Belair & Belairgon 90mm: First Impressions Review


Here are my (mainly positive) impressions of my first colour film test with the Belair and its premium Belairgon 90mm lens. Used with care, this camera can make unforgettable pictures.

I have often used medium format cameras over the years. Medium format images have that fantastic tonality of subtle skin tones and potentially very good detail resolution. I mainly used 6×6 Rolleiflex and 6×4.5 Fuji cameras, yet the enormous 6×12 format was always out of reach.

When I found out about the Belair, I was immediately interested, because normally the nicely wide 6×12 format is way too expensive for amateurs. I bought the kit with the 35mm back which I have not yet tried. I also found out about the two Belairgon lenses which should increase the quality level of the images a few notches, especially when using the full 6×12 format. Hence I ordered the Belairgon 90mm to use it as my main lens. I have not tried the kit lenses, and will likely not do so.

First impressions upon unboxing:
This is a very cool looking camera. I had almost forgotten how simple an analogue camera could be! A good lens, a shutter, a light-tight box and a simple winding mechanism, that is all – it is far removed in operation from digital cameras. The Belair is light and remarkably portable, it is not a robust as my other medium format gear but good enough for careful use. The viewfinders mount easily (and cleverly), the indices are simple but they do the job. A small frustration was that the light meter batteries are not included. And once you have them, pay careful attention on the direction when inserting them.

My Belair with Belairgon 90mm

In general, the 90mm Belairgon lens feels very well made. It is also very practical that it can accept 52mm filters, like filters for black and white and a neutral density filter, handy for dealing with the max 1/125 second shutter speed in some situations. Mounting the lens takes some precision, watch out not to touch the shutter blades! The Belairgon changes the balance of the camera, you will want to support the lens during shooting. Also, my lens mounting plate, normally locked to the body when not in use, tends to unlock at the top because of the lens weight.

Now, on the road!
My first test film was the Lomography 400 colour negative film, with the camera set to 6×12. Now, 6×12 is expensive in use (only 6 pictures per 120 film!), so it is best to pay attention during the whole experience: take care when loading the film, so that it is nicely tight and flat, you want images in focus where you expect it.
I did the light metering with an iphone app. Next to the Belair, I had a Fuji 6×9 rangefinder camera with me to compare the results.

The camera is in general easy to use, there is not much to it, yet you have to pay attention throughout. Immediately forward the film after a shot if you don’t want accidental multiple exposures. Don’t forget to take off the lens cap. And especially, support the lens well when pressing the shutter. In my first test film, 2 pictures were blurry because of my camera shake.

Hold the lens board very stable when you press the shutter or you your image will be blurry!

It must be said that this is ergonomically the minus point of the Belair: the shutter release being a lever on the front board makes it susceptible for vibrations, even when the camera is mounted on a tripod. My humble advice to Lomography for a potential v2 of the camera: add a cable release, ideally via a shutter button on the body!
You’ll also need to guesstimate the distance on the lens. There is now an accessory that can help for closer distances. I estimated and checked with my other camera. The available apertures are f8 and f16, so there is enough depth of field to compensate for your guesses once you shoot farther away. The Belairgon also comes with a handy depth of field diagram, I keep a picture of it in my smartphone for reference.
Regarding light metering, it’s all automatic but you can play a bit with it. I have read (not tested) that the camera locks the light metering when you press the shutter ALMOST completely, you’ll hear a soft click then. Afterwards you could recompose. Or you can also play with the ISO of the film to influence the meter.

So, how are the results?
Very promising. Again, this was just a test film to get a feel for the camera but it is already obvious that the camera and its Belairgon lens allow for great results. I will definitely be using this camera often indeed.

This sample picture was converted to b&w as the picture lends itself well to it.
This is a colour picture inside a bar, it is obvious how nicely the 6×12 format works in interior spaces.
Not a prize winning picture, but it shows how the 6×12 format gives room for nicely wide compositions, also for vertical orientation.

I do recommend the camera, perhaps it is not ideal for the typical “shoot from the hip” Lomographer – I think you’ll have too many bad results then, and as mentioned the 6×12 format is quite expensive in use – which also pushes more towards a thoughtful kind of photography.
It is interesting to compare the Belair + Belairgon set with 2nd hand medium format gear on the market. For the price of the combination or a little more, you can find decent condition 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7 and 6×9 cameras from respectable brands. Some of these will be more convivial than the Belairgon. However none deliver that 6×12 image, this really makes it special. In addition, the Belairgon lens is remarkably good when focused accurately, the lens is capable of pictures that can be enlarged to poster size. It would be interesting to see Lomography release a Belairgon 58mm as well.

written by talaerts on 2013-09-16 in #reviews #jetsetter #review #belair #90mm #120-film #belairgon

One Comment

  1. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    Thanks for the article! How accurate is the Belair viewfinder? How worry should we be about parallax and the ends of a 6x12 frame being clipped off?

More Interesting Articles

  • 10 Steps to Better Photography with the Belair Cameras

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-07-20 in #gear #tipster
    10 Steps to Better Photography with the Belair Cameras

    Having the distinction of being the world's first 6x12 auto-exposure medium format camera, the Belair X 6-12 combines professional grade photography with ease of use. In this week's installment, we list down a few ways you can improve your photography with it.

