Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Little Chinon Bellami

The Chinon Bellami, a little 35mm camera with zone focus and "barn doors" covering the lens, is a very desirable pocket camera. Introduced in 1981, the Bellami shows some similarities with the much-loved Olympus XA series. Approximately the same size as the XA, the Bellami has a retractable lens that is covered by two doors that flip open when you advance the film, which also turns the camera on. The exposure meter can be set for ISO ratings from 25 to 400. The cameras also features a threaded cable release socket, shutter speeds from 1/8 to 1/1000 sec., 35mm f/2.8 lens, daylight (fill flash) sync, and battery check. The detachable flash is very similar to that found on the Olympus XA series, and definitely makes for a less-compact camera when attached.

I picked up my example on ebay for a modest price. I was amazed that the camera was still in its original box with all the papers and manuals. I was prepared to be disappointed by this camera, as sometimes the hype on some classics (a modern classic, if you want to call it that)exceeds the results obtained. It IS a small camera, shown here next to an old roll of Kodachrome (which is used only for illustrative purposes).

The Bellami is a stylish design, much nicer than the clunky Rollei 35, though a tad longer. Not too different in size from an Olympus XA, though. With the doors covering the lens, it slides easily in and out of a pocket, and is comfortable to grip. I can set the distance marking to the 10m ft marking, and it's basically a point and shoot. Compare the Bellami with the hulking Pentax 6x7:

Of course, with any camera, the proof is in the images. I found that my camera had some trouble in the beginning with longer exposures, but after working with it a while, it appears to have just been in need of some use. Here are a few shots on color film:

A detail from the Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Art.

The wall of the Dexter bakery.

I later put in a roll of long-expired Delta 400 b&w film, and I think the results are not too bad.

stairs at the UM Museum of Art. The negative was greatly overexposed, but post-processing cleaned it up pretty well.

Along South Univ., note the bromide drag from developing.

Using the flash -- I think I'll stick to natural light. Like any small camera with the flash so close to the plane of the lens, lighting will be kinda harsh.

On campus, once again. Not too much distortion in the verticals here.

I'll put more film in the camera this week and do some more shooting with it. Now that I know it's a fairly decent performer, it will travel with me for a while and I'll see how it does when the weather is summery, rather than wintery. So many cameras...


Anonymous said...

Nice chunky little camera. I like the stairwell shot.

Anonymous said...

I found a "new" Bellami with box, papers, etc. I used one for several years back in the late 80s traveling thru India, Singapore, Indonesia, etc. I found it to be very reliable, easy to use, and good results. I plan on shooting a couple of rolls to check this new one out. Great little camera!


momus1 said...

5 years later.......are you sure that is bromide drag? I'd have to look at the negative, but if those marks align with the sprocket holes on the edges, then it's over agitation during developing. I had a little twirling stick that came with my developing tank that caused marks like this every time I used it. Finally threw it away and used inversion developing and never had any more problems.