Here follow some various other cameras in my collection in somewhat arbitrary but roughly chronological order.
Kochmann Korelle K
Kochmann was a small camera company from Dresden probably best known for its Korelle folding cameras and the Reflex Korelle, a medium format SLR. The company was founded in 1921 but most camera models were made in the 1930s.
The Korelle K was a bakelite half-frame camera introduced around 1932. It made 24x18 mm exposures on 35 mm film. It was small and handsome, looking more modern that its age suggests. It was one of the first cameras to be made from bakelite, preceding for instance the Argus A and Coronet Midget. It was fully featured with frame counter (up till 80!), body-mounted shutter release and double exposure prevention. One could easily believe this was build twenty years later.
It is a rather rare camera, illustrated by the fact that a Google search showed more links to auction houses than to eBay. Nevertheless, the latter is where the example below came from.
A Korelle K with Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 35/2.8 lens. Note that the lens is fixed and does not pull out as one might perhaps think.
Rear view of a Korelle K with a worn depth of field table. To open the back one would need to unscrew the small knob at the bottom, and then push it in. This would release a latch on the inside which allowed the back to slide down.
(left) Rear view of a Korelle K with back plate removed, showing the half-frame film gate and a uptake cassette. I imagine it originally came with a supply cassette also. (middle) Loaded with film. Yes it fits standard 35mm film rolls, which had not yet been invented when this camera was made! (right) Top view showing the frame counter with its cover removed. I wonder if one really would be able to shoot a 100 photos using reloadable cassettes?
Berning Robot I
The Robot series introduced in 1935 by Berning was a range of cameras with spring-wound motors so one could take many photos consecutively at high speed with winding the camera only once. It had a rotary shutter, unusual to find in still cameras but common in movie cameras, which incidentally also usually featured spring motors. The Robots had interchangeable lenses with a 26mm screw mount, until the introduction of the Robot Royal rangefinder models, which used a bayonet mount. The Robots used 135 film and had a square 24x24mm format. A variety of cassettes was needed for film supply and uptake, only later models (from the Robot IIa onwards) used standard 135 film cassettes and featured rewind knobs.
The Robot I was invented by Henri Killfit, who received further fame after WWII for the Kilfitt macro lenses and the Mecaflex miniature SLR, amongst others. Three different lenses were available, a 30mm Carl Zeiss Tessar with f/2.8 or f/3.5 aperture, or an f/3.5 Meyer Primotar. A Schneider 50mm f/5.5 Telexenar represented the telelens range. Remember, due to the smaller square format the focal length of the lenses was shorter than those of equivalent full-frame lenses.
As to the name Robot, I am not quite sure that in the early 1930s one thought of robots the same way as we do now, but the advertising brochures did show a robot-like creature. Perhaps these were wind-up toys that could walk by themselves? I can only assume that the camera was named that way because of its similar automatic features and needed winding up.
A 1935 Robot I with interchangeable Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 30mm f/2.8 lens. The speed knob next to the lens also had a lever used to swivel a built-in yellow filter behind the lens. This example is somewhere mid-production, earlier production had somewhat smaller windknobs and a slightly different viewfinder, whereas later production had an extra ring at the base of the central wind knob which I assume functioned as a double exposure prevention lock.
The Robots were often called spy cameras, as they were small and could be concealed after winding up, making photos without the need of winding after each frame. The Robot I could also 'peek around the corner' by swivelling the viewfinder 90 degrees, as shown here. In this mode the viewfinder showed a blue filter, which gave a better impression of the dark-light contrast of the scene for black and white photography.
Berning Robot II
The 1938 Robot II was the second model and formed the base of many subsequent models until the redesigned Royal rangefinder models. It was small, robust camera with a build-in double viewfinder with eyepieces at the rear and side of the camera. It used two separate cassettes for film supply and uptake, labelled T and N cassettes, respectively. Although the cassettes made using the camera a little tedious, they were cleverly designed, as they would slightly open to make film transport possible only when the camera back was closed. Hence, accidentally opening the camera with film loaded would only spoil a small bit of film, but not the film inside the cassettes.
A 1947 Robot II with Schneider 40mm f/1.9 Xenon lens and yellow filter attached. This example is a late version with accessory shoe and small flash sync socket.
Top view of a Robot II showing the large round motor wind knob. Also note the coloured lens markings, which aided finding the right aperture for the desired depth of field from close range to infinity.
Rear view of a Robot II showing the fairly small film gate (25x25mm according information on the web but really only 23x23mm). On the right the 'N' uptake cassette is present, on the left the 'T' supply cassette is missing. Standard 135 film cassettes do not fit the Robot II, neither do the later TR and NR cassettes (as I learned the hard way).
A rather rare black Robot II was also produced, in fact in at least two different varieties. One version had a larger wind knob which allowed up to fifty photos for one wind cycle, this model was used by the German airforce (Luftwaffe) and had serial numbers starting with an F, e.g., F50039-6. Another version was identical to regular Robot II but with black painted top and bottom plates and often a black wind knob. They had regular Robot II serial numbers, five digits preceded by a letter B, but often had a single digit suffix of which the meaning is not clear to me. They came most commonly with a CZJ Tessar lens marked f=3¾ cm, which is an updated version of the Tessar found on the Robot I.
Black version of the Robot II with uncoated Carl Zeiss Tessar 37.5mm f/3.5 lens. Based on the serial number of the lens, this Robot appears to be an early pre-war version of around 1938. The camera looks like it has been repainted, but it was probably black originally.
The Tessar on this Robot was a great little lens, it even had click stops on the focus ring so one could focus the lens without taking your eye off the viewfinder, once you memorised where the click stops were. This camera was truly build for speed.
