Meet the BeLomo Vilia, a cheap, sweet looking camera with a surprisingly good lens.
The Vilia is a camera very similar to the Russian Smenas, but it was built in Belarus and it’s actually an individual design. It looks somewhat bulky and it’s certainly not the most compact or light weight camera out there, but still I find that it holds a charm of its own.
They must have made quite a few of these cameras because they’re still readily available – for little money! In my case shipping was more expensive than the actual camera.
The Vilia takes regular 35mm film. It’s equipped with a hot shoe for flash use. Unfortunately shutter cocking and film advance are coupled, so it doesn’t allow for multiple exposures. However with this tipster multiple exposures are possible.
Let’s now have a look at the camera’s heart – its lens. The Vilia uses a Triplet 4/40mm lens, and this lens is much better than expected. Actually, I’m surprised that such a crappy looking camera would come with such a nice lens. At 40mm it isn’t particularly wide and I find myself using the viewfinder more frequently than with my other cameras. Even at F4 the Triplet shows almost no vignetting and it’s exceedingly sharp. This only gets better as you stop down! So if you’re into dark corners and mysteriously blurred images, the Vilia is probably not the camera for you
Choose a shutter speed of 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, or 1/250, and an aperture of F4, F5.6, F8, F11, or F16, and you’re good for almost any lighting situation. Aditionally, the Vilia offers a ‘B’ bulb setting for those looooong exposures.
There’s one more thing I’d like to mention: the viewfinder. As you look through, you’ll notice a series of weather symbols at the bottom. Each weather symbol stands for an aperture value and as you set your aperture, a white dot underneath the weather symbols indicates where you’re at accordingly. So if you set the aperture at F16, the dot will appear underneath the “very sunny” symbol in the viewfinder. This is not only cute, but actually quite handy in practical use.
So overall the BeLomo Vilia is a very capable camera at a very low price, and a true alternative to a Smena.