Balda Baldi

This is a small (very small) folder from Balda. It measures 100 mm by 80 mm by 35 mm (closed) or by 85 mm (open). This is slightly smaller (by 20 mm) than the 35 mm Balda Baldina of the same date. It takes 127 film – no longer made and very difficult to get hold of: it is currently (29-5-2015) available from with whom I have never had any dealing – and is a half-frame camera. That is, it takes two pictures on one standard frame which is 40 mm by 60 mm. That gives us an image measuring 30 mm by 40 mm. In 1939, this camera was advertised by the importer at £7-12-6. The cheapest version cost £4-7-6 and the top of the range version cost £10-17-6.


The camera is made out of pressed steel. This is shown where the paint has worn and the steel has started to rust. The body of the camera is covered with leatherette – this is now threadbare and very thin. The leatherette has also shrunk in places and has come away from the metal around raised parts leaving significant air bubbles between the leatherette and the metal. The edges of the camera are bright plated – I suspect with nickel – and the rust is showing through this plating in places. When new, the leatherette was embossed with writing – presumably the maker and model – but only small parts of the writing are left, far too little to read. The only sign of the maker now is the word ‘Balda’ on the fascia of the shutter. There is also the legend ‘Made in Germany’ embossed on the leather handle.

Outwardly, it looks much like a 1930s Balda Baldina or Jubilette and I suspect that the later 35 mm cameras are based on this camera. The top plate  has only two items – the film advance and the viewfinder.


Text and pictures (C) John Margetts, 2015


The film advance is different to all other roll-film advances I have come across. Firstly, it is on a ratchet which can be clearly heard when turning the advance the wrong way. When you do this, the take-up spool inside does not turn.

Balda Baldi, side view

Secondly, there is a mechanical stop which prevents the advance knob from turning more than one complete turn in either direction. This means that after advancing the film, it is necessary to turn the knob the wrong way before you can turn it the correct way to advance the film I suspect that this is a way of automatically advancing the film without looking at the red windows. Once I source some film I shall find out for sure. The top of the advance knob is marked ‘DRGM’ which stands for Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster – it signifies copyright protection rather than a patent and was much cheaper to obtain than a patent, lasting just three years.

Right next to the film advance knob is a small nickel plated button. This is the lens (not shutter) release button. Pressing this causes the door in the front of the camera to spring open. This is designed to fully open by itself – the springs are quite strong – but my particular camera needs a bit of initial help. It is 80 years old so perhaps this is to be expected.

The viewfinder is exactly the same as on the Balda Baldina  except that the image is in portrait format – a consequence of this being a half-frame camera. The nice touch is the provision of an anti-parallax device. This is in the form of a wheel with a distance scale under the rear of the viewfinder. If you turn this wheel to the focus distance, the viewfinder is tilted so that it points at the subject rather than always pointing at the horizon. This should mean that portraits avoid having the tops of their heads missing.

The base plate is entirely clear except for a central tripod boss. This is the original 3/8 inch Whitworth thread with a 1/4 inch Whitworth slug in it so it will fit modern tripods.

Balda Baldi, closed, front view

When opened, the lens is held rigidly in place. The lens itself is a Meyer Gorlitz Trioplan – clearly a triplet and seems to be of the Crooke’s Triplet design. It has a 5 cm focal length (focal lengths were usually quoted in cm up to 1940 and usually in mm after 1945). Its maximum aperture is f/3.5 and the minimum is f/16 – actually a very usable range, my own photography is usually between f/5.6 and f/11.

The shutter is a Compur offering speeds up to 1/300 seconds. There is no flash synch or self-timer. As is usual with old leaf shutters, the slow speeds are way off – 1 second is very close to 3 seconds. Mind you, that is only 1.5 stops and so is well within the exposure latitude of film. The shutter also offers B and T. B is where the shutter remains open while the shutter release button is depressed and T opens the shutter when the release button is pressed once and closes the shutter when the release button is pressed a second time. On this camera neither B nor T works at all but there is a possibility they will free up when the shutter has been fired a few dozen times.