Super Eljy Lumière
The Eljy by Lumière from Lyon, France, was a tiny subminiature camera. It is the smallest camera to take 36x24 photos that I know off, even smaller than the Boltavit which took smaller 24x24 mm negatives. The Eljy used its own type rollfilm, but unlike the Boltavit, it unfortunately cannot not be adapted to 135 film as the Eljy wind spool is only 30 mm high.
Despite its diminutive size the Eljy was a fully featured camera: it has a regular shutter and lens outfit with front-cell focus lens, a wide range of available apertures and a remote shutter release socket, a fold-up viewfinder which featured correction for parallax (!), and a tripod bush at the base. The only thing missing was an accessory shoe.
The Eljy was first introduced around 1937. The adjective 'Super' was used for Eljys with chrome trim, which were most post-war models. The main changes between different versions were with the shutter, which would get increasingly faster speeds, a separate cocking lever and a flash socket.
A 1945 Lumière Eljy with Anastigmat "Lypar" f/3.5 of unspecified focal length. The top speed of the shutter on this model was 1/150s. The aperture scale is rather peculiar, showing the uncommon markings 5, 7, 10, 14 and 20. Perhaps only logical though, as the fastest aperture was f/3.5, so all setting are equally separated by one stop.
Inside of Lumière Eljy showing the 36x24mm lens gate and 30mm wind spool with a 135 film for comparison. Even though the Eljy took negatives of the same size as 135 film, one couldn't use the film as the spool was too small. The Eljy used dedicated rollfilm which was essentially 135 film without the perforations strips but with backing paper.
The Eljy side by side with another subminiature camera, the Boltavit. Both are about the same size but the Eljy took larger pictures.
Elop Elca II
The Elop Elca II was a small square 24x24mm 35mm camera introduced in 1949 by Electro Optik GmbH from Flensburg, Germany. As the name indicated, the company also made electrical products including radios. As common at the time, the name Elca was a combination of the first part of the company and the word 'camera'. It was a small company, but had an interesting history. It was founded by Franz Robert Neubert, who initially just after WWII started designing Leica copies in Jena (of Carl Zeiss fame), including the Neuca and Neucaflex. Soon after, however, Neubert moved to Western Germany to found the Elop, initially in Glucksburg, and from 1948 in Flensburg. The first camera under the Elop brand was the Elca, which then evolved into the Elca II. Unfortunately the company went bankrupt around 1950, but was restarted as UCA Vereinigte Optische Werke in 1951. It continued producing the Elca II, which was renamed the Ucanett. The company also produced a reflex camera with focal plane shutter, the Uniflex (later renamed to Ucaflex), which was in fact largely based on the Neucaflex first developed during Neubert's Jena days. In 1952 the company was taken over by Agfa.
The Elca II itself was available with either of two lenses, a 35mm f/4.5 Elocar and a 40mm f/2.5 Elopan (the latter renamed Ucapan on the Ucanett). It usually came with a Prontor-S shutter although it could also be found with a Vario shutter. Late production had a accessory shoe mounted behind the frame counter, like on the later Ucanett. Part of the earlier production, including the example shown below, had a peculiar little button behind the frame counter (and no accessory shoe) of which the function is unclear to me, it did not move and had no function for the wind mechanism.
A final peculiarity about the Elca II was that it had no rewind knob, yet took regular 35mm film. Hence, one needed a 35mm uptake cassette to use the camera. It did have a sprocket wheel so the film frames were spread evenly. Based on serial numbers of the lenses, about 6000 units of the Elca II were produced (including Ucanett).
A 1949 Elop Elca II with a 4-element Elop Flensburg Elopan 40mm f/2.5 lens in Prontor-S shutter. The lens was mounted as a single unit in front of the shutter. Note the little collar around the shutter release button which can be removed to reveal a Leica-style remote shutter release.
Top view of the Elop Elca II. Two small holes in the top housing are due to an aftermarket accessory shoe being mounted and subsequently removed. All in all a well-featured little camera with fast f/2.5 lens, unit focussing, body-mounted shutter release, double exposure prevention and flash sync, all in a very small package.
Goldammer was a relatively unknown camera maker from Frankfurt, and precious little information can be found about the company or its founder. Its main success was the production of a range of 6x6 rollfilm cameras with collapsible lenses, including the Goldeck and GuGo. However, the first camera by this company appears to have been the Goldammer Golda, which was introduced around 1948. It was a 35mm camera of rather simple construction with an uncoupled rangefinder, the focus dial for which was integrated with the wind knob. The most peculiar feature was probably the shutter release mechanism, as pushing the body-mounted shutter release would result in the whole barrel around the lens base being turned to trigger the shutter.
A version with coupled rangefinder was also available. On this model a focus lever was integrated in the lens based (similar to the Iloca II and early Photavits). The dial beneath the wind knob was used as a depth of focus indicator. Most Goldammer Goldas had a round rangefinder window and a rectangular viewfinder window, but very early examples had two rectangular windows. Considering its current rarity, the Golda probably was not a great success.
A 1950 Goldammer Golda with Schneider Radionar 50mm f/2.9 lens in Prontor-S shutter. All examples I have seen have a rather poor matt chrome (?) finish which easily corroded.
Top view of the Goldammer Golda. The rangefinder adjustment wheel is integrated with the wind knob. Note the lack of a rewind mechanism! The camera needed an uptake cassette to work. On the inside it also lacks a wind spool.
