5 frames with...

5 frames with a Franka Solida IIE – by Michael Scott

According to Wikipedia Franka Kamerawerk produced cameras between 1909 and 1967 in Bayreuth, Germany. At its height the factory produced about 650,000 units in 1958. So I was surprised I had never heard of the brand until I was searching for a useable but pocketable 6×6 camera.

The camera is a solid one sure enough, with an all metal construction. At about 13.5 x 9.5 x 4 cm it slips easily into a jacket pocket. I found my example on eBay, dating from 1955, at £9.99. It seemed too cheap to let it pass. It looked a bit shabby but nothing that a bit of glue and black shoe cream could not fix.

There were various iterations of the Solida and the IIE has an uncoupled rangefinder which on my example seems reasonably accurate and well aligned.

The lens is an Enna Werk Munchen Ennagon 75mm f3.5. It appeared clean and free of surface scratches, but the penlight test does show light haze (which does not seem to affect picture quality or contrast). As lenses of this era go it’s a pretty decent lens though it suffers from significant fall-off in the corners which might make it unsuitable for some situations such as landscapes. As a portrait lens though it does pretty well as the edges simply form part of the bokeh, or at least that’s the general idea.

When I received the Solida IIE the focusing action was pretty stiff but a warm up with gentle rotation loosened the grease and now it is fine.

The shutter is a Prontor – SVS with speeds running from 1s to 1/300th plus B (using the old fashioned shutter speeds, i.e. 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 etc). The slow speeds up to 1/10th are pretty sticky but I cannot recall the last time I shot at anything less than 1/30th.

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I decided to go and try some street portraits down by the London’s Parliament Square where there is no shortage of people happy to be photographed as they make their voices heard over Brexit.

 

I used FP4 developed in Kodak HC-110 (formula B) and scanned the negatives on my Epson V550.

The challenge and delight of using a folder is the slowing down of the picture taking process. I found my subjects patient whilst I metered with my Minolta Auto Meter, ascertained distance with the rangefinder, set the focusing distance, aperture and shutter speed and finally cocked the shutter and fired.

The results are quite pleasing, not all sharp but that probably reflects focusing errors and maybe a little camera shake. I can definitely recommend these mid-50s folders if you can find a half decent one.

Please check out www.michaelscottfoto.com for more of my work.

 

 

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11 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick Lyle
    November 6, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    All in all these pocket size folders are probably my favorite cameras. Mid 1950s Voigtlanders rule them all.

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      Reply
      scottfotodotcom
      November 6, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Yes, Voigtlanders are great. I’ve a Bessa 1 about which I will write soon.

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    Reply
    Zvonimir
    November 6, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Greetings Michael! I had a very similar Solida, but with the Radionar f2.9 lens. Stopped down to f11 it produced negatives that were easy to enlarge to 11×14. Resolution was not great, but it was adequate (I think that far too much attention is paid to resolution these days.)

    I have graduated to a 1950s Zeiss folder with the f3.5 Novar lens which is rather better than the Radionar. It is tough, small, it has no electronics or mirrors, and has minimal market value: it is perfect for outdoor wandering all over the world.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      scottfotodotcom
      November 6, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Zvonimir! I agree, resolution and sharpness are over-rated!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    steve phillips
    November 6, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    Here’s somebody else who has never heard of these cameras, but you have got me intrigued, especially at that price! Some nice shots too.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      scottfotodotcom
      November 6, 2019 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks! Another make I’d never heard of is Balda so I’m on the lookout for one of their ’50s folders too.

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    Reply
    Lukas
    November 6, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    A great find. I love that after years of shooting you still find out about manufacturers you had no idea about. Great shots too.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Picturenaut
    November 7, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Thank you for this nice introduction to Franka Kamerawerk. I am German, but I didn’t know anything about this manufacturer. Actually there were a lot of smaller companies active in formerly big German optical industries. Times have changed. Nice street shots, Lukas, looks like the Solide is quite useable. Be happy that the old bellows are still light-tight. That’s the main issue with many such vintage folding cameras.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      scottfotodotcom
      November 7, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Yes, as I mention there is also Balda which apparently made a rangefinder coupled 6×6 folder. I’m on the lookout for a good one.I haven’t found any issues with bellows on my folders from the 1950s which is saying something about the quality they were built to.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Matt
    November 18, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Balda here that I noticed recently: https://wycameras.com/collections/folding-cameras/products/balda-baldinette-oga-variant-exc

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