Being an old camera, the shutter needs cocking before it can be fired. The cocking lever is on the right side of the shutter housing when the camera is in use. As it is a Compur shutter, it needs to be raised to cock the shutter – moved clockwise while looking at the lens. Prontor shutters have the cocking lever move anti-clockwise while looking at the lens.

Balda Baldi, rear view

Lens focusing is by turning the front element only. This degrades the image slightly but the degradation is theoretical rather than meaningful. The focus range is marked from 5 feet to infinity but it will focus a bit closer than 5 feet. The fact that the lens is calibrated in feet shows us that the camera was an official import into either the British Empire or the USA.

The shutter release is on the top of the lens door and is strictly left-handed. This seems to have been fairly common once a body release was fitted and has the advantage of allowing the right hand to have a firm and steady hold on the camera.

The rear of the camera has the red windows to allow then user to see the frame numbers on the film backing paper while advancing the film. As this is a half-frame camera, there are two red windows and each frame number is used first in the left-hand window and then in the right-hand window. The windows are provided with a sliding shutter to prevent panchromatic film being fogged by light coming in through the red windows.

One last thing to note on the outside of the camera is the usual plated folding leg on the lens door which allows the camera to be used while placed on a table or similar. Used with a standard cable release (for which the shutter is threaded) this allows the slower shutter speeds to be used.

Balda Baldi, inside

Inside the camera is nicely designed with no surprises. On the inside of the hinged back is the pressure plate which keeps the film flat. It is significantly larger than the film gate – it measures 50 mm by 50 mm – so should keep the film nice and flat. The film gate itself measures 30 mm by 40 mm – this is significantly larger than a 35 mm frame. The spool holders are on swivels which makes loading the film much easier. The left-hand spool holder (for the new film) has a hinged base which drops away as the spool holder is swivelled out and then moves back up to place to hold the film securely once the spool holder is pushed back in place.

The right-hand spool holder is held in place by the film advance knob which needs to be pulled up before the spool holder can be swivelled out to receive the empty take-up spool.  There is a plated roller either side of the film gate to ensure the film is not scratched when winding-on.

The following is an advert from the 1939 Wallace Heaton Minitography and Cinematography catalogue (‘minitography was their term for miniature photography using 127 and 35 mm film):

Baldi 1939 007

Test film.

127 film is not so easy to get hold of. I bought a roll of Rera Pan 100 film which is new to me so this is a test of both the camera and the film.

The film was quite easy to load and the camera as easy to use as any camera of this date is.  The camera is a half-frame camera so I got 16 shots on a roll of film. – each frame is slightly bigger than a 35 mm film frame is.

 The film has ended up well exposed – a visual inspection of the negatives shows the light areas are nice and dark, the dark areas are nice and light and there is a good range of tones between.  I was not sure of the development time so I guessed on 18 minutes with ID11 diluted 1+3 – I based that on the development times for Fomapan for want of a better idea. My guess was clearly close to ideal.

The film was scanned for me by Snappy Snaps and the scans also have a good tonal range.  Alas, there are significant scanning artefacts (mostly dust and fibres) but nothing a session with Gimp will not cure.

The pictures here are much larger than the users of this camera would have expected in the 1930s and so the defects are much more visible. This particularly impinges on sharpness.


Balda Super Baldina

This is my second Balda Baldina. The first is a folding Baldina from the 1930s. The Super in the name indicates that it has a coupled rangefinder. This new Baldina is from the 1950s and is not a folder but nods in that direction with a collapsible lens. This is fairly effective – it reduces the thickness of the camera by two cm which means it easily fits in a jacket pocket. The camera leatherette is stamped “Made in Germany” and the focus scale is in feet, indicating that this is an official import into the UK.

Balda Super Baldina (C) John Margetts
  • lens: Baldanar
  • focal length: 50 mm
  • apertures: f/3.5 – f/16
  • focus range: 3 ft tom infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor-SVS
  • speeds: 1 sec to 1/300 seconds
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

The top plate is as you might expect from a mid-1950s German camera. In the middle is a large hump containing the viewfinder and rangefinder. This has both the viewfinder and rangefinder eyepieces in one – my Franka Solida of the same period has separate viewfinder and rangefinder eyepieces which makes using the camera awkward. On the top of the viewfinder/rangefinder hump is an accessory shoe – no electrical contacts at this date, so a cold shoe.

