Film: 120/medium format
Format/Frame: 4 x 4 cm

From Alfred Klomp, Diana Connoisseur:

Comments on the Diana camera

The Diana is an all-plastic camera that was made in Kowloon, Hong Kong by the Great Wall Plastic Co. during some unclear period, probably from the fifties/sixties until the seventies. The company obviously didn’t care about making quality products, because they used some kind of cheap plastic that seems to keep its smell for years and years on end. The top covering is made of light blue plastic and the bottom part is black. The Diana came in many different shapes and kinds, and carried various names: Anny, Arrow, Arrow Flash, Asiana, Banier, Banner, Colorflash Deluxe, Debonair, Diana, Diana Deluxe, Diana F, Dionne F2, Dories, Flocon RF, Hi-Flash, Justen, Lina, Lina S, Mark L, MegoMatic, Merit, Mirage, Panax, Photon 120, Pioneer, Raleigh, Reliance, Rosko, Rover, See, Shakeys, Stellar, Stellar Flash, Tina, Traceflex, Tru-View, Valiant, Windsor, Zip and Zodiac. Some models had a built-in flash, others didn’t have focusing, others again didn’t have the three apertures. The Diana has become to be the most sought-after of all these models, probably due to its slightly more reliable construction and the possibility for focusing as well as a moveable aperture and two shutter speeds. All cameras of the Diana family have a type code on the locking key: the standard Diana has code 150.

Diana Specs and Attributes
  • 4×4 viewfinder camera, uses 120-film
  • focusing range from 4 feet to infinity
  • two shutter speeds: I (exact speed may vary, usually +/- 1/100 sec) and B(ulb)
  • three aperture settings: f/4,5, f/8, f/11, indicated by cloud symbols
  • gets 16 images on one roll of 120-film
  • no exposure counter, red window instead
  • no flash possibility (on the original Diana-151 at least)
  • focusing by turning the lens further out
  • manual focusing, aperture setting, winding, and lens cocking/tripping
  • Removable back for film loading
  • black and light-blue ’60s plastic (yuck)
  • no prevention against double exposures
  • plastic one-element non-coated lens

This is what the Diana has become truly famous for: it’s supposedly ‘lesser’ image quality. Well, the way you think of the image quality depends on the way you review the camera. If you compare the Diana with, say, a Hasselblad, the ‘Blad will win on any test. But at the same time, the Diana might take the more satisfying image of the two, making the photo more the way the photographer had in mind.

What makes a Diana image so typical? It consists of:

  • dark edges (light loss)
  • stretched blurriness (spherical aberration)
  • lowered contrast (lens barrel leaks light)
  • no real sharpness

The light loss is not really a problem. It focuses the eye on the center where generally the subject is. It keeps the eye from leaving the photo.

The stretched blurriness in the corners, like the effect you get when zooming in whilst taking a picture, gives a ‘tunnel-vision’-effect and creates in-leading lines which focus view on the center as well.

The lowered contrast is the Diana’s strong part. Light can leak into the lens barrel through the aperture scale, softening the image. The silly non-coated lens helps as well. It’s basically an all-plastic disc. The lens-plastic must be of an inferior quality, I think the impurity of the plastic is what softens the image.

The contrast in the picture is generally soft, glow-like. Surreal. Dreamy. Ethereal. Photos made with a Diana look ghostly and almost supernatural. The Diana gives an unexplainable twist to reality.

The Diana has no ‘sharpness’. Everything is always out of focus, but the middle is more sharp than the corner. The image in the corner tends to be radially stretched outward from the center.

—Alfred Klomp, The Netherlands

My Insights on the Diana

When I was around six or seven years old, I shared a bedroom with my brother, Dan, who was in high school. I remember very few things about that bedroom, but I do remember our chest of drawers and some of the items that sat on top—all of his. Some cologne (Old Space and British Sterling), a ceramic genie with a bowl over its crossed legs that would hold coins from my brother’s pocket, and a plastic camera that was oddly colored and made a really cool clicking noise.

That camera—of course—was a Diana, although I didn’t know it back then. I doubt his Diana ever had film in it when I picked it up and snapped the shutter over and over to listen to its distinctive click. Thinking about it now, I’m wondering if it ever had film in it because I never remember seeing any images back then that were unique in that Diana-like image-capture.

Diana cameras (and their various clones) were often given away in some kind of promotional event, or as a novelty prize at fairs, carnivals, raffles, and other occasions. I suspect that’s how one of them came into my big brother’s possession.

I have no idea what became of Dan’s Diana, but I’m pretty sure that he or anyone else in our family had any idea of it’s aesthetic value back then.

Many famous photographers would incorporate a Diana into their works including Sally Mann, Jerry Uelsmann, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, and Robert Frank. However, former University of Ohio student Nancy Rexroth and her book Iowa probably did more for the Diana camera than anyone else.

I acquired my Diana camera in the late 1990s via eBay for just under $100, but for that $100, included with the camera was the original box/package—albeit in pretty bad condition.

Sometime in the 1970s, the Diana camera production ceased due to the growing popularity of 35mm cameras. As the Diana became more rare and obscure, its popularity eventually blossomed. As a result, the Lomography Society International resurrected the Diana in the form of the Diana+/Diana F+. As stated on their website, “…armed with the knowledge and the opportunity to rebuild the Diana from scratch, the Lomography Diana F+ (Diana+) camera was born in 2007.

On a related note: Has anyone come across the story on how the Diana acquired its name?