Everything looks great in black; especially cameras. Try the Belair X 6-12 City Slicker on for size and you just might leave all of your other cameras at home.
Medium format is a great film choice. Unlike its more common 35mm format cassette-encased sister, medium format film is generally supplied on a spool with an opaque paper backing. Although you can still find extended length “paperless” spools of 220 film (i.e., you get 24 6- x 6-cm exposures on a 220 roll versus 12 exposures on a 120 roll), or even single exposure cut film negative material, the 120 film roll is the King of Medium Format.
It’s easy to see why the 120 roll is so dominant in medium format photography when you review how many different negative dimensions can be exposed on this film. The 120 roll can be used in film cameras that support at least four different dimensions: 6- x 4.5-cm, 6- x 6-cm, 6- x 7-cm, and 6- x 9-cm. Those dimensions are so last century, however. Today there is a new format that can be added to the 120 roll’s repertoire: 6- x 12-cm. Whoa! That’s B-I-G! And this remarkable panoramic format is due to the magical powers of those Lomographic Society International kids.
But those clever guys and gals didn’t stop there; no they bundled this new panoramic 120 format into a medium format camera that is also capable of hitting the 6- x 6-cm and 6- x 9-cm marks, too. All of this medium format goodness is squeezed into a gorgeous black metal, nylon, and plastic package. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the Lomography Belair X 6-12 City Slicker.
Why the all-black City Slicker model in lieu of the bright silver metal Jet Setter or Trailblazer models? It’s all about black, baby.
Do you want to know a fashion secret? Black is always in style. Whether it’s clothes, shoes, cars, or cameras, black is a timeless classic. Plus black makes you look thinner, too. And nobody wants to be caught with a “heavy set,” “large boned,” “rotund” camera, do they? Nope. We Lomos shoot from the hip, right? So, black it is.
Regardless of the Belair model you choose, however, the specifications remain the same:
- Film – 120 roll film
- Picture Size – 6-x6-cm, 6-x9-cm, 6-x12-cm
- Focus Range – 1m – infinity
- Shutter Speed – 1/125
- Exposure Control – Aperture priority; f/8 & f/16
- Flash – X-synchronization hot shoe
- Battery – 2xLR44
- Lens – 58mm (90-degree angle of view) & 90mm (65-degree angle of view)
Opening the Belair box could give you a pause, a gasp, and a chuckle. Unlike most gadgets today, the Lomography packaging is devoid of foam, plastics, and bubble wraps. Underneath the top sheet of foam (OK, there is one small, thin, tiny sheet of packaging foam on top of all the cool goodies), the camera body and two viewfinders are ensconced in a black fabric shroud. Right, shroud does sound kinda morbid, but it’s not a bag or slipcase, rather it’s a large piece of black fabric that has been wrapped around each item. And don’t you dare throw these wraps away. Be sure to keep these bits of fabric for cleaning your Belair.
Two odd omissions from the Belair box are no strap for the camera and no batteries. While the former is excusable, the lack of batteries, especially such oddball sized batteries that are required for this camera, is a very unfortunate absence. In order to right this second wrong, you will have to go to a shop that sells unique batteries (e.g., RadioShack in the USA) and purchase two LR44 batteries. Once purchased, you install these batteries with a peculiar orientation (i.e., one positive pole is “up” and the other’s negative pole is “up”), so study the polarity symbols very carefully before snapping the battery chamber door closed.
You are now ready to load a roll of 120 film into the camera.
When the Belair is finally loaded with film and ready for use, you might want to keep an eye on the lens cap—that’s both lens caps; for either lens, because they will become loose after only a couple of removals and replacements. Once they get loose, watch out! During use, mine fell off repeatedly when opening the camera for operation. In one case, the lens cap hit the ground of a 7-storey parking garage and started rolling towards the building’s edge. A quick grab saved my lens cap. Whew, that was close!
Then, less than one hour later, I was standing on a dock getting ready to shoot the Natchez paddle-wheeler leaving its New Orleans dock when the other lens cap dropped off as I was switching lenses. Lucky for me, this cap landed on a nearby pier, just missing a dunk in the muddy Mississippi River.
Two close calls in one day. That’s two too many. Therefore, you might want to add a short length of plastic tape to the inside of each lens cap. This simple trick should help hold the cap more tightly against the lens barrel.
Even though the Belair is a very well made camera, you should still “handle” it with care. Unbelievably, it’s your fingernails that are the culprits that can do the most damage to this stylish camera. Unlike the pricier leather-covered models, the City Slicker is wrapped with a leatherette or, as I prefer to call it, Lomography “leather,” finish. This material can dent very easily from a bump, jab, or grab from your fingernails or jewelry. So watch it.
Another area where you should avoid rough handling is around the rubber bellows. Even though Lomography Society International designed the Belair X 6-12 with a rugged rubber bellows, you should avoid poking it during opening and closing the camera. Furthermore, you shouldn’t rest your fingers against the bellows during picture taking, either. This lazy “finger rest” practice can cause the bellows to bulge into the light chamber and obscure a portion of your film. Keep an eye on how you hold your Belair and you should get extremely satisfying images.
There have been some complaints about the Belair delivering poorly focused photographs. Some reviewers have blamed the camera, the bellows, the lenses, and, even, the film for these supposedly bad results. Using a variety of films from both Ilford and Lomography Society International and operating in a wide range of lighting conditions, I always received very good, crisp, and tonally balanced results. In fact, my results have been so good, that I have decided not to purchase either of the new all-glass Belairgon lenses. I’m afraid that the weight and sharpness of these new lenses would compromise the attributes of my Belair prints that I now love.
Therefore, without any hesitancy I can justifiably claim that the Belair X 6-12 City Slicker is a pro-quality medium format camera that can deliver impressive results. Couple this remarkable camera with the two lenses that are included in the package (along with the future option of adding a high-quality 114mm interchangeable lens) and you have a terrific “can’t miss” scenic or portrait camera that will leave Instagram users gasping for air.
Just remember, always bet on black.