Balda Super Baldina top plate.

On the left of this hump is the rewind knob. This is surrounded by a film type reminder. There are four options for this – film speed in DIN, film speed in ASA, colour positive or colour negative.  To the right of the hump is the film advance. This is a lever with a large, coarsely milled thumb post.This moves through 180 degrees to advance one frame which is easily done in one throw of the thumb. At the base of this is the frame counter. This counts up from one to thirty six. In front of the film advance is the shutter release. This is a fair-sized button, threaded for a standard cable release. I have a slight niggle here as the shutter release button is slightly below the level of the film advance level which makes finding the release button by feel less obvious than it could be.

On either end of the top plate is a lug for attaching a strap – this is far more important than camera manufacturers seem to understand.

With lens collapsed.
With lens extended.

The front of the camera is dominated by the collapsible shutter/lens housing. This is quite well organised with the parts easy to get at. The shutter/lens housing is mounted on a square stainless steel bezel. On the top right of this bezel is a button to release the collapsible housing. When pressed, the shutter/lens housing pops out with a satisfying clunk.

Around the base of the housing is the focusing ring. This has a large knob on it below the lens which makes focusing at eye-level with the rangefinder very easy. Between the focusing ring and the lens release button is a depth of field scale – something regrettably missing from more modern cameras.

The next control on this housing is the aperture selector. This varies between f/3.5 and f/16. There are no click-stops so intermediate positions can be selected. Outside of this is the shutter speed selector – this is a conventional ring. The shutter is a Prontor SVS (a Compur Rapid was also available) so shutter speeds are from one second to 1/300 seconds.  The ‘S’ in the shutter name tells us it is synchronised for flash – two ‘S’s tells us it can be synchronised for M (bulbs) or X (electronic) flash guns. The V stands for Vorlaufwerk which indicates a self-timer is available.  There is a PC (Prontor Compur) socket set into this housing for attaching a flash gun.

Balda Super Baldina rear/internal view.

The shutter controls have Happy Snapper settings – f/8 is in red and there is a red dot at nine feet and a green dot at around thirty feet. The red dot is intended for portraits and will give you a focus range of six feet to twelve feet – suitable for a head-and-shoulders shot or a small group. The green dot is for landscaped and is the hyperfocal distance at an aperture of f/8 – it gives a focal range of 12/13 feet to infinity.

The focusing knob moves the whole shutter/lens assembly. this means that the whole lens moves to focus rather than just the front element. This means that the lens always performs at its optimum – whatever that optimum might be. The lens is a Baldinar which is made for Balda rather than by them. There were a host of lens-makers in Germany making lenses for camera manufacturers and this could have come from any of them or, indeed, several of them. The lens is a triplet (three pieces of glass) which is unlikely to perform well with a wide aperture. My experience of German triplets is that they perform very well once stopped down to f/8 or smaller. At the date this camera was made, the lens will be coated – and there is the tell-tale blue sheen to the lens to confirm this.

The inside of the lens front is threaded for filters. I make it to be 35mm diameter but that could be plus or minus a millimetre or so.

On the rear of the top plate, to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece, is a large screw. I suspect this is to adjust the rangefinder but as the rangefinder is working fine I am not going to fiddle with it to find out for sure. The rangefinder works as they usually do. There is a central spot that needs to be aligned to the main image by moving the focusing knob on the front of the camera. This spot is clear, even in poor light, which makes the rangefinder useful in practice – not something I find you can safely assume. One quirk here is that the rangefinder spot is pale blue in colour rather than the more usual yellow but that does not affect its usefulness.

