Authentic vintage Diana cameras are rare. I searched a very long time before I found a functional one on ebay for $9 a year ago. To be clear, there are dozens of "Diana" cameras for sale on ebay, used and new. There's a company called Lomography that has been making new Dianas, which they claim are identicial to the original. I wish Lomography had chosen another name but they couldn't because their whole thing is capitalizing on the vintage Diana's reputation. So 99 out of 100 "Diana" cameras for sale anywhere are not the original version. Worse than that, everyone selling the imitation Dianas includes the word, 'vintage' in their description, which isn't true at all. Fuckers.
(There are also a dozen or so brands of vintage Diana clones being listed as 'vintage Diana' that clearly aren't.)
But I found a vintage Diana for $9 plus shipping. It was cheap and still available because it looked to be in very rough condition. The first thing I had to do was remove all the duct tape and re-tape the camera's seams and joints with electrician's tape, which is superior for this purpose. By wasting a couple rolls of film, I learned where else to apply more tape to stop the light leaks.
Many people say the light leaks are part of the charm on vintage cameras, but I find them annoying. If the leaks were random in origin, shape, size, or character, that would be fun. But light leaking onto the exact same spot of each frame, and in exactly the same shape, is repetitive and boring.
Tragically, the worst leak comes from the small porthole on the camera back that displays the shot number on the film backing paper. Easy enough to cover up, but it means you can't see how far to advance the film between shots. I first tried to compensate for this blindness by counting the number of clicks the rotating dial makes while advancing the roll. It was 73. Worse than that, it's painstaking to turn the dial slowly enough to get a single click. That whole process, which I endured dutifully, was dumb. The easier solution was simply to note the position of the letters on the dial and assess how much of a revolution it needed to make to advance from one frame accurately to the next. It's simpler than it sounds. I just turn the dial about 90% of a full revolution.
More tragedy befell on my last attempt to load a roll of film. The inside framework structure thingy completely detached. I hadn't noticed that the guts of the camera had been previously detached and glued back together. This thing really is a piece of shit.
I was moaning about this to my friend Stephen last week, and he was like, "just buy another one." We argued about it for a while but I finally convinced him how hard it is to find an original Diana. Except it wasn't. A few days later, I found one listed on ebay as brand new and in its original box. The starting bid was $19.
You know I'm a skeptic, right? There's no fucking way this could be real. It had to be a Lomography Diana. I also suspected the box was fake, which is not a dfficult thing to do with a home printer. But the photos looked good and the starting bid was low enough, I thought WTF. I put in a bid. Then I forgot about it.
I was shocked three days later to get an email saying I won the auction and had purchased the camera for $19. That meant that not a single other person bid on it, which was insane. Maybe everyone else could tell that it was a fake?
After a close inspection, there's no doubt this is authentic. It's in pristine condition for something this old. The box and paper manual have just the right amount of faded discoloration. The camera plastic is clean and there's not a speck of dust on the interior. There's a bit of rust on the metal ring inside the lens cap which is not only to be expected but attests to the age. Best of all, the shutter mechanism works flawlessly (the shutter on the other one was slower than it should have been and prone to sticking once opened). I've never seen, let alone handled, a new Diana before and I feel incredibly lucky to have snagged it.
Pictures to follow. I've got a batch of expired film to try.