Analogue camera brand Lomography (or Lomo, for short) has fast been gaining popularity following the success of its first model - the Lomo LC-A+ - and subsequent Diana F+ and Diana Mini models, while the London shop has just celebrated its first anniversary. The Spinner 360 is the most recent addition to the brand's arsenal of retro-styled cameras and, as the name suggests, is designed to take 360-degree panoramic images.
Unlike some models in the company's range, which use relatively hard-to-find 120mm film, the Spinner uses conventional 35mm film that you can buy anywhere. For those of us that are used to digital snaps, loading camera film can seem slightly intimidating, but rest assured that the Spinner makes it absolutely child's play. You simply pop the back open, lift up the rewind dial, put the film in, attach the spool to the sprocket and wind it a couple of times using the dial on the bottom.
Before shooting, you need to make sure that the aperture is switched to either the "cloudy" or "sunny" setting (depending how light the shooting conditions are). If you're outside in the sun and using ISO 400 film then use the sunny setting, or if it's cloudy then, yep, you've guessed it - use the cloudy setting. If you're using ISO 100 or 200 or if you're shooting inside (it'll need to be a brightly lit room) then always use the cloudy setting. If you leave it on the rewind setting then you'll end up with a blank roll of film and all of your photographic efforts will have been wasted.
There is a hotshoe on top of the camera but as there are no contact points, you won't be able to use a conventional flash, but you can use a strobe flash or constant light source.
There's a cool-looking 360-degree spirit level on top of the camera, featuring an image of a jumping dolphin (a Spinner is a type of Dolphin, if you hadn't worked out the connection). This will help to you to line up your shot so that you get a complete panorama. The trick is to keep the camera steady, which may take a little bit of practice as the motion of pulling the cord out tends to jog the whole unit unless you're careful. Or if you prefer, you can go off-piste and hold the camera at an angle if you want to experiment with your photos. Alternatively, if you want to guarantee a non-shaky picture, there's a standard tripod mount on the base of the camera handle.
To take a picture, you simply pull the cord out as far as it will go, using the ring-pull, and then as you let it go the camera will spin and an image will be captured on the film. You get approximately eight pictures per standard 36 exposure roll, although this can vary slightly. You can alter the angle of the shot by how far you pull the cord out. For example, if you only pull the cord half-way out then you'll get a 180-degree picture. Make sure that you remove the "rubber band" from the underside of the camera body and set the aperture to R before rewinding the film.
As most shots that you take will probably be full 360-degree panorama, they are likely to include an image of yourself staring concentratedly at the camera while pulling the cord. To avoid this and get a nice panoramic shot of the view without yourself standing in the middle of it looking like a pillock, you simply need to hold the camera above your head. We got some pretty strange looks from people while doing this in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, but that's all part of the fun of Lomography.
As the camera uses 35mm film, you can get it developed anywhere from Boots to Snappy Snaps. However, if you are going to do this, you'll need to let them know the score - that there'll be just a few very long pictures on the film. It's best to ask them not to cut the negative so that you get one long strip, which you'll then need to scan yourself. It's also a good idea to ask them for "no colour correction" to preserve the effects produced by the film. Alternatively, you can get your film developed in the Lomo store. This can be a tad pricey, but they do offer the choice of simple processing or the additional benefits of having your images printed out or put onto a disc, or both.
The camera is quite bulky, although it does have a sturdy body and a much more premium feel than some of the brand's cheaper cameras. One thing we would've liked to have seen is a counter to tell us how many snaps we had left. Having said that, it's probably impossible to include such a feature on this camera as the photos aren't uniform length so you won't always get the same number of pictures from a roll of film. Although that makes it a tad annoying, it also makes waiting for your film to be developed that extra bit exciting as you really don't know what you're going to get.
We did ok with our roll of film, although unfortunately we picked a rather gloomy day to test it out in central London. Having said that, the results are still pretty cool (even if we do say so ourselves).
Overall, we're prepared to forgive the bulky chassis and the lack of counter as the pictures that the camera produces look awesome. It is still a little pricey though.
Thanks to Firebox.com for the loan of this product.