbers, to represent aperture values (see figure below). Beside the “cloudy”, “partly cloudy”, and “sunny” settings, there is also a “P” setting which means “pinhole”. In other words, when the lens is removed, the camera can be used as a pinhole camera. The field-of-view of such setup is approximately equal to a 35mm lens in 135 format. Thus, if a 55mm lens was originally mounted on the camera, removing it to shoot in “pinhole” mode would not give a big difference in field-of-view, just the resulted images being more “dreamy” and “soft” (and a much longer exposure of course).
One thing worth mentioning is that the corresponding f-number of each symbol on the aperture dial is not fixed but changes with the focal length of the mounted lens. According to this online source, when the 55mm lens is being used, the aperture values are actually f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/150 (“P”) respectively, rather than the “f/11, f/16, f/22, f/150” as posted on the official website because those values are measured based on the 75mm lens. This solved the mystery of my flash photos being overexposed when using the 55mm lens with my Nikon SB-E. It is because this flash automatically adjust its power based on a setting of f/11 at ISO400 and I set the aperture to “cloudy”, thinking it stands for f/11 but it is actually f/8.
Sample Images and Usage Tips
Comparing to a Holga 120, the Diana+ 3 stops plus pinhole aperture settings offer more exposure combinations. Moreover, having a built-in pinhole diaphragm with removable lens is like having two cameras (a Holga 120N and a 120PC) in one. The instruction manual also suggests the idea of using the pinhole without removing the lens. This will give extremely long exposure (pinhole by itself is always f/150 but it slows down to f/183 – f/333 with lens on!) while having a choice of 5 different field-of-views and depths (5 different lenses: 20mm, 38mm, 55mm, 75mm, 110mm, pinhole is always ~55mm). As for choices of film, just like any other toy-camera, it is best to use one with a wide latitude due to the limited range of exposure settings. For black and while negatives, the trusted Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X are both good, though HP5+ would probably cost less per roll. If you want to shoot in colors, consumer color negatives should give better results than professional ones. The Lomography brand color negatives (in both ISO 100 and 400) are also good candidates though their color reproductions are not for everyone. For slides, the only choice would be shooting the whole roll under similar weather and lighting due to the inherited nature of narrow exposure latitude and high sensitivity to color-shift due to change in lighting.
Below are two sample photos, both shot with the 55m lens using Ilford HP5+ and regular development in DD-X. The upper image is from a 6×6 frame (i.e. no mask) which shows the wide-angle perspective of the lens (~35mm in 135 format). The lower image is from another roll shot with the 4×4 mask which gives a narrower field-of-view and a perspective closer to a normal lens. Vignetting is much more obvious on the upper photo because of limited image-circle on the lens which suits more on 4×4 than 6×6. One thing also worth mentioning is that the viewfinder has a field-of-view closer to the 4×4 frame than the 6×6 one which could make composition easier for some people.
Now let’s turn to instant photography. To use the Diana Instnat Back+, one needs to first remove the 120 film back and all its components (i.e. masks, film-reel, etc.). The next step is to insert a conversion lens behind the shutter. Due to the addition of this lens, the ISO800 Instax Mini pack-film is slowed down to ISO400. After that, one would insert the film-pack in pretty much the same way as a Fujifilm Instax camera. Of course, the instant back requires batteries to operate and unfortunately, it takes two expensive CR-2’s. Finally, exposed film is ejected manually by pressing the large circular button. When shooting with the instant back, one needs to remember that the Instax Mini pack-film, though much more advanced and light-sensitive than their bigger SX-70 and 600 relatives from Impossible, it still has a very narrow exposure latitude like many other instant films. Finally, because the film-pack is placed horizontally in the instant back, be sure the ejection openning is pointing upward when shooting an vertically composed image. Otherwise, the “white space” will be above the top of the image rather than below it. Shown below are some sample instant images. The Diana Flash was used to light up the foreground in the image directly below.
My Diana F+ Instant
This camera is last year’s Christmas present from my wife. It was bought as a kit which includes: the camera “body”, the 55mm wide-angle lens with close-up attachment, the Diana Flash with two adapters, the Diana Instant Back+, and a 120 film back with masks. I believe this is by far the most economically kit (comparing to buying everything separately or the “Holga” equivalent of such system) for getting a Diana+ camera with all necessities to shoot both 120 and instant films.
Status: In Collection