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Golden Views - Thoughts on Viewfinder Cameras and Baldina B

Viewfinder cameras. They are an entire chapter of their own. In this day and age everyone's used to auto-focusing on SLR:s or compacts and phones. Who'd want to even guess their focus? 

Well, that's what you did in the old days unless you had the money to get the expensive professional cameras. (I'm not touching on large format cameras here.) Professional or high-end consumer cameras sported rangefinders since it was introduced in the 1930s. Sometimes they were coupled to the lens, sometimes not. Most consumer cameras up until the 1960s didn't have exact the exact focusing that we are so used to. You really had to make an educated guess or measure it. Zone focusing or guessing was part of the photographic process that our parents or grandparents went through to make those memorable snaps that we now keep framed on the mantlepiece. Focusing without the choice of pre-focus is a large part of what photography has been about.


These two are examples of viewfinder cameras. Well, no, you may say since you've spotted the Leica CL which is the epitome of a rangefinder camera. But not in this case. I wanted to use my dad's Canon FL lens for some pictures so mounted it on the CL with an adapter (two acutally). Now it's become a viewfinder camera since the FL lens is not coupled to the CLs rangefinder. I can still make pictures since the format is the same (35 mm) and the flange focal distance is compensated for by the adapter. The same goes for Frankencamera to the left, albeit in a more crude manner. The Mir-1 lens is threaded onto the Paxette screw mount. More on this in another post. My point is: Hey! Don't dismiss the oldies. They are goldies! if you put some effort to it. And experiment a bit.

Anyway. This became sort of a history lesson. I have a current example of viewfinder camera in the below picture: the Baldina B. I've become very intrigued with using it recently.

Baldina functions

Pop-out lens! And a reputedly sharp Schneider-Kreuznach at that! I got this camera for next to nothing. A fact that surprises me more and more the more I learn about photography and the cameras. I just feel grateful that despite the fact that I am not steeped in funds I get to play with all these different amazing contraptions.

The Baldina B is a 35 mm camera, though it shares its square bulk and pop-out lens with its contemporary medium format cameras. I think that the square shape combined with the compactness - and the craftsmanship in the design of course - is what draws me to this camera.

It's a viewfinder camera with a light meter in the rangefinder's place. There are other model Baldinas that sport coupled rangefinders from what I gather. The selenium cell on mine works, though I haven't yet checked it for accuracy.

Build and design

The ergonomics aren't super, though the grip is good enough for my medium sized hands. There are lugs for a shoulder strap which combined with its rather light weight makes the camera an easy companion for longer walks.

I think the camera is both ugly and handsome. When you think of cameras like Voigtländer Vito B (early version) or Paxette a compact size wouldn't be an issue for a 35 mm film camera. But this one has sort of an elongated height and pointy protrusions on the top. So, the design idea instead of being 'exclusive' or 'compact' is 'good grip' and easily accessed functions. I totally get that. It is a consumer camera, not a professional or 'pro-sumer' camera. But still with first class lenses as an option (there seem to have been different price ranges with cheaper model lenses as well).

Here are some photos from my first roll with the Baldina B. They were scanned using a digital camera, so will be updated once I solve my scanning issues.

Thanks for reading this post! Don't hesitate to comment or check out my Instagram at #ourbooksmalmo. Visit my Etsy shop getOurBooks where there are cameras aplenty to choose from.


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