Goldammer Goldix 4x4
The Goldammer Goldix 4x4 was a rather simple rollfilm camera for 4x4 cm format on 127 film, not unlike the Leidolf Leidox or the Bencini Relex. For its time (ca. 1950) it was a pretty modern looking camera so you'd be forgiven for thinking it was an instamatic camera, but these weren't introduced until a decade later. The Goldix was pretty much a point and shoot camera: it had a fixed focus lens and a shutter with two speeds and two aperture settings, f/7.7 and f/11. The two aperture settings had symbols for cloudy and sunny weather, respectively, but it wasn't indicated which shutter speed to use with these. All in all a cheap and cheerful camera, ideal to take on your holiday.
A Goldammer Goldix 4x4 with Goldeck 60mm f/7.7 lens in Singlo-2 shutter. As this was a square format camera it could be held vertical as well as horizontal, personally I'd say that vertical feels a little more comfortable. The large rectangular glass section right of the lens contained a square viewfinder. Perhaps Goldammer planned to produce a 6x4 version?
Rear view of a Goldammer Goldix 4x4 showing the film compartment.
Foitzik was a small cameramaker from Trier, former West Germany that made several camera models from 1950 till 1958. Its main effort were several relatively simple 6x6 folding cameras, in addition it produced a 35mm camera, which was the Foinix. It was simple viewfinder camera with front-cell focussing triplet lens, and a little reminiscent of the Braun Gloriette. There were two different versions, one with a 'Foinix' marked Vero or Pronto shutter and another with Prontor-SVS. The lens was a Trier AR Foinar 45mm f/3.5 or f/2.8, which appears to have been made by Foitzik itself. Early production had a wind knob with lever, like on the King Regula IP, later production had a single wind lever.
A Foitzik Foinix with Trier AR Foinar 45mm f/3.5 lens in Vero shutter.
Dr. Wöhler Favor I
The Favor is a fairly rare 35mm camera built by Dr. Wöhler in Saar, Germany. It had a rather unique body shape dominated by the metal top housing with a large integrated viewfinder. It came with a home-built (?) Docar or Color-Docar 45mm f/2.8 lens.
There are several different models, although sources on the internet differ somewhat in opinion. Based on avalaible images, I think it can be summarised as follows:
The first model, the Favor, was in introduced in 1948 or 1949 and had no accessory shoe. It was initially marked as Dr. Wöhler, Kassel, not Saar, and the body number was stamped on the viewfinder. The lens was a Rodenstock Trinar or Dr. (rebranded?) Dr. Wohler Citar f/3.5. It had mushroom-shaped wind knobs.
The second model, the Favor I, was introduced in 1950 and is the most common. It had an accessory shoe and large wind knobs. Early versions like the one below (lens # up to ca. 4-900) had a depth of field dial on the back, later ones have a depth of field on the shutter. The lens was a Docar 4.5 cm f/2.8. Initially most had a Prontor-S shutter, but occasionally a Compur-Rapid or Synchro-Compur, later (from lens# ca. 6000) usually a Prontor-SVS.
The third model, the Favor II from 1958, introduced quite a few changes: it had a lever winder, the frame counter was integrated in the wind knob, the accessory shoe moved to the opposite side of the viewfinder and the rewind knob had a film reminder dial. In addition, the name of the lens changed to Color-Docar. The change happened around lens # 10000. Note that the difference between body and lens # for the Favor I and II is about 10000.
The Favor was introduced in 1949 in France, as Saar was administrated by France until 1957 when it re-united with Germany. Dr. Wöhler, Optische Fabrik, Saarbrücken was an optical factory that made microscopes, binoculars, filter and lenses. There is some mention on the internet that the company also assembled the Leica IIIs marked 'Monté en Sarré', but it appears that this was actually done by Saroptico, St Ingbert.
An early Favor I with a very low lens serial # 0065 and body # 9259.
All Favors had a very long viewfinder with the camera's name and manufacturer engraved. The early Favor I featured a prominent depth of field dial on its back.
Futura cameras were made by Futura Kamerawerk GmbH in Freiburg from around 1950 till 1958. Its predecessor, the Efka, was the first camera by this company. The Futuras were high-quality rangefinders with an interchangeable lens mount. The lenses had no rangefinder cam, as the rangefinder was driven by the rotating focussing mount.
A Futura P with unmounted Futar 45mm f/3.5 lens in Prontor-SVS shutter. The lens has no focussing mechanism, as the focussing helicoid is part of the lens mount, similar to the system on the Zeiss-Ikon Contax range.
Removing the top plate of the Futura P does not help much with getting to its insides. One also needs to remove the cover containing the viewfinder, which is attached with a small screw at both ends.
Front view after removing the top cover. The small screw in the middle just below the top plate allows horizontal adjustment of the rangefinder. The vertical can be adjusted with the screws that hold in place the bottom of the semi-transparent mirror (gold-covered glass on the right).
Removing the top plate, which holds most of the wind mechanism and rangefinder assembly, exposes the shutter cocking and release mechanism. The shutter is set quite far back in the body.
Mimosa I, II
The Mimosa is sometimes referred to as 'the brick' and indeed it is a rather boxy little camera. It certainly was one of the smallest cameras taking 135 film. Mimosa was a company producing photographic paper in Dresden, Germany, but ventured out in the shutter and camera design and manufacturing just after WWII.
The 1948 Mimosa I was dominated by the front-cell focussing lens/shutter assembly and had a tiny fold-up viewfinder with integrated frame counter. It was available with a range of shutters, such as a Vario, Prontor II or Compur-Rapid. The 1949 Mimosa II had the viewfinder integrated in the body. The whole camera back had to be removed to load film, the large lever on the bottom left of the camera functioned as the back release. The shutter was either an in-house produced Velax of the self-cocking type or a Prontor-S shutter which needed to be cocked by hand. A Mimosa II version with helical focus was also produced, recognisable by the little tab on the shutter base opposite from the viewfinder.
