Lubitel 166 Universal

This is a recent arrival for my collection. The seller was reluctant to ship it to Greece from the UK and so it went to one of my long-suffering daughters who shipped it to me. Unfortunately between her shipping it on 21st March 2022 and it arriving here, ELTA, our postal service in Greece suffered a cyber attack which screwed things up! It arrived on 4th May! Collecting vintage cameras can sometimes be a pain!

Anyway what about the camera you may ask! The word Lubitel means ‘Amateur’ in Russian and indicates it intended market. It is a twin lens reflex camera which means that you compose your image through one lens and the photo is taken through a second lens.

Despite the Lubitel 166 Universal’s mainly plastic construction, it most certainly is not a toy camera. In fact far from it! It is, in my opinion, an excellent first option for anyone wishing to dip their toes in medium format film photography at a bargain basement price. Unlike many of the offerings from Lomography such as the ‘Holga’ or the ‘Diana’ range, it doesn’t suffer from light leaks – at least mine doesn’t. It also doesn’t have a plastic lens.

As an aside, I have never understood why some photographers rave about the effect of light leaks or indeed, double exposures. When I started in photography, these were considered a no-no and to be avoided at all costs! Similarly, I don’t understand why editing software will often include filters that emulate light leaks! Perhaps it is just me!

The Lubitel 166 Universal was made by LOMO in Stalingrad, now St Petersburg from 1983 – 1996. I have no idea when mine was manufactured. They made over 400,000! There are many variations according to sovietcams . com but I have yet to identify mine. As I have said, they are available at very low cost. Mine is in excellent condition apart from a tiny bit of fungus on the viewing lens which has no effect in the resulting images. It came complete with lens cap, case and most importantly the original masks. If you want to shoot 6x6cm images, you simply load your film and off you go. However, should you wish to shoot 6×4.5cm images, you install the mask first. Hence the name ‘Universal’.

This camera is totally manual. There is no exposure meter and no hot shoe and most importantly, no batteries! There is no automatic frame counter so one simply winds the film on and you view the frame number through one of the two little red windows on the back. You select the correct window depending upon which format you are shooting. There is also no double exposure prevention as I discovered much to my annoyance! Rule number 1: Always wind the film on after taking a shot! To aid focusing, there is a magnifier which pops out over the viewing screen which has a small circular area of ground glass. The rest of the viewfinder is not ground which of course keeps the cost down. Some users find focusing difficult, particularly in low light or very bright light. So far, even with my dodgy eyes, this has not been an issue. You can, of course, guesstimate distance and use a small aperture when focusing.

The lens is a triple element affair which when wide open suffers from a little distortion near the edges but closed down a bit I didn’t find it much of an issue. The filter thread is 40.5mm and I have discovered that I have a lens hood which was gifted to me with another purchase!

The leaf shutter works well. Like many older cameras, you have to manually cock it first. There is also a self timer which although it works, I am a little suspicious of it! I am unlikely to use it. There is also a cold shoe for accessories. If you want to use flash, there is a PC socket for the cable. Shutter speeds and aperture settings are adjusted by moving the relevant levers at the rear of the viewing lens.

That’s about it. I certainly don’t regret this purchase. It’s not in the same class as the Rolleiflex or Roleicords or even the ever popular Yashicas but the Lubitel 166 Universal is a fun camera to use. It produces some very acceptable images. I have attached a few along with some images along with some of the camera.

Manufacturer: LOMO
Year of production: 1983 – 1996
Film: 120
Frame size: 6×6 (56×56 mm) or 6×4.5 (56×42 mm); equals to 12 or 16 pictures per film
Viewing lens: 60 mm f2.8Taking lens: 75 mm f4.5 – T-22 (triplet), coated
Filter size: 40.5 mm threaded
Shutter: ZT-8; leaf, manually cocked
Shutter speeds: B, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 sec
Aperture: f/4.5 – f/22Focal range: 1.3m – infinity
Flash sync: Through PC cord, X at all speeds, M at 1/15 & BSelf-timer: Mechanical
Film transport: Manual, through a knob on the right side
Frame counter: None (two windows at the back for controlling frame numbers of both frame sizes)
Double exposure allowed: Yes, with no controls
Tripod socket: 1/4″
Connections: Accessory shoe (cold shoe) + PC sync connection
Body dimensions: 126 mm (H) x 98 mm (W) x 95 mm (D)
Body weight: 550 grams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.