Lomography Belair X 6-12 review

The Lomo Belair X 6-12 is a medium format snapper with interchangeable lenses

Reasons to buy
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    Enormous 6x12 images

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    Build quality and design

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    Interchangable lenses

Reasons to avoid
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    Unreliable focus

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With a choice of stylish finishes, the medium format Lomo Belair X6-12 with interchangable lenses looks the business, but how does it perform?

The Lomo Belair X6-12 Trailblazer is the latest offering from the analogue camera specialist and takes the form of a medium format camera with interchangable lenses.

The distinctive snapper is available in several different finishes - we were handed the most expensive model when we dropped into Lomography's London HQ. The Trailblazer comes with a £289 price tag, but you can also opt for the slightly cheaper Jetsetter at £269 or the City Slicker at a more affordable £199.

The Lomo Belair enables you to shoot massive 6x12 images - not quite panoramic, but something approaching it. Combine that with a wide angle lens and you can pack a hell of a lot into one frame.

Using the supplied masks (plastic frames which sit inside the camera), you can also shoot in regular 6x9 or square 6x6. As these need to be fitted before you load the film, you can't swtich format halfway through a roll so you need to decide what size you're shooting in before you start.

The camera uses 120 medium format film and you'll get 6 shots when shooting in large 6x12 frames, 8 shots in 6x9 or 12 if shooting square images.

Like the LC-A models, including the Lomo LC-Wide, the Belair has an electronic automatic shutter, which means that you need to select the correct ISO setting from the tiny dial otherwise the shutter won't let the correct amount of light in for the film. It also means that you need to make sure you're loaded up with batteries (2 x LR44).

Lomo Belair X 6-12: Size and build

The Belair's distintive collapsable bellows design means that it folds down to a more managable unit for slipping into your bag, but even then it's still roughly half the size of a housebrick, though thankfully not as heavy - it's 500g without film or battery.

While the Trailblazer sports a two-tone leatherette and metal look (as does the Jetsetter), the City Slicker is crafted from plastic, hence the lower price tag. The overall look is similar to the retro-styled LomoKino analogue movie camera.

The Belair may not be the tiniest camera around, but it's certainly a handsome one. You'll get a lot of strange looks when you're using it - invetibly some will think of you as a ridiculous hipster, but just as many will be jealous of the camera's slick retro look that will make you feel like a press photographer from the 1930s.

The top of the camera is home to a hot shoe adaptor for attaching a flash, along with an interchangable viewfinder (you'll need to swap it to match the lens you're using), along with a film rewind dial.

The camera is supplied with two lenses - a 90mm and wide angle 58mm. You can also pick up a 114mm lens separately (for the rather painful price of £143.20), which will help you out with shallow depth of field shots.

Lomo Belair X 6-12: Controls

The shutter release lever is located on the right-hand side of the front section of the camera. This takes a little getting used to as while you'll need to hold the main camera body with your left hand, your right hand sits on the portion that juts out, which feels slightly unnatural. However, the lever's motion is pretty smooth so it's not too difficult to hold the camera steady when shooting.

You'll also find a bulb setting for when you're using the flash, or you simply want to control the amount of exposure.

Extending the front section of the camera reveals a tiny ISO dial, which has a range of 50-1600. We shot mostly with ISO800 colour negative film - a good choice if the sunshine isn't quite as bright as you'd hope. It also copes reasonally well when shooting indoors in a decently lit room.

The Belair uses zone focusing - so you can opt for the rather vague 1m, 1.5m, 3m or infinity settings.

Lomo Belair X 6-12: Picture quality

The rolls we shot were a mixed bag. Shooting mostly in large 6x12 format, you don't end up with many shots (6 to a roll) so invevitably, you're only going to get a few really good shots. Old-school 120 film is also notoriously difficult to get consistently accurate results from.

However, we did manage to get some decent wide angle shots - and that's what this large format is ideal for. We had more luck with the infinity focus setting, whereas more close-range shots tended to be very soft and lacking in detail.

Lomography has since introduced a 35mm back (£55) for the Belair which means that you can use good ol' reliable 35mm film, rather than pesky 120. This should give the picture quality a welcome boost.

Lomo Belair X 6-12: Verdict

As much as we like the look, feel and idea of the Lomo Belair, it's lot of money for a camera that offers rather patchy results. The Belair certainly gets points for style, but the price tag will probably be a bit steep for most.

The large format images look great, although with only 6 shots on a roll, plus the cost of processing 120 film (something that not every high street photo lab offers) means that the cost rapidly adds up.

If you're going to spend a few hundred quid on a Lomo camera we reckon your money is better spent on the LC-Wide. Or if you're starting out, then a Lomo Diana or La Sardina is a more affordable choice.

Lomo Belair X 6-12 release date: Out now

Lomo Belair X 6-12 price: £289 (Trailblazer), £269 (Jetsetter), £199 (City Slicker)