- Produced 1950-55 (1952?) Balda Kamera Werk, Bunde, Germany
- Film type 120 rollfilm
- Picture size 6cm x 6cm
- Weight 18.2oz (516g)
- Lens Enna Werk Ennagon C 75mm, f3.5 (stops to f22)
- Filter size use Series VI with the 1 1/4″ (31.5mm) slip-on adapter
- Focal Range 1m to infinity
- Shutter Prontor SVS (has V, X, M settings)
- Shutter speeds B, 1-300
- Viewfinder in-body viewfinder
- Exposure meter none
- PC sync and accessory shoe
- Film counter, double-exposure prevention
- Close cousins HAPO (eg HAns POrst)
Sweet little folder that takes 6×6 pictures on 120 rollfilm, made by the famous Balda Kamera Werk in West Germany. Balda-Werk was located in Dresden from 1908 up until the end of WWII when it became part of VEB Pentacon group and was re-established in Bunde, (West) Germany. They made cameras up until 1985 when the camera production portion of Balda was sold to a Chinese joint venture. Balda AG is now manufacturing components for mobile communications, satellites and the medical industry. (Come to think of it, isn’t that more or less what Zeiss is up to these days?) Balda Werk made other similar folders such as the excellent (pre-VEB) Baldax and Baldalux and the (post-VEB) 35mm Baldinette. Shutters used in these cameras range from Vario to Compur-Rapid, lenses included Balda-Werk and Enna-Werk, Hugo Meyer and Schneider Kreuznach. They also made Baldax models sold as Lisette under the name Porst. This camera is imprinted Baldix, West Germany, Balda, Bunde, on the leather.
There are a lot of features packed into this comact but heavy pocket-sized folder. Double-exposure lock, PC sync and accessory shoe, self-timer (not working too well on this example), coated lens, positive spring-loaded extension. It’s extremely well-designed. Wind knob is ratcheting (cool idea) as part of the interesting (see below) double-exposure prevention. The Enna-Werk Ennagon lens is a real beauty. You can tell at a glance that it’s a high-quality German lens, with the same coated crispness I can see looking at my Meyer Oreston. Enna-Werk made the interchangeable lenses for the prized American rangefinder Argus C fourty-four, which is in fact the main reason that camera is valuable. The lens frontispiece has a red C that I assume stands for Color, which would mean that it was a color-corrected coated lens. (Color is part of the options on the film selection indicator, so I think it’s a safe assumption.)
Controls are simple – the top has ratcheting wind knob on the left, with the bellows release button next to it, the accesssory shoe in the center, the shutter release, and a knob that has a dial film indicator but doesn’t really do anything, it’s just supposed to remind you if you have Din 7 Ortho-Panchromatic film or if you’re using the ASA 100 Color film today. Only goes up to ASA 200 so it’s only marginally useful…. The other controls are all on top (side? depends on how you’re holding the camera) of the lens-mounted shutter. The shutter cocking lever cocks easily to one side with a finger. VXM self-timer/flash sync switch is color-coded Green Red Yellow, fairly standard. PC terminal is right there too, sticking out a little presumptuously. Focus is smooth and I assume the scale is in meters even though it doesn’t say.
One of the nicest things about this little beauty is the perfect placement of the shutter release button. Shooting with it feels like shooting a solid 35mm rangefinder while the result is a whopping 6x6cm instead of 24x36mm. It’s about the same size and weight as the Contaflex, and it is just a pleasure to shoot. Make sure you depress the shutter release all the way in one smooth movement, otherwise it goes click-click as the linkage engages and then the shutter releases, and you may miss your shot. Be firm, not timid.
A NOTE ON THE SAMPLE: disregarding one of my own rules (and common sense) I shot a second test roll before getting the first back. Turns out I had accidentally put the rear lens element in backwards after cleaning all the glass and shutter blades and so the pictures came out all dreamlike, with the center focused and the edges fading to blur. The funnier thing is that I really liked the effect! I corrected it anyway.
Sluggish shutter, not uncommon for older Compur let alone Prontor or Vario. The rear element unscrewed easily by hand (like on the Kodak 3a) so I could clean the shutter and aperture blades with Rosonol (lighter fluid). With the oil off, they’re working fine now, though 1/50 seems as fast as 1/100 for some reason. I also cleaned the glass with vodka, cleaned the tarnished and rusty bits of metal with Flitz, and cleaned up the leather with Lexol.
Tips & Tricks
The camera opens with a button on top next to the wind knob. Watch out for the ‘positive bellows expansion’ – this thing opens with a solid spring-loaded chunk and locks into place with gusto. Folding it back up is easy, just press the elbows of the arms and fold up the front. Also, this seems obvious but I’ll mention it anyway – since it’s a square format negative, you get the same frame in landscape or portrait mode. Shooting in landscape mode is much more comfortable even though the camera looks like it unfolds in portrait mode, again, it feels like a rangefinder or compact SLR.
FILM WINDING: Now listen closely, this is the oddest film winding / double-exposure prevention I’ve seen, and it took me hours to figure out. To open the back, there’s a sliding lock near the handle. Insert the empty spool on the wind side and the film spool on the opposite side, thread, wind a bit, close the back and slide open the red window. Ratchet-wind the film till you see the number 1 in the red window. Close the red window.
Next, there’s a little button that’s on the upper left back of the camera by the wind knob. Press and hold it to the right, and at the same time turn the wind knob counterclockwise until you see the numbers in the counter window (on the side next to the wind knob) go down to 1. At this point the dot by the shutter release button should no longer be red. To make the first exposure, cock the shutter (you’re set to X, right?), set aperture, focus, and shoot. The dot will turn to red and the shutter release button will be locked.
To wind on, turn the wind knob counterclockwise till it stops, then clockwise till it stops. Sounds odd, but that’s how the distance is set for winding to the next full exposure. The next number will appear, the dot will be silver again, and you’re ready for the next exposure. When you get to twelve, the camera doesn’t do anything different, you’ll just have to know you’ve exposed number 12, ratchet-wind on until you wind up all the remaining film roll, then open the back under subdued light to get your film out. Whew. It’s actually easier than it sounds, after you do it a couple times.
I’ve received notes from readers who said that this winding method applies to Super Baldax and some HAPO cameras as well.
LASTLY, if you don’t trust yourself to estimate distances properly for zone focusing, you can always get yourself an accessory rangefinder and slip it into the accessory shoe. They usually go for about $15-30 US used.