Yashica/Mamiya TLR or brand new Lubitel 166+

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by diver|1, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. I'm very tempted to purchase an old Mamiya or Yashica TLR, now with the risk I'm running in unknowingly buying a defective unit should I for about the same amount of money instead get a brand new Lubitel 166+? any feedback? thanks.
  2. There's a slight difference.
    If you buy a new Lubitel it will break. After it has been fixed you'll still have a fragile piece of junk.
    If you buy a Mamiya or Yashica TLR that needs service, after it has been fixed you'll have a nice reliable camera. And it may not need service. If you buy via eBay and a camera represented is in good working order is DOA you'll almost certainly be able to get your money back.
  3. I've used all three of them. Yashica or Mamiya TLRs and Lubitels are not comparable. The Yashicas are good copies of the Rolleiflex (top-of-the-line models) or Rolleicord (cheaper models), which because of their design makes them easy to use. The more expensive models have fine Tessar-type lenses. The Mamiyas have interchangeable lenses of excellent quality, but they're heavier and trickier to use than the Yashicas.
    It all depends on what kind of photography you want to do. Lubitels are just the thing for Lomography, but I see they're listed new on the Lomography site for about $350, which is ridiculous. I've bought a good-as-new early YashicaMat for $100 and a late-model Mamiya with the normal lens, also in fine working shape, for $200. These are serious cameras.The Lubitel is more or less based on a primitive 1930s Voigtlander design (film advance by red window, low-quality lenses, etc.)
    Do some internet reasearch and compare the features. The condition is what's important in a used camera. A good source for used cameras are the classified ads in photography forums. The sellers know what they're selling and are usually helpful in answering questions. As for dependability, Russian cameras are notorious for sloppy manufacture.
  4. [Lubitel] for about $350, which is ridiculous​
    And How! There are Lubitels going on eBay for under $60 and that is a too generous asking price.
    The Yashica and Mamiyas are real cameras. You should be able to find a fine, working Yashica at the least for a reasonable price. Go thou and do so.
    If you want a plastic camera for "lomography"- follow Gene M.'s example and get an old Brownie that will take 120 film and shoot with that.
  5. Seriously, no contest. The OP could be rephrased: I'm going to buy either a used Toyota, a used Nissan, or a brand new Lada.
    I only have experience with the Mamiya TLRs, which are IMHO much underrated cameras. They're big and not lightweight, but very robust. Back when Mamiya USA maintained a forum about their TLRs, the moderator told a story about being mugged, in Amsterdam, while he was carrying his old Mamiya. The perpetrator woke up in hospital. The camera was fine.
    Other advantages of Mamiya TLRs: (i) A very straight film path. (ii) All the lenses are good, and some are excellent.
  6. Is it the TLR form factor or the 6x6 format that interests you? If it's the latter, then I'd look for the newest 6x6 SLR you can afford. The real problem with TLRs now is getting reliable service. Price is another issue. Who wants to pay the price of an old Yashica for a CLA on an old Yashica?
  7. Dave sums it up in his post above pretty well, but I'd say the Mamiya is a Buick, the Yashica a Chevy and the Lubitel is a Yugo. I can never under stand the price people are willing to pay for Holga, Diana and Lubitel cameras when there are tons of older cameras, that go for peanuts, that will do the same job. Heck, I can even take a good Yachica and make it into a Holga type camera. Nice thing about that is one can make it back into a great picture taking Yashica again. A Holga, Diana or Lubitel isn't ever going to take a better picture than it does right now no matter what you do.. Oh, if it were me I'd give the Mamiya the most votes. If you got the Mamiya you can have a great lens like a late, all black, 80mm f2.8 for stunning pictures. Then find a beat up old single coated 80mm f2.8 and smudge up its glass, stick a "to small" lens hood on it and you'll have an instant Holga/Diana/Lubitel/Lomo style camera. Just my thoughts of course! JohnW
  8. Simple, in you're wanting high quality photos then buy the Yashica or Mamiya. If low quality then buy the Lubitel (or Box Brownie or any other $5 camera from the thrift store).
