Balda Baldessa 1b

This camera was made about 1958 by Balda of Bünde in West Germany.

This particular example is fitted with an ISCO – Gottingen Color Westanar f2.8 45mm lens and a Prontor SVS shutter with Light-Value settings. The camera is also equipped with a coupled image superimposition rangefinder where the focus is operated by a finger wheel on the upper right (photographer’s side) of the lens. An uncoupled selenium powered lightmeter provides readings in Light-Value units which may be manually transferred to the Light-Value numbers on the shutter dial. Film speeds of 6-6400 asa and 9-39 DIN are provided.

I really like using this camera as it is very well engineered and it can capture good quality images. It has quite a degree of flexibility in how the photographer may use the controls although the Light-Value number system can be a bit of a pain at times. The system is intended to make it easy for the photographer to ascertain the correct exposure setting from the meter which can be set on the Light-Value scale to the lower side of the lens barrel. There is only one value to set but the photographer may then simply move the ring which automatically changes both the shutter speed and the aperture setting whilst still ensuring that the correctly determined exposure is maintained. It achieves this by opening the aperture setting by one stop if the shutter is moved one stop faster or vice-versa. This is all handled within the range of possibilities that are offered by the shutter and aperture ranges so that in bright or low light the photographer might have only one or two possible settings to chose from. Personally, I like to be able to set the shutter speed and the aperture separately as this makes altering the exposure to accommodate changing lighting conditions reasonably easy. With the LV system fitted to the Baldessa the photographer has to push down the locking tab whilst rotating either the shutter speed or the aperture ring. Rather fiddly and not at all easy.

Another of the camera’s idiosyncrasies is the underside mounted winding-on key. This has to be folded out and is located on the left hand side of the baseplate. In use it is quite quick to wind on the film and cock the shutter for the next frame but I don’t know that it is any quicker than using a more normal thumb wind lever.

The viewfinder is very good with a large bright image and a clear, yellow tinted, rangefinder spot in the middle. There is a large yellow brightline delineating the view for the fixed 45mm lens and this is connected to the rangefinder focussing mechanism to provide automatic parallax correction.

Opening the back of the camera to load a film is also an interesting adventure. On the right hand side of the camera are two silver buttons, which if pressed simultaneously release the back. This is completely removed for film loading. The film is placed in the slot on the right side of the camera and the leader is taken over the gate to the take-up spool on the left. It all feels very upside down. The base mounted key winder is then used to advance the film. The frame counter is manually set to the film length which has been loaded (e.g. 24 or 36) using the serrated knob, mounted just above the winder key, this then counts down reporting the number of shots remaining.


As usual this camera required a good clean but the only actual repair needed was an adjustment of the rangefinder. There is a large screw fitted to the left of the viewfinder on the rear of the camera. This is a blanking plate and gives access to the rangefinder adjustment screw. Using a long and small cheese-head jeweller’s screwdriver to reach the mechanism. It was rather fiddly to get the screwdriver to engage with the slot in the adjuster but once fitted it was a simple matter to set the lens to infinity and get the rangefinder spot to agree with this by twiddling the screwdriver appropriately whilst viewing a distant object. In my case this was a tree across the field from my house. The difficulty is that you have to look through the viewfinder with a screwdriver hanging out the back of the camera trying to blind you whilst you observe the horizon.


Balda Baldessa 1b Made in West Germany

Camera Type

35mm rangefinder focusing camera with between-the-lens shutter

Film Format



ISCO – Gottingen Color Westanar f2.8 45mm (4 elements, 3 groups),

Filter Size

Push-on type

Focusing Range

3ft to infinity

Shutter Speeds

1 second to 1/300th second. Light-Value set aperture & speed

Exposure Meter Type

Selenium cell powered meter located on the top plate

Film Speed Range

ISO 6 (DIN 9) to ISO 6400 (DIN 39)

Viewfinder Information

Brightline frame, Automatic parallax correction coupled to focus

Focusing System

Rangefinder focusing in viewfinder

Synchronization & Flash

Built-in “X” and “M” synchronization. “X” @ all shutter speeds - PC socket – no hotshoe connection

Loading Film

Standard 35mm 135 loading

Advance Film

Single wind key on the camera base, Built-in double exposure prevention

Self Timer 



None Required


125 X 90 X 63 mm


600 g

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