Balda Jubilette

This camera dates from the very late 1930s – the model was introduced in 1938.  The camera is very similar to my Balda Baldina – the Jubilette was a cheaper option but it is still well made.  The Compur shutter has a serial number that should be able to date the camera but the serial number is anomalous – ‘0016596.  The ’00 signifies the size of the shutter – size 00 – and the next five digits are the serial number.  Usually, the number on Compur shutters will have seven digits starting with a ‘4’ or ‘5’ (‘4’ for 1938, ‘5’ for 1939 or the war years).  Occasionally, Compur shutters are known with five digit serial numbers.  One thought is that the serial number refers to a batch of shutters specially made for Balda rather than being a part of Compur’s standard serial number system.
Balda Jubilette
Balda Jubilette, folded
lens:  Baldar
focal length:  5 cm
apertures: f2.8 to f16
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Compur
speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300
flash: not available
film size: 35 mm
The camera is a folder of a fairly standard design. The lens standard is opened by a button on the top of the camera – the lens snaps forward with some vigour into its operating position. The struts holding the lens and lens board in position are nicely chrome plated and both the lens and the lens board are held rigid.
Balda Jubilette
Balda Jubilette in the open position, seen from the top.
As the shutter is a Compur, the cocking lever moves clockwise (which is upwards when holding this camera for use). This is the opposite direction to Gauthier (Prontor) shutters which cock anti-clockwise. The shutter release button is on the lens board by the hinge.  On later versions of the Jubilette, this was moved to the camera body.  This is on the left of the the camera and needs to be operated with the left hand. I prefer this arrangement as it allows more space for my right hand to hold the camera steady. Several of my folders have the lens board hinged on the right which leaves my right hand being very cramped.
Balda Jubilette
Camera from the front, ready to use.
The lens is a Baltar (it was de rigueur to end a lens name with the letters ‘-ar’ – Nettar, Novar, Elmar, Radionar, Tessar, Skopar, Frontar and so on) which was made for Balda by one of the independent lens makers.  Balda did not make their own lenses and may have used more than one manufacturer to make their ‘own label’ lenses for them.
The controls on the body follow the Baldina layout. In the middle of the top is a very small reverse Galilean viewfinder – it is slightly to the left of centre. On the left of the top is the rewind key – this dates the camera to an early Jubilette as later versions had a rewind knob rather than key. On the right of the top is a frame counter. This counts up – so it tells you how many pictures you have taken and needs to be set to zero when you load a new film. This counter is covered with a yellow plastic disc (probably celluloid given the age of the camera). Beside the frame counter is a small brass button which releases the lens board.
Balda Jubilette
Balda Jubilette in the open position, seen from the bottom
Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014
On the base of the camera is the film advance knob – it is opposite the frame counter on the camera top i.e. on the right-hand end of the base.  Beside the film advance knob is a small button which must be pressed and released in order to free the advance mechanism inside the camera. This button is not sprung (at least not with my camera) and drops down under gravity.  This is important as it means that the film must be advanced with the camera held the right way up: the button dropping down again locks the advance mechanism when one frame has been advanced, if you hold the camera upside down (which makes turning the knob easier) you can advance right to the end of the film.  Note: examining photographs of Balda Jubilettes on Google has lead me to think my camera is missing a spring and a top to the button. The button that I have is threaded inside – indicating that a screw-on cap is missing and I suspect that a coil spring used to sit between the missing cap and the camera body. On the other end of the base is a 3/8 inch tripod boss. This has a large adaptor in it with my camera reducing the boss to 1/4 inch Whitworth which is the modern tripod standard.
Balda Jubilette
Balda Jubilette – rear view
The back of the camera is a hinged door. This has the maker’s name embossed in the leatherette (Balda plus a small logo) and in the centre of the back is an aluminium plate printed with a depth of field table (Tiefenschärfentabelle). The catch for the back is spring loaded and a little bit too small for comfortable use with my large fingers (but a big improvement on my Voigtlander Vito II which opens itself). Fastened to either end of the catch is a small carrying handle which is a bit too small for practical use. The front of the camera has the model name embossed in the leatherette (Jubilette). In the front of the lens board is a hinged peg which acts as a leg to stand the camera on when taking self-portraits.
The body of the camera is made of steel – demonstrated by the fact that it is starting to rust in places. Inside, the film guides and covers over the mechanics are made from brass sheet painted a semi-matt black. The take-up spool is also painted brass.
Focussing is smooth but has the disadvantage of having the distance pointer beneath the lens. This means that you have to turn the camera to set the focus – not a major problem on an entirely manual camera. Worse is the aperture scale – the white paint in the stamped figures has almost entirely gone making the scale very hard to read. Even worse is the position of of the adjusting pointer. This is very close to the lens board. Getting your finger in there to adjust the aperture means you have no chance of reading the scale. This fault lies with Deckel (the maker of Compur shutters) as they must have known their shutters would be used on folding cameras.
The body of this camera is identical to that of the earlier and more expensive Baldina. It is the details that are cheaper: the viewfinder has no parallax adjustment (although this was available as an extra), the lens is a Baltar  triplet, the frame counter is more functional (it lacks the Baldina’s cover and ornate pointer), the exposed metal is painted black rather than being chrome plated. On the plus side, it has a body shutter release (although I think the Baldina also had one by 1938) which is much easier to use than the extended lever on the shutter housing that my 1935 Baldina has.

