I've never seen a Lubitel, much less used one. If it's like the Russian cameras I've owned, and there have been plenty, it is probably cheaply made, poorly manufactured, but has a killer lens. That alone should be worth the tiny price they go for. Weren't they modeled on the old Voigtlander Focusing Brillants? I have one of those. The camera, while mostly bakelite, is a Voigtlander, so it's well made. The focus "patch" stinks. Mine has a Heliar lens though, and the negs from it look better than the ones from the Rolleiflex w/ Planer I once owned, so I put up w/ the focus patch. I've replaced the mirror on mine, and see no reason why a regular focus screen couldn't be put in there, so that should be possible on the Lubitels as well. One could make a case for getting a Brillant TLR, focusing model or not, w/ a Skopar or Heliar lens and be done w/ the whole image quality question, but I still would like to try a Lubitel some day. The Novar and Triotar are 3 element lenses too, and mine are superb stopped down a bit.
This is such a weird forum. People seem fixated at picking apart comments, rather than focusing (I like how that fit in. Feel free to pick on it) on the topic at hand. It's like people are lurking to pounce on the least little thing. Not a fun site at all. But then, I had thought it was a photography site, not an opinion site. My mistake.
actually this site is waaaaayyy mellower than most...
Yes, I like the Lubitel, I like it's feel and I love the waist viewer - it gives me a whole new perspective on framing up a shot - find the camera fun to use and would indeed use almost anything analogue over digital - totally <3 it! ;)
I bought a Lubitel 166 for a bargain £3 at a camera shop a few years ago, thinking it may be good for some fun of the 'Lomo' kind.
But to my horror it was very good, a really good lens, much too good for 'Lomo'. Yes, it is plastic, it is crude, but the shutter is accurate and the whole thing is tiny. The only downside is the focusing, it does need good light, but you can't have everything.
The lens is glass. Lomo was a Russian company, I understand they have been taken over - or the name - and now make trendy-gauche, quasi-toy cameras with plastic lenses under the Lomography label. But the Lubitel is a real camera. It has no light meter, all manual, so you need to know how to use a hand-held meter and be able to set the diaphragm. This camera is stripped-down-basic and not easy to use compared to digital point'n'squirt, the Lomo would make a great trainer since it teaches you (economy and) the basics of photography as you use it: top shoppers, please don't knock this camera, we want to enthuse the next generation for analogue photography, not disillusion them with super prices for super analogue gear which will be well beyond what your average youthful photographer can afford.
There was some great gear which came out of the Soviet Union - if you can find a good'un - Kiev cameras have superb optics and the Krasnogorsk-3 clockwork cine camera is a favourite with film students. It has a great, bright zoom lens, weighs a ton, and is a joy to use if you survive the film loading experience ;) Lomo also made cine developing tanks which are eagerly sought after and can handle both 8mm and 16mm film.
Top tip for Lubitel users: I did find, with my Sputnik, that the lens elements are held in with circlips and that occasionally those circlips aren't tight enough, and the elements can wobble slightly, enough to detect with a gentle poke with a toothpick. So if you're not into the whole Lomography thing and you want your lens to focus where it's supposed to focus, then a tiny drop of superglue on the edge of the loose elements will help.