The camera and shutter division of Mimosa was bought by Zeiss Ikon in 1950, who continued to produce the camera for a short while.
A Mimosa I with Meyer Trioplan 50mm f/2.9 lens in a Prontor II shutter.
Top view of a Mimosa I. Note the frame counter, which is located in the base of the folding viewfinder.
Mimosa II with Meyer Trioplan 50mm f/2.9 lens and Velax shutter. Mine has a quirky shutter that needs assistence by gravity to work: it only cocks when the camera is tilted 90°!
This is the reluctant Velax shutter opened up. The issue is that below the black lever at the bottom, there is another lever that does not get pushed far enough while pushing the shutter release. To reach it the whole shutter needs to be disassembled, a high-risk low-reward situation.
Rear view of a Mimosa II showing the miniscule viewfinder.
Bolsey 35 model B
The Bolsey 35 model B was a quite unique looking camera, which a triangular body with the lens at the base. A little like an Exakta Exa with the lens mounted at the wrong side. It had a viewfinder plus a separate coupled split-image rangefinder with an enlarged view for more accurate focussing. It was a small but solidly built camera that was easy to use, and I'd say rather charming.
Bolsey was a camera maker from New York, U.S.A., but its founder Jacques Bolsky was of Swiss origin. He had started designing cameras in his native Switzerland, including an early Reflex camera which would later be the base of the renowned Alpa cameras, but emigrated to the U.S.A. around WWII. Here he started building high-quality cameras until 1957, when he sold the company to Wittnauer.
Bolsey 35 model B with Wollensack Anastigmat 44mm f/3.2 lens.
Top view of a Bolsey B showing its unusual body shape.
The Argus A is one of the more important cameras in the history of photography, as it made 35mm photography affordable for most people and became hugely popular. It was first introduced in 1936; it was a simple viewfinder camera with a bakelite body (plastic) and a collapsible fixed focus lens. It sold for only $12.50, which was a bargain at the time. Soon after a similar cameras with focusable lens and/or extinction meter were introduced, the Argus AF, A2 and A2F, respectively. At least half a million were produced in the five years until the US got involved in WWII.
Despite its cheap price and apparent simplicity the camera was well equiped, having a frame counter, adjustable aperture and a good range of shutter speeds. The three-element lens reported performed well also.
An Argus A with f/4.5 Anastigmat lens. This is one of the later variants made in 1941. The fixed focus lens could be rotated such that it would snap into place at a slightly longer distance from the film frame, this setting should be use for closer-focus pictures (within 6m).
The back of the Argus A was an Art Deco styled metal plate which would come off in its entirety to make the film loading bay easily accessible.
The Argus CC was developed from the Argus A3, which itself was a simple but sleek-looking viewfinder camera with an extinction meter introduced just before WWII. On the CC the extinction meter was replaced with a rather oversized lightmeter unit, which did spoil the smooth lines of the original somewhat. On the back of the camera was an exposure dial which would translate the light values from the lightmeter to aperture and speed settings for the shutter. The camera had a spring-powered collapsible lens mount with helical focus. The shutter was self-cocking and needed to be fired with a lever on the shutter itself, the button next to the viewfinder was only there to reset the wind lock mechanism. The camera had no double-exposure prevention. The frame counter was on the front of the camera next to the lens.
An Argus CC with f/4 Anastigmat lens. Note the large lightmeter.
(left) Self-cocking shutter of the Argus CC, it has a speedcam on the bottom left whereas the B and T settings are controlled on the top. These needed lubricating for the shutter to work again. (right) Lightmeter taken out of its shell. It miraculously started to work again after this.
Argus C3 / C3 Matchmatic
The Argus C was introduced around the same time as the Argus CC above but was in many ways its complete opposite. It had none of the CC's sleek design and simplicity, instead it was square, boxy and had complicated looking dials and levers. It was also very heavy, and this, combined with its look, gave it its nickname 'the brick'. Despite this, it is on of the most succesful cameras ever made, with around 2 million being sold, if we include de Argus C2 and C3, which followed soon after the introduction of the Argus C.
The Argus C3 had a coupled split-screen rangefinder, with the lens being connected to the rangefinder by a gear on the front of the camera. The lens was interchangeable but changing the lens required removing the idler gear, which surely was a hassle. The shutter speed was set through a dial on the front and the film was wound with a wind knob at the top, which was located on the opposite side of where it was found on most other cameras from that era.
A 1956 Argus C3 outfit with Sandmar Wide Angle 35mm f/4.5, Argus Cintar 50mm f/3.5, and Tele-Sandmar 100mm f/4.5 lenses. The Sandmar lenses were made by Enna-Werk in Germany, although the 'patent pending' mark on the 35mm lens suggests they were made using an Argus design. The lens mount itself was a simple screw mount. Also shown is the small gear that needs to be removed to change lenses.
Close up of the Argus C3 with its standard lens mounted. The camera had no bulb setting on the shutter speed dial, one simply had to rotate the base of the shutter button on top of the camera instead. So if your Argus C3 only fires at bulb setting no matter what the setting on the speed dial, check this button first.
The Argus C3 had a very long lifespan as it was produced until 1966. In its last decade a few fancier variants were introduced, including the tan-coloured Matchmatic. Instead of regular shutter speed indicators on the speed dial there were numbers 4-8 which matched the numbers on the lightmeter. The numbers matched the shutter speeds on the regular C3, so 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/300. The Matchmatic received a little fame again quite recently, as it featured in the movie 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' as the character Colin Creevey's camera.
