I am the proud owner of Belair Jetsetter #48. This thing is excitingly different!
After much excited anticipation (and 10 months going by without buying a new camera), I just picked up my Belair Jetsetter last week and have put the first roll of film through it. Here are my initial thoughts and opinions.
I really like the size and weight of it. It feels nice and solid. Not Zenit SLR solid (those things are almost bullet-proof and can be used as weapons), but more substantial than the lighter plastic cameras like the Diana and Holga. It’s also a good size, though holding it properly takes a little getting used. I have a feeling that it’s a camera best used when it’s nice and bright outside which will minimize the amount of time the sensor keeps the shutter open. I’ve not tried it with a flash yet.
Next, it looks fantastic. I chose the Jetsetter edition since I tend to like the feel and weight of metal cameras over plastic. I feel the finish and leather will age quite nicely and metal tends to be a bit more robust than plastic. And I love the bellows. How retro cool is that? If you don’t like curious people coming up to you and asking “What is that?”, this isn’t the camera for you. If you don’t mind that or even enjoy that sort of attention, you’ll love the Belair.
One of the main selling points for me regarding this camera is its ability to take 6×6, 6×9 and an especially awesome 6×12 photograph. You can do this by using one of the three masks included in the box. For my first roll, I chose 6×9. I must admit, I found the masks a bit tricky to remove once in the camera because the plastic tabs look so delicate. I was afraid of breaking them. I have a feeling these masks will need to be offered as replacement parts at some point. Getting them in is a snap. Literally. And once in they are snug and secure. One thing you’ll need to be aware of is you cannot change the mask once you load a roll of film. But anyone whose used the masks in the Diana will already know about this.
Now that I have a couple of rolls back I can see that it has the light leaks that I find so charming. I still need to send a few more rolls though it to see if it happens almost all the time (like my Diana F+) or is a rare treat (like my LCA+).
I’ve not had a chance to try each notch on the ISO dial yet, just the 100, 200 and 400 while shooting the Redscale and Ilford HP5 you see here.
I’m not a fan of the shutter lever though. I know it adds to the esthetic of the camera and harks back to the vintage Land Cameras of old, but I would have preferred a more standard button, though mainly so I can use a cable release for proper movement-free long exposures. The Belair has a standard tripod socket for more stable shooting, but without being able to attach a cable release, this feature is compromised in my opinion. Unless you really clamp it down at the front and back, there will be some movement during those bulb shots you want to take. I’ve read a couple of reviews from other Lomographers about the Belair and see that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
My other wish is for a glass lens, more akin to what is on the LCA+ (which I have and love) or LCA Wide. But seeing as how the lenses come off, I am hoping a glass lens is in the works for really crisp shots. I think once it gets one of those (especially a really wide angle 15mm to 18mm lens to really take advantage of the 6×12 format) I feel it can even compete against some of the big boys of landscape cameras at a fraction of the price.
So, overall I believe Lomography has a winner on their hands with the Belairs. It’s got show-stopper looks, the most shooting formats in a single camera, many ISO speeds to choose from and the ability to change lenses like SLRs and higher end cameras. There is nothing else I can think of that has all of these features for this price and still be so easily available new. It’s a great camera, but has the potential to be even better.