Leningrad Optical Mechanical Union

Meaning of LOMO – “Leningrad Optical Mechanical Union”, or Leningradskoye Optiko Mechanichesckoye Obyedinenie, is an optical manufacturer in St. Petersburg, Russia which manufactures optical scientific, military and consumer products.

They made gun sights during WWI and produced the first Russian camera in 1930. The company exports world-wide and produces night-vision products and telescopes make up 30% of their exports.

The company was founded in 1914 as the Russian Optical and Mechanical Company and became LOMO PLC in 1993.

“…The LOMO camera — a kind of Russian update of the Instamatic, originally developed by the KGB for spying — has exploded in popularity over the past few years, appearing on wall projects in the New York City subway, in blogs and, most recently, as an aesthetic template for bank and car ads.” [Eye Weekly] 

It was established as a French – Russian limited company to produce lenses and cameras. It manufactured gun sights during World War I. In 1919, it was nationalised. In the ensuing years, the state optical industries were reorganised several times. In 1921, the factory was named the Factory of State Optics, G.O.Z. In 1925, camera production was resumed, and several lens designs tested between 1925 and 1929. In 1928, the factory was ordered to manufacture a 9×12 camera, known as the FOTOKOR.

Further reorganisations of the soviet optical factories in several stages finally resulted in that the factory at Leningrad became GOMZ, the Russian Optical and Mechanical Factory.

In the transition period 1932 to 1935 a copy of the Leica camera was developed, the VOOMP I. It was followed by the VOOMP II or the “Pioneer” that was manufactured in small numbers. Simultaneously designers began the development of a single-lens reflex camera for 35mm cine film, possibly inspired by similar work in Germany, especially at Zeiss Ikon in Dresden, since the lens mount is quite similar to that of the Contax cameras of the time. Zeiss themselves were not allowed to pursue their ideas, due to the German armament. The new camera, called the “Sport”, was introduced at about the same time as the Ihagee Kine Exakta in 1936.

Today LOMO makes military optics, scientific research instruments, criminological microscopes, medical equipment, and a range of consumer products. It produced the first Russian camera in 1930.

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