Started from a small factory in Stuttgart, Germany by Franz Vyskocil and his wife in early 1900’s, Franka-Kamerawerk was once a camera manufacturer of nearly 200 employees with products ranging from 16mm subminiatures to 120 format folders. The Solida IIE of this article belongs to a series of 645/6×6 folding cameras made by Franka from mid-1930’s to early 1960’s. Cameras in the series includes the original Solida, Solida Junior, Solida Record, Solida I, Solida II, and Solida III. Listed below are some brief details of the family members:
- Solida (original, pre-war) – 645 vertical folder, 75mm f3.5 lens with Prontor shutter or 75mm f2.9 lens with Compur shutter.
- Solida Junior – 6×6 horizontal folder, 75mm f6.3 lens with Singlo shutter.
- Solida Record – 6×6 horizontal folder, 70mm/80mm f8 lens, simple shutter by Franka.
- Solida I – 6×6 horizontal folder, 75mm f4.5/f5.6/f6.3 lens with Vario shutter, dual-format 4×4/6×6 variants available.
- Solida II – 6×6 horizontal folder, 75mm/80mm f3.5 lens with Prontor shutter, E variants with uncoupled range-finder, L variants with uncoupled light-meter, EL variants with both, dual-format 4×4/6×6 variants available.
- Solida III – 6×6 vertical folder, 75mm/80mm f2.9 lens with Prontor shutter, E variants with uncoupled range-finder, L variants with uncoupled light-meter, EL variants with both.
*It is worth mentioned that Franka also made a modern day point-and-shoot equivalent, 6×6 rigid body camera called Solida Record T.
*According to this online source, the R suffix is also used for models with uncoupled range-finder.
Like all other Solida IIE variants, the one in this article is equipped with an uncoupled range-finder and a f3.5 lens with a Prontor shutter. However, it differentiates itself from the earlier models by having a combined viewfinder/range-finder window and a shutter button threaded for cable-release. Besides, this version is also a dual-format variant which has the option of shooting 4×4 on 120 film (possibly similar to the 16 shots option on Diana F+). However, since mine does not come with a mask, I have not way to confirm it (any information regarding this will be appreciated). The most distinct feature of this particular copy is its Schneider Xenar 80mm f3.5 lens which resembles the famous 4-element/3-group Carl Zeiss Tessar (see diagram 7 and 8 from this online source). All of the above characteristics dates the camera’s date of manufacture to around 1958.
The lens is mounted on a Prontor SVS shutter with speeds ranged from 1/300 to 1 seconds plus B. It needs to be cocked before firing and the film must have also be winded after the previous shot in order to disengage the double-exposure prevention mechanism. Unlike the Agfa Billy I‘s Vario shutter, the Pronto SVS can be synced with either flash bulb or electronic flashes and there is a PC-sync terminal on the lens. Though the shutter button on the camera body is threaded for cable-release, there is also a cable-release socket on the lens. The aperture “pointer” (the little arrow pointing at f/11 in the bottom figure) on the the top of the lens is coupled with the shutter dial in which both are coupled with the EV-dial (the outer ring with numbers 3-17 on the bottom of the lens in the upper figure). This coupling mechanism is probably designed to simplify exposure setting after reading the EV value from a handheld meter. However, this feature is not for everyone because it limits the independent movements of both the aperture and shutter dials. For many times, I need to readjust the EV setting in order get a desired combination of aperture and shutter speed.
Well, how well does the Xenar 80mm f3.5 perform? Below are two sample photos, both taken with Ilford FP4+:
Status: In Collection