Jubilette in use.

In many ways, this is an archetypical 35mm folder. My Voigtlander Vito II is much the same size and has a similar too-small viewfinder. The biggest problem I have with cameras of this date is the viewfinder. I just cannot use them while wearing my glasses. Without my glasses I cannot see the image through the viewfinder although I sometimes think that having to concentrate on general outlines and shapes improves my composition – perhaps looking at the details gets in the way.
I have been using cameras with self-cocking shutters lately and I keep forgetting to cock the shutter – this does nothing for hitting that ‘decisive moment’! I also press the door opening button on the right hand end of the top of the camera with my right fore finger instead of the shutter release button on the left. If I was using this camera exclusively, that would soon sort itself out.
I have had two problems with camera; both are probably a result of its age. The first is the shutter release mis-locating itself when the lens door opens.  This might have been down to my slightly depressing the shutter release button when opening the door. It can certainly be cured by closing the lens door and opening it again.
The second problem is the mechanism that ensures that you wind on exactly one frame – this is exactly eight sprocket holes. The shaft with the sprockets has eight sprockets on it, so advancing one frame needs the sprocket shaft to rotate exactly one revolution. When Balda designed this camera they had to work around patents owned by Leica, Zeiss Ikon and Kodak (and probably others) so they could not use an obvious and sensible system. The system that Balda designed involves pressing a button as soon as you start to advance the film and then immediately releasing the button and allowing it to ‘pop-out’ again while you continue to wind-on the film. On my particular camera it is necessary to give the camera a sharp slap to get the button to ‘pop-out’ again. I am not sure if the button is supposed to be sprung or if the camera relies on gravity – either way, it does not work without encouragement. This is not a major problem but it does slow things down a bit. See note in blue above.
What has surprised me is that I have found the depth of field table on the back of the camera to be quite useful. The results of using it can be seen in the close-ups of flowers below.

In conclusion, this camera is still very usable. It has no bells or whistles and requires the user to think for himself but for me that is no bad thing.

Sample pictures:

First a few pictures that show how well this 76 year-old camera still works.  Focus is good (it is a scale focus camera so I did not really know this until I saw the pictures), little distortion (the arch in the first picture is bowed itself – it is not the lens), and colour rendition is fine even though the lens design pre-dates the use of colour film.  I am very pleased with these.

Balda Jubilette
Lincoln Stonebow
Balda Jubilette
Coloured primroses – distance for the focus was guessed together with a small aperture.
Balda Jubilette
Bright Lincoln street – no flare


Balda Jubilette
Barge on the Witham in Lincoln
Balda Jubilette
Musical tight-rope walker in Lincoln city centre – a small amount of flare from the white wall.
Now a few pictures that are not so good.  First, this lens will not cope with photographing into the light. The lens is not coated at all (as was usual in 1938) and is showing significant flare.  As with using all old cameras, I need to follow my father’s advice when I was ten or so – “always keep the sun behind you.”
Balda Jubilette
Sunny day in Lincoln.