  9. I have a Yashica LM which is 50 years old and still working. I have four Mamiya TLRs (2 x C3, C220, C330F), the C3 being about 45 years old and still working perfectly. The C330 F is at least 30 years old, possibly up to 40, and I was out shooting with it only last Sunday.
    P.S. - I remember when a Lubitel cost £12 ($18 ?)!
  10. Yes the Lubitel is way overpriced, I'll get either the Mamiya or the Yashica, thanks for the input guys.
  11. If you like weightlifting - get a Mamiya.
    If you just want a fixed lens camera that'll last a lifetime - get a Yashicamat. I have one I inherited that was bought in 1959. It's never needed repair or been CLA'd and is working perfectly today.
    If you want a fixed lens camera that'll last 5 minutes - get a Lubitel.
  12. I have a Lubitel and a Yashicamat and a Yashicaflex. I really like all three. I have never had any issues with my Lubitel so I am not sure why everyone is down so much on them. Yeah it is old tech, yeah it isn't the greatest build quality but mine has never broken and works great. I really like it because it is very small and light compared to my other cameras.
    That being said I haven't used it nearly as often as I used to since I got my yashicaflex. I absolutely love my yashicaflex. It just feels nice in my hands. It works great and the build quality is very good. I would recommend a Lubitel as a fun toy if you can get one really cheap but if you are willing to spend a little bit more or a little bit of effort/time into finding a good deal on craigslist or at garage sales the yashicaflex would be my recommendation.
    I found my yashicaflex on craigslist for $20. I bought it from the original owner who bought it brand new in Japan while they were traveling. I took it all apart on my own which was fairly easy and cleaned it and got the shutter unstuck and since then I have run countless rolls of film through it.
  13. Yashicamat with the 4 element Yashinon is a good choice. The last one made, the 124G offers 220 capability but today
    that is an advantage that is not worth the extra cost.
  14. I have used both Lubitel and Mamiya TLR and as
    far as quality, cost, longevity is concerned I
    wouldgo for the Mamiya.

    In particular the Mamiya lens are excellent with a
    good spread of focal lenghts.

    I initially used the Lubitel as a cheap way of trying
    medium format. After the Lubitel was stolen from
    my car I bought the Mamiya TLR and never
    looked back.
  15. The Mamiya is quite a bit heavier, depending upon lens attached, but the 80mm lens is an f2.8 rather than f3.5 as in the Yashica. The C33/C330 have a crank to advance film and dual knob focusing. The later C330 (maybe the S or F) even takes interchangeable focusing screens.
  16. BTW, in looking around for something else, I found this claim at Sovietcams.com that the Lubitel was originally a copy of the Voigtländer Brilliant, a plastic camera of quite a fine reputation. ( http://www.sovietcams.com/index.php?2146053764 )
  17. Back in the 70's ,the local camera rep (remember them ?) came by with some Lubitels. You want one-they are only $12.00 ?
    Of course, I bought one. It was ok,in that Bakelite,cheesy alloy lens barrel construction,pressed metal kind of way. And the optical results were ok too.
    And JDM is correct, a Soviet ripoff of the Voightlander Brilliant.
    Now that I think about it ..$12 bucks in New Zealand dollars,in 1970 ? (US $8.00) !!
    I would pay the same today,but,not a dollar more.
    Mamiya,if you are serious. Yashica,or Minolta Autocord,if you just want to check out M/F.
  18. I think that Lomography may have shot itself in the foot a little bit by revamping the venerable old loved and hated Former Soviet Union Lubitel because people write off the 166+ as hardly more than that same old thing just remarketed with a hefty price tag to rich kids. When the 166+ came out in 2008, I, like most photographers, already had a Lubitel (okay, a few--okay, more than a few). They are cheap, light, easy to maintain, sturdy (this is about the only website full of users that has maligned the build quality), make decent photos and are fun to use if you keep in mind that it's not a modern camera and won't give you a modern camera feel. It's kind of like an Argus 75 that allows you to focus and change the aperture.
    But, the Lubitel also, as it did with me, gave a lot of people their first taste of real medium format. For $30 including shipping back in 2002, I still treasure that first Lubitel 2 of mine providing me the opportunity to find out something I didn't know about myself up until I had it: I was a good photographer. Every camera I'd had before then was basically consumer garbage, not much more than disposeable cameras. You can say that I'm fond of the Lubitel.
