The Balda Baldamatic I 35mm rangefinder is an improved version of the Balda Baldessa rangefinder with a coupled rangefinder, coupled light-meter and a Synchro Compur shutter.
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I bought this camera as a complete kit with the flash shown in the pictures, a light-meter, various add on extras such as filters, leads etc all in a 1960s brown leather camera case for about £6. I bought it because I was impressed with the look and feel of the Baldessa I purchased a few months ago and wanted to increase the number of Balda cameras I own.
When the Baldamatic turned up I found that it is basically in fully working order although the shutter is sometimes a bit reluctant to work as soon as the shutter release is fired. The timings of the longer exposure times is also a bit out on some occasions, so these couple of issues both point to the synchro compur shutter needing a strip down and clean. Since it is the same basic shutter as fitted to my Retina Reflex S which I recently worked on I should be able to do that reasonably easily.
Other than that the Baldamatic just needs a bit of a clean and spruce up to be fully operational and looking almost as smart as the day it was made in, I would guess, about 1960.
Balda Baldamatic I Descripton
The name Baldamatic is a bit of a misnomer as the camera is not automatic in the sense we understand it. There is no automatic exposure control, or focus, but there are aids to help with both in the form of a coupled rangefinder for focus, and a coupled light meter for exposure.
The exposure meter is a match needle system build into the camera in the same position it was on the Baldessa. The difference is that his camera has the light meter coupled to the exposure setting controls of the camera making it easier to use. Unfortunately the meter needle doesn’t appear in the camera’s viewfinder, so a light reading needs to be taken independently of the composition stage, but it is an improvement none the less.
To take the light reading the light cell on the front of the camera is pointed at the subject and the camera exposure controls are adjusted to make a small red arrow in the light meter match the white meter needle. This is achieved by pushing the two black finger grips into the camera body and turning them. Once they match the camera is set the the correct exposure value for the picture. Since the camera is calibrated in EV values, once the setting has been achieved, as long as the finger grips are not pushed in towards the body to unlock the shutter and aperture, they can be rotated to get the best shutter/aperture combination for the picture you want.
The focus is a more conventional rangefinder than the Baldessa, with the control being the front element of the lens rather than the rotational wheel. That is rather a shame in my view – I thought the focus wheel of the Baldessa was a nice feature.
The general layout of the other controls and overall feel of the Baldamatic is very similar to the Baldessa which, in my view, is a good thing. I liked the general feel and shape of that camera and so like this one too.
Balda Baldamatic Specifications
- Balda Baldamatic I 35mm rangefinder camera
- Coupled rangefinder for focus aid
- Coupled light meter for exposure assistance
- Exposure system calibrated in EV
- Synchro Compur shutter offering 1sec to 1/500sec + Bulb
- X & M flash sync
- 10sec mechanical self timer
- Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 45mm f/2.8 lens
- Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
- EV 2 to 18 light meter / exposure range
- ISO 10 to 3200 film speed range
- Ser No: 089865
- Lens Ser No: 5939660