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Lomographic Society continues to suck, co-opts Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

Posted 22 April, 2008 in Kit/Equipment + Pinhole

The goons at the Lomographic Society International—the people who brought the world the $20 Holga for $70 and monopolistic control over the distribution of the Lomo LC-A camera—have now added Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day to the list of products and events they had nothing to do with creating that they’ve claimed as their own. The headline of their latest newsletter proclaims, “THE LOMOGRAPHIC SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL PROUDLY PRESENTS THE WORLD PINHOLE DAY”.

Um, no.

WPPD was started in 2001. As far as I know—and please correct me if I’m wrong—none of the members of that year’s coordinating team were affiliated with LSI. Same with this year’s roster. Or any year in between. So to the best of my knowledge, LSI doesn’t present WPPD, proudly or otherwise, at all.

Granted, they don’t use the exact same name, they call it “World Pinhole Day”, and the actual pinhole day event is called “Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day”, but they look same, and they just happen to fall on the same date.

Why would they do such a thing? Probably because it’s a good way to sell more pinhole cameras. They have a decent selection of horribly overpriced pinholes to choose from. And that’s fine. But is it necessary to claim WPPD as their event, which is clearly a crock of shit, to do so? No. They could have gotten behind the real Pinhole Day and promoted it to their mutual advantage instead of choosing this classically-LSI approach. I urge you to think about the kind of company you’re supporting when you buy from them (to say nothing of the fact that you’re almost certainly over-paying).

Here’s where to get the pinhole cameras LSI sells, or equivalents, for less. Prices are in US dollars.

PinHolga: $60 from LSI, $21.95 from holgamods

35mm PinHolga: I don’t know, but you can convert most $1 plastic 35mm cameras yourself, or you can make or buy a pinhole cap for your 35mm, medium format, or digital SLR.

Bulldog Large Format Camera: $325 from LSI, $302.43 from camerabellows.com (as of today’s exchange rate, and that includes VAT, which shouldn’t apply to US orders). And, you can find used, no-assembly-required 4×5 cameras for less. You can try the Buy/Sell board on the Large Format Photography Forum, the Cameras & Lenses classifieds on APUG, or the auction sites.

Zero Image Zero 2000 ("Zero Pinhole 120"): $165 from LSI, $93 from the manufacturer

Zero Image Zero 135 ("Zero Pinhole 35"): $140 from LSI, $93 from the manufacturer

Zero Image Zero 69 Deluxe w/ spirit level & cable release ("Zero Image Deluxe"): $320 from LSI, $222 from the manufacturer

Noon Large Format Pinhole: $225 from LSI, grab the similar-looking and almost certainly identically-functioning (LSI doesn’t list the focal length of the one they sell) Santa Barbara 4×5 75mm pinhole camera for $63.95 from B&H

Sharan DIY Pinhole: $40 from LSI, free if you download and print the plans for the original Dirkon paper pinhole camera, or you can grab the plans for Nick Dvoracek‘s Populist cut-out pinhole camera (PDF link). They’re all paper cameras that you have to put together yourself.

SmileyCam: $25 from LSI, $23 from Justin Quinnell, who makes them. Or just make one yourself, which should be very easy.

And it’s not a pinhole, but you can get a SplitCam $11.95 from the awesome American Science & Surplus instead of paying LSI $25.

 

Why else don’t I like the Lomographic Society?

Shitty products at high prices: their flagship, the LC-A, is a piece of junk. The lens is unique and awesome, but the camera that surrounds it sucks. They didn’t build them, but they locked down the supply and charge a premium. The first LC-A I ordered from them operated in bulb mode no matter what. The shutter button on the replacement fell off after running less than five rolls through it. I haven’t used an LC-A+ and therefore can’t comment on it.

Their Colorsplash and Fisheye cameras have some of the worst build quality I’ve ever seen. Yes, they work. But for how long? I think my $1.50 Lex 35 crapcams are actually built slightly better.

Their Hipshot was my first camera bag. The seams are unraveling and the Velcro on the camera compartments doesn’t stick—even when I press them together carefully—which leaves anything you put in them likely to fly out and break as you move.

Terrible customer support: When I received the broken LC-A, I sent them several emails over the course of I think three weeks and never got a single response. Finally I called them, sent back the whole package, and got only a replacement camera back. I guess they kept the rest of the kit.

Monopolistic and bullying business practices: they secured world-wide exclusive distribution rights to the LC-A from the factory (can’t charge $200-250 for a $50 camera if there’s any competition!) and then went after anyone else who sold them, regardless of origin.

For example, Lomo Joe is a guy who lived in St. Petersburg, Russia. If you didn’t want to pay the extortionate Lomo Society price for an LC-A, he’d go buy one in a local store and send it to you. Check out the threatening letter LSI president Wolfgang Stranzinger sent him.

