other Balda cameras in my collection.
Balda Baldinette [1951 - ?*]
Balda was a pre-WWII German camera maker based in Laubegast near Dresden. In 1946, after WWII, Balda was nationalized in East Germany, while its founder Max Baldeweg, fled to West Germany to start Balda-Werk Bünde. Thus two manufactures both used the name - Balda - until the East German company became Belca-Werk in 1951.
West German Balda-Werk produced a large number of models, which were often given a name variation of Balda; e.g. Baldafix, Baldalette, Baldalux, Baldamatic, Baldax, Baldessa, Baldina, Baldini, etc. - a bit of a nightmare for dyslexics to take-in. More than that, the same names were often re-cycled for later models.
This camera is a West German made Balda Baldinette with a Schneider Radionar 50mm f/2.9 lens, which was apparently one of the more deluxe lens options. Schneider made lenses for the likes of Alpa, Linhof and Rollei, which were renowned for their excellence, but the three-element Radionar was not high quality. Similarly, there were several shutter options - mine has a Synchro Compur. Balda cameras occupied the budget end of the market, although the Baldinette was one of their better products.
The model has all the little quirks of the early 1950s, plus a few of its own.
- An exposure guide table on the back of the camera references the
- There is a double exposure prevention
film arresting buttonon the base of the camera, which must be pressed before the film is wound: this also unlocks the shutter release. A
control windownext to the shutter release button displays a red dot when the film has not been wound. The manual emphasises that the film arresting button must be pressed and not held down.
- Whilst the focus adjustment has a distance scale, there are also two near and far red-dot snap-shot focusing marks. These can be used when the aperture is also set to a red dot size (f/5.6).
- The shutter release button is on the user's left. There is a separate shutter cocking lever. The manual warns -
Do not press the body (shutter) release unless the shutter is cocked. if you do so, the mechanism will be disturbed.
- There is no rewind tension release - you just pull-out the wind knob to disengage it, and then turn the rewind knob. A second version of the manual instructs that once a film is rewound, a red dot on the film transport sprocket must be on the same level as a red dot on the camera body. The wind knob can then be pushed in, and the user should check this alignment by activating the double exposure prevention mechanism (i.e. the film arresting button) and firing the shutter without a film loaded. My camera doesn't have this.
- The wind knob is on the bottom of the camera. There's no wind direction arrow, but the film loads over (rather than under) the spool, so the wind direction is clockwise (as seen from below). The rewind knob is on the top of the camera, and does have a direction arrow.
- There's a pop-out foot on the lens cover, which supports the camera on a level surface in portrait format. The camera doesn't sit level in landscape format due to the protruding wind knob.
I have no information on the UK cost of the Baldinette, nor how long it remained in production, but it was probably about £20, and was still being advertised in 1954.
Specifications (my camera - others may be different)
Viewfinder: Tiny Newton-type with no frame lines or parallax markings. Image about 1/2 natural size.
Lens: 50 mm f/2.9 Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar. 3 elements.
Close Focus: <1.2m (metric scale).
Diaphragm: Ten blades, stopping down to f/16.
Shutter: Synchro-Compur leaf shutter. B (Bulb), 1, 1/2nd, 1/5th, 1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th, 1/250th and 1/500th. Self timer.
Cable Release: Socket next to shutter release button.
Filter Size: 30mm push fit.
Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal. M and X sync.
Film Advance: Wind knob.
Frame Counter: Manually set count-up.
Back Opening: Sliding catch.
Size: 121 x 87 x 40/87 mm (W x H x D closed/open).
I acquired this Baldinette in December 2018 for the price of £13.50. There weren't many manufacturers that made 35mm folders: I have been trying to collect representative samples from each. It can take a while, as they are not numerous, and have become
collectables, causing their perceived value to exceed their worth as functional devices.
For a budget model approaching 70 years old, the condition of my camera is amazing. Does it work? Does it matter?
I like that this camera harks back to a different age - not just in terms of its steampunk technology, but as a reflection of the expectations and capabilities of past generations. Today, products that are likely to break if you press the wrong button would not be tolerated. Equally, something that requires you to think - rather than do it for you - would never take-off. But this camera is from a time when education involved parrot-style learning - such as multiplication, the periodic table, spelling and the rules of grammar - and learning and observing another set of simple instructions wasn't a big deal. I wouldn't choose to use the Baldinette to take photos … but I could if I wanted to. By the way, it is in full working order and just needs a bit of a clean.