I had decided this year to stop buying cameras, and sell some of my 35mm collection as I wasn’t really shooting with them all and there were some I wasn’t that fussed about keeping. I’d bought a Fuji XF1 in the sales, so I had a really good digital camera too. Now I’ve got a Lomography Belair X 6-12.
Belair x 6-12
I somehow decided to start shooting 120 film, in addition to 35mm, and ended up buying a few medium format cameras. This new one is one of them. (I also have a Baby Bessa and a Zeiss Ikon Nettar).
in folder state
There aren’t many new film cameras being made today, not at the consumer end of the market (at least not at the affordable end of it), and certainly not shooting 120 film. One of the advantages of 120 film over 35mm, is the size of the negatives, the standard size is 6cm x 6cm and 6cm x 9cm is common. This camera can shoot both of those, plus 12cm x 6cm – which I’m hoping with be great for panoramas.
The camera is quite big – it needs to be – but not too heavy. Even though it’s plastic, it doesn’t feel too flimsy. Unfortunately, it is missing one of the lenses (which is why I got it cheap) but somehow the viewfinder is the one that matches the missing lens… so I’ll have to guess what is in my shot, unless I can get a finder from somewhere! (The other lens is wide-angle).
No, I haven’t had a baby – it’s a camera. A Voigtländer Baby Bessa 66*. You might be thinking it’s looking a bit corroded, that’s because it was made in 1938, and has been stored badly. The insides look pristine, though.
It is otherwise in fairly good nick – the bellows are still light-tight, the shutter still works (although all speeds work at 1/150 second), and the lens is in fairly good condition with no scratches. The aperture looks really good. The viewfinder has no glass or lens in it, just holes in two pieces of metal – it is meant to be like that. That’s how they did things before the war.
It had a roll of film in it when I got it, only 7 of the shots had been taken, but I’m not paying to get that developed (B&W medium format film is about £10 to get developed, that’s without printing!). I’m keeping it carefully until the day I finally get around to developing my own negatives, then this can be a test roll!
I’ve already shot a roll of film with it – B&W – which I hope will be back by the end of the week. If it comes out ok, I’ll post some pictures. Or I might post them anyway.
*The 66 refers to the size of the negative – 6cm square. They also made a 46 which was 4.5cm x 6cm.
Yes, I have too many cameras*. It’s not yet become a problem, none of them have cost me over £35 and I still have room underneath my bed to store them. Here is my new one:
This is a pretty small camera, as you can see from the film canister – only 95mm long. The lens partly retracts, making this more-or-less pocket-sized. There is a selenium light meter on the top, which will be handy while I teach myself to use the Sunny-16 rule accurately.
In truth, I have two of these – I bought one as ‘spares or repair’, as previous owner had got the retractable lens jammed in the ‘out’ position, plus other things (The broken one coast me slightly more that the working one!). I’ve sorted the lens, now got a couple of other things to fix. No idea what I’m doing with it then, it’s a bit too beaten-up to sell.
*So far: Voigtländer Vito C (broken), Voigtländer Vitoret D (going to sell this, I think), 2 x Voigtländer Vito B (I love these), Zorki 4, Fed-2, Rollei B35 x 2, Recesky TLR (Gakkenflex clone)
I was worried about how these shots were going to come out. For a start, the Recesky (or Gakkenflex) is a plastic camera I assembled myself, plus there is almost nothing you can adjust on it. The focus can be moved a little, but it is quite difficult to tell what effect you are having.
As it was, it wasn’t so bad. There are a couple that were taken in too-dark light conditions and have hardly come out at all. The rest of them are ok, considering. I can’t wait until we get some actual sunshine, I’m sure I’ll get better photos then.
Arch in The Quarry Park
Porthill Bridge, Twice
It can be a bit of a pain getting what you want in the viewfinder, the image is left-right inverted. It can get very confusing. I can’t wait until there is some regular sunlight, I’m sure the quality will improve…
I got the camera built in about an hour, that was good fun – I enjoy building things. I tested the shutter (looked through the back while clicking) and noticed it only worked properly about 50%, the rest of the time it got stuck open, or stayed open while my finger was on the trigger, both would have lead to massive over-exposure of the film. I thought it might improve with use, as it loosened up.
Building the camera
It did the opposite. Plus, the film ‘counter’ wasn’t counting. It doesn’t actually count, the wheel just goes around to show that you’ve advanced the film by one frame. Well, it wasn’t doing that, even. A quick search later, I find that both are common problems. After a bit of further digging and some experimenting of my own I solved them.
This one should not be over-tightened
The Shutter: Don’t over-tighten the spring-loaded thing between the shutter and the round thing that turns when you press the shutter release thing. It should be just tight enough to do the whole shutter thing and no more. Try to get this right first time, I had to take the camera apart to fix this, and snapped a couple of things off that shouldn’t be snapped.
Film Counter: Squeeze the case on the back at a point halfway between the film advance winder and the ‘counter’. This seems to work. I’ve had to waste a film to play around and discover this, but as it was only from the pound shop anyway, it doesn’t matter that much.
The viewfinder looks surprisingly bright for something that requires no batteries, but not sure how much use it is with the focussing.
Viewfinder (doesn’t photograph very well)
Next: Monday morning, I shall buy some new film and set out to shoot a test roll! (I’d do it tomorrow, but I’m working)
Recorded live in Ableton Live using ADK large-diaphragm condenser mic, and filmed using my Fuji camera in ‘movie’ mode. It was done in one take, I suppose I could have got a perfect take if i had spent all morning on it, but I wasn’t that bothered.