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The second thing that I learned about my new Lomography 'La Sardina' camera is that, while it's possible to run the film backwards, the shot counter doesn't decrease to show where it is in the roll. I learned this when the film I had loaded snicked back into the canister, foiling my plans for photography that weekend. I was going to be doing overlapping multiple exposures on Ortho film while in transit between Toronto and Peterborough, but only brought the one roll. Poop.

Despite starting from a place of disappointment I embraced the Lomography ethos, and went to the drug store to by some film that I otherwise wouldn't ever use. In this case it was Fujifilm Superia 400; while I love their Neopan Acros v2 I've never really liked Fuji's colour films. But it was only $1/roll more than what my usual downtown camera store sells it for, which is an awesome deal when stuck in the middle of Cottage Country. The expiration date was pretty good, too.

(And no, before anyone asks, I've never been interested in the 'specialty' Lomo films. I don't need to use some expensive boutique emulsion to take lousy photos; I'm perfectly capable of doing that on my own.)  

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The first thing that I had learned about the Sardine – which the SEO gods surely want me to call The Lomography La Sardina 8-Ball Edition film camera – is that it's appreciably smaller and less bright-red than my Lomo Sprocket Rocket. This pleases me, since it's the reason why I bought it. I'm using the Red Rocket for a particular project that makes the most of its strengths, and the black plastic Sardine (I'm never calling it by its full name again, okay Google?) shares enough of them to make it a more discreet B-cam option. 

While it doesn't share the panoramic aspect ratio as the Rocket, the Sardine's 22mm lens is wide enough to fake it. Its shutter only cocks with a full advance of the film, or by sliding the MX slider across the top of the lens, but then it's possible to take another exposure on top of the previous one, or even to roll the film back a bit. Or a bit too much, which is what I did.

(Make friends with your local photo lab, if you're lucky enough to have one. They can extract the leader of the film that you accidentally rewound, and won't even be surprised when you ask.)

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The Sardine has a two-position focus adjustment. The near-focus is surprisingly good, which I like a lot. You can see that in the crispness of the safety bar in the windshield of this double-decker bus. The far-focus is lousy. You can see that in just about every other photo in this set. Rather than being something optimistic like "six feet to infinity" it's really more like six feet to eight feet, maybe.

But let's be honest about what the Sardine is: it's a party camera. It's meant for taking bad photos of a bunch of friends at the beach. The wide lens and small aiming device on the top that Lomo calls a viewfinder is perfectly adequate for this. If it can't render detail on a subject across the street – and it really can't – that's my fault, not its. Actual photography is a seriously off-label use and results are not guaranteed.

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And to be clear, this is very much a party camera for the beach, not the bar. (There is an optional flash if you want that ability.) It really likes light – these came out seriously underexposed, with the negatives almost clear in several frames. The spec sheet says that the aperture is f/8 and uses a 1/100s shutter speed, which should have been capable of handling an overcast and lightly rainy day with iso400 film. Unless the uncoated plastic lens only transmits a small fraction of the light it sees, I… never mind, that's probably it.

But even with that, needing lots of light suits me. The iso80 film that I like for my special project will be able to withstand many layers of exposures, and if I ever need it as a party camera I do have lots of Delta 3200 film lying around. Although I originally mistyped that as "if I never need a party camera", which honestly seems more likely.

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So, having walked around a small town and taken a two-hour bus ride with this camera, what else have I learned about it?

Well, focusing at a distance sucks. We've covered that.

There's surprisingly little barrel distortion. There's a lot, yes, but I expected 'atrocious' and merely see "pretty bad'. Some expensive zoom lenses for real cameras are worse than this, so that's a win.

The lens cap is terrible and falls off too easily, but again, the caps Zeiss makes for its ZM lenses are way worse than this one. That's not quite a win – Zeiss caps are so bad that I automatically discount any lens reviewer who doesn't mention them – but it's okay.

It really is a light and jacket-pocketable camera that's easy to carry and quick to use. Build quality also seems good, and its controls are less fiddly and prone to bumping out of position than the Sprocket Rocket. 

All of these are either good, or good for the thing I want to use the camera for. So based on this one roll of film, would I recommend it?

Heck no.

But I'm glad I have it and I'm looking forward to using it more.