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FOR WHOM THE SHUTTER SNAPPETH? A BOLSEY B2 REVIEW.

A quick aside:

(This article is less of a camera spec. overview and more of a user review. How it handles, what makes it what it is.)


The Bolsey B2 is the hunch back, yes, not lunch sack, mmmm no, I said hunch back, of the camera world. It is so lovely in its engineering, tiny and shiny and nice to look at and wonder what it would be like to use one. What quality images could you produce with this little chunker? Then you pick one up, and you quickly realize it is like holding a handful of still wrapped, nice and foiled, ROLOS while trying to snap some photos. The shape is the first thing that caught my eye, and drew me into its high up, midnight moon clock tower, and snapped with a flicker quick, the wide and hungry flame of my intrigue.

I was gifted a big box and a bag of broken cameras by my friend John before he and his partner moved away. Thanks John! Upon digging through the box shortly after they left, I saw a camera which like I mentioned before had really grabbed my interest. It was, you guessed it, the Bolsey B2. Still in its band-aid tan, band-aid brand case, safe and sound. I popped it out of there, and it looked to be in decent shape! It even still had the little red logo, ooolala! But upon trying to get the shutter to fire, and working with the awkward “lift slightly and wind” cocking mechanism, I quickly realized it was out of commission. I should’ve guessed considering when John gave me these he clearly stated, they were all broken, maybe some less than others, but yeah..broken. Did this moment dissuade me from trying to see what using this camera would actually be like? Nope, not in the least. I would pick this one up from time to time and just kind of hold it, trying to familiarize myself with its almost ball like shape. It has angles yes, but they are rounded and tend to roll into the overall smooth shape of itself and it started to feel like I was holding a chrome ball. But still, I looked online, and these little doods are pretty darn cheap. I ordered one for $15 that looked new and had its tan case. The seller stated that “Everything seemed to be working,” which isn’t always my go to for comfort words when purchasing a camera or anything for that matter, but this was cheap, so I bit. I put the broken one on a shelf in my room and went about the days to follow.

It arrived quickly and in tiny box, which was to be expected. I opened it and carefully let it roll out into my palm. The case looked brand new, and the camera itself was so shiny and reflective, I saw myself in it, I saw my future. Or did I? I pulled up on the advance knob, and clickity boom it snapped back the double exposure prevention rod! There is also a slight almost pop that accompanies this action. I selected a shutter speed and flicked the shutter release once, then again. You have to do this action, the first time it releases the prevention rod and the second actually releases the shutter. It worked! The focus throw on this camera is incredibly short, in a positive way, it feels delightful to use.



The split focus rangefinder is decent enough and this camera and the other actually were still aligned perfectly. I don’t wear glasses, but I will say that it may be a chore for those of you who do. The viewfinder and the focusing finder are tiny and cleaning them out helps, but its still a bit hard to get a good, full view of what your doing/seeing. I went around my house just focusing at different distances and enjoying the smooth and little movements I needed to make to focus on different objects. After a little while of this, I grabbed a roll of bulk Ultrafine Extreme 400 and loaded it up.

Bolsey B2, F3.5, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Spokane, wa. 2022

The hunch was waiting for me when I unlocked the bottom of the camera and removed the back. You don’t just drop the film into the back or even slide the cartridge up onto the little spool arm, you put the cartridge in from the bottom. It slides in pretty easily actually and then you pull the leader as usual, over a sort of awkward hump, and onto the take up spool. Sliding the canister up from the bottom is nice because it’s held there by an interior piece so you don’t have to keep your thumb on it or anything. You really want to make sure that when you get it on the spool, you pull up on the advance knob and make sure its pulling and holding it properly before you put the back door on. The pressure plate will do the rest, but it never hurts to be sure. The weird thing when loading, is having to pull up on the advance every so often while trying to get the film fed correctly all the while, holding onto this little camera body. When you get it, you’ll be happy you did. Lock that bottom latch and head out!

Bolsey B2, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Spokane, wa. 2022

Bolsey B2, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Spokane, wa. 2022

Bolsey B2, F5.6, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Double Used Film, not in camera double exp. Spokane, wa. 2022

I did what I normally do with a test roll, walk around my yard and familiar neighborhood spots and see what I see. I don’t want to do anything too serious with a new camera till I’m certain it will do something. Even if that thing is terrible, just something. The roll is short and I test the lenses bokeh, and sharpness as well. It felt fine to shoot. I found that resting my thumb against the textured exposure selection wheel on the back and gripping the front around the right side was a decent hold. It seems silly to have to think this way with such a small little thing, but it does absolutely make sense once you have it in your hand. Sorta feels like it could just pop! Right out of there and going flying off into some unseen orbit, or just smash on the ground, which is never good. I got home and set to developing. I know this article isn’t about home development, but I just have to say, not only is home developing great because you learn something new and there are so many different ways to develop that you can keep learning, but you can save money and develop test rolls immediately after shooting them! Anyway, I did just that, and shortly after scanned them. The images are ok, they are mostly very soft. I need to test this camera out on some portraits, which I don’t do often, but I’d be curious to see what sort of affect the softness has on a face. Flattering or not?

Bolsey B2, F3.5, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Spokane, wa. 2022

After wanting one of these for a bit now, getting to have and use one, I can say that I will continue to use it. This may not be for someone who lives in the land of hi-res and wants all the details to stand out, or if you don’t want your detail to be buried in the lovely fuzz this lens can and does provide as an images final resting place. If you are looking for something mostly easy, yet interesting to use and are more concerned with getting an image rather than the sharpest image, this may be a relative, 2nd cousin perhaps, to your dream come true. You can see there is pretty wild, busy, but to me beautiful bokeh, it's not for everyone. I believe this lens is capable of sharper results, but I only got it down to F5.6 on this day. So if you are brave, diligent and wanting to push yourself, give it a search on the old spidey web in the sky and see what cheap ones are out there. Most likely they will work, and it could be the time of your little life!

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