    The start I got with that, of course, led me to want more right from the start. I went nuts a little bit and got lots of TLR's from a certain auction site and elsewhere. Flexarets, Rolleis, Yashicas, a Ciro-Flex, and lots of other cameras, too, a Hassie, Kiev, Hartblei, Iskra, Agfa folders, and even a Fuji GF670. I don't collect much anymore--I am married now. My camera budget now is spent on my wife's shoes.
    But I have more than enough to keep me tinkering to the grave.
    I am only prefacing my answer to let you know that I know TLR's. I can grab almost any one of them made from right out of my closet (or from under the bed, or from the climate controlled basement, or the dresser drawer, there could be one in my glovebox at any given time, you get the picture). This is important because, I think you can tell that I'm going to take a leap and recommend, gasp, a 166+.
    I gave this camera an extensive and thorough review just the other day on a certain huge retail website in order to dispel misinformation that was placed there by the main review: the 166+ is not at all that old FSU Lubitel from the past. You can't think you know it and write it off as an even more gimmicked 166U, dismiss it as overpriced, tell about how you got one for a couple bucks at a garage sale and walk of feeling better than those suckers who paid $350 for it new.
    Now, if you feel $350 is too much for this camera, I get it. The prices have come way down lately, though, and I think it's a lot tougher to say they are overpriced now.
    Why the 166+ over a Mamiya or a Yashica? That's a personal choice and I certainly can't recommend it over certain models as being better or worse. As with all cameras, it depends on how you see yourself using it.
    I just want to say that the 166+ is a serious consideraton now because of a couple of things that FSU Lubitel doesn't have:
    1. Excellent fit and finish. This camera has come up quite a bit over the old build quality (which wasn't bad in the first place, unless you got a 166 Olympic and expected the shutter cocking mechanism and the frame counter to work). But to be fair, both my Olympics came to me at least twenty years after they were made and went through who knows what. They both work fine now, though, and have worked fine for ten years. The 166+, however, has been completely poured over by Lomography engineers and designers. It's amazing what they've done with this modest little camera, which some in the past could have called a pseudo TLR. Not anymore.
    2. Improved viewfinder. You have to have one in your hands to appreciate it. It's a little small, about the same size as the one on my Primo, Jr. Other than that, it can't be faulted. It's bright with a fresnel screen, it's flat from edge to edge--no curviness like on the old Lubitels, and, what surprised the heck out of me because the following feature isn't even mentioned anywhere in the sales literature on on various retail websites: it's got a split image microprism finder. I find a couple of mentions of this feature from users on flickr and other sites, but that was only after searching to look for it after I was astonished with what I saw when I got this camera out of the box. This split image microprism viewfinder is high quality--works like the one on your 1980s manual Japanese SLR. What more could you ask for except for maybe a TTL meter to make it all perfect? Well, you don't get the TTL with the Lubitel 166+. To my knowledge, only late Rolleis and one Seagull TLR model have this feature. If anyone knows of others, then, well, maybe it's not such a unique feature as I think it is.
    3. Compact. Okay, all Lubitels are compact. But it bears emphasizing. This camera is hardly larger than my aforementioned Primo, Jr. 4x4, but it shoots a 6x6. It's also about the same weight. There isn't a Yashica 6x6 or Mamiya or Rollei that came make this claim.
    4. Two year warranty. That says not only something about the camera, but the confidence that Lomography has in their product. Now, it's a "manufacturing defects" warranty, according to the printed manual. I don't claim to know how great it is or that Lomography has awesome support, so take it with a grain of salt. But just as the sites that retail the 166+ don't know about the split image finder, they also don't seem to know about any two-year warranty (BH lists it as one year, but also says it has a self-timer, which the 166+ does not).
    5. Recent price decreases. This makes it pretty hard to pass up when a good refurb Yashica or Mamiya could cost you about the same and isn't protected with a two year warranty.