Getting people to love getting ripped off: this one’s almost difficult not to find evidence of. People drool all over themselves for anything “Lomo” (including things whose only connection to Lomo is that they’re sold by LSI, like Holgas and Horizons) and just can’t wait to be taken advantage of by paying hugely inflated prices and having their work published in books that LSI profits from without offering the photographers any compensation. I guess getting screwed by a marketing company is its own reward.

Comments

Jenelle

Here, here! They blatantly rape and pillage their buyers and their buyers adore them for it… I’ll never understand the craze or masochism.

Jonathan

I’m in ur blog stealing ur commentz.

Basically you’re saying, they’re the Microsoft of the camera world.

Nicolai Morrisson

Jenelle, I don’t get it, either. The LC-A’s lens is genuinely unique and cool, and I actually want a Pop 9 to get super grain, but I certainly won’t love them for it.

Jonathan, yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m saying.

Stormy

Uggh. I feel dirty and used. A fair number of those are my photographs, with no attribution, which I submitted a long time ago (when I was far more innocent and naive) for a “pinhole blog” which I saw as spreading the general joy of pinhle (and getting me some coupon points and attribution in the bargain). That lead shot is mine, cropped into a circle (why? – I don’t get it) and with digital faux damage. The link goes to an advert for the Diana+, which I didn’t use. The shot they are using to promote 35mm is also mine, but it wasn’t taken on 35mm film. Some of the others are mine too.

All that and they didn’t even include an honest-to-goodness link to the real WPPD.

Pardon me – I have a deleting to do.

Stormy

I also have an LC-A, given to me by a friend. I like it – I use it a lot for photos of my kid – I carry it around in my pocket. It’s held up just fine. Maybe I got lucky. Don’t hate the camera…

Nicolai Morrisson

Ugh, that turns my stomach on your behalf… editing your work and not even giving you a credit is just adding insult to injury!

I love the lens, but it’s hard for me not to hate the camera. I love that it’s so tiny and has auto exposure, but of the two I’ve had, both have either come with or quickly developed serious problems. And I can’t find anyone who’s willing to fix them. I kind of like that it smells like corn husks, though…

Caoimhin

Just an addition to your list, Yacek Urbanik sells his Noon Pinhole camera’s on ebay for around $160.

Focal length: 50mm
Pinhole: F185
Angle of view 116 degrees

Randy Smith

My god, if I had to sit down and write what you wrote, I couldn’t even come close to being as eloquent as you. Every thing you mention about LOMO I totally agree with. What pisses me off the most are people calling Holga Photos Lomography. I’d like to strangle the next person who says LOMOGRAPHY in my presence.

Maybe this year I’ll have the 7th Annual HOLGAMODS Celebration of Spring Photo Contest, but change the name to the
HOLGAMODS, NOT LOMOOGRAPHIC CELEBRATION OF SPRING CONTEST and have it on the same day :)

And it cracks me up when I come out with something new, they soon follow suit, then try to convince people it was their idea.

Ok, I’m done :) Definitely have to pass this URL on to my email subscribers, They’ll love it.

Oh wait, I just sold a brand new LOMO LC-A that only had 3 frames shot on it. And probably far cheaper than LOMO Joe, So guess I better start checking my mailbox.

Thanks for listening

Nicolai Morrisson

Randy, I edited a lot of profanity out of this. I have noticed them ripping you off, too; they should call the next model the “We Ripped Off Randy Smith”.

Lomo is an optics company that used to make cameras. End of story. Calling a picture shot with a Lomo-made camera “Lomography” is like calling a picture made with a Nikon-made camera “Nikonography”: total bullshit.

haggis basher

I have to thank Randy for the link to this….

Totally grips my shit that these arseholes rip other people off or steal there ideas and market it as there own.

I’ve never bought from them and never will.

beck

Show you right. Fuck the dumb shit any more. I am getting really sick of it all. I used to want to give Lomo the benefit of the doubt….fuck that too and why. I got slightly happy with the Diana+….sue me…is okay camera but we all establshied that when buying one. But now every time I open my email, I see more bullshit spilling from their asses. Why not unsubscribe your say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Plus I want to see what the mooks are up to. I am not liking where this Holga and Diana photography has been taken of late with this bunch of moradors and this played out cross processing bullshit thinking it is a new revolutionary way of photographing because Lomo says so. 95% of the work I have been seeing does absolutely nothing for me. The art of fine art toy camera photography has officially been killed. Fuck you very much, Lomography.

Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap

Lomography is a lifestyle brand, no doubt. A money-making business. A smart marketing positioning to differentiate itself from general photography. But I think lomography has evolved to become more than just a brand. What I admire about lomography is how it has democratized photography. Its liberal nature has naturally encompassed other analog forms such as toy camera, pinhole, rangefinder photography and other cults. The term has come to refer to all sorts of analog photography. Love it or hate it, it’s all semantics really.