  • Lomo’Instant Quick Shots: Adriana Brioso

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-12-09 in #gear #tipster
    Lomo’Instant Quick Shots: Adriana Brioso

    There are so many exciting things you can do with the Lomo'instant camera, it's hard to know where to start. We've been giving this lovable Lomo camera the full test drive so that you can experience the full potential of this camera in an instant! Here are some top tips on shooting graffiti and doubles with our UK intern Adriana Brioso.

  • Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-04-06 in #gear #reviews
    Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    There are quite a few perks that come with working for a film photography company, and the best perk of all is testing out the latest cameras. I can remember buying my LC-A back in 2009 and being really inspired to shoot film again. When the LC-A 120 came along, I couldn't wait to try it out around London. Join me as I test out this super medium format beauty.

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • First Impressions of the Lomo LC-A Minitar-1 Art Lens: Andrea Cislaghi

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-05-02 in #gear #news
    First Impressions of the Lomo LC-A Minitar-1 Art Lens: Andrea Cislaghi

    In case you missed it, Lomography has just unveiled the latest member of its Art Lens family: the Lomo LC-A Minitar-1 Art Lens, which boasts of the same optics that the legendary LC-A camera has and brings the classic Lomographic style not only to analog but also to the digital platform. Over the next few days we'll be sharing with you the first impressions of and photographs taken by members of the Lomography team, who had gone out and put the Lomo LC-A Minitar-1 to the test. First up is graphic designer Andrea Cislaghi, who coupled this lens with the Bessa R2 and Sony Alpha 7.

  • Uwe Mimoun: the Man Behind KONO! Reanimated Film

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-07-31 in #people #lifestyle
    Uwe Mimoun: the Man Behind KONO! Reanimated Film

    Branded as "The Reanimated Film," KONO! Film is hand-rolled and made of special materials which are rarely (or never) produced for "normal“ photography. Rather, the materials were intended for the motion picture industry and the results can vary depending on how the film is used. Learn more in this interview with the founder of KONO! Film, Uwe Mimoun.

  • Perfect Combination for a Hazy Day: Lomo LC-A and a Pushed Ilford HP5+

    written by sirio174 on 2015-05-06 in #gear #reviews
    Perfect Combination for a Hazy Day: Lomo LC-A and a Pushed Ilford HP5+

    In this article, I'll show you how the Lomo LC-A loaded with the versatile Ilford HP5+ can make the most out of a hazy morning. To capture the whirlwind of a bicycle race, I pushed the film to ISO 800. The legendary Minitar 1 lens and this classic Ilford film are a perfect combination if you love black and white photos.

  • Shop News

    Check Revolog 36exp Plexus Effects!

    Check Revolog 36exp Plexus Effects!

    Feeling experimental? We have the perfect film for you. Load up a roll of Revolog Plexus 200 on your favorite 35mm camera and shoot as you normally would.

  • So here’s what we’ve been working on: an all new

    written by recurving on 2015-02-03 in #world #news
    So here’s what we’ve been working on: an all new

    For the last year we've been working on the next version of Lomography. We based our work on the feedback you’ve given us over the years and we wanted to share it as early as possible with you and can’t wait to hear what you think. Just one warning first: it is still in development and things can break. All the photos, comments, likes, homes and everything else were transferred as of October 16th, 2014. So anything you do on won't be reflected on and vice versa. Once we are done with testing, everything you did here will be deleted again. So this is a big playground for you to explore.

  • Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    written by tomas_bates on 2015-01-21 in #gear #tipster
    Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    Perhaps you’ve already had chance to try light painting, multiple exposures and long exposures with your Lomo’Instant, but what can you experiment with next? Well, that’s exactly the thought I had which led to giving this Tipster a go. I wanted to shoot Lomo’Instant photos which felt a bit “messier” than what I’m usually used to and to use a technique which would open up new possibilities with the kinds of images I could create with my favorite instant camera. Well, here I go!

  • Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-04-22 in #gear #news
    Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    Capture the world and all its contours in vibrant, wide-angled photographs any time, any where! The LC-A 120 is an adventure of its own with lots of exciting functions to experiment with, like seamless long exposures or full ISO control. It's also super-fast and ultra-compact - perfect for your everyday. If you're worried about the Medium Format film, don't be! You are free to use any 120 Film you want and there are plenty to choose from. In fact, that's what makes this camera so versatile! Scroll through this gallery for a little taste of the glorious shots this nifty invention is capable of.

  • Shop News

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    You want your subject be the center of attention? Petzval lens photos are recognizable for sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field that will make your subjects stand out!

  • Creative Snaps Captured with the Lomo'Instant Rumble Winners

    written by lomography on 2015-12-01 in #world #news #competitions
    Creative Snaps Captured with the Lomo'Instant Rumble Winners

    These photographs prove just what makes the Lomo'Instant camera the "world's most creative instant camera system."

  • Holga Factory Shuts Down Its Production of the Iconic Camera and Accessories

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-12-01 in #gear #news
    Holga Factory Shuts Down Its Production of the Iconic Camera and Accessories

    The announcement was made last week by the Hollywood, California-based Freestyle Photographic Supplies, the exclusive distributor of Holga cameras in the USA.

  • 5 New York Exhibits to See Before the End of 2015

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-12-01 in #world #lifestyle
    5 New York Exhibits to See Before the End of 2015

    Photography shows give us a sense of what's possible. For the up-and-coming artist on hiatus, visiting an exhibit might just be the wake-up call to a productive new year.