I couldn't resist ordering the Belair X 6-12 when the first pre-order was announced and I received it about a week ago! Sharing some of my first thoughts after shooting with my first 120mm film camera using the square 6x6 frame, loaded with Lomography CN 400 film.
1) Listen for the audible click when changing lens
I read a couple of queries online by some users who wondered why their lens didn’t seem to fix on tight. That was what I first encountered as well and I was worried that I’ll break something by twisting the lens on too tight. I took a deep breath and with a firm grip exerting just a little more strength, and there it was – the loud, audible click to confirm that I had fixed the lens correctly. Listen out for the loud click!
2) The world through the viewfinder
The little triangles in the viewfinder helped me frame according to the format I was shooting.
3) Wonders of zone focusing
I have a LC-A+ which brought me to the wonders of zone focusing. On the Belair it’s 1m, 1.5, 3m and infinity. This puts estimation skills to the test and for a start it might be useful to have a tape to help you visualize what the distance is like. Watch out when taking reflections though if you want to focus on the exact image in the reflection – estimate distance to the reflection, not the mirror/ reflective pane!
4) Adapting to a 1/125 max shutter speed, and selection of f/8 or f/16
I honestly wish the Belair supports faster shutter speeds with a wider range of aperture selections. Had a few shots turn out blurry very likely due to camera shake – they were taken indoors but with pretty good lighting and loaded with iso 400 film (Lomo CN 400). This makes me want to be more careful especially in low lighting conditions, and I probably have to pack higher iso film. I love shooting people at candid moments but for now I’m concerned my shots will turn out blurry knowing I can’t have my subjects stay completely still, and a tripod wouldn’t be appropriate. I also use the sunny16 rule to help me gauge – something I picked up when I explored my first manual rangefinder.
5) Battery indicator
Another qualm with the Belair – unlike the LC-A+, there’s no indicator to let me know if I’ve loaded the batteries correctly, or if the batteries are running out, especially when the Belair can still fire at 1/125 without batteries.
6) From 35mm to 120mm
My love with film started with 35mm, and the Belair is a refreshing switch and I know there’s still so much for me to discover with 120mm! A few things to note for fellow 35mm enthusiasts who may want try out 120mm in time to come:
- I’ve been spoilt by 35mm packed in a canister – make sure you hold on to the 120mm film roll tight while loading it – I almost had mine loosen and unwind! You don’t want to have the film exposed before shooting.
- The red window counter (choose the correct counter according to the format you’re shooting, and make sure you’ve put in the corresponding mask) helps you track which shot you’re on. I tried to wind it slowly for a start to make sure I didn’t lose any, and then in my excitement midway I actually missed one shot by overwinding.
- There’s no need to rewind a 120mm film after the end of the roll! Just wind to the end after the last shot, unload and tape it tight before sending it for developing – I placed mine in a black clean sock!
I can’t wait to shoot more with the Belair, try the other formats, use a slide film, and bring it out with me to capture the candid moments of my friends. Hoping my estimations of the loaded film, lighting and use of sunny 16 will also get me some good shots. The Belair X 6-12 is certainly a head turner – spotted curious onlookers and even had a stranger initiate a chat with me to find out about the stunner I was holding!