PetaPixel

Everything You Wanted To Know About The New Lomography Belair X 6-12 But Were Afraid To Ask

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My first roll processed and scanned from my new Lomography BelAir X 6-12 puts me in the position to share some notes about the camera that you won’t find elsewhere.

The Lomography BelAir X 6-12 is a new folding medium format camera. It can take pictures in three formats: 6×6, 6×9 and 6×12. Apart from the folding mechanism, the camera is made of plastic. Even the two included wide angle lenses (wide and really wide) are plastic. Each lens comes with its own viewfinder. They are 58mm and 90mm.

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The shutter is a self-cocking design, which means that it fires each time you pull the shutter release (no separate cocking action is required). It has an auto-exposure feature that calculates an exposure up to around 31 seconds maximum based upon the average light level that it sees out of the little “eye” next to the lens. The maximum speed of the shutter is 1/125s.

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The autoexposure mechanism works by delaying the return of the shutter. There are two consequences of this. First, that 1/125 can be obtained by removing the battery. Second, that the longer shutter times are dependent upon keeping the shutter held down. If you release immediately the shutter will close the moment you release, even if the autoexposure would otherwise have given you a long shutter duration. If you think you will get a long exposure duration, keep the shutter held down until you hear the second click.

A nice trick to use — since the shutter is self-cocking and not tied to the film advance — is to simply fire a shot with the lens cap on. You will hear whether you will be getting a long shutter speed and whether you want to consider stabilising the camera before taking the actual picture.

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The two factors that affect the calculated exposure are the aperture set on the lens (more on this later — the choices are f/8 or f/16) and the ISO value set for the film on the small dial on the back of the lens board. Just below this is a small light that lights up to show the battery level when the shutter is half depressed. Green means good, red low, off dead.

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The reason for the two choices of aperture settings can be seen in this photograph of the lens set to “f/11″. The “f/8″ setting is when the two blades are swung out of the light path. When the two blades come together they form a circular opening for “f/16″. As you can see, the in-between setting gives a decidedly weird aperture shape.

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f/8 is fully open:

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f/16 is fully closed. Also, note the little arm that moves the blades. Quite clearly, the autoexposure system can only ever know about these two states, so don’t expect any new lenses for this camera ever with anything other than f/8 and f/16 as apertures.

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The folding mechanism of the camera locks into place once opened. It is fairly rigid considering how cheap the materials and construction are. There is a spring rivet like the one below on both the top and bottom of the frame and these need to be pressed together in order to fold the camera back up.

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There are quite a few online reports of problems achieving infinity focus. The camera lacks a pressure plate and I think one factor may be the film bulging away from the film rails. Since there is no pressure plate the only thing holding the film flat is tension between the rolls. I decided to increase the tension by wedging some cardboard under both spools so that they are harder to turn. This helps keep the film flat as well as keeping the spools tight.

When you unload the film from a medium format camera, if the take up spool is not tight you can get a “fat roll” which is a loosely wound roll. This can cause light leakage when unloading, which ruins your frames. I have had no problems myself, but I have wedged the rolls from day one since I didn’t like how loose they were otherwise.

So far I like the camera a lot and got a decent shot already on my first roll:

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About the author: Sam Agnew is a professional photographer based in Doha, Qatar. Visit his website here. This post was originally published here.


 
  • Lance

    It’d be easier to take this review seriously if it wasn’t so full of grammatical errors.

  • Frank

    It’d be easier to take he camera seriously if it wasn’t a POS.

  • fmfm

    It would be easier to take this comment seriously if I weren’t jumping on the bandwagon of the first two guys.

  • http://twitter.com/IEBAcom Anthony Burokas

    So what’s it cost to process a roll of 220 these days anyway? Given that they can’t print these wide images, what is the rest of the production process after taking out an exposed roll of film? I’m genuinely curious.

  • Chris

    It’s 120. Developing is easy/standard, scanning is hard, although ironically the cheapest scanners (e.g. Epson v500) can do 6×12 just fine — it’s the pro scanners that can’t do more than 6×9.

  • Sam Agnew

    As Chris says, it is 120. 220 film is twice as long and lacks the paper backing of 120 film. With a camera like this you advance the film until you see the next number through a little window. The numbers are printed on the back of the backing paper. To run 220 you would need to cover the window in the door on the back of the camera and work out a way to advance the correct amount.

    For the rest of the chain, you could get the film processed anywhere that develops medium format film. I do it at home with a Patterson tank and my bathtub. I pay about $30 for a set of dry chemicals to do my colour negative processing and use it for several months before mixing a new batch. I would say I’m paying less than $2 a roll.

    For scanning, you can scan this with any flatbed with a transparency adaptor that takes 120 film. Lomography make a great film holder for this called the Digitaliza. My Nikon Coolscan 9000ED will load 6×12 film but only scan up to 6×9. Because of this I scan two overlapping 6×9 sections and join them in Photoshop.

  • Aes53

    Hhmmm, just think I’ll stick with the 503CW.

  • Samuel

    Well yes, i’m sure a lot of people would make that same decision if they could afford a $2,500 camera.