A 1959 Argus C3 Matchmatic with coated Argus Cintar 50mm f/3.5 lens and its lightmeter mounted. Although the Matchmatic was essentially similar to the earlier example above, Argus had clearly kept its designers busy with changing nearly every knob, dial and lever on the camera.
Top view of the Argus C3 Matchmatic. Yes, it is as rectangular and brick-like from the top as from the front.
Trusite Girl Scout
The Trusite Camera Company from New York was one of the more obscure camera makers and only a few models are known to be made, most notably the Minicam. This was a very simple 127 roll film point and shoot camera made from aluminium. In fact, it was not dissimilar to the Leidolf Leidox but had a much simpler shutter and a fixed focus lens. A 1947 ad listed the Trusite Minicam with flash unit for $9.95, so it was a cheap camera affordable to nearly anyone.
The Girl Scout was very similar to the Minicam and was perhaps just the same camera branded 'Girl Scout' but lacking the flash sync terminal. This renaming was not unusual, e.g., a Falcon Girl Scout with similar shutter face plate also existed.
A Trusite Girl Scout point and shoot camera from the late 1940s. The knob on the left serves no purpose and is purely cosmetic.
Graflex Ciro 35
This camera has a somewhat confusing history. It was first developed by Perfex, an American company who just before WWII started making an interesting range of focal-plane shutter cameras with interchangeable lenses such as the Perfex Fourty-Four and Fifty Five. After WWII they went on to make leaf shutter fixed lens cameras, the last one (before the company stopped making cameras) being the Cee-ay 35. The company clearly had a preference for strange camera names! The design of the Cee-ay 35 was bought by Ciro, known for the Ciroflex TLR but not much else. They sold the camera as the Ciro 35. Not long after the camera division of Ciro was bought by Graflex, who kept selling the camera under the same name but also used it as a base for their new Graphic 35.
The Ciro 35 had a coupled split image rangefinder with a separate viewfinder. The leaf-shutter was of the self-cocking type. The camera also featured a hot shoe, one of the earliest cameras to do so. Lenses were made by Wollensack, who also made the lenses for the Bolsey range, but were replaced by Graflex Graftar lenses once Graflex took over Ciro 35 production. I would assume these were rebranded Wollensacks.
A Graflex Ciro 35 with Graflex Graftar 50mm f/3.5 lens in Century shutter, which was a rebranded Alphax from Wollensack. The camera was made from painted aluminium, which made it very light but it was not the nicest looking finish.
Universal Mercury II
While we're at American cameras we might as well continue with the Universal Mercury II. This was a rather unique camera with a large rotary shutter, which explained the large ridge on top of the camera. The film was forwarded by a knob on the front, the shutter speed knob would rotate during exposure. This was a half frame camera as it was a larger film format was difficult to implement with this particular shutter design without making the camera inconveniently large.
Different shutter speeds were generated by varying the width of the slit in a rotating disc. As the slit width varied continuously whilst rotating the speed knob, one was not limited to the speeds indicated on the knob but one could choose in-between speeds. The shutter was very reliable and the word goes that it was more accurate than curtain-based focal plane shutters on Leica and Contax cameras. However, it was difficult to set fast shutter speeds precisely and reproducibly due to the small difference between the marks at high shutter speeds.
A Universal Mercury II with Tricor 35mm f/3.5 lens. A uniquely styled camera and probably the sort of camera that only a camera collector can love.
Rear view of a Universal Mercury II showing the rather complicated exposure finder and a film reminder dial. Note the staining of the metal, which is very common for this model, it being made from an aluminium alloy.
A novel feature on this camera was the hot shoe, a very early implementation considering this camera was first built in 1945 and its predecessor the Univex Mercury in 1938 already had this feature. The camera had in fact two accessory shoes, the one in the middle would take the dedicated Universal flash which would be triggered by the contact point in the shoe, the right one could be used for the Universal extinction meter or a rangefinder. Another nifty accessory was the rapid wind lever which could be attached to the wind knob.
The lens on the Mercury II was interchangeable. Other available lenses were a 35mm Tricor f/2.7 and an f/2.0 Hexar. Telelenses were apparently available, but I could not find any record of these.
A Universal Mercury II with the back open and part of the top removed to show the rotary shutter. The shutter was set at the T setting but this setting does not work properly on this example, so I stopped it from rotating with a blob of Blu Tack with the shutter partially covering the film gate.
The shutter was constructed from two half disks, one of which was operated with the speed knob so it could be rotated to set the slit size. Here the two disks almost completely overlap and the speed would be about 1/20s. At 1/1000s only a gap of about 2mm would remain. Note that exposure of the top right corner of the frame starts and finishes before the bottom left corner of the frame, unlike with curtain-based focal plane shutters.
The Welta Belmira was quite a striking camera and I would have called it cute until I saw it in the flesh and realised how big it was. The camera was in fact designed and first produced in 1956 by Belca, the remains in Dresden of Balda-Werke after it moved to West-Germany following the split in Germany. Welta took the production over around 1958.
The Belmira featured a coupled rangefinder but the mirror was incredibly small, and so was the split rangefinder image. The wind lever was quite unique, it was a protruding notch at the back of the camera that one needed to slide straight from left to right. The camera had a Vebur shutter (a Compur-style shutter) and CZJ Tessar f/2.8 lens. The shutter release was situated very prominently next to the lens.
Welta Belmira with its top cover removed. The tiny rangefinder mirror is visible on the far left, the wind lever knob at the top right.
Welta Belmira with its original box covered in purple velvet.
