The Belair has already descended in the Great White North, read on as one premium unit fell onto enthusiastic hands, ready to shoot it for winter!
Before I begin with my article about my initial impressions and observations about my Belair x 6-12, I’d like to give props to the Lomography Gallery Store Toronto for looking after my order! They’ve been very helpful and great, which makes the arrival of this camera (which was very timely, by the way) even more special.
As this article suggests, I have received my Belair last week. It was more of a spur-of-the-moment purchase, thinking that I’ve never bought any premium cameras from Lomography before (I own an LC-A but it was a second-hand purchase), and since I have a penchant for medium format, thought that this is a great opportunity to finally get one.
Upon opening the box, I was actually surprised to find out that the premium camera is not in a premium packaging. I was expecting that it will come in a wooden box (like the LC-Wide) or something more creative, so my expectation fell short. However, I thought that it was smart for Lomography to have the camera and the lens wrapped in a black cloth.
I am not sure about some people, but I actually read the instruction manual that came with the package. I also went over the myriad of articles and tips on the Lomography website about the Belair so that I know how to use and what to expect with the camera. So I went over the camera’s features, and didn’t get the initial feel of it until the next day.
Ergonomics-wise, I think this is a light camera despite of its size. I own a Polaroid Land 420, and the Belair echoes its design. I haven’t got the chance to hold them together and actually weigh them, but I am guessing that the Belair feels lighter. It feels good to the hands, which is always a good thing for me as I have small hands. The camera is also well-designed and something that you don’t see around that much in a market that is saturated with camera phones and digital cameras.
This won’t be an initial impression if not for my cons and pros. I’ll start with the things that I am not too pleased. First is my camera’s locking mechanism. For me I find it hard to lock my camera in place, since the lever tends to pop right back out after folding. I find this to be bothersome that I am unable to close my camera properly. I took a peek and I think it has something to do with the plastic clasp that serves as the lock. I am afraid that it might break! A fellow film shooter mentioned that he started using elastics (rubber band) to snap the camera shut.
Another concern I have is the mount for the viewfinder. I find the material to be a bit flimsy, and one has to be careful when attaching this to the viewfinder socket. If travelling, I recommend removing the viewfinder in order for the plastic material not to break.
Now about some of the things I like about this camera. First is the viewfinder. It is big and clear, just the way I needed it to be. I have bad eyesight, and I say it again, a clear, bright viewfinder is a must for me.
The lens is light and straightforward to use. I didn’t find any problems with rotating the aperture ring and the zone focus which is good and smooth as butter.
Winter has already descended in Canada, so obviously its first test roll was my neighborhood, enveloped in snow. I tested the 6 × 12 format and shot in black and white for convenience’s sake (since I can develop the 6 frames at home). My fresh batteries didn’t die on me despite of the cold and I thought the Belair held up really fine.
Upon developing my test roll, I noticed that there is a considerable gap between the frames. I am unsure if it is normal, nonetheless it makes cutting negatives a lot easier than 35mm. I thought that the photos came out soft, which I assume is expected of a plastic lens. Could you imagine if this camera is mounted with a glass one?
I also shot the Belair during the Black and White party that I attended and it has garnered a number of fans because of its vintage appeal. I shot together with my Diana F+ flash and the Lomography Xpro 200 film. I thought it was great, though I need to get used to the distance and measurements since I had one photo I liked that got the girls’ heads cut off the frame.
So what is my initial verdict? I think the Belair delivered, but not to perfection (I guess that is to be expected). Will this replace my TLR or my medium-format SLR? Highly unlikely, but the Belair is a great addition to my medium format arsenal. I think this is a great unit for the more serious film enthusiasts and lovers of landscape photography. In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating and documenting this Yuletide season with this camera, and looking forward to shooting more photographs and seeing new accessories made for this camera.