This slightly rare FSU 35mm camera might look familiar. In fact it is a BelOMO Vilia with metering. But does this make it any better or worse than the original?
In fact this the second metered Vilia derivative. It was predated by the Vilia Auto, a selenium powered number and was sold at the same time as the Orion EE which was also metered but with shutter priority. Like the OrionEE a CdS cell is used, but inevitably a weird defunct battery was used (thankfully mine came with alkaline 4LR44 which wouldn’t have been my choice from googling but works well enough). The styling is identical to the Vilia and like the Vilia there are several revisions. But as well as the obvious CdS meter there are a few changes compared to its manual sibling.
BelOMO Siluet Elektra Specs
- Lens : 40mm 1:4
- Focus: Scale
- Exposure: Auto (AP)
- EV 100 : 1-16 *
- Aperture Range : f/4- 16
- Shutter: 1/8-1/250 sec + B
- Batteries : 1x 4RC53 (defunct)
- Filter size: 46mm
* on metering
There is a full aperture ring and the camera shoots in aperture priority (AP) mode. You set the film speed on a ring round the lens to match either pre ’87 GOST or ASA setting and the camera automatically selects your shutter speed. A switch on the base allow you switch from auto (A) to Bulb (B) to flash mode (1/30) and a battery test (k). The Bulb mode is a bit pointless with no cable release or timer. The flash setting does allow a limited to 1/30 manual mode.
You half depress the shutter and if too low exposure a yellow warning light comes on in the viewfinder. If conditions are too bright for your selected aperture, a red warning LED comes on. But there’s a problem – the camera kept its old film speed gearings so film speeds in GOST values look like shutter speeds but this translates to odd ISO speeds (both are shown).
Otherwise it is the same camera as the Vilia so you get Scale focus with a handy DoF scale. Although Bulb is on offer there is no cable release point. There is however both hotshoe and PC sync for flash and tripod mount point. The camera shares the same faults I’ve noticed with the Vilia the world’s most murky viewfinder and you sometimes need to re depress the shutter to free up the winding mechanism.
It has also confirmed my suspicion that the vilia didn’t handle 36 exposure rolls as I’ve had issues with the Siluet on 3 different rolls. The first stopped winding at around 24 exp (assumed I loaded 24 until opened). A roll of XP2 today started to sound like it was shearing then jammed at about 18-20. I’ve madly reload with some APX100 and the same started to happen but by manually unwinding the pressure on the spool end, I’ve got things going again (I’ve had the same problem before with a Yamoto Pal Jr – so thought worth trying)
Shotwise the camera is identical to the Vilia optical with some vignetting and loss of sharpness for the centre. Grainy shots IMHO and metering can be variable (the odd setting don’t help)
So I guess which should you buy ? The original Vilia is probably more flexible, offering both a easy to use weather symbol mode and full manual but the elektro removes the risk of your brain goofing it. I haven’t seen an Orion EE but I understand it offers full manual mode as well as auto so may be the one to get. If you want a metered FSU the FED 50 and LC-A are better abet more expensive bets.
- Retro styling
- AP priority shooter
- Retro imaging
- Worst viewfinder known to man
- Field of focus not across the plane
- Jamming with 36exp
- Fiddly ISO settings
What it Cost, came with and what happened to it
- Cost from eBay £6.50 & £5.50 P&P (Cheaper than my Vilia !!)
- Came in original box with cap, manual, case and strap
- FED 50 – More advanced & compact FSU rival
- BelOMO Vilia – Its manual twin
- Lomo Smena Symbol/Cosmic Symbol – Similar Lomo shooter
- Lomo Smena 8m – Russian classic basic shooter