The Lomography Belairgon 114mm f/8 ($199 direct) is the longest lens available for the Belair X 6-12 medium format panoramic film camera. It’s one of two glass lenses currently available for the system, and is noticeably larger and heavier than the plastic lenses that ship with the Belair. If you’re unhappy with the sharpness that delivered by those plastic optics, or if you simply want a lens with a tighter field of view, the Belairgon 114mm f/8 is worth considering.
The 114mm lens is about the same size as the Belairgon 90mm f/8, but isn’t as heavy. It measures 2.5 by 2.2 inches (HD) and weighs 10.2 ounces compared to the 90mm lens’ 12 ounces. You have the option of shooting at f/8 or f/16, which is a limitation imposed by the Belair’s simplistic metering system and automatic shutter. The heft of the lens is easily supported by the rails that steady the camera’s lensboard; it extends away from the body and is connected by a light-proof bellows when shooting.
An accessory viewfinder is included; its field of view is a little narrower than the 90mm finder that’s included with the Belair, and the 6-by-12-centimeter frame is masked off with translucent red film. The minimum focus distance is 1 meter, and you reach infinity just past 12 meters. The focus throw on this lens is a bit longer than it is with the 90mm Belairgon, so you’ll be able to adjust it with a bit more precision.
There’s no through-the-lens focusing system on the Belair, so you’ll have to focus by scale. There are marks on the lens barrel that indicate the current distance at which the lens is focused. You can opt to estimate the distance and set the lens, relying on the narrow f/8 or f/16 aperture to get your shot in focus, or use an accessory focusing aid. I opted for an external rangefinder, purchased on eBay for around $30. It works just like the rangefinder focusing method in a camera like the Leica M; you peer through a viewfinder that shows a double image, and move a wheel to line up that double image into one. That’s the distance between your subject and the camera. Your only challenge may be finding one that has a distance scale in meters, and ensuring that it’s properly calibrated. You can always convert feet to meters in your head, remembering that 3.3 feet is 1 meter, and calibration can be done at home with a yardstick.
I shot two rolls of film using the Belairgon 114mm; one with Ilford SFX 200, a black-and-white film with extended infrared sensitivity, and another using Fuji Pro 400H. Negatives were scanned using an Epson 4490 flatbed with a glass holder from Better Scanning and VueScan software. The resulting images were noticeably sharper than the plastic lenses that ship with the Belair when focus was spot on, though I did have some inconsistent results as the accessory rangefinder I was using for some of the shots was a bit off in terms of calibration.
The Lomography Belairgon 114mm f/8 is a solid add-on for the Belair X 6-12 camera. It’s bigger and heavier than the plastic lenses that ship with the collapsible panoramic body, but the Russian glass captures images that are noticeably sharper. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy both the 114mm and its 90mm sibling; they’re pretty close in focal length, and both focus as close as 1 meter. I prefer the slightly narrower field of view and the longer focus throw that come with the 114mm lens, but those that gravitate to a wider angle will be better served with the 90mm. If you love ultra-wide composition you’re still stuck with the 58mm plastic lens that ships with the Belair; Lomo hasn’t announced an ultra-wide glass lens as of yet.
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