The Baldamatic II

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by davecaz, Jun 21, 2018.

  1. I recently came across this little camera at an irresistible price, and snapped it up. My luck must be running better, because it is fully functional! A search of the forums found a post by Rick Drawbridge, about the Baldessa, but I didn't see any on this particular model.

    I called it 'little' but, at approximately 4.75"w x 3.75"h x 2.75"d, it's as wide as an Olympus OM, and an inch taller. All those curves must make it look smaller than it is. It's no lightweight, either, weighing in at 622g, or about 22 ounces. The body is very solidly built, with some unusual features, some of which it shares with Rick's Baldessa, but some are different.

    If you've looked at Rick's post, or if you've seen a Balda before, there is a distinct family resemblance. Where the Baldamatic II differs most obviously is along the top where, on this model, it has three evenly sized and spaced "windows", one of which is a selenium meter. At the other end is the viewport. The middle one, which is not mentioned in the manual, appears to be the home of the focusing patch. I discovered this by getting my fat finger in front of the viewing window. When I did, it appeared that my finger had suddenly acquired a hole right through it; a hole that moved left to right as I focused nearer or farther.


    There were three shutters used on the Baldamatic II and III. The Prontor-SLK on my example is the mid-range of the three. It offers speeds from B to 1/500. It can accommodate film speeds from ASA 10 to 800. Rick states that the Baldessa's shutter is limited to 1/300.

    Another difference is the small dial below the viewport and above the shutter button. On the Baldessa, there is a focusing wheel in roughly the same location. On the Baldamatics, it adjusts the aperture, which is very nice because the aperture ring is quite narrow and quite difficult to manipulate directly. A nice feature of these models is that the selected aperture is clearly visible in the viewfinder, and I mean very clearly, unlike some other cameras. Adjusting the aperture also adjusts the little red pointers seen in the photo above, which show DoF for the selected aperture. There are no detents, so the aperture is continuously variable.

    The meter in mine appears to be non-functional, which is a shame because it's the most visible meter I've seen, in any camera. It consists of a pretty typical needle which, in my camera, simply bobs about meaninglessly, but which would otherwise be matched up with a movable pair of large, highly visible red pointers. It would be very easy to achieve a 'correct' exposure with this system, if it worked. It is fully coupled to the shutter and aperture, and that part works very well to show where the needle should be, if it worked.

    Among the interesting features the Baldamatic shares with the Baldessa are the film advance and rewind mechanisms, both of which are found on the bottom plate of the camera. The tab on the left in the photo below is the film advance, which Balda referred to as the Quick Transport Key. When not in use, it folds flat. The rewind mechanism is the curvy bit on the right, which is locked in place by the T/R lever in the middle. R stands for Rewind, so I'm guessing that T stands for Transport. 20180621_164019-SM.jpg

    Here you can see the Quick Transport Key and the Rewind handle in their ready-to-use positions. The Quick Transport Key also cocks the shutter. 20180621_164100-SM.jpg

    A feature I don't know if the different Baldas share, and which I neglected to photograph, is the way the back of the camera pops off. There are two small buttons, set almost flush with the body on the right side of the camera. Pressing them in literally causes the back of the camera to pop off the camera (and fall to the ground if you're not careful). It completely detaches from the camera. And, of course, with the Quick Transport Key on the left, the film loads 'backwards' relative to the more common method.

    Mine came with a hard-shell leather never-ready case, in very good condition, aside from the strap being broken off. I don't know if the broken strap explains how the viewfinder 'glass' came to be cracked, or not, or if that's why the 'glass' on the two front windows is loose. The rangefinder does work, but it's quite dim, and I'm not sure I'd be able to see it in broad daylight. I had that problem the last time I tried to shoot one of my Electros on a sunny day, and the results were not good.

    Overall, the Baldamatic II is a very likeable camera that's easy and pleasant to operate. Rick's photos from his Baldessa are worth clicking the link above for, if you haven't already. They are definitely up to his high standards. But the Baldessa has a different lens, one that Rick deems excellent, and his results back up that assessment. The Baldamatic appears to be a slightly lower model in the product line, so its lens may not be as sharp, but it could still be a good one. I haven't shot mine yet but, judging by the images I found on Flickr, it appears to be capable of good results.
  2. Balda certainly made some interesting and innovative cameras. Here's a post I did about the earlier Super Baldina from the mid 50's:

    Some Shots with the Baldina
    Moving On likes this.
  3. Nice write up Dave, interesting camera. The moveable red indicators for DOF is a brilliant idea

    Don't be afraid to look into repairing that light meter, It's an integral part of the exposure setting mechanism. The problem may be no more than a dirty contact somewhere in the meter or a bad selenium cell, which can be replaced. I use old Polaroid 625 light meter cells, they're powerful enough to power orbiting satellites
  4. That's one Balda I haven't come across downunder, Dave. They're certainly a distinctive design, and I really like the mid-century appearance. They are both practical in concept and a pleasure to use. The best lens was the 4-element 45mm Isco-Gottingen Color Westenar f/2.8; I believe the Color-Baldanar to be a triplet design. I hope you can put a film through it, and post some results.

    Thanks for a great write up, and the excellent pics of the camera.
  5. Thanks for the link, John. I hadn't seen your thread. You got some extremely nice results from the Baldina. I wonder if my camera is capable of producing similar results. I may have to test it out, and see.
    Thanks! Yes, Balda were apparently not afraid to complicate things, and the little pointers are a nice touch.

    I didn't know it was so easy to replace bad selenium cells. But, it's still probably beyond my capabilities. I'm good with household wiring, but itty-bitty wires and screws are just daunting. But, if I can get close to the results John and Rick got with their Baldas, I might send mine out for repair.
    Thanks, Rick. I wouldn't call my photos excellent, but they're adequate for the task at hand.

