First Steps with Medium Format

I’ve been hankering after a medium format film camera for a while. I find the square aspect ratio of the 6×6 cameras appealing. Admittedly you can just crop a normal photograph to be square, but when you have to compose for a square frame I think it’s different. I also wanted to see what difference a larger negative makes to the quality of the image.

So for Father’s Day (16 June this year in the UK) my little man bought me a medium format camera and roll of 120 film. He may have had a little help from me and mummy as he’s only 9 months old, but it was a wonderful gift.

The camera is a Baldixette by Balda-Bünde. It has a fixed 72mm focal length (approx. 40mm equivalent), which I thought was a nice compromise because it’s relatively wide without making it unusable for portraits (my 35mm Konica EE-Matic Deluxe is also 40mm so the two are comparable). It uses 120 roll film and takes nice 6×6 square negatives so I get 12 shots per roll.

Baldixette Medium Format Camera

It has one shutter speed – 1/60 – which was slightly faster than many similar cameras (typically 1/30). I prefer the quicker shutter speed because, although there will be only a negligible difference, it will reduce camera shake. With the availability of ISO 400 film though, there is really no need to use short a long shutter speed.

There are two aperture settings, f/9 and f/16, for cloudy and sunny days, respectively. This isn’t a camera to really use indoors. Finally, it’s a ‘guess-the-distance’ focussing lens as the viewfinder doesn’t change. Settings are 5-10ft, 10-25ft, and 25ft-infinity. I generally leave it at the infinity setting if I’m taking landscape photographs. Portraits I’ve worked out needs somewhere between 5-10ft and 10-25ft for this focal length lens.

Infinity

The best part of all is that it only cost me a fiver from my local used camera shop. I found it on the top of one of their display cabinets collecting dust. I inspected it and the lens and it looked in reasonable condition, but they didn’t know how much to charge me for it so they let me have it for a steal! The roll of film cost more than the camera.

So with my roll of 120 Fuji 400 I took the camera to Lyme Park near Manchester on a day out with my family, and took a few test shots.

Lyme Park

Lyme Park Flickr Set >

I think the results are quite interesting. The quality isn’t great, but then what do you expect for a £5 camera and basic lens? But it was a great deal of fun to shoot, it forced me to think about composing photographs that worked well as a square aspect ratio, and it didn’t take up too much room in my bag. It’s not a DSLR replacement, but it was fun to shoot. What more can you ask for a fiver?

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