The Lomo Belair 6 x 12
Love at first sight. First thing is that this camera comes in 3 models. The City Slicker, (Black), The Trailblazer, (Silver), and The Jetsetter, (Fake Leather Covering). The difference? Nothing. Why they are different prices is at best curious to me. Maybe it’s the scale of production. Personally, I like the black one. Looks more like a camera. Especially considering it’s mostly plastic. (but good plastic)
Instax Wide Back!
What’s great about this medium format camera is it can shoot 6 x 12, 6 x 9, (35mm aspect ratio), and 6 x 6. And you can get a Polaroid back! Sorry,…Instax Wide film back. The word “Polaroid” is like the word “Jello” to me. So it’s also an Instant film camera. Awesome.
It has a very accurate electronic shutter, providing consistent automatic exposures. Plus a multiple exposure mode, plus Bulb setting. I use a Contax G and Nikon F4s most of the time, so Lomo cameras always feel flimsy to me. But they aren’t. And at this price point, they are really great and innovative cameras. The bellows is actually pretty great, enabling a compact design on a 120 film camera.
The Lomo Belair – 6 x 12 is WIDE!
The shutter, like all modern cameras, is self cocking. The maximum speed of the shutter is 1/125s. And it sees exposure thru that little eye on the front of the camera. Which means you can even have the lens cap on, and it will still use the shutter speed of the environment. And, yes, it does have a hot shoe. I advise any generic thyristor flash. It will sync at all speeds, and that “eye” will still measure the ambient light. The only problem I see there is getting enough “spread”, especially in 6 x 12.
Lenses? Pretty good,…and interchangeable. If you’ve used any Lomo cameras before, there are no real surprises with the lenses.The 90mm lens is about equivilent to 32mm in 35mm parlance. The 58mm is about equal to a 21mm lens. Pretty damn wide.(on the 6×12 format) I would only use 400 ISO and faster film, since f/8 is, which sounds bad. But the Fuji Instax Wide cameras have an f/14. So, it’s actually quite good. The other, and only aperture is f/16.
To change the formats you have to insert a mask before loading film. The 58mm is almost a short telephoto if you’re shooting 6×6. Think of a “cropped sensor”. But it’s pretty normal looking with all masks. Focusing is pretty simple and straightforward using a four step zone system.
The Belair X 6-12 supports an interchangeable lens design, and comes with two different lenses to provide both normal and wide-angle perspectives. The 90mm lens has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 32mm in the 6 x 12 format while the 58mm lens has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 21mm in the 6 x 12 format. Both lenses have a maximum aperture of f/8 and support a four-step zone focus system for straight-forward, simple focusing. In essence, 1m, 1.5m, 3m, and infinity.
Pretty Complete, Great Price
Both lenses are included with the Lomo Belair. Only the Instax back is extra. (and they can’t keep them in stock) The shutter does take into account the speed film you are using, and only closes when it’s received enough light. This is not a low light, handheld camera. It does support ISO films from 50 to 1600. Unlimited multiple exposures are possible in the MX mode.
The viewfinder is of the direct optical type. Unless you are very close, I suppose most would consider it accurate enough. It’s no Leica,…nor does the price point reflect that. While a little weird, and may be of concern to some, is keep track of how far to wind the film. Little windows show the frame numbering imprinted on the back of all 120 film. As an example, for the 6 x 12 format, you wind to ‘even’ frame numbers. (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12) For some, this just adds to the camera’s charm. For others,…not. The number depends on the mask you’ve inserted. (and which little window you use) I’ve probably made it sound more complicated than it is. They have recently added a 35mm mask.
It’s not that easy to get a good exposure on this camera. And I can’t seem to find out if it has a trigger voltage limit. There are old flashes that have high trigger voltages. I would stick to the old Nikons and Canons with an auto mode. (thyristor) No TTL here. Go here to find trigger voltages of flashes.
The lenses are glass, but light. So don’t expect Nikkor AI-S build quality or Zeiss like output. And the corners are very soft with all lenses. 😒
Still, the coolest thing about the Lomo Belair is the Instax Wide film back. I can see doing some really creative things. In fact, I think Lomo should think about making some simple backs for a Hassy or Mamiya or “?” for the Instax film. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d buy them. Any entrepreneurs out there? (see update on that) 6 x 12 Belair Camera