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The Beautiful Baldessa from Bunde


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<p>Constructed, probably in the late 1950's, by the Balda Kamera Werk in Bunde, West Germany, this example of the Baldessa 1b is as close to being mint as one could hope for. Even the nameplate on the front has survived in good shape; on most of these cameras the nameplate is either missing or has had the painted surface worn away. The Baldessa 1b was the last in a line of three similar Baldessa models, having progressed from the rather basic Mark's 1 and 1a to include a coupled rangefinder and uncoupled selenium-powered exposure meter. It's generally accepted as being a very attractive design, reminiscent of the work of Raymond Loewy in the US, the designer in this case being Karl-Heinz Lange, chief constructor for Balda. He went on to establish quite a reputation, with designs such as the Voigtlander Bessy and several Minox models to his credit.<br /> <br /> Despite being often described as being of "cheap" construction, I'd consider the Baldessa to be lightly-constructed but extremely well assembled and finished, with sturdy components where they are required. The design is unique, with a front-mounted focusing wheel, an intriguing fold-out leather-clad winding key and a pop-out rewind lever on the baseplate, and a back that leaps off at the pressing of a couple of buttons on the side. It has a great viewfinder with illuminated frame lines that move for parallax correction and a very bright rangefinder spot. It features one of the few front-mounted shutter releases I've been entirely happy with, super-sensitive and smooth. While earlier Baldessas had the triplet 45mm f/2.8 Baldanar lens, this 1b has the 4-element 45mm Isco-Gottingen Color Westenar f/2.8, not terribly exciting at full aperture but very sharp and contrasty from f/4 onwards. The shutter is the good ol' Prontor -SVS with speeds from B through 1/300. Here are a few detailed images:</p><div>00cRuM-546215684.jpg.17077f76797f2235d6a37d9ae4a48af1.jpg</div>
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<p>The focusing wheel is nicely finished and marked for distance, unlike the similar fitting on the Petri Color 35 I wrote about in an earlier post. It's well-placed and works effortlessly. The sprightly Gossens meter works accurately, though it's read-out is in the Light Value scale indicated on the coupled aperture/shutter speed rings mounted around the lens. This was a common system in this era and I'm quite familiar with it, though I usually translate back into old-fashioned stops and speeds. Note the large shutter release.</p><div>00cRuO-546215784.jpg.6256b1c1db25ccb953caa9eea9edaec9.jpg</div>
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<p>The base of the camera is a delight to behold. The winding key folds out from a flush position and rotates 180 degrees to wind the film and cock the shutter, very quick and easy to use. The rewind selector lever, mounted under the lens, doubles as a foot to support the camera in it's upright position when sitting on it's base. Move it to the "R" position and the neat little rewind handle springs out of its catch and the film may be rewound without any further ado, no holding-down of tiny buttons or other antics. The centre of the rewind lever is marked with a red bar and rotates to assure the user that the film is indeed advancing, and the counter is set into the deck beneath the winding key. All in all, it's hard to fault these neat and logically-placed features. </p><div>00cRuS-546215884.jpg.e388a4361f107ad59b2695cdfd0ceea7.jpg</div>
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<p>Two buttons on the side of the camera must be pressed simultaneously and the back springs off, revealing a particularly well-finished interior. The film feeds from right to left, transported over multiple guide rails by two sets of sprockets and supported by a very adequate pressure plate. The ends of the take-up spool are serrated to assist in the loading, a fairly fail-safe procedure. This would have to be one of the best-finished interiors I've come across.</p>

<p>The camera handles very well, and once one becomes used to the slightly unusual placement of the wind and focus controls, it's fast and fuss-free. I loaded a roll of Superia 200 and took the Baldessa along to a vintage farm machinery field day; while the light was rather dull I was pleased with the results. I'll post a selection, the scans being from the Fuji frontier.</p><div>00cRuT-546215984.jpg.bbfb73fcff59bd681b94951eb3db97a8.jpg</div>

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<p>Rick, this is a nice camera and great results from it. I really like No.10 since it reminds me of my childhood. My uncle sent my grandmother 1000 US dollars to purchase a more modern version of this threshing machine. Back then, 1980's rural Poland under communist reign it was quite a machine. I remember installing grain sacks underneath it and I clearly remember the powerful three phase motor that was running that monster via flat belt. It is still parked in the barn at grandmother's farm. Times have now changed and no one uses threshing machines - combines took over the entire process. Thank you for posting a nice set.</p>
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<p>Rick what a lovely little camera, and a great series of pictures with it. There's something special about using a classic camera at these steam / country events. There's one near where I live in Leicestershire every year, and the images you made could easily have been taken there. I must get to it this year.</p>
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They are neat little cameras, aren't they? I had the meterless 1a, and thoroughly loved the fingerwheel focussing and the intelligent approach

to parallax correction, placing the finder directly above the lens so that the framelines only have to move vertically.

 

Doesn't hurt that they're such elegant designs, too.

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<p>Beautiful camera, Rick. As usual, you've seemingly sourced it from someone with an argon-filled, temperature-controlled vault, where it has sat since 1958. It appears every control on there is unusual in placement, configuration, or action. One that you didn't call attention to: If I'm seeing correctly from your first picture, the rangefinder window is <em>right </em>of the viewfinder window (as we face the front of the camera). That's backward from most other cameras. (Most others don't have a choice, like this one does; if the VF is at the far right end, of course the RF window must be left of it.) I can't think of how right vs. left would make any difference in use; you only care that some mirrors bring the RF patch into the VF window, and you care not whence it came. But it is unusual.</p>

<p>Nice pictures as always. Who doesn't like heavy iron? (And the occasional wood...)</p>

<p><em>--Dave</em></p>

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<p>The 1950s and early 1960s were a sort of golden age for 35mm cameras. The one thing most lacked to really become successful were interchangeable lenses. My favorite of the time is probably the Werra.</p>

<p>Kent in SD</p>

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