Welta Penti II
The Welta Penti was a range of small gold-coloured half-frame cameras which I can only assume was aimed at the female market segment. Several different coloured trims were available, such as red, blue and green in addition to black and white. The camera used a Rapid cassette cartridge system, or rather the East-German SL cartridge equivalent, which was very similar but missed the automatic ISO setting of the Rapid cassette. It was a half frame camera with a negative size of 16x24mm. The early Penti was a simple viewfinder camera without lightmeter and almost looked more like a clip open purse than a camera. It had a fixed focus lens and manual aperture and shutter speed. The Penti II added a coupled lightmeter, projected in the viewfinder, as well as focussing ability.
Welta Penti II with Meyer-Optik Domiplan 30mm f/3.5 lens. As opposed to the Welta Belmira above, which appears smaller
in pictures than it really is, the Penti is smaller in reality than it looks on pictures. It easily fits in the palm of your hand.
One of the interesting features of this camera was the film transport: when pushing the release button a plunger would eject from the side of the camera, this needed to be pushed in for the film to be transported and the shutter to be armed. Thus, the camera was always ready to shoot, but there was no option to lock the release button when the camera was stowed away, so I imagine quite a few shots must have been taken accidentally.
Rear view of the Penti with back removed and film pressure plate down. Also shown is an SL cassette, similar to the Rapid cassette but made from plastic instead of metal and lacking an ISO adjustment. Therefore the Penti had an ISO adjustment setting (lever just about visible on the front view photo above), unlike most other 'Rapid' style cameras.
The 1956 Adox 300 was a deviation from Adox's fairly non-distinctive camera line-up, as it had a rather unique feature: it used interchangeable film magazines so one could swap film type or speed whenever needed. The film magazines had a frame counter as well as reminder dials for film speed and type, these were visible through windows on the camera top and back, respectively. A metal blanking sheet would be inserted if one rotate the turning key at the bottom of the camera which was also used to open the camera back, this would avoid exposure of the film when taking it out of the camera. The camera also featured a fairly unusual film wind mechanism: instead of the more common wind lever it featured a push-down lever at the front of the camera (like e.g., the Zeis Tenax and Agilux Agimatic). It was also equipped with an uncoupled Bewi automat lightmeter, which worked by simply pushing a button at the back, after which a dial in the lightmeter would spin and stop at the right exposure value. This lightmeter was also fairly uncommon, but could also be found on the Photavit 36L. The Adox 300 was available with Steinheil Cassar or Schneider Xenar in Compur-Rapid or Synchro-Compur shutter. Its main drawbacks were its large size (due to the film magazines) and the lack of a rangefinder, so it wasn't a great success although serial numbers suggest that close to 10,000 may still have been made.
An Adox 300 with Steinheil Cassar 45mm f/2.8 lens in Synchro-Compur shutter. This is an early production example with serial number in the accessory shoe, later models had this number engraved at the bottom of the rear door. Even later production had 'ADOX Fotowerke' instead of 'Dr.C Schleussner Fotowerke' engraved on top.
Rear view of Adox 300 showing the film cartridge with frame counter (top right) and film reminder dials (front). On the camera body note the small lever left of the eyepiece, which was for making double exposures: push it up and a little pin inside the camera disengages the film transport in the cartridge when cocking the shutter.
Top view of Adox 300 showing the Bewi automat lightmeter and the window through which the frame counter on the film cartridge was shown.
The 1963 (?) Adox Polomat was a rather lightweight but reasonably well-specified camera somewhat akin to the later Retinettes. It had a rapid winder, coupled light meter and bright line viewfinder with a Schneider Radionar 45mm f/2.8 front-cell focusing lens in a Pronto LK500 shutter. Later Polomat models has the light meter needle projected in the viewfinder.
As I mentioned in the section about Wirgin cameras, Adox took over the Wirgin factories after the Wirgin brothers fled Germany just before WWII. After the war Adox continued building its own cameras, including a range of folding cameras, the Adox Golf, and the Adox 300, a unique 35mm camera with interchangeable back.
An Adox Polomat with Schneider Radionar L 45mm f/2.8. It is said that the L stands for Lanthanum, a heavy rare earth element using to increase the refractive index of the lens glass. I've only found the marking 'L' on Adox cameras.
Top view of Adox Polomat showing the coupled light meter window.
Despite the Italian-sounding name, the Bilora Bella was a German-made camera. Bilora was a manufacturer of photographic items founded in 1909 near Wuppertal in Germany, the company still exists today but no longer makes cameras.
The Bilora Bella was a series of simple rollfilm cameras in a wide range of designs, colours and film formats. The one here was produced around 1955 and is a striking 6x4.5 cm 127 rollfilm camera with bold shapes and colours. It has a lens of undefined focal length, two aperture settings f/8 and f/11, and an automatic shutter with two shutter speeds plus a B setting. It has a curved film frame like the Coronet. The large wind knob, which was integrated in the body, was quite pleasant to use compared to the smaller ones on most other rollfilm cameras. Cheap and cheerful!
The blue version of the Bilora Bella.
The backside of the Bilora Bella showing the large back release knob integrated with the spy window.
A slight modification of the above was the Bella 44, which was a 4x4 127 rollfilm camera. Otherwise the cameras were nearly the same, with identical shutters and handling features.
The Bilora Bella 44. Note the square viewfinder window compared to the rectangular one of the Bella above, reflecting the different frame formats the cameras use.
Reporter (Vredeborch Felica)
The Vredeborch Felica was a simple but likeable rollfilm camera and probably one of the smallest medium-format cameras out there. It used 120 rollfilm to make 6x6 square pictures. It had a simple meniscus lens with three focus zones and only two shutter and aperture settings. It did, however, have a build-in yellow filter, indicating that this camera was mainly aimed at black and white photography. The camera had a curved back and film frame, a feature also found in other cameras with simple lenses, such as the Coronet Viscount, as lens deficiencies were easier to correct this way. It came with a carrying strap that would neatly fold away around the camera body. The viewfinder is a simple Galilean type but due to its length is defines the picture frame quite well.
