Old cameras capture a new generation of photographers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am


A plastic toy camera that used to be made in Hong Kong in the 1960s has been reborn by an Austrian company as a trendy must-have for local teens thanks to a resurgence in film photography.

Vienna-based Lomography sells a range of analogue cameras that are known for their lo-fi characteristics which give photos a dreamy quality, vibrant colours or heavy shadowing around the edges of a picture.

One is the Diana F+ which used to be made in Hong Kong but is now produced on the mainland.

'It was a kid's camera, that's why it was all plastic,' said Justin Tsui, marketing manager for Lomography Asia. She said their cameras have gained a cult following in the past few years as some photographers reject the digital era and return to film.

The number of Lomographers - the name given to photographers who use the range of cameras - has increased significantly in the past 12 months, Tsui said. 'It's growing really fast. There are at least 80,000 people in the Lomography community in Hong Kong. But a year ago, it was half that number,' she said.

'Even the kids, around 12 to 15, they also play with our cameras. It's affordable compared to the digital camera. You could say it's a very niche market, but in the last couple of years a lot of young people started to fall in love with our cameras.'

A large-scale exhibition of Lomography photos opens in Times Square tomorrow. It will include a photo wall dedicated to Hong Kong images and 4-metre high replicas of the cameras.

'A lot of people get the wrong impression about Lomography because they think nobody uses analogue cameras or film any more,' Tsui said.

'But the truth is, a lot of people - especially the very young people born after the '90s - they know all about digital cameras, however, they have absolutely no idea what an analogue camera is so they try it.

'So it's kind of a trigger. In fact, there's quite a lot of new customers who are curious about this product.

'Sometimes we get older people - especially when we take out the Lubitel twin lens camera. People around 60 years old say, 'Oh, I used to have one', and they come into our shop to ask about our cameras.'

Another signature camera is the Spinner 360, which has a cord that you pull to take a 360-degree photo. Prices range from HK$200 to HK$5,000.

Onyee Lok is an avid fan of Lomography cameras. She stumbled across the range three years ago and has been shooting with the models ever since.

'It is now part of my life because I use Lomography cameras to capture moments in my life,' the freelance designer said.

'This is the way that I can create and express my thoughts through photography.

'With digital cameras, you take one shot several times but then you may miss chances for other images. I can concentrate on enjoying my life instead of pressing the shutter all the time.'

Lok has more than 10 Lomography cameras and one of her favourites is the all-plastic Diana F+ model.

'The photos are quite dreamy and there's strong vignetting. I find the Diana has many surprises - and it's great fun.'