    I couldn't agree more on the esthetics of these cameras. I'm a big fan of mid-century modern design, too. And the do seem like they'd be pleasant to use, though I think the manufacturer overstates when they claim in the manual that "The great advantage of the Baldamatic is that the film can be transported and the next exposure taken without removing the Camera from one's eye. The Baldamatic is specially suitable to take exposures in rapid succession." It may be possible, but I don't think I'd feel very confident about it. There's not a lot to hang onto with the right hand.

    They don't say anything about the lens design in the manual, unfortunately. But, because they used the same manual for the II and the III, I've learned that the III had interchangeable lenses. Apparently they made 135mm telephoto and 35mm wide angle supplemental lenses, That would make a nice system, I think.

    I'll have to take it out in the back yard and see if the rangefinder patch is visible in broad daylight, or not.
  6. Although my tastes fall more to the Eastern side (Belca, et al.), I love this wonderful example of West German "ampleness". So many designs out of the Federal Republic had this sort of "roly-poly" look. Thanks for showing it off.
  7. Nice stuff. Thanks for the interesting thread, and to you John for the link to the older thread.
  8. lol... ampleness is a good word for it.
  9. So, I took the Baldamatic out into the back yard, and discovered that A) the meter actually does work, in bright enough light, B) the rangefinder patch is more visible in bright light, and C) the rangefinder is out of alignment, vertically, but not too horribly. So, I took it on a day trip yesterday, along with my Canon 6D and Tamron 35-80 SP. On the trip, I discovered that, if it has one, I don't know where to find the frame counter on this camera. So, I'm pretty sure that the film is not finished, but I don't know how many frames are left. But, photos will be coming, eventually.
  10. Davecaz said:
    Dave, on the Baldas I have the frame counter is set into the bottom edge of the camera and is more or less concealed by the winding key when it's in the folded position. There was a slot left in this position in the leather cases to render the counter visible. All very cunning... I'm pleased to hear that the camera is functioning.
  11. I'll be darned. So it is. And I only had to use a 3.5" diameter magnifying glass to read it. It says I'm on frame 19. Not having noticed the marking on that wheel before, I thought it was for taking up slack in the film during loading, although I didn't feel the need to use it.
  12. And here are the results....

    Sedona Red Rock Country View attachment 1253877

    Bell Rock
    View attachment 1253883

    Bell Rock II
    View attachment 1253885

    Desert near Bell Rock - is it me, or is this showing a lot of distortion?
    View attachment 1253886

    Sedona Shopping Country - I don't know if it's the scanner messing up the color or something else
    View attachment 1253881

    Sedona Dining Country with my wife, Rose, looking confused about something towards the street
    View attachment 1253888

    View attachment 1253876

    Tree Houses - the color version is fine. I just like this in B&W for some reason
    View attachment 1253887

    Craftsman style meets Frank Lloyd Wright - one of the old bungalows in downtown Mesa, AZ
    View attachment 1253882

    Sail Ho - Mesa Arts Center
    View attachment 1253878

    Sail Mo - Mesa Arts Center - this also looks distorted to me, but I don't know if it's the camera or the way I used it
    View attachment 1253879

    Yellow - Mesa Arts Center - not sure if I missed focus or failed to hold the camera still enough - I don't think it's the camera's fault
    View attachment 1253880

    I just about swore off of scanning film because of the struggle I went through to get these scanned. The Epson software kept crashing after each strip was scanned, and I'd have to unplug the scanner and sometimes reboot the computer to get it to work again. I think it's actually Microsoft's fault, though, because it didn't do this when I first got the scanner. It started after one of the times Windows decided to update itself.

    And, after all that, the color is off on a lot of the frames. But, not all, which is annoying. Machines are supposed to be consistent.











    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
    georg_s|1 likes this.
  13. What a mess. This software is garbage.
  14. I’ve had issues with the Epsom software after an update too. I fixed it using a combination of extreme cunning, guile, and let’s be frank, IT savvy. I used this YouTube video:

  15. Thanks, Stuart. I'm actually slightly different behavior, but who knows? Maybe that will help.

    But, I was referring to the software running as being garbage. It completely messed up my post, then messed up my attempts to fix it, then timed out while I was fixing it for the third time, so that I can't fix it a fourth time, and we're all stuck with that mess.
  16. Nice work, Dave, despite the glitches. Obviously the Color-Baldanar lens is no slug; I can't detect any obvious distortion, though the colour obviously lurched into the yellow for frame #7. The B&W's are excellent. Try uninstalling/reinstalling the Epson software, a process I used to go through quite regularly until I switched to Silverfast, which seems more resistant to Microsoft's tinkerings.

    I put my posts together using the "More Options" interface, and find that, providing one works methodically, there are few problems, and plenty of editing options. I do like the ability to put the whole post together complete with image files, captions and text, before hitting the "Post" button. Dragging and dropping your image files from your computer into the post is far quicker and more reliable than searching for them in the browser.
  17. Thanks, Rick. Yeah, I don't know where the yellow cast came from. Could be the scanner, could be LR. Could be my fault. Uninstalling/reinstalling is generally sound advice. I did try that, several times, before emailing Epson. They sent me a slightly more detailed set of instructions that includes manually removing the driver. I haven't had time to follow them, yet.

    I appreciate the advice on working with the software. I did the drag and drop, but ended up with several copies of each shot. I managed to remove the extras, but then it moved all the photos to the end and re-sorted them, so the captions are not only separate but in the wrong order. :rolleyes:o_O:mad::rolleyes:

Share This Page