Tuesday, 27 January 2015

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
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.