analog photography: Smena 8M guide

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Smena 8M cameras by Lomo were produced in the Soviet Union during the 70s-90s. This camera was made for beginners in photography, so it’s quite simple – it has manual shutter speed, aperture, and focus. But at the same time, it’s not very easy to use for people who are used to taking photos in auto mode. Focusing might be especially difficult, for you can’t see through the viewfinder whether the view is in focus. But it wouldn’t be interesting if it wasn’t a bit challenging.

Photos taken with this camera are pretty good quality for such a simple camera. It has the toy camera feel and the photos look very authentic and unique. Also, every take has to be well thought and worth using the film so every photo brings vivid memories sometimes making you feel more nostalgic than while looking at the photos taken with a digital camera or a phone.

Smena 8M cameras are really cheap (10-30 euro) and still quite popular. It’s worth getting one, especially if you haven’t tried analog photography yet. Using a film camera improves your photography knowledge and you can get really good at it if you practice enough. Don’t be afraid and give it a try!


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a short guide for using Smena 8M

  1. Open the camera and load your film in the place for it on the left.
  2. Take the end of the film and pull it to the right side. Secure it by putting the end into the gap in the spool on the right. The spool is missing quite often, mine was too. In this case, you can use a spool from an old film roll. Just open the roll (after making sure that the photos are developed or the film is useless) and take the spool out. If you use this kind of spool you‘re going to need to secure your new film in the Smena camera with a piece of tape.
  3. Close the camera. Turn the shutter rewinder until you feel resistance.
  4. Set the frame counter to 0. This will show you how many photos you‘ve taken.
  5. Choose what you want to photograph and set the settings. Choose the shutter speed on the shutter speed ring. You can choose from 1/250 to 1/15. It might be easier to pick the right option by looking at the symbols – whether it‘s sunny or cloudy. There also is manual shutter speed mode (B) – you can hold it with your hand for as long as you want to.
  6. Choose the aperture on the aperture ring. The f-stops are from 4 to 16. Remember to choose it according to the shutter speed that you‘ve already picked, or choose the shutter speed according to the aperture. f/4 makes the background of your photo blurry and just one object in focus. f/4 lets the biggest amount of light into the camera, so when choosing f/4 you can choose a smaller shutter speed, for example, 1/250. f/16 makes everything in your photo in focus but lets less amount of light. When using f/16 you have to use a longer shutter speed, for example, 1/15. Don‘t worry if this sounds complicated. You can download free light meter apps to your phone. In that case, you just need to pick the aperture and when pointed to the object the app will count the shutter speed for you.
  7. Focus using the focusing ring. Here you‘ll need some practice. You have to choose the distance between the camera and object using your own eyes. You can pick from 1 meter to 8 meters or more (∞ sign). The symbols may help you.
  8. Cock the shutter. Make sure that you‘re not covering it with your fingers. This would make your photos overexposed or blurry.
  9. Find your frame through the viewfinder and press the shutter release.
  10. Don‘t forget to rewind the shutter (the ring that you used in step 3). Keep turning it for as long as you don‘t feel resistance.
  11. When you have taken all of the 24 or 36 photos, press the shutter release (but don‘t cock the shutter).
  12. Pull out the rewind wheel and turn it clockwise. Keep the shutter release pressed the whole time. Stop turning when you feel no resistance.
  13. Open the camera, take the film out and take it to the nearest photo center to get it developed and later scanned (you also can scan the film at home with a suitable scanner).


personal experience

I have finished a few rolls of film using the Smena 8M and I can say that it‘s really fun. The photos aren‘t professional but photographing with this kind of camera helps to improve the photographic thinking. It has also helped me to understand how the camera works in general, the aperture and shutter speed relation.

What I like to do with this camera is double exposing photos. A double exposed photo is a picture made usually from two frames. Take one photo, but don‘t turn the shutter rewinder and take another photo. In that way, the photos overlay each other and the result is interesting.

I have noticed that the frame counter is not very useful. It‘s not fixed well so it happens to turn even when I don‘t take photos. But it‘s just a detail which has no impact on the quality of photos.

When I started taking photos with Smena 8M I didn‘t understand how it works exactly but I experimented and the results were interesting. I don‘t use any light meters. It‘s more fun that way and also trains the eye. Now I‘m able to pick the settings for my digital camera on fully manual mode as well.

Don‘t be afraid to experiment and you‘ll discover a lot of new thing in the world of photography!

Are you into analog photography? Tell me your story and favorite cameras/ways of photographing in the comment section.

photos taken with Smena 8M

Check out more of them.




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