Since the first announcement of this camera Lomography provoked many discussions and a general sense of anticipation for a product that was presented as a real crack: compact folding, auto exposure, and interchangeable lenses three different frame sizes on medium format film, including the rare (and usually expensive) 6×12. These were the awesome credentials that accompanied the first Belair X 6-12 shipped to the end of 2012; Unfortunately, judging by the reactions of the users most of the expectations were unfulfilled and Lomography is partially running for cover with a special version or with the introduction of new accessories.
In any case the camera has encountered and continue to have a good success and is marketed in two versions (except release that come and go as the “Globetrotter” or the “Trailblazer”) which are the “City Slicker” completely in black plastic, and the “Jetsetter” clad in aluminum and imitation leather and object of this test: Other than these differences, the two cameras are identical.
The kit for sale includes the camera, the three plastic masks to be fitted inside to select the size of the frame, two lenses with their external viewfinders to beinstalled in the sled on the casing top. Lenses are also made by plastic, with focal lengths of 58mm and 90mm both with a maximum aperture of f / 8; vocation is therefore quite wide, especially for 6×9 and 6×12 formats.
HOW IT WORKS
The Belair X 6-12 shape resembles the classic folding 6×9 format of the ’30s – ’50s with some stylistic solutions that refer instead to the Polaroid bellows cameras. It is a camera with fully automatic operation where the electronic shutter is controlled by a light meter in average reading very similar (even here) in what was the electonic eye of the old Polaroid Land; it can also be considered like an aperture priority camera as a pin placed inside the body of the lens “transmits” the chosen (between the available two) aperture to the camera. The rubber bellows is extended by pressing the release button located on the back, while the shutter, the exposure with circuitry, battery housing and the shutter button are all positioned on the front plate. This is portrayed by the closing of the camera by using two buttons on the arms metal latches to support the bellows, yet reminiscent of Polaroid bellows cameras in the 60s.
The bayonet mount is pretty simple and named “Attack 3”: lenses are inserted easily by aligning the screen-printed guides and operating a rotation of a few degrees; each lens has its own external viewfinder to be mounted on top of the camera: these are plastic made and not particularly accurate, with some difficult reading of the internal frames for different picture formats.
The top cover is pretty neat, presenting only the hot shoe for the flash plug-in, the film winding pawl and, at the center, a second slide which is grafted on external viewfinders dedicated to each lens attached.
On the bottom side of the camera are positioned only the aforementioned opening button and the threaded mount for a tripod.
The first thing to do before you even load the film, is to choose the format in which you will start the roll: the Belair X 6-12, as mentioned, allows you to select three different formats; to do this, just install the selected plastic mask in the film chamber using the appropriate joints. Masks appear quite solid, as well as their positioning is quite accurate. The back detaches completely from the camera body via two buttons placed in the body lower corners; Once loaded the film, you will advance to the first frame using the classical red window counter as a guide which is housed on the back of the camera; this is equipped with a switch to correctly read the numbers for the different formats: one position is dedicated to the 6×9 format while the other is used for the 6×6 and 6×12, using the latter you must remember to advance the film using only even numbers (the format is double size the 6×6). A nice note is the easy loading and the fact rolls stand still in place, the best found so far on medium format cameras from Lomography.
The last step before beginning to shot is the selection of film sensitivity which is done by turning a wheel on the back of the front plate in a position actually quite uncomfortable; the same selector, which allows you to set values from ISO 50 to 1600, also serves to set the Bulb mode.
Unfortunately the main flaws of this camera emerge when starting to use it, beginning with the low quality viewfinders in which it is not easy to properly display the frame limits for 6×6 and 6×9, and ending with the little definition of the plastic lenses. In particular, we found numerous complaints about 58mm for which there are often reported problems with infinity focus: This problem seems to afflict randomly specimens and maybe a fault in both bellows extension and lens manufacturing.
Lomography ran for cover to avoid this problem by introducing two glass lenses with focal length of 90mm and 114mm that can be purchased separately; this remedy, however, in addition to lead to a considerable additional expense does not take into account the fact that one of the main attractions of Belair was just the possibility of using the wide-angle 58mm with size 6×12 to make panoramic photos.
Another limitations of which you realize pretty quickly is the minimum time of only 1/125 sec which is also the only time available in the absence of batteries; together with the two only available apertures (confirmed in glass lenses too) this limits the range of potential exposurevalues, unless acting on the sensitivity of the film. Lack of a connection for remote shooting and the inability to lock the shutter button restrict the use of B mode and make long exposures more susceptible to camera shake.
That said, the camera is simple to use and the first rolls can easily lead to bitter disappointment but, once you have understood the many limitations the ability to work around them can help to produce images of discrete quality (possibly with the glass lens!) tespecially using the unusual 6×12 format, while for the 6×6 and 6×9 at the moment we believe that any vintage folding camera is capable of better results. The most interesting results are obtained in photographs taken at intermediate distance (between 1.5 and 3 m) with 90mm lens and f/16 aperture; the exposure, given its simplicity, it may sometimes be deceived in situations of mixed light but the exposure latitude of modern films neutralizes this problem in most cases. Regarding the film, the Belair X 6-12 seems more suitable for color films of average sensitivity.
To remember, finally, how various accessories are available to expand the capabilities, particularly the 35mm and Instax wide backs.
There remain, however, the unfulfilled promises of which we spoke at the beginning.
Model: Folding interchangeable lens
Format: variable masks with 6×6, 6×9 and 6×12 on 120 film.
Lens Mount : Attack “3”
Shutter: electronic programmed speed from 4 sec to 1/125 sec, bulb
Exposure modes: Automatic with presets, bulb
Sensitivity ISO: manually adjustable from 50 to 1600 meter EV4-EV15
Viewfinder: Galilean with optical frames format.
Flash: hot shoe socket.
Multiple Exposures: Yes, unlimited.
Power: 2 LR44 or similar
Weight: 500 grams without battery (450 grams for the City Slicker).
Availability of accessories.
Quality of standard lenses.
No remote shutter release socket.
Limited zone ocus.
Infinity focus issues.
AVAILABILITY ‘AND PRICES
As always the price of Lomography products is susceptible to heated discussions in which all parties have reasons that can be considered valid; In this case, the selling price on the Lomography store is net of any promotions of Euro 299 for the kit and 199 for each of the two glass lenses. Easy objection is that a practically complete set comes to 700 euros, meaning the price at which you can buy a Fujifilm 6×9 (GW690 or similar) or a kit Mamiya RB67 or more than one dual-format folding rangefinder cameras such as Zeiss Ikonta. With some improvements in the basic kit, however, would redeem the product immediately more attractive. The situation is different if one obtains on the secondhand market where a better price makes the purchase interesting perspective.