I’ve talked about my Minolta XG1 and Holga film cameras. Now I’ll tell you about my Diana Mini film camera. The Diana Mini is toy camera of the lomography family, constructed of plastic. Even the lens is plastic. Basically, she is a point-and-shoot. There are two aperture settings: sunny and cloudy. Two shutter settings: normal and bulb (meaning the shutter stays open as long as you hold it down). There’s a tinsy tiny focus wheel on the lens, but that’s pretty much useless, unless you’re Tinkerbell.
As the name establishes, this is a mini version of the regular Diana, which is a medium format camera like the Holga. The Mini takes the more common 35 mm film, instead of 120 film. She takes square images, but only mimics the medium format; you must lob off the black sides of the rectangular prints to get the square. There is an option to take half-frames, two on each print, but that’s a bit too gimicky for me.
The Diana Mini is adorable. Wearing her around my neck with the strap, she functions almost as jewelry. And when she’s on, she’s really on - a few images off each roll will always knock my socks off.
Her best images are dreamy, but not too precious. The kind of uneasy dream that could turn into a nightmare at any moment.
The Diana thrives on bright light. On an dark and hazy day, the image may take on a greenish cast. Not necessarily a bad thing.
People are ghostly. (Note: my husband took this picture of me.)
Like the Holga and other lomo/toy cameras, she is particularly vulnerable to light leaks and burn. The mistakes often contribute to the surprising beauty of her images.
Also like the Holga, vignetting - darkness around the edges of the image - is common, contributing to the overall moody and mysterious feel.
Although colors are more often muted than not, sometimes brilliant colors push through, like the red of the tulips below which seem to bleed into the shot.
Images like these are unique to the Diana Mini.
I must confess that, unlike the Minolta and Holga, I am not madly in love with the Diana Mini.
My biggest issue is that a fair number of my shots come out muddled, either because they’re too dark or so “dreamy” that they lack any point of view. Partly this is my fault. The more I learn about the Mini, the better my results. But I feel very limited in what I can shoot successfully. Using up a full roll of film takes forever. If I had to give up a camera, it would be her. If I want an atmospheric shot, the Holga triumphs; if I want a strong shot, the Minolta triumphs.
My other issue is the act of taking pictures with the Diana Mini. Kinda unsatisfying. Framing shots is difficult, as the viewfinder is tiny and the lens obscures part of the shot, sticking out underneath. Also, what you see is not what you get, since the viewfinder does not show exactly what the lens records.
But! I’m not being a negative Nancy. The Diana Mini will definitely be coming with me on my Paris vacation in September because every now and then she produces the most beautiful and unique images.
As an everyday camera, meh. But as a camera to capture vacations, magical cities and special days, she excels. If you have $65 and a desire to have some unique camera fun, go for it! I bought mine after seeing the beautiful shots by Daydream Lily, and I’m glad I did.
Questions? Tips? Passionate defense of the Diana Mini? Let’s hear it :)