I recently purchased a new camera: the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Elbrus. My local camera store was selling it for $70 less than what Lomography had it listed for on their website. And since I had been eyeing this camera for a while, there was no way I could pass up a deal like that. I already own a Lomo’Instant camera, and as much as I love it, I’ve always wanted something with a little more performance. After reading a few reviews about the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass, I decided it was worth buying.
First impressions: I love this camera. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the photos. The glass lens is wonderfully sharp. One review claimed it to be the sharpest lens available on any Instax camera. I love to shoot Instax film and I’ve really been wanting a sharp lens. Another positive with the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass is that the autoexposure does a pretty good job of reading the available light. Almost all of my photos have come out properly exposed. The camera’s compact size is also a bonus. It is smaller than the Lomo’Instant even though it is more advanced. The Automat Glass fits nicely in my camera bag and leaves room for my other cameras. Lastly, the Elbrus edition’s colours and design are quite stylish making this an attractive camera to carry around.
But at the same time, I’m disappointed with certain aspects of the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass. I have mixed feelings about this camera — as I often do with Lomography’s cameras. While I love the glass lens, I would have prefered the same focal length that is on the Lomo’Instant Automat. I find the lens on the Automat Glass to be too wide for my liking. The Automat Glass comes with a 38mm lens (21mm equivalent), whereas the Automat has a 60mm lens (35mm equivalent). The wider lens usually means you have to get up close with your subject to fill the frame and get any meaningful detail to be seen on Instax Mini. (This is often why people complain that Instax Mini is “too small” when it is actually the same size as a 6×4.5 photo shot on 120 film. Instax Square is 6×6 and Instax Wide is 6×10.) Getting up that close makes focusing a challenge. The Automat Glass uses zone focusing and has a shallow depth of field up close. The resulting photo can easily be out of focus like the two below. Another issue is that the close-up lens attachment is not glass and produces a lot of distortion along the edges as you can see in the photo above. Only the centre has any kind of sharpness. And yet, the effect is kind of cool.
There are three other complaints I have with this camera, none of which really impacts your photos, but does impact the camera’s usability. First, turning the camera on and off is a bit of a pain and it requires both hands. The focusing ring doubles as an on/off switch and it’s fairly stiff to turn. Turning the camera off also requires that you hold down a button. The button is meant to lock the camera in the ‘on’ position, so you don’t accidentally turn it off while focusing. But given that the focusing ring is so stiff and requires your full attention to turn, there’s no way that you would ever really turn the camera off accidentally, making this a bit of a redundant feature.
My second complaint is that the shutter button doubles as a selfie mirror. At first, I thought the on/off lock was the shutter button. It’s an easy mistake to make when there’s a nice big button on the camera right where you’d want a shutter button to be. It wasn’t until I looked at the manual that I realized that the mirror is also the shutter button. This might at first seem like a clever design except that when you want to take a selfie, you can’t use the mirror and have your finger on the shutter at the same time. Sure, you can move your finger after you’ve composed your shot, but doing so adds unnecessary camera shake which often means your framing has moved slightly, prompting you to want to use the selfie mirror again. And so it goes, moving your finger back and forth until you’re satisfied to take the shot. This is probably why the lens is so wide. It has to compensate for inaccurate framing when the selfie mirror is covered by your finger.
Third, the strap lugs do not offer much room to attach a camera strap unless it’s a very thin strap. You can fit a normal strap on the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass, but it does mean the camera doesn’t sit as easily on the strap. It has a tendency to kink the strap. I was also worried that the thin wire strap lugs might be pulled out of the camera as I threaded my camera strap onto the body. The strap lugs look fragile and cheap.
All of that being said, I still love this camera. Once you get a feel for judging the different close-up distances, the sharp lens and autoexposure means most of your photos should look great — provided that you remember to turn off the auto-on flash so you don’t wash out your subject when shooting up close as I forgot to do in the photo above. While the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass isn’t perfect, this camera’s minor faults are easily overlooked. The end result is a great instant camera that is a lot of fun to use.
Foodie, oenophile, traveler, hockey player, teacher, husband & father. I am many things, but at my core, I am a writer and photographer. Give me a notebook, a camera and a pocketful of film and I’m happy. Going Lomo is where I share my love for film photography, because a photograph not shared, only speaks silence.