Chinon Bellami

The Chinon Bellami is an ultra-compact yet very solid feeling 35mm film camera featuring a retractable "Chinonex" 35mm F2.8 lens and zone focusing. It is roughly the size of the Olympus XA series of cameras and even has the same type of detachable flash. My example of this camera came to me with a wonky meter, so exposure was not consistent for my test roll - still, the shots that worked out showed me it has a nice sharp moody lens (see my sample image below).

Chinon Bellami with 35mm F2.8 Chinonex lens extended.

A unique feature of the Bellami is the retractable lens, which when closed is concealed behind a pair of "barn doors". When you're ready to use the camera, you use the film advance lever to open the doors revealing the lens inside. The lens moves forward when you open it, and retracts again when you close the doors - which is also done using the film advance lever. It's a very cool mechanical feeling feature that has to be experienced, assuming you can find one of these.

Anyone familiar with Chinon SLRs and other cameras may know they're known for building very solid heavy-duty cameras, and this little gem was no exception. It's weight was the first thing that struck me when I first picked it up - even before noticing the cool retractable lens hidden behind those doors.

LIKES: Just love, love, love that moody retractable lens that pulls into the camera and hides behind doors when not in use - what a unique and retro experience using this gem. I also really loved that they crammed a real film advance lever onto this camera and made it all feel so solid while keeping the size to roughly the size of an XA - wow! And of course it's nice that you can remove the flash.

DISLIKES: As I said above, the meter on my example was not reliable, but I won't hold that against the camera in general. I really can't find anything to pick on here. If the meter was working properly, I'd have had a real keeper.

Chinon Bellami - view a gallery of sample photos...

ABOVE: House on North Road; photo taken with a Chinon Bellami using Kodak BW400CN film.

View a gallery of images taken with the Chinon Bellami