This next picture shows what often happens when you use the first film in a very old camera.  Winding the film causes a small amount of static electricity on the film’s surface.  This static electricity attracts any dirt lurking inside the camera, showing here as many black specks in the sky.

Balda Jubilette
Lincolnshire field with a dirty sky.

This last picture shows how difficult it can be guessing close distances.  The thing to do here would be to carry a yard-stick and accurately measure the distance but that is not how I work.  I guessed and relied on the depth of field keeping everything in focus. It did not work here!

Balda Jubilette
Berberis flowers.


Balda Baldina

This is a very nice folding camera from 1930s Germany.  It is one of the first cameras to use Kodak’s 35 film cassette – this was made soon after Leitz made the Leica (1925) and Zeiss Ikon the Contax (1932).  It follows Kodak’s lead in producing a folding camera unlike Leitz and Zeiss Ikon who both made rigid 35mm cameras.  The camera is fairly small – it measures 120mm x 82mm x 35mm when closed and 120mm x 82mm x 85mm when open.  It is almost exactly the same size as Voigtlander’s later Vito and Vito II cameras but a bit heavier. The covering seems to be leather rather than leatherette.  This is my second Balda camera – the other being a Baldessa from 1965. In 1939, balda were advertising this camera for between RM52 and RM125 (RM=Reichsmark). I have not been able to convert these prices to sterling.

lens: Schneider Radionar
focal length: 5 cm
apertures: 3.5, 4.5, 5.6, 8, 11, 16
focus range: 1 metre to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: compur leaf
speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300
flash: no connector
film size: 35mm

Balda Baldina – front view

This camera had been stored somewhere not particularly dry before I bought it and the finish showed the results. The leather was very dry and dull, much of the nickel-plated steel has rusted and the moving parts were all very stiff.  I attacked the leather with Bestbeloved’s leather restorer and it is now a bit more subtle and has a nice sheen. Moving parts have had a drop of oil/naphtha mix (I mix 2 parts clock oil with one part naphtha to produce a freely running oil. This flows into hinges and axles easily – and when the naphtha evaporates the part is left with a very small amount of oil) and now move easily. I have yet to deal with the rust but will do so when I have finished the test film. I shall rub down just the rust and then treat it with Loctite Rust Remedy. This leaves a durable black finish which I shall leave as-is.

The last thing to note, condition wise, is the presence of ‘Zeiss Bumps’. Zeiss Ikon cameras are notorious for these and this is the first time I have seen them on a non-Zeiss Ikon camera. they are caused by the manufacturer using a different material for rivets than he used for the body. A chemical reaction will then be set up in the presence of damp resulting in the build-up of corrosion products between the metal of the body and the leather covering. These ‘Zeiss Bumps’ occur on the lens door and in the leather by the take-up spool.

Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander used die-cast aluminium for their camera bodies which made for strength and lightness with the added advantage that they were corrosion resistant.  This camera seems to be made from steel.

The outside is a mixture of leather and nickel plating and where the nickel has worn, the camera is rather rusty. My Zeiss Ikon Nettars from the same decade were leatherette and paint and where the paint has worn you can see the aluminium.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

top view

Balda’s use of steel and nickel plating would have made the camera cheaper to make.  I assume that this also meant that the camera was cheaper to buy but it would not have been cheap. With a Compur shutter, it would have been aimed at a serious amateur photographer. I can date this camera by the lens’ serial number – 838751 – which was made in the last few months of 1935, probably early November, assuming constant levels of production. A Schneider lens serial number list can be found here.

The camera is quite well appointed.  It has a ‘proper’ viewfinder rather than the metal frames that Zeiss Ikon’s Nettars and Ikontas had.  This is small (as was usual even on expensive cameras) and is a reverse Galilean finder (that means it is like a telescope backwards as it makes things small). This viewfinder has a remarkable addition – a parallax adjuster. When you have set the focus on the lens, you put the same distance setting on the viewfinder and the viewfinder moves up or down accordingly. For infinity, the viewfinder is fully up and as you dial in nearer distances, the viewfinder lowers itself. Apart from this camera, I have only ever seen this on expensive rangefinder cameras.