I love my LC-A Refurb from LSI. It’s crude, quirky and revels in low light. And I’m not complaining, since I got it for free from collecting piggy points in their website. Plus, I’ve been experiencing excellent customer support.

Personally, I call myself a lomographer out of convenience. And, at this point, instead of all this endless debating and mudslinging, I’d rather shut up, smile and shoot. Spread the cheer, people!

P.S. Not all lomographers are blind followers of LSI. We find ways too.

dogseat

you go.
ha, i just bought that LC-A from Randy! haven’t used it yet…
LSI is def. overpriced.
perhaps their heavy use of design is wool they’re trying to pull over our eyes?
PS, just got a epson v500, gonna do some heavy archiving this summer.
e

Stormy

This has been educational for me, to say the least. I’m at a loss for words.

As far as my LC-A goes, I’ll just consider myself lucky; that I got it as a gift and that it continues to work.

Cat

There are actually people going around (Lomosoc fanatics) who are suggesting that ‘lomography’ IS
film/analog photography. They lay their claim on the notion that it is the natural path of evolution.
And that everything that uses film on non-digital cameras is Lomography. Including those who use ‘thinking’ cameras like rangefinders and TLRs.

It won’t be long before they’ll say that they invented photography. They predated Daguerre or Talbot, and that they were actually behind these people’s inventions. They will claim that the
vignetted Daguerrotypes or the grainy Calotypes are actually made by one of the LOmo Society crappy cameras!

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[...] I had seen the Lomographic Society’s post that says “The Lomographic Society International Proudly Presents the World Pinhole Day” but didn’t think too much about it until I read this interesting post over on Photo Detector. [...]

anne

I agree with you about lomography selling a lifestyle but this buit rankles me:

What I admire about lomography is how it has democratized photography.

Strange, I didn’t realize photography needed liberation from the aristocratic class. If anyone should get the distinction of making photography accessible to the masses it should go to Kodak with the release of their Brownie some 100+ years ago.

And, at this point, instead of all this endless debating and mudslinging

Folks feel threatened which is completely understandable and, I tend to agree. They are bullies and they do profit from the creativity of others.

Nicolai Morrisson

beck, (hi!) I don’t know if I’d agree that it’s been killed… I think it’s like punk rock, or being a geek, or anything else that was underground and becomes popular: there’s still nothing stopping anyone from making the good stuff. Your work doesn’t rock any less because of LSI or its followers.

Yeah, a lot of people will get into it and think they’re awesome because they’re using a cool camera and then leave it, but it does have the benefit of bringing people who might not have otherwise discovered low-fi photography into it, and some will undoubtedly stay and make some really amazing work. I think that’s to everyone’s benefit… more interesting art is more interesting art! I just wish the company behind it weren’t such cock-knockers.

 

Edgar, I think photography was democratized by Kodak founder George Eastman in 1888 when he started selling pre-loaded Brownie cameras with the tagline, "You press the button, we do the rest". You simply shot the roll, sent the camera to Kodak, who developed and printed the film, re-loaded it, and sent it all back to you—a radical departure from the expensive and bulky large format photography of the day. Since that was 103 years before LSI, I wouldn’t be too quick to give them the credit.

On the contrary, I’d call price gouging and monopolistic control of distribution decidedly un-democratic.

You may not have paid cash for your LC-A, but you did pay for it. I think you get piggy points by uploading pictures and buying stuff, right? If you uploaded photos, you paid by giving LSI the right to butcher your pictures and make money off them without so much as a photo credit, like they did to Stormy (see his comments above).

I’m not sure what cheer there really is to spread about these people. Yes, they have some interesting cameras. But what I said stands. How about asking LSI to spread the cheer instead of the cool stuff that already exists instead of trying to steal them?

I’m all for money-making businesses. We all have to eat, but you don’t have to be a scumbag to do it.

 

eric, congrats, scan away!! And enjoy that LC-A, it is a cool camera when it works!

 

Cat, are you shitting me??

Bryan C

The co-opting of Pinhole Day does bother me. Fortunately that disinformation probably won’t spread very far, as LSI and their customers apparently exist in their own private little world. Anyone who buys their stuff is either too dumb to do a Google search or so well-off that they just don’t care about overpaying. LSI also recently started reselling Russian FED rangefinders at a ridiculous markup. At least a FED-5 with an Industar lens is a decent camera, unlike the LC-A.)

On one hand, I’m sure that some people will stumble across their site, think their prices and attitude are typical, and assume film photography is expensive and pretentious. On the other, anything that brings more film users to the party is a good thing, even if they’re oblivious hipsters with bad taste. I just take pictures with whatever I want and figure it’s a wash.

