Sorry I haven't had any posts for awhile, just been busy with other stuff. I know this review is a bit late as the Lomography Belair has been out since October 2012. But it really took me this long to figure if I really liked the thing or not. You can see my previous introduction to the camera here.
I'll go into this review saying that before receiving the Belair, I didn't have any particular expectations about the quality of the product or the images it might produce. I've had a couple Lomography cameras before and they always seem to me to be an odd mix of quality and cheapness. I wasn't expecting a Hasselblad as some people on the interweb seemed to hope for. I knew this was a toy camera and at best I was hoping for a wide angle Holga. It almost lives up to that expectation, but, in the end, falls short. But, then again, maybe I like it. So confused!
I preordered mine at the "special" price of $174. I guess that is fair for a newly designed camera. And I do have to give credit to Lomography in that regard...at least they are trying to do something different and are still supporting film. I can only think of a few new film cameras in the past 10 years, and only a couple toy cameras (one being the Blackbird Fly, which I didn't much care for). So, yeah, it's cool that they designed a brand new 120 camera. But it's a toy camera at a decidedly non-toy camera price. And I bought mine "cheap". I think $250 is the regular price. You can buy a lot of nice cameras for a lot less money. But, whatever, it's a niche item, and it is Lomography, who aren't exactly known for cheap cameras.
So what did I get for my money? Actually, not a bad package. A slick box, the camera, two lenses (58mm and 90mm), three masks (6x12, 6x9 and 6x6), two viewfinders (58mm and 90mm), a manual and some prints. And some black cloth that the camera was wrapped in that I guess I can use to wipe off lenses. No battery, though. Had to go buy them myself. Times two, I believe. So the package is decent enough.
It is a camera that works better for objects close to you, for both lenses. But even the sweet spot seems to float around the photo, not necessarily being in the center, as shown in these 58mm shots.
So, one thing I do like about the camera, and it works quite well, is the auto-exposure (the reason for the batteries). I've taken the camera out on the crappiest, darkest days to test the exposure, and it works great! If anything, it handles darker rather than lighter. I don't have any full on sunny day shots yet, but the rainy day shots work quite well, while white snow seems to "blow out".
So it's a camera that is somewhat infuriating, because a large number of shots taken with it are complete garbage and make you feel like you are wasting your time with it. But then you get some really nice shots, with beautiful focus and that great toy camera blur around the outside. At first I considered selling it, but now I honestly want to shoot with it more.
I didn't shoot the camera at 6x6, because I have plenty other camera for that. And it seems kind of pointless when the camera was designed for larger shots. Plus, if that sweet spot is off to one side, it won't be in the frame! And all you will have is blur. Aside from trying to get more shots for your money, I say leave the 6x6 frame in the box. Sometimes the 6x12 can feel like you just have a slice of a photo, but it works really well when you get close to your subject. 6x9 is "okay", I guess. But the camera was built for 6x12, and that is something that doesn't really exist elsewhere, aside from maybe a panoramic 120 camera.
Lomography is also releasing some (expensive) glass lenses for the Belair, 114mm and 90mm. But I honestly wouldn't buy either lens unless I was absolutely sure I was getting something that would consistently focus. Plus, I like the toy camera look, which I don't really see in the two examples.
It's not a camera I can really recommend, but then again, it's something you have to try yourself to see if it is your thing. I am keeping mine and will continue to use it. Not as a "main" camera, but it will see some use.
In other news, I am building a Duo. It will probably be awhile before I am done and test it out, but I will post about it eventually! Seeya.