A Vredeborch Felica rebranded as Reporter and as such sold by the department chain Kaufhaus in Germany. It is occasionally called the Reporter Junior II because that's what it says on the shutter plate, but that is the name of the shutter. On this example the front cover beneath the lens is missing.
The Venaret was a rather simple 6x6 camera for 120 film format. It was introduced in 1949 by Vena in Amsterdam. It had a very simple construction, dominated by the large boxy lens base which also held the self-cocking two speed shutter. The Venaret had an interesting feature, which was a hot shoe, only rarely found on cameras from that time (see the Finetta Super, coincidentally also designed by a Dutchman, and the Universal Mercury). I am not aware of Vena producing a matching flash, but cordless flashes were rare at the time. In any case, the camera did not sell very well and the company went bankrupt two years later. It was probably the poor build quality that let the camera down. Nevertheless, the concept of a large boxy front attached to a more regular 6x6 rollfilm body was not much later copied by the Coronet with their fairly popular Cadet and Flashmaster models, so perhaps Vena had been on to something!
Despite its small period of production, several different cosmetic variants were made, with different colour front plates as well as a green leather version. Variants without accessory shoe were called Venaret Junior.
A Venaret with brown front plate and a home-build Doublet 75mm f/7.7 lens. The front group consisted of two cemented elements (the doublet) but a third element was present behind the shutter. This is an arrangement different from a typical triplet and the optical quality was not great.
(Top) Shutter assembly of the Venaret, which is essentially a rotary shutter with a reduced throw. The yellow wire is the lead to the hot shoe.
(Left) Venaret with a cordless flash unit from Finetta, one of the few brands that supplied such flashes at the time.
Tahbes Synchro Camera
We're staying with the theme of Dutch cameras (see Venaret above) and introduce the Tahbes brand. These cameras were made in a suburb of The Hague from just after WWII to around 1957. The somewhat awkward name was an acronym which included the name of the founders of the brand, Brockmeier and Steegers. The cameras were 6x6 collapsible lens cameras that used 120 rollfilm. The most common camera was the Synchrona, name presumably after its flash-synchronised shutter. The camera came with a dedicated flash unit and a hot shoe; the latter was a propriety screw-in type so incompatible with other flashes. The rarer Synchro Camera appears to be very similar to the Synchrona but had a polished metal body covering instead of leather and a simpler shutter and aperture. The Populair did not have a flash shoe and also had a simpler fold-up viewfinder.
A Tahbes Synchro Camera in nickel-plated full metal cover and its characteristic Albada viewfinder. Note the flash mount on the top plate, which required a dedicated flash unit.
The cameras were quite simple otherwise, with a single shutter speed, a T setting and two aperture settings by swivelling in and out a metal blade with a circular hole. The main talking point of the camera probably was its impressive Albada viewfinder, which provides a 1:1 view not unlike the SBOOI Leica 50mm viewfinder. It is, however, of much simpler construction, consisting of a single special-cut glass element as the eye-piece and a flat piece of glass with a square mask at the front. The eye piece element has a centre part of flat glass, so the view is in fact like looking through a lens-less frame finder, which is what gives the 1:1 view. The edge of the eye piece element brings the frame edge into focus, but here the view of the subject is blurry. A finder similar to the one on the Tahbes was produced by Old Delft, which (based on images I have seen) worked according the same principle. This finder differs from what is more commonly considered an Albada finder, which has a half-silvered front element that reflects frame lines painted on the eye piece (which coincidentally is how the Leitz SBOOI finder works).
Shutter mechanism of the Tahbes Synchro Camera, here open at its T setting.
Frankarette / Super Frankarette
Franka Kamerawerk from Bayreuth was probably best known for its Solida range of folding cameras, like the Solida IIIE above, but it did also produce a small range of rather middle-of-the-road35mm view- and rangefinders, the Frankarettes. Visually they were probably most comparable with the Agfa Silettes. A few of the models came with light meters.
Frankarette with Enna Werk Ennagon 45mm f/2.8 lens in Pronto shutter.
Super Frankarette with Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 45mm f/2.8 with Prontor-SVS shutter.
WZFO Fenix I/Fenix Ib
WZFO (Warsaw Photo-Optial Works) was a Polish photographic equipment company that was founded in the early 1950s. Their first camera was the Start, a pseudo TLR with home-build shutter and lenses. Soon followed a small range of 35mm cameras, the Fenix range. The Fenix I and Ib were viewfinder cameras, the later with a projected brightline frame, whereas the Fenix II and IIb were split-frame rangefinders. They were all equipped with the same lens and shutter, in fact the cameras were of very similar build. However, the Fenix-I and II were designed to use uptake cassettes, so missed a rewind mechanism.
Although the build quality of the cameras was not great, they had several interesting features, such as a helical focussing system and a small wheel at the back indicating if the film was advanced properly. Somewhat unusual was that the film advance lever was on the left and the viewfinder on the right. Internally, the shutter was cocked through a string guided by a pulley, which was a weakness in the system and may explain why most Fenix these days have non-working shutters.
WZFO Fenix-I and Fenix-Ib, both with Euktar 45mm f/2.8 lenses.
The 1963 Pentona II is a bit of a strange one, it was apparently designed by Zeiss Ikon but produced by KW in Dresden, Germany, better known for its Praktina range of SLR cameras and later absorbed by VEB Pentacon. It is rather simple, its defining features being the very large bright line viewfinder and the wind lever. The very simple Priomat is a two-bladed leaf shutter of the self-cocking type. Nevertheless, for some reason this camera has made it into the National Media Museum in Britain, amongst other cameras of considerably higher calibre.