On the top plate along with the viewfinder is the film rewind key and the frame counter. This last is beneath a hinged cover and counts from zero to 36.  This is a count-up counter, the user setting the counter to zero when loading a film into the camera.

Beside the viewfinder is a small button. Pressing this will release the hinged lens cover and the lens will spring forward automatically – it does so with a reassuring ‘snap’.  The shutter leaves are between the lens elements so focusing is only front-cell focusing (i.e. only the front piece of glass moves when focusing, not the whole lens. This causes a slight degradation of the image with close-up work. For landscapes it makes not a jot of difference).

base view

The film advance is on the bottom of this camera – possibly to circumvent other manufacturer’s patents, certainly not because it makes it easier to use. Advancing the film is not as straightforward as turning the knob (no lever advances at this early date).  Leitz, Kodak and Zeiss Ikon had 35 mm cameras on the market when this camera was designed and each had patented every aspect of camera design they could.  They also pursued patent infringement vigorously. The outcome of this is that manufacturers trying to bring new models to market had to find workarounds to avoid being sued. In this case, the film advance is locked until you press a button on the base of the camera. This must be released as soon as you start turning the film advance knob or you will advance more than one frame. To make this as hard as possible, you first have to push in the safety lever, then press the small button and then turn the advance knob.

Also on the bottom of the camera is a tripod boss.  This is the original 3/8 Whitworth thread rather than the more modern 1/4 Whitworth.  This is to one end of the camera – it seems to have taken camera manufacturers a long time to work out the point of balance of a camera.

Balda Baldina – folded

Inside is pretty much as you would expect even from a modern 35 mm camera – a sign that this layout was well designed from the start and not patented.

The hinged back has effective light baffles and so there is no need for foam light seals – nothing to go gooey and messy with age and nothing to start leaking light. In the centre of the back is the pressure plate to keep the film flat against the film gate. To one end is a nickel-plated spring to keep the film in place on the sprockets. Loading film is easy. There is a spring on the take-up spool under which the end of the film goes. No particular shape of film leader is required but the modern standard leader works fine.

When open, the door hinges on the left, leaving plenty of room for the right hand to have a firm hold. Many folding cameras hinge on the right leaving a restricted space for gripping.  Voigtlander’s Perkeo and Vito cameras hinge on the right.

When holding the camera for use, the shutter cocking lever  must be moved upwards (this is a Compur shutter, a Gauthier shutter (Prontor) would need the lever moving downwards). The shutter release provided by Compur is hidden by the folding struts and cannot be reached. To overcome this, Balda have added an angled extension which can be reached by the middle finger of the right hand. There is also a socket for a standard cable release.

position of extension lever

Adjusting the shutter speed is easy – this is a rim-set shutter and you turn the outer ring until the required speed is aligned with the index mark. Altering the aperture is not so easy. The control is close to the door and between the folding struts. This is quite do-able but requires looking at the camera from the front.

I have finished the test film which raised a couple of things.  Firstly, firing the shutter. The extension lever that Balda have added to the Compur shutter release travels a long way before it fires the shutter. I found this rather awkward and difficult to hold the camera steady while doing so. Secondly, rewinding the film.  I have no instruction book for this camera and I have to work things out for myself. I assumed that the button that released the film advance mechanism would also release the rewind mechanism. Wrong! My attempt to rewind the film resulted in me pulling all the film out of the cassette. This meant a trip to Snappy Snaps to ask them to remove the film in their darkroom which they did. I now know that to rewind the film you have to lift the film advance knob and leave that other button alone. Oh well – this is all a part of the fun of collecting old cameras. Tomorrow, I shall collect the developed film and post a selection here.

