When Lomography released the Lomo LC-A 120 last year I got really excited. It’s a compact medium format camera with a modified glass lomo LC-A lens with automatic exposure which is a huge step up from the light leaky plastic Holgas and Dianas I’d previously used. I’ve never really been a fan of plastic 120 roll film cameras as I’ve never seen the point of shooting expensive film on a camera with no light meter, a plastic lens, and something that you only use on a sunny day.
A bit about 120 roll film / medium format
For the purposes of this review I think it’s best to explain a little about 120 roll film and why it’s special. The Lomo LC-A 120 is based on the Lomo LC-A which uses 35mm film. 35mm is the most ubiquitous film format ever produced, it’s negative size is 24mm x 36mm which generally means that the cameras that use it are small. 120 roll film (also referred to as medium format) has a negative size of 56mm x 56mm which means 120 cameras are a lot larger than their 35mm counter parts. Film, like digital, has resolution; with digital the more pixels a camera has the better resolution a image from that camera will be and the bigger you can print it. With film you have grain (individual tiny blobs of colour), if a negative is larger you have more grain and effectively a better quality image.
A 120 negative is 3.5 times bigger than a 35mm negative so can be enlarged to bigger sizes and will look crisper than 35mm film. There is a down side to the bigger size and that is 120 roll film costs three times as much per shot to buy and process than 35mm, plus with 35mm film you get 36 exposures and with 120 you get 12. The higher cost can be a good thing thigh too because it forces you to slow down, not get so snap happy and be more considered about what you’re shooting.
Ease of shooting use
The LC-A 120 is dead simple to shoot on, to start you slide down the lens cover and set the distance to what you want in focus and you are good to go it’s just like shooting with the 35mm LC-A. The focus setting has four focus zones; 60cm, 1m, 2.5m and infinity. As long as you can judge distances you can take sharp photos with the LC-A 120. The LC-A 120 is more suited to selfies than the 35mm LC-A as the minimum focal length on the 35mm LC-A is 80cm, unless you are over 6 feet tall like me it’s unlikely your arms are long enough to get a in focus selfie. As the minimum focal length on the LC-A 120 us 60cm it enables smaller people to get sharpe self portraits. The camera also has a built in light meter which means you can use the camera in dark conditions, as long as you have a stable surface to put the camera on, all you have to do is keep your finger on the shutter button until the exposure finishes and you’ll get a well exposed image.
Film loading and winding the Lomo LC-A 120
For people new to 120 film, loading a camera can be tricky but the LC-A 120 is by far the easiest to load 120 camera I’ve ever used. Usually 120 cameras have a little window on the back where numbers representing exposures can be seen as you wind on the film, so you have to manually wind the camera on and stop when you see the next frame number. The LC-A 120 does away with this and instead you just keep winding until you can’t wind anymore and then you’re ready to shoot again. This makes it really easy for film newbies.
Looks and size of the Lomo LC-A 120
If I’m going to be honest I think that the LC-A 120 looks a little like the ugly older sibling of the Lomo LC-A; maybe I just think that because I’m so used to the LC-A’s appearance as I’ve been using it for almost 20 years. Looks aside though it’s one of the smallest and lightest medium format cameras available.
At £339 it’s pretty pricey but it’s not a toy camera and therefore not in the same league of the Holga and Diana which are both sub £50. Because it’s a film camera it’s not going to superseded anytime soon like digital cameras are, so an investment in a LC-A 120 won’t depreciate. If want to get into medium format film and and you want a camera that is light and portable, and can produce great images, then the Lomo LC-A 120 is definitely worth looking into.
More images shot with Lomo LC-A 120:
Thanks for the review, Kev. Are any of these shots cross-processed? Some of the colors are so gorgeously saturated that I wondered if they were x-pro’d. I love the b & w’s, too. The last shot is amazing.
None of the shots are cross processed. I rarely xPro it anymore as my favorite slide film is no longer made, most of the slide produced now come out really yellow and green when cross processed. These pictures are mix of very out of date Kodak Portra VC, Lomogaphy’s own 800 ASA film which is quite contrasty and then the Lomography’s 400 black and white and colour film. I’ve put the film type under each of the pictures.
hello, have you had any issues with blank exposures? I have an LCA-120 and average about 9 exposures per roll. I’ve gone into the lomography store, and it appears I’m loading the film correctly. I had heard there were some issues with the lomography film, so I switched to kodak portra – hoping that would fix the problem, but unfortunately, my film is only producing 9 frames. https://www.lomography.com/homes/poglad/notes/139661-lomography-brand-film-causes-lost-frames-in-the-lc-a-120 Any thoughts? Thank you!
The film would make no difference as it’s just a roll of plastic and unlike 35mm film there are no sprocket holes so there is effectively nothing to go wrong. On the 35mm LCA some times you can get a sticky shutter which means that sometimes the shutter won’t trigger. I have not actually used a LC-A 120 since I wrote this as I borrowed one to write the review. What I will say is that it’s a good idea to replace the batteries regularly in the LCA as old batteries might not fire the shutter properly, if the LC-A 120 uses the same batteries as the LC-A then it’s cheep and good idea to replace the batteries with every film as it will cost less than a £1 and it means you won’t waste loads of money on film and processing. Get batteries in bulk from amazon. One thing you can do is to test the shutter. Make sure there is no film in the camera, open the back and look at the shutter, press the shutter release and make sure you see the shutter open, repeat this is few times to make sure it’s working constantly. I do this every time I change film that way I ensure the camera is working correctly.
Hi Kev, great review! I love my LC-A but might start saving up for the 120 version! With regards your favourite slide film, I’m assuming you are referring to Agfa precisa? I’ve heard after they changed the formula it was never the same for cross processing. Is it not worth trying the new stuff? I haven’t come across any expired old stock…
Expired old stock will be long gone by now. After Agfa precisa went the way of the Dodo I used to use Kodak Elite Chrome 100 which was 2nd best to the original precisa. Anything you use for Xpro today is going to 3rd best so in my opinion that is not point. Slide film used to day comes out either very Green or Yellow, it’s not great. IF it says “Agfa PHOTO precisa” on the box it’s the new stuff and don’t bother.
just noticed that the LCA 120 is OUT OF STOCK on Lomography website… do you know if the discontinue this camera?
They will be back in stock by 18th december 2016, as per information from lomography.com
Love the colours and saturation of the shots. Do you do any post-processing in Lightroom/Photoshop of the digital scans?
Very minimal processing, remove dust and scratches, tweak contrast and tweak colour temp were needed.
Muy buena entrada, tecfelicito
I love the LC-A 120 concept! And I need to understand the best practice of the zone focusing on this camera .. for example, if I picked 2.5m that means everything from 2.5 to infinity should be in focus? Or any subject close to 2.5m (+/-) will be in focus? Thanks!
Hi great review I’ve just ordered mine off the lomo website, I’ve looked long and hard at this and have ummed and arrred because of the price but read lots of reviews and watch lots of YouTube videos and have wanted one for a long time now! Very excited to get it and start shooting!