    Did I mention that I'm pretty impressed with Lomography for bringing us this camera? I mean, Lomography is also partly to blame that it gets confused for the older Lubitels. They market it right along with most of their other trendy, cheap, bubble-gummy, can't-be-taken-seriously light leaky, streaky, limited use cameras. But their recent release of the Bel-Air, the smart phone scanner and their Petzval project has raised my eyebrows to the idea that they're making more substantial efforts and going cool places.
    I'm only kind of mad at myself that I've been without this camera for four years. But, again, it's Lomography's own fault for not letting me know about this finder--which, by the way, is also removable.
    If you think that a TLR isn't "real' if it doesn't have a frame counter, shutter cocking with film advance and features like that, then, well, you got me. All the manual controls on this are separate. This is not an automat, by any means.
    Hold it in your hands.It's kind of like a small Ciro-Flex, but with a lot of extras and the size of a, maybe, Yashica 44. It also has that wonderful finder that you won't find in a TLR almost anywhere else.
    The Yashica or Mamiya will probably have a faster lens, if that's important to you in the day of high speed film. The slowish 1/250 shutter might turn you off, because it makes it harder to take advantage of high speed film if you think you might shoot in bright sun as well as indoors without flash--a problem you won't likely face with your Yashica or Mamiya. You might also prefer a frame counter and some automatic features, even if you'd rather not have the weight and increased camera size that usually comes with those features (though Lomo, itself, behind the iron curtain added such features to a 6x6 this size with the Lubitel 166).
    Just so that you can be informed in your upcoming purchase, Steve.
  19. Okay, the above answer is a bit long-winded. Here is the bottom line:
    The Lubitel 166+ is not at all that old FSU Lubitel from the past. You can't think you know it already because you've got an old one lying around, assume it's just a gimmicked 166U, dismiss it as overpriced, tell about how you got one for a couple bucks at a garage sale and walk of feeling better than those suckers who paid $350 for it new.
    Key Points: Astonishingly good viewfinder with rare split-image microprism finder, bright fresnel screen, and totally flat image, improved taking lens (and maybe improved viewing lens) with a greater, closer focus range than most other TLR's, super high build quality overall, unique features (perhaps most compact 6x6 TLR ever made), lightweight and portable, two year warranty from lomography USA (they have an email address, a physical mailing address and a 1-800 number in New York City; I called it and Angela and Tony were very nice and told me they could get any part for it, repair it or replace the entire camera for manufacturing defects within warranty period for free), and some things your average 1960's TLR won't have besides the split-image finder and compactness, like a hot shoe (as well as pc socket) and 35mm capability that is fun to use. Might be a small point, but TLR's usually don't take a filter as easy (and as inexpensive) to find as the common 40.5mm.
    In exchange for the small TLR with some very modern (for the TLR era) features, that's easy to shoot and frame, you have to use a red window for medium format film frame tracking, you get a limited shutter of B, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 250 with an aperture range of f/4.5 to f/22, no automated features, no light meter, no case (although one is available for $50) and no self-timer.
    So, by all means, if the Yashica and Mamiya or even something else is more appealing to you, go for it. I just thought you'd like to know which Lubitel, exactly, is the "expensive" one that often gets confused with and often quickly dismissed for the cheaper less desirable old Soviet era relics for which, probably, most of the above statements are true except for that they break easily.
    Unfortunately, the sale is over, so the price from lomography.com is back up to $349, but it's readily available for about $280 anywhere else. At least now you now what you might get for your money.
    If you buy from Lomography directly, you get a 14 day no questions asked return policy, too. I don't know if this applies if you get it from somewhere else, and keep in mind that you'll end up paying shipping both ways if you return it just because you don't like it. That's what the website says, anyway. I'm keeping mine.
    I suppose that I should also add that I am in no way affiliated with Lubitel or Lomography because I'm not. I'm just a little bit of a TLR nut and after making the same assumptions everyone else has about the 166+ ever since it came out in 2008 (but secretly wanting one anyway), I got one on sale a week or so ago purely out of curiosity and I was totally taken by surprise at the improvements made to this camera that I only truly became aware of when I had it in my hands and took it for a spin. It's almost a crime that Lomography doesn't make these improvements known the way they could.

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