Beier was a camera company known for its folding cameras, including an interesting range of strut-folding cameras, the Beira. In 1958, whilst based in East-Germany, it started to build a range of small 35mm cameras, the Beirette series. It was a rather successful range of cameras that continued production till the end of the 1980s, and during that time went through various advances. I prefer the earliest models that were made of metal and had more character than the later ones.
A very comprehensive website about Beier and its cameras can be found at www.beier-kamera.de (in German).
The Beier Rifax was one of the many folding cameras that Beier produced before WWII. It was available as a 6x6 as well as a 6x9 medium format cameras which used 120 film. The most advanced Rifax was the 6x9 model with coupled rangefinder, which is the one shown below. The rangefinder was the split mirror type and had a separate viewfinder window. The camera was provided with a mask for 6x4.5 exposure, which would double the amount of photos one could take with one film. A nice touch is that the viewfinder came with small masks as well. The camera had a shutter release build into the front door, not unlike the Voigtlander Bessa. As slight oddity was that despite having a rangefinder, it still had the small waist-level viewfinder common on viewfinder folders of that era.
A Beier Rifax with Rodenstock-Trinar-Anastigmat 105mm f/3.8 lens in Compur-Rapid shutter. Note that the stand which the camera leans on is the focus lever. By rotating it the whole shutter/lens assembly would be pulled forward, the rangefinder would move simultaneously.
The first Beirette was a viewfinder camera with wind lever (apparently the first East-German camera to do so) and a prominent shutter release button on the shutter base. On the back it had a parallax switch with two settings marked N ('nah' or 'near') and infinity. It had a Junior shutter, the East-German equivalent of a Pronto, and a either a coated Ludwig Meritar 45mm f/2.9 or Meyer-Optik Trioplan 45mm f/3.5 lens. The frame counter was visible through a little window under the rewind knob. The name Beirette was engraved on the front of the top housing. Because of the shutter, it is sometimes called Beirette Junior.
It was quite a simple camera at a time when other brands were bringing out more and more advanced cameras, but even at that time it was true that 'the best camera is the camera that you have with you'. It was light and easy to handle, which may explain its popularity.
The Beirette I, small but handsome.
The version with Meyer-Optik Trioplan 45mm f/3.5 lens.
Winding mechanism of the Beirette I. The top housing was tricky to remove, mainly due to the wind knob. I found that the easiest way to remove it was to rotate the winding spool counter clockwise (film direction) while holding the wind knob, this will push the knob off. The levers on the top right-hand side operate the frame counter.
The 1963 second version's only difference was the shutter release, which has been moved from the top to the side of the shutter base. Where the shutter release used to be was a remote release socket.
The second Beirette with different shutter release.
The Beier-matic was a more modern looking version of the Beirette and included a lightmeter, semi-automatic exposure and a bright-frame viewfinder. Not much info can be found about this model, but it was introduced around 1961. A curious feature was the rewind lever, which was integrated in the accessory shoe. As far as I am aware this was the only Beirette 35mm camera with lightmeter.
A Beier-matic with Trioplan lens and Juniormat shutter.
Top rear view of the Beier-matic with showing the accessory shoe with integrated rewind lever. I am not quite sure what the push button on top of the camera is for, I don't see anything happen when I push it.
A later incarnation of the Beirette from 1968, which, even though it was built at 10 years later, still looked rather a lot like the first model. The top housing was a little different, with a slimmer wind lever and an integrated foldable rewind winder, as well as a hot shoe. The viewfinder was a little larger and the lens was still a Ludwig Meritar, the shutter a Priomat.
A Beirette v with some new features but still looking rather the same as earlier models. Just visible bottom left from the lens is a serrated tab to adjust the aperture ring, with a strange set of numbers of which I have not really been able to make much sense.
The Beirette v with its original box. In the box is a production note dated 1971.
The Beirette K looked very similar to the Beirette v above, but was rather unique among the Beirette series, as it did not take 135 film cartridges but used Rapid cassettes instead. As film was transferred from a supply cassette to a take-up cassette, no rewind knob was needed, and instead of a wind lever, the Beirette K had a metal slider at the back that needed to be pushed from right to left to forward the film and cock the shutter. The camera was equipped with a wind lock as well as a double exposure lock, preventing blank or double exposures, respectively.
The camera did not use the ISO setting capabilities of the Rapid cassette system (see Minolta 24 Rapid), as it had a fully manual exposure system, in contrast to the Beirette v above. The lens was the familiar Ludwig Meritar or a Meyer-Optik Domiplan.
A Beirette K with Ludwig Meritar 45mm f/2.9 lens in a shutter marked 'Modell II'. The original grub screws had been replaced by rather oversized versions, but well, at least it makes focussing easier. As can be seen below, the camera had also been robbed of its frame around the rear eye piece as well as the frame counter, unfortunately I had not paid enough attention to the photos of this camera before deciding to buy it. On top of that the shutter does not work despite the camera being described as fully working. Not the first time, Rocky.
Rear view of the Beirette K showing the film wind slider. Note the thick back plate, which holds the sliding mechanism. This particular model is also equipped with a hot shoe.
Beirette K with film loaded. Two pins in the sliding mechanism at the back would transfer the film whilst the pin at the top would reset the double exposure lock. As these pins were all coupled it was essential to forward the film with one complete stroke of the slider.