Balda Baldessa Ia

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Balda Baldessa Ia (three-quarter view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (three-quarter view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (front view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (rear view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (top view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (bottom view)
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Balda Baldessa Ia (with 35mm cassette for scale)
Balda Baldessa Ia (three-quarter view) Balda Baldessa Ia (three-quarter view) Balda Baldessa Ia (front view) Balda Baldessa Ia (rear view) Balda Baldessa Ia (top view) Balda Baldessa Ia (bottom view) Balda Baldessa Ia (with 35mm cassette for scale)

Balda Baldessa Ia Specifications

Manufacturer: Balda Kamera-Werk
Origin: West Germany
  (modern day Germany)
Made in: West Germany
  (modern day Germany)
Introduced: 1958
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 135 Film
Dimensions: 12.4 x 8.4 x 6.3 cm

Balda Baldessa Ia Overview

The Balda Baldessa Ia (or Balda Baldessa 1a) is a 35mm rangefinder camera introduced by Balda Kamera-Werk in 1958, about ten years after founder Max Baldeweg fled Socialist Dresden to reestablish his company in the soon-to-be West German city of B ünde. The Baldessa Ia and its sister model the Ib are basically identical to the original Baldessa I with the addition of a coupled rangefinder. The Baldessa Ib then went a step further by also including a built-in light meter.

I love unusual cameras and am happy to say that the Baldessa Ia boasts a number of peculiar design choices. First off, the Baldessa Ia’s top plate is completely barren apart from the cold shoe. Instead, the shutter button (which has a threaded socket for a cable release on its underside) is adjacent to the Baldanar 45mm f/2.8 lens on the front of the camera. Both shutter speed and aperture control rings are on the lens barrel as expected but a black tab has to be pushed in for either of them to move. Most cameras are focused via a ring on the lens barrel but the Baldessa Ia’s designers decided to use a wheel embedded into the body above the shutter button instead. Also on the front are a flash sync socket just off the lens barrel at five o’clock and an accompanying flash mode selector on the lens barrel at nine.

As we move to the camera’s bottom plate, we encounter more eccentricities. The tiny “kickstand” which allows the camera to balance on a flat surface can also be shifted to the “R” position to release the comma-shaped film rewinding lever. Opposite the rewind mechanism is a winding key which, when unfolded, reveals an automatic film counter while advancing the frame with every half turn. In the middle of it all is a tripod socket which also houses a film speed indicator. Last but not least on the list of oddities are the two silver buttons on the user’s right-hand side which can be simultaneously depressed to open the back of the camera.

While the vast majority of my collection was purchased from thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, or eBay, this beautiful camera was actually sent to me by a very generous reader in Massachusetts who told me that his in-laws used it to photograph their travels. Apart from a small dent on the right shoulder, this Balda Baldessa Ia is in excellent condition both cosmetically and mechanically with no other significant issues to speak of. Thank you, sir!


McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 78.