Appareil Lomo'Instant Automat de Lomography. Focntionne avec les films Instax Mini de Fujifilm.

Review: Lomo’Instant Automat (Lomography)



The Lomo’Instant Automat is the latest addition to Lomography’s instant camera range. The project, like several others previously launched by the brand, was supported by a flash financing campaign on Kickstarter, where it generated massive interest. The device lives up to the expectations and Lomography offers perhaps, with its Lomo’Instant Automat, the best Instax Mini “Polaroid” device available these days. Here’s why.

Design

Lomography cameras are always available in a wide range of finishes and the Lomo’Instant Automat is no exception to the rule. Since its launch, the company has come up with half a dozen versions. I fell in love with the South Beach model, which stands out with its burgundy and cream colors.
The design of the camera looks like nothing seen before and will not fail to spark curiosity.
On its back, a silver band runs along the top of the device. At first I thought that they were some kind extra-terrestrial hieroglyphics giving instructions on how to use the device. After closer inspection, I had to accept that they actually carry no hidden messages and that they serve purely aesthetic purposes.

Despite this, I was disappointed by a few things once I had the device in hand. The viewfinder is narrow and difficult to read. A marker crosses it that is supposed to help with the use of the close-up lens, but I’m not convinced about its utility.
The trigger button, which is fitted with a mirror for selfies, makes a funny noise when pressed down.
These are only details, of course, but they don’t give the impression of a high-quality manufacturing.

In good lighting conditions, the Lomo'Instant Automat is able to produce beautiful images. In this case, the flash was used indoors near a window.

In good lighting conditions, the Lomo’Instant Automat is able to produce beautiful images. In this case, the flash was used indoors near a window.

How it works

Before you start

To turn on the camera you must turn the distance selection ring, located on the lens. Move from the off position to select one of the three available settings: 0.60 cm, 1-2 m, 2 m – Infinite. Try to memorize these values (as they are not displayed on the camera) and to assess your distance to the subject as best as you can to get crisp shots. The two CR2 batteries that power the device are expensive and not very common, so remember to turn off the device. Fortunately, it automatically goes into standby after being inactive for five minutes.

Main features

The controls and functions of the Lomo’Instant Automat are split between different buttons on the back of the device. The options can be found in the following order.

The flash

It is active by default and its triggering is automatic. Fortunately, you can also switch it off if you want to. This option is particularly useful in different situations, especially when you want to avoid burning a foreground or a very close subject.

Exposure compensation

You can adjust the exposure of the image to get a lighter or darker picture. This is useful if the first picture didn’t give you complete satisfaction. Seasoned Instant Lomo owners will use this function to compensate, in either direction, for the automatic calculation of their camera’s exposure or to create a desired effect.

Multiple exposure

The Lomo’Instant Automat allows you to add more poses on a single picture. You can make double exposures, but also multiple ones. Be careful though, a successful double exposure already requires some practice, but attempts at triple and quadruple exposures are outright experimental.
To activate this mode, press the MX button before triggering. Then take as many poses as you want. The ejection of the photo is blocked until you press the MX button again.

As on the 90 Neo Classic by Fujifilm, the photos are ejected on the side of the camera.

As on the 90 Neo Classic by Fujifilm, the photos are ejected on the side of the camera.

Long exposure (B)

This last function allows you to switch from automatic exposure time to long exposure time, or B exposure (for Bulb). B exposure extends for a maximum of 30s. To control this mode optimally, you will need a battery in the lens cap (which also acts as a remote control): a first press will trigger the shutter as well as the opening of the diaphragm, a second press will close it and will also stop the exposure. The photo is ejected right after. It is recommended to mount the camera on a tripod to avoid blurred pictures because of camera shakes, unless it’s the effect you are looking for.
A small LED indicates whether a setting is active, or gives you information about its status (charging flash for example).

The main functions of the camera, the film cartridge loading cover and the battery compartment are located on the back of the Lomo'Instant Automat.

The main functions of the camera, the film cartridge loading cover and the battery compartment are located on the back of the Lomo’Instant Automat.

Accessories and optical accessories

The Lomo’Instant Automat includes many of the cool functions and accessories that were appreciated on the previous models: the Lomo’Instant and the Lomo Instant Wide. Those who are familiar with these models will not be lost. The following elements are included.

The lens cap / remote control

The clever lens cap system also hides a remote control function for remote shooting in Auto mode or B mode. Be warned that to use this function, a flat CR1632 (3V) battery must be inserted directly into the cap.

Colored flashes (color gels)

The Lomo’Instant Automat is delivered with a set of color filters. They are thin, colored and translucent plastic layers that are placed into a notch in front of the camera’s flash made for this purpose. The aim is to tint the light of the flash and to add a dominant color to your image. The range is wide, with a variety of colors and densities to test out.

The optical accessories kit

Like its predecessors on the instant photography market, the Lomo’Instant Automat has a set of optical accessories designed to be attached to the basic lens. You can get:

  • A Wide Angle attachment
  • A Fish eye attachment, which distorts the scenery to produce a rounded image on a black background
  • A Macro attachment for shots that are 10 cm away or less from the subject
  • An accessory called Splitzer, designed to produce creative effects using multiple exposures. This is not the easiest component to master and it will require a lot of practice.
It's hard to be precise with the close-up lens. Don’t use the viewfinder; simply align the lens directly with the subject's axis at a distance of 10 to 15 cm.

It’s hard to be precise with the close-up lens. Don’t use the viewfinder; simply align the lens directly with the subject’s axis at a distance of 10 to 15 cm.

All these elements have to be screwed onto the main lens. When using the first three, be careful to choose the appropriate distance setting on the lens. I had to check the device manual several times before memorizing the appropriate setting for each one.

Image quality

The Lomo’Instant Automat uses, with its wealth of gadgets and accessories, a reliable recipe tested by previous instant Lomography models. But the comparison ends there. While a device like the Lomo’Instant Wide produces a large number of failures, with images that are too light, too dark or even blurry, the Lomo’Instant Automat distinguishes itself by its sharpness and well-thought design.
When Lomography unveiled its Lomo’Instant Automat, the brand was very insistent on the reliability of its exposure system, which is supposed to adapt to any situation. Some efforts seem to have been made: the exposure assessment is accurate most of the time, with images that are neither too dark nor too bright. The colors are surprisingly beautiful and well rendered. The photos are contrasted and sharp, at least in the central part of the frame.
It’s going to take a little more time to get to the bottom of it, but I believe the image quality delivered by the Lomo’Instant Automat might be slightly above the one delivered by the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

Verdict

With the Lomo’Instant Automat, Lomography revisits the flagship model of its instant camera range and fills in the previous gaps. While it incorporates many of the brand’s exclusive ideas and features, particularly the optical accessories, the Lomo’Instant Automat can boast a more efficient exposure system.
When properly handled, it is capable of delivering the sharpest and best-exposed Instax Mini images on the market.
If you like the Lomo approach with its many gadgets to try out, you will love the Lomo’Instant Automat.

Only the Fuji 90 Neo Classic can compare to the Lomo'Instant Automat.

Only the Fuji 90 Neo Classic can compare to the Lomo’Instant Automat.

Advantages of the Lomo’Instant Automat

  • Good exposure assessment, which rarely fails
  • Sharp images when the required distances are observed
  • Lots of creative possibilities

Disadvantages of the Lomo’Instant Automat

  • Low grade manufacturing quality
  • Mandatory power supply system: two CR2 batteries for the camera, one CR1632 battery for the remote control
  • Complete set of accessories is cumbersome when travelling

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