It is not easy to see, but this model has a Pentacon symbol on its front (bottom left while looking at the camera). The Pentona I comes with either of two symbols, a square with KW or a Pentacon. As KW stopped being an independent company in 1959, this presumably means that the Pentona II was in fact built by VEB Pentacon, or rather its precursor VEB Kamera- und Kino-Werke Dresden. The Pentacon symbol was derived from the Ernemannturm, a famous landmark in Dresden built in 1922-23 as part of the Ernemann factories, one of the founders of Zeiss Ikon.
A Pentona II with Meyer Trioplan 45mm f/3.5 lens.
The Rollei B35 was the little brother of the iconic Rollei 35. Little as in, less well featured, as the cameras were about the same size.
Rollei B35 with CZ Triotar 40mm f/3.5 lens. The shutter had to be cocked before extending the lens.
Top view of a Rollei B35 with its collapsible lens extruded, showing the lever winder, comparatively large light meter unit, frame counter and release button.
Bottom of the Rollei B35 with rewind crank and accessory shoe, a rather odd position but the only place still available.
Steiner Steinette (Hunter 35)
The 1950 Steinette was a very small and simple 35mm camera with an unspecified self-cocking shutter build by Steiner, which was (and still is) a German optical company from Bayreuth that produced few lenses and even fewer cameras. It was sold as Hunter 35 in the U.K. Early production Steinettes had 3-speed shutters, later production a 4-speed shutter. It had a wind knob with a little lever which worked well as it needed only half a turn to cock the shutter and wind the film. On the back it had an exposure table to which the pressure plate was attached. Once removed it would expose the film gate, convenient for checking the lens, shutter and aperture. The lens was a coated Steiner 45mm f/3.5. A peculiar feature of the camera was the lack of a sprocket wheel, so the spacing between the film frames would increase the more pictures one took (see here for an explanation). The camera came with a dedicated large diameter wind spool, presumably as to limit the effect of increasing frame spacing.
Other than Hunter 35 the Steinette was also sold as Brelland and Tanette; apart from the name engraved on the lens base they appear to be identical. There is also a very rare uncoupled rangefinder version of the Hunter 35.
A Steiner Steinette with 3-speed shutter and Steiner Bayreuth 45mm f/3.5 lens.
Top view of a Steinette showing its characteristic lens base engraved with the camera name.
A Steinette with its lens base on shutter plate removed. The lever at the left of the lens is the shutter release which pivots around the retaining screw mounted on the shutter housing.
A Steiner Steinette rebranded as Hunter 35 with Steiner lens. It differs from the Steinette above in a few details, it has a small rewind lever at the back, the screw in the wind knob has been replaced by a small nut and the frame counter is black instead of white. This example also has a shutter with an extra 1/200 shutter speed, but earlier ones had the same shutter as the Steinette above.
A rangefinder version of the Hunter 35 also existed. It had a non-coupled rangefinder with a distance dial in front of the rewind knob. It appears that no rangefinder version of the Steinette itself was ever built.
A Hunter 35 RF, the rather rare rangefinder version of the Hunter 35 above.
Ideal Color 35
The 1954 Ideal Color 35 was a rebranded Nixon. Camera-Werk Nixon (previously Gerlach) in Wuppertal, Germany, made only few cameras, perhaps the most well-known was the Nixette/Trixette, a folding camera with a unique strut and bellows mechanism. A very similar camera with collapsible lens was sold under the name Ideal. The Ideal Color 35 was clearly related to the Steinette above but came with redesigned top housing which featured a wind lever and a large integrated wind knob. The lens was a Nixon-Anastigmat 45mm f/3.5 which perhaps is a rebranded version of the Steiner lens found on the Steinette. Curiously, all Ideal Colors have the same lens serial# 28505. Like the Steinette, it lacks a sprocket wheel but has a large dedicated wind spool. It is slightly different from the one of the Steinette so cannot be interchanged. The shutter was even simpler than the one on the Steinette, lacking the 1/200 speed. It was also sold as the Forette/Forelle.
How Nixon got to make a camera very similar to the Steinette is not well documented. Perhaps Steiner sold the rights and possibly even manufacturing equipment to Nixon after their short diversion into the camera business.
Ideal Color with Nixon-Anastigmat lens.
The third and final reincarnation of the Steinette was the Nedinsco Primo, produced in the Netherlands from around 1958. It was in fact more similar to the Steinette than the Ideal Color, the main difference being the addition of a wind knob and the location of the accessory shoe (on a later version). The lens collar was also slightly different. The lens was a Nedinsco 45/3.5, most likely produced by Nedinsco itself as it was (and still is) an optical company initially founded by Carl Zeiss Jena in 1921. A few very early cameras were equipped with a Futura Bracht lens.
An early version of the Primo had no lens serial# but a later version did. There was also a rare version with grey leatherette. On the back was a removable plate but it did not have the exposure table printed like on the Steinette. Curiously, on the Nedinsco website features a picture of a camera identical to the Ideal Color but with a Nedinsco lens. It appears that this was a camera produced by Nedinsco as the Argus around 1957, before it introduced the Primo.
An early Nedinsco Primo with Nedinsco lens without serial number and accessory shoe in the middle.
Rare grey version of the Primo with a lens that includes a serial # and recessed accessory shoe. I am not sure if they are rare because of there weren't many build or because collectors hold on to them. The range of lens serial numbers is at least as large as the range of the later black version.
The whole 'Steinette family': a Hunter 35 (rebranded Steinette), an Ideal Color and a Nedinsco Primo. The latter is the later version with lens serial# and recessed accessory shoe.