The Lubitel 166U

Alfred's Camera Page

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I bought a brand-new shiny Lubitel-166U from Dr. Hans Roskam at a camera fair for $40 and decided one day to see how it performed. So on the lovely January 3rd 2001 I took it to The Hague (the Dutch governmental city, but you knew that) and shot twelve exposures on fresh FP4 Plus. The results are pretty much as I expected: reasonable center quality, large dropoff towards the edges. Not very acute sharpness. Hardly any brilliance.

The 166U is a plastic camera which is built with big, if not huge, tolerances, and is made primarily of numbered plastic parts. Although not a toy camera in the strict sense of the word, the border is, in this case, thin. It has in common with toy cameras that it's best suited not for technically perfect images, but more for artsy stuff. Its image quality is not total crap, but it's not what made medium format famous either. You get what you pay for. It might not be a studio photographer's dream, but it's an improvement over the Lubitel-2, and for $40, reasonable value for money (but I would prefer an old '2 instead, with its bakelite construction, its cultier design and its quirks).

The Lubitel-166U is called Universal because it can take pictures in two formats: 6×6 and 6×4.5 cm. 6×6 has the advantage of having a larger area and therefore a better quality on enlarging, but 6×4.5 gets more images on a roll. In practice you'd choose the format that best suits your style of photography. I for one would prefer 6×4.5 because it's a rectangular format. Like with most simple dual-format cameras, you have to choose beforehand which format you intend to use, and have no choice but to stick with it for the entire film. This is because the Lubitel-166U derives its powers of universality from the insertion (or non-insertion) of a 6×4.5cm mask. There's a little mask for the sports finder too, and the standard finder has the 6×4.5cm area already engraved. Don't forget to set the dial in the film back to 6×4.5 mode, because the 166U leaves all responsibility for the correct advancing of the film with the user, through the regular red window system. That also means you can't use paperless 220 film.

From the factory, Lubitel-166U sets include: the camera, a strap, an ill-fitting lens cap, a manual, a cable release, a cardboard box, and a little plastic jewel case with the 6×4.5 masks.

There were three versions of Lubitel-166:

  1. Lubitel-166: 1976-1981; 69.120 made
  2. Lubitel-166V: 1980-1990; 906.248 made
  3. Lubitel-166U: 1983-1996; 412.187 made
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