7 minutes ago
A few weeks ago I posted about the Chinon Belami, the neat but limited sequel to the Bellami. Call that sequel a prologue, since I’ve been shooting the Bellami, and this camera has me shook.
There’s a subcategory of point and shoot camera that we could call “micro compact”, early 80s designs that cut down on size by including the flash as an external attachment. Of course what comes first to mind are the Olympus XA cameras, then there's the Minolta AF-C, (maybe) the Pentax PC35AF, and the Canon MC. The Bellami is definitively in this group, as it’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes (without the flash). Metal body. Ingenious retractable lens design—pull the advance lever all the way and the barn doors open as the lens extends. This action also turns on the light meter (the stupid, stupid, so good it’s stupid light meter), and is just so much sexier than the swinging door on a Minox.
All of these micro compacts came in the wake of the 1979 Olympus XA. The rarity of cameras like the Canon MC, or cult favoring the Minox 35 GT, illustrates how thoroughly Olympus bopped the heads of its competitors. I’ve shot a few XA models; they were fine. Nothing like the Bellami, though.
The shutter speed range is phenomenal, from 1/8 to 1/1000 sec. Its zone focusing, which is a primitive feature that I usually despise (you have to guess the distance from lens to subject and adjust the lens accordingly), is accurate and highly forgiving; only two shots out of a roll of 36 were out of focus.
What kills me, what makes my heart melt, is the lens. It’s an f2.8 that is unusually sharp and, shit, I can’t describe this quality. The Japanese “mono no aware” comes to mind, love and pathos for impermanence. The lens is filled with angst over Sontag’s “imperiled continuity.” Be still, my heart.
I’ll shoot with it some more, but I’m already convinced that this camera makes three in my personal collection. Also! I have a second one that’s missing the rewind knob but otherwise seems to be in good order. If anyone has a use for it, for parts or to fix, hit me up and it’s yours for the price of shipping.