BelOMO Vilia Review : Black in the USSR

The Vilia is yet another fully manual shooter from the later years of the soviet union from MMZ-BelOMO in Belarus. Unlike its obvious soviet rivals the camera styling is more akin to Japanese compacts of the era. But how does it measure up compared to its rivals like the Smena Symbol  ?

BelOMO Vilia Camera
BelOMO Vilia. 35mm Viewfinder Camera from FSU

Specification-wise these are quite closely matched. You’ve another triplet lens with scale focus matched with variable shutter speeds up to 1/250 sec plus a bulb setting. Both have an aperture that can close down from f/4 to f/16 and offer you either full manual setting or an easy to use exposure setting based on the sunny 16 rule. Both  are self cocking with a front shutter button

Lanes
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Kodak BW400CN

BelOMO Vilia Specs

  • Lens:  40mm 1:4
  • Focus: Zone & Scale
  • Metering: None
  • Aperture: f/4-f/16
  • Shutter: 1/30-1/250 +B
  • EV 100asa: 9-16
  • Filter-Thread:  46mm
 Stylistically that’s where things end. The Smena Symbol has that classic soviet thin brushed metal and black plastic look whilst the Vilia at a distance looks more like a Japanese compact. The black however is plastic and there is no metering. The camera is quite heavy given its construction and I suspect it is weighted. The plastic  however feels pretty rigid though. There were different versions with minor cosmetic changes .
Alley
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200

The Vilia  takes a different approach to the Smena series regarding  easy exposure. You simply set the shutter speed to match as closely the ASA rating e.g. 1/125 sec if using 100asa (there are separate setting markings  on the base on the shutter ring for this) You then use the aperture via a small lever under the lens to adjust for light conditions. This is coupled to  a white dot under 5 weather symbol on the bottom of the viewfinder giving you a head up display.

Base of BelOMO Vilia Camera
Base of BelOMO Vilia Camera. Note ASA settings & Aperture lever.

Obviously like the smena you can set the shutter and aperture as you see fit in a full manual mode allowing you to shoot any speed provided you calculate the exposure

Dutch Uncle
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Kodak BW400CN

The viewfinder is a mixed bag. The weather HUD and parallax and frame marking are nice but mines remained a bit hazy even with cleaning.

The camera nicely offers both PC sync and Hot shoes flash. There is no cable release point and the tripod point is off centre if that bugs you. Unlike the Smena Symbol the lens also feaures a a Depth of Field (DOF) guide.

Dusk shopping
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Kodak BW400CN

Lens wise the Triplet is okay and reasonable.  But at wide apertures  more distortion can be seen at the edges as you can see below. THis is less obvious closer and at narrow apertures

Too wet for Coffee
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200

I think the Smena symbol’s T-43 has the edge for me but this works well enough  and I think it looks better than the Smena. Otherwise they match their specs exactly.

Ahoy Sailor
Carlisle 2015. BelOMO Vilia with Kodak BW400CN

I’m pretty bias here as I love the Smena 8m (the symbol is basically a refined self cocking version) but the Vilia is an interesting alternative. Over 2 million were sold from it’s production run from 1973-1986 Should get for around the 10 quid mark for working one with luck although you may need to pay a bit for postage as not that common in the west. The Vilia auto adds a selenium ring for metering (as ever check it’s working)

Alternatives

  • Smena Symbol – Lomo’s rival selfcocking Manual shooter
  • Smena 8m – Wonderful Lomo manual shooter
  • Halina 2000/3000 – Plastic bodied Halina P&S series
  • Diana Mini – Pocket modern classic manual P&S

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