OK. The test film is back – and none the worse for me trying to rewind it the wrong way – kudos to the staff at Snappy Snaps.  I am impressed with this camera. It was made in 1935 (plus or minus a month or two) and has worked flawlessly. The lens shows no sign of having been coated, which would have been very unusual in 1935, but is not particularly susceptible to flare. There is some flare visible in some of the pictures, but I have a habit of shooting into the light which would have been virtually unheard of in 1935 for the very reason that is causes flare.  The lens focuses well and produces high contrast colour pictures. The lens will have been colour-corrected to some extent as that is necessary for using panchromatic black-and-white film and the lens clearly has no problems with modern colour films.

There are marks on some of the negatives – basically, there are scratches which show up on the prints as black marks. I am putting this down to the damage caused when I attempted to rewind the film. It only affects a few of the negatives, most of them being fine.

The pictures:

Shooting to the south on a sunny day (that is, into the sun), hence the flare.
Shooting to the south again, but on a dull day – a small amount of flare.
Shooting to the north on a misty day. No flare but some mist visible in the upper parts of the picture.
Shooting to the south on a sunny morning – no flare as such.
Shooting to the east on a sunny day.
Shooting in a heavily shaded alley – good contrast and colours.

Balda Baldessa F-LK

This is a nicely designed and made  cheaper camera from 1965.  This camera has a number of idiosyncrasies that would quickly became second nature with use.  It measures 120mm by 87mm by 70mm and weighs 441g.  This is my second Balda camera, the other being a Baldina from 1935.

Balda Baldessa F-LK
Balda Baldessa F-LK
lens: Color-Isconor f2.8 45mm
shutter: Prontor 250 LK
aperture range: 2.8 to 22
speed range: 1/30 to 1/250
focus range: 1m to infinity
ASA/DIN: 11/12 to 800/30
The shutter is the lower spec. shutter Gauthier produced for coupled light meters – top speed is 1/250, the higher spec version went to 1/500.  Only four speeds are available (1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250) but this is enough if you stick to 100 to 200 ASA(ISO) film
Balda Baldessa F-LK
With built-in flash gun extended
The lens is a Color-Isconar made by Isco Gottingen and is a triplet.  These lenses have a very good reputation (they certainly sell for a high price on Ebay).  The blueish tint says that they are coated as was normal by 1965.  The focussing range is normal for a viewfinder camera – one metre to infinity – with the focussing scale in both metres and feet.  Superimposed on the focussing scale  are three zone focussing icons – portrait, group and landscape.
The diaphragm will produce apertures from f2.8 to f22 which, coupled with the range of shutter speeds, gives a very useful range of possible exposures.  This camera has a built-in coupled light meter.  This is the match-needle type  and is not TTL – again, usual for this level of camera at this time.  On my camera the light meter does not respond to light.  Even when decrepit, there is usually some response so I suspect a mechanical fault – perhaps a broken wire.
The shutter release is on the right-hand front  of the camera which I do not particularly like but it works well enough.
The film advance is on the underside on the left which is very unusual.  The film loads back to front from normal cameras – the cassette goes on the right and the take-up spool is on the left.  Unusually (I said this camera has a number of idiosyncrasies) the advance is neither a knob nor a lever.  It is a key that needs to be turned exactly half a turn to advance the film one frame.  Again, this will soon become second nature even though it feels very awkward to me.
The film rewind is also on the underside and is the same as on a Zeiss Ikon Contessa.   Sliding the rewind release causes the rewind lever to pop out and rewinding is easy as the lever is much larger than is possible when placed on the top plate.
This camera has a built-in flash.  It uses flash bulbs so is M synchronised.  A lever on the back releases a spring-loaded flash reflector and a red lever on the side ejects the used bulbs.  The built-in flash is powered by a 15 volt battery.
There is also a PC connector for an independent flash gun.  As there is no synchronisation lever and bulb flash is built-in I assume that this PC connector is X synchronised for electronic flash.
The base also has a tripod bush.  The basic bush is 3/8 Whitworth and has a removable 1/4 Whitworth slug in it to suit the more usual tripod spec.
The only part I do not like on this camera is the back.This is made from a softish plastic.  Actually, it fits well and seems to seal properly, but it still feels cheaper than necessary.
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