Cat

Sh***** you? Actually no. We’re on the same side of the fence. :-)

The point was, to show the lack of knowledge typical of many lomographers about photography in general.

One example is the claim of one poster above that LSI democratized photography. Or that it liberated it. The only true event which did this, was, as quoted, the arrival of the Kodak. That little black box liberated photography and turned everyone who can press a button (or more accurately allowed) access to photography. The complicated cameras, heavy plates, subsequent developing which made photography formerly an exclusive turf of the professional and hardy hobbyist were done away with.

Like Pinhole photography, it appears that LSI or its followers are trying to usurp everything that has to do with film and cameras.

The second evidence of lomographers’ knowledge deficiency of course, is the fact that they will bite – hook, line, and sinker- at anything the LSI will toss at them.

Ed Wenn

Breath of fresh air. Thanks for taking the time to look up the facts and then for sitting down and articulating the exact same thoughts about LSI that I and several friends have had for a number of years. Furthermore it’s great to hear it coming from a person such as yourself with mad photography skillz :-) I’m going to link to this forever. Thanks again. You speak the truth.

The only good thing about LSI is that they have a knack of seducing people (back) into film-based photography and for that I’m willing to pat them on the back (albeit with clenched teeth). What I’m not happy about is the bullshit that surrounds their operation and the insane prices they charge.

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haggis basher

Nicoli,

This has to be your best post ever!! Its caused a major storm amongst my local photography groups and those LOMO people.

Stephen

Yes they have always been a rip off …

Exclent blog entry … I wonder if the good people at worldwide pinhole day know about this?

Luoboding

Writing before I read the other comments isn’t always good so apologies for any repetition but here goes.

All this has been said before. That letter to Lomo Joe in St P? How old is that now? C’mon!

Look, I have bought stuff off the LSI and I enjoy my lomohome as part of the deal. I enjoy taking part in larger group events (missions, themes and projects) and I respect that they need to make some money off me in order to keep this community humming.

We all know that things can be bought cheaper elsewhere but what sort of a-hole are you if you really want to have your cake and eat it too? I buy things from LSI every once in a while and I see it as my support for the community they have built. I could have got it cheaper through an unknown e-bayer but I didn’t and LSI gets the difference.

At the end of the day, it’s a choice. If you don’t like it, close down your lomohome, get off their mailing list and go start a group called non-lomo or “I hate LSI” or something similar (it’s been tried!) and have a blast!

What you’ll soon find is that you miss the community. You’ll then find that building one takes time and effort, which, of course comes down to money, unless you want to and are able to do it part-time and on a shoe-string…

So, when you really want to get your new anti-lomo community growing, will you stop working to build it? Or will you start thinking about revenue streams that can support and maintain the growth?

Don’t see them as overpriced, don’t see it as supporting some group of guys in Vienna, see it as supporting a community of people who enjoy shooting film and sharing the results. If you don’t want to play, then don’t! That choice is yours. But if you do want to be part of it, stop bitching! Last time I checked, buying through LSI was still optional!

william

excellent post nicolai. now i’m disgusted with them more than ever.

the p-sharan is available elsewhere(freestyle carries it for one) for about 26 bucks(though i believe it retails for less in japan). it’s not the same as the dirkon, so not really fair to compare the prices in that way(the dirkon should be free anyway).

the holga 120PC(pinhole) is available elsewhere for about 32 bucks which is about what i paid for mine locally. i suspect the holga 135pc is available at the same prices too.

Ed Wenn

Nicolai, just letting you know that there are at least two very interesting off-shoot discussions about this post ongoing on Filmwasters.com (http://filmwasters.com/forum/index.php?topic=1314.0) and Toycamera.com (http://toycamera.com/forum/index.php?topic=1317.0).

Good on ya!

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Chris

I know this blog is old now. I just found it through Google. I had a few comments.

First of all, the whole “lomography” fad is a complete rip-off. They charge absolutely outrageous prices for a crappy PLASTIC camera! Especially the Urban Oufitters website. I just can’t believe that place, and how gullible some people must be. They’ll pay $300 for a crappy plastic TLR, when they can get a REAL, all-metal vintage TLR, like the Yashica A, on eBay for less than $100!

What really concerns me though is that some people who just don’t know any better will confuse “lomography” with REAL film photography. They’ll think that ALL film cameras take blurry pictures with streaks and lines, etc. They won’t understand the difference between a lomography camera and a REAL film camera. I can take razor sharp pictures with my vintage 35mm SLR or rangefinder cameras. And the detail you can get with 120 roll film and a decent medium format camera is absolutely incredible. But if someone doesn’t know better and only uses crappy plastic lomography cameras, then they would never know that.

I’m already starting to see people get lomography confused with real film photography.

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