No, I didn’t go crazy, and no, I don’t sell them in my store (but I sell many other cameras, so go there and buy): this is a Lomography Belair.
For those of you who don’t know, the Belair is one of the most original cameras by Austrian company Lomography, who are kicking since the 1990s selling lo-fi analog cameras and expired film at premium prices to people who don’t actually take pictures and want cameras just as props cause they’re cool. Don’t take me wrong, film cameras are cool, especially if you buy them from me, but there’s something in Lomography’s marketing that just makes me throw up.
Now, if you’re going for popcorn expecting Baron I to beat Lomography in this post, save that bag for another day. I will fight this brawl, just valar dohaeris, not today.
What I wanted to say is that I find this camera surprisingly pleasant. This is the cheapo plastic version of the thing, and I must say that while, quality-wise, I expected something better, I learned to love this gizmo. I bought it new cause I wanted something relatively cheap to shoot 6×9 and make small contact prints, but I’ve also fallen in love with the semi-panoramic 6×12 format of which the camera is also capable. Until now, I had been warily using a Moskva 5 for 6×9 which it always gave me the impression of being a very fragile thing and better off decoratively sitting on a shelf.
I won’t be doing a review of it because you’ll find plenty of those in the internets and I don’t really think you come to Baron I for this sort of things, I will just give a few impressions. While aristocratically sireing, or so.
The first and maybe most surprising of them all is that handling it reminds me very much of the last generation of Polaroid Land instant cameras: same total lack of ergonomy, toy-like plastic construction, plastic optics, rubber bellows, auto-only exposure, fragile looks… and even though, as in Polas like the SX-70, all that crappy qualities don’t manage to spoil the fun of using the camera. For me, it is sheer joy.
When I look at the Belair, I see a Polaroid-Land-meets-Super-Ikonta gizmo, which, now that I think about it, gives me a headache.
If your idea of quality in medium format is a Fuji 6×9 maybe this isn’t the camera for you, but I’m surprised at how acceptable the images rendered by the Belair multi-element plastic lenses are, especially if you don’t want them for enlarging. Curiously, and, I’m sure, unintendedly, this is totally true to the principles of the 6×9 roll film camera concept from the first half of the 20th century: not-so-great lenses and a large negative to make contact prints with.
Of course, if you want an upgrade, there is always the Russian high quality (so they say) multi-element Belairogon glass lenses made by… KMZ! Tsk, tsk, Lomography. Now it is when the two fictional Austrian students who invented Lomography bowing before Vladimir Putin really pays off. You praise the tyrant and he graciously diverts resources from the optical military conglomerate of Krasnogorsky Zavod and puts them at your service. Just don’t get me started. Even if the glass of those lenses is melted by the fires of the red dragon of the Book of Revelation, I would really like to hold one of those Belairogon things in my hands and test personally the evil of it. For this end, donations in any currency or in spice are welcome. Don’t be shy.
Don’t look at me like that. Had I called it “kickstarter project” you would have diven there head-on. Shamelessly asking for it just makes me more honest, and I must say that a honest living is costly so go and buy a camera from my evil ebay store.