The Belair has to be one of the easiest cameras to use that Lomography has invented. Even a novice can get good very good shots from it. With a little know-how, you can achieve amazing shots with it.
I have had a comment or two, congratulating my very sharp images, and heard of people struggling with blurry pictures. Here’s how to put a stop to it.
With the Belair, you need to be good at judging your distances. Quite key to your success is understanding the graphs about the lenses in the manual. These are quite easy to interpret – they simply show you the best distance setting to get the best depth of field – and how wrong you can be. The bottom line shows the distance setting on the lenses, the cropped lines above show you the tolerance, either side of which that will still be in sharp focus.
In this article, I discussed depth of field, I recommend you go back and have a look at it.
Once you understand depth of field, you can see in these charts that the 90mm lens is much better, has a much better chance of getting sharp images, if set to f16. As you are guessing the distance, you’ve a much better chance of success if you use f16 rather than f8.
You’ll note I described using lower f numbers to get nicer portraits in that article, with the Belair, this is not so easy, you can’t focus exactly as you can with an SLR. You could measure the distance, or buy a clip on rangefinder, something I intend to do.
My favourite thing about the Belair? It’s the only medium format camera I have with automatic exposure. It keeps the shutter open for as long as it needs to to properly expose the film. No need for sunny 16, a light meter, or fretting! You can ‘Just Shoot’.
Or is there?
Having the ability to choose a shutter speed taken away means if you want to consistently shoot at f16, then you need to make sure you understand film ISO and speed because, unlike the advice given in the manual to use ISO 100 in Sunny conditions, I choose to use ISO 400. This is because I can always shoot at f16 (pretty much – if it gets really low in light I can open up to f8) and guarantee a high shutter speed – eliminating camera shake. I’d go up to ISO 100 if the day was real beach weather.
Don’t take my word for it though, you should experiment. I live in a country with very, very changeable weather so I need the ability to fall back.
There is not a lot more to say about the Belair. It’s a wonderful camera that is great for both those who are very familiar with the science of photography, and an excellent camera for those just starting.
To fill in the gaps in your knowledge you may wish to investigate CIRCLE OF CONFUSION, a bizarre topic for the completist, but key to depth of field.