We love hearing about new instant film swag coming on the market. So, when Lomography released an alternative to the Instax Wide 210 camera (that can be limiting) we were stoked. Instax film is so underrated because of its camera options. While Fujifilm continues to innovate the Instax Mini film, Instax wide, which is much more desirable to serious shooters, has been almost forgotten. That is very disappointing we think. However, the Belair with Instax Wide back is a great start in reaching the full potential of this film and we were able to get our hands on a test model, these are our thoughts.
One of the best things to me about this camera. Is the look, its a beautiful classic design, with bellows and leather. The camera is body just feels good in your hands. When compared to the bulky whale Instax 210. It is a site for sore eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made fun of by shooting those bulky 210 cameras. In fact I have’t picked mine up in ages because 0f it. That being said this camera only brought attention and compliments.
To begin with, I was initially worried because the eye piece is an added piece to the camera, the base of this piece is made of plastic. In fact I did bend my eyepiece and broke it. The good thing being that you can replace those eyepieces very easily. Yours will be fine, I am just a total goof. What it lacks in strong viewfinders, it makes up in features. Amazing features at that. The Instax 210 is a point and shoot camera with no control of anything. The Belair can focus and gives you some control over exposure, along with aperture control. Double exposing, bulb mode, tripod socket, changeable lenses and hot shoe are standard. The camera is uses zone focus, which definitely beats no focus any day. I’m looking at you Instax 210.
You must also compensate for the viewfinder and lens as they are pretty far apart. You must tilt the camera up to make sure your subject is in the frame. So that being said, there is a learning curve to this camera. I failed and I won. When I did win, I won and loved the image. Images below show me trying to frame the orchid in the middle.
The biggest failure I had was overestimating the light meter. I thought it was smarter and exposed for the highlights. I found out that the camera and I weren’t understanding each other until my last few packs that I ran through it and in the end was so happy. Let me explain a bit more. The lens on the camera does not talk to the light meter. The only thing that does is the ISO settings. So you have to estimate your settings for each light situation. To make the exposure setting slower you must set the ISO setting to a lower number and to make it faster you have to set it higher. The other control you have is the lens itself with an f/8 and f/16 setting. One stop of light makes all the difference, with this low latitude film. There is also an ND filter that you can use in bright situations to shoot with a lower f stop and get more depth, so that is totally rad. The camera uses an leaf shutter, which opens up the possibility of hand holding down way far to around 1/15th. So never fear really pushing the boundaries. Once I understood how the camera exposes everything was easy as pie.
The lens is so sharp! Much better then the Instax 210. The lens itself is the focusing mechanism. I had much success using my out stretched arm as the 1 meter mark and so forth. The apertures are so high that missing the exact focus is not a big deal. You’ll get a decent image every time. The other great thing that I wish I had a chance to test, is to use one of their more premium lenses. They sell as a bundle or individually a 114mm and 90mm portrait lens that would just be amazing! The basic lens is very wide so there is distortion and lines are not straight but an overall good lens.
I was asked if I minded having to crank the images out. Do I mind pulling out peel apart photos? NO. Of course not. Hand cranking the images out is so easy, painless and mindless. No big deal what so ever. To some the two black bars on top and bottom of the image is distracting. Its a shame that it doesn’t cover the whole image but you know what I am over it and really don’ mind it. It even makes it seem more cinematic. Like watching a shot on film IMAX movie. The Belair is truly one of the finest Lomography cameras and the versatility is just epic. It is a 35mm camera, medium format and instant camera all in one. The thing that really rocks is the great optics. Again better the most Lomo cameras. There are three steps to ejecting the image that are pretty easy and you’ll get down in no time. It involves lifting a small lever on the back and then cranking the wheel.
My finals thoughts, I would totally recommend this back to existing Belair users. This camera is simple and rad. I enjoyed it a ton. Maybe because I enjoy learning or am used to the learning curve of film but the mistakes I made didn’t bother me. It has a learning curve but is more powerful then any Instax camera and is on par with the new Neo Classic 90 in functionality. Not to mention the cheap wide film. The Belair is a great addition to the Instant film world and we hope it doesn’t stay underrated. This camera is undoubtedly a Lomography camera that being a great thing or bad thing is up to you. We certainly think it is a great thing.