Complete Noob. Help! What do I have here?
Hi everyone. I am brand new to this forum. I'm actually not an enthusiast at all. I'm just a lowly auto mechanic helping his grandmother clean out her attic. We recently ran across a camera I'd like to know more about. I've done some online research but since I know absolutely nothing about cameras (seriously, nothing) I don't know what to make of what I have here. The camera is in new condition. It looks like it's from the 40s or the 50s. I can tell it wasn't really used at all though. It's either a Belfoca, or a Balda Fixfocus 6x9. The front is marked with the Belfoca script on one side and "MECHANIK DRESDEN" on the other, but the back has only one sliding red port (I have no idea what it's called, feel free to educate me) where every Belfoca I've seen in pictures had two. Additionally, I have the original instruction pamphlet (I'm sure it's original, the camera has been in the family since new) Which shows a picture of the same camera, but with a Balda script on the front instead of the Belfoca script, and strangely, a label has been placed on the front cover which says "BELFOCA 6x9 cm", but when I hold the cover up to a bright light, I can see that underneath it used to say "FIXFOCUS 6x9 cm". Below the model name, the front cover says "BALDA-WERK - VEB - DRESDEN" A stamp on the back of the instructions says "Agents: Ercona Camera Corp. 527 Fifth Avenue New York, N.Y." The shutter is apparently a Prontor-S with settings at 1,2,5,10,25,50,100,250, and B. The lens says the following: "E. Ludwig 749652 Meritar 1:4,5 F=105mm". It appears to still work perfectly. It even still had some really ancient film in it. Like I said, the thing is basically brand new. There's not a mark on it. There is no wear and there are no scratches. The leather band on the side is still flawless and reads "Made in Germany" so obviously I'm suspecting it was manufactured for export.
I'm assuming the Fixfocus and the Belfoca were basically the same thing and this is some kind of bastard camera manufactured around the time the names were changed. This is where I'm hoping some real experts can step in and educate me. What do I have here? Is this something special? Is it junk? Is it worth anything, if so how much? I'm not sure whether we'll want to sell it. My grandmother says she remembers it from when she was a kid so if it's not worth much we'll probably just hang on to it, but we'd at least like to know more about it.
Thanks in advance for any insight you may have!
It looks almost identical to this, but in nicer condition, and with Belfoca instead of Baldafix on the front. And obviously the shutter and lens are a little different. And mine is in much nicer shape.
I don't know this camera specifically, but you have a 6x9 folding camera, which uses 120 film (still available). You should wind the film to the end, and if it's black and white film, you should have it processed and see what photos are still on there.
If it is like the one in the picture, I would think the value would be between $30 and $50 at most, and that's because you have the original instruction manual. I'm not sure how much that would be in British pounds or whatever your native currency is, depending on whether you live in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, etc.
I think this was made after World War II and was exported from East Germany. I think it's from the late 1940s or early 1950s, but others will be able to provide much better information.
Belfoca - The Camera Site
Have a look at this site. It more or less describes your camera exactly and give a lot of the background you are asking for.
The meritar lens was used ona number of East German manufactured cameras, notably the Exacta and Practica/Practina models and was shall we say of dubious performance when used with 35mm, however the 6x9 format is different matter and it will be quite respectable. As the previous answer says 120 film is still readily available and this gem should be used.
As it states 'Fixed Focus' this means it may not prove to be used at any distance less than say 10-12 feet with the lens wide open, however if it is closed down to F8 or F11 then it will be able to be used from about 8 feet. If yours is as good as the one in the link it really is very nice. Move the cursor over the 1st image and it flicks over to another view of the camera from the rear.
Incidentally this link also provides further links to a VAST range of other cameras some very obscure and an insight into some from the old USSR and gives a brief description of them all.
Last edited by BMbikerider; 04-03-2013 at 06:37 AM. Click to view previous post history.
If you don't want it, i'll take it
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If you post your location, I'm sure we can find someone near you who has experience with very old film, and they can process it for you. If there's anything there, you can have it printed. Just don't have it processed normally. If you are lucky it will be really curly, slightly fogged, and will have lost a lot of sensitivity. Unlucky, you've got nothing. But you might make your granny really happy.
Good luck. It's a pretty good camera, just not that easy to use. Of course as a mechanic you will enjoy something understandable and menu-free. No batteries! What a concept!
It certainly isn't junk, but probably nothing real special, either - a Ford, not a Lincoln. There's no real telling about the collector's market, but it might be worth $100-200 as a camera to shoot. Despite the fact that the shutter appears to work, it is probably pretty inaccurate, due to lack of use. It would need a Clean, Lube and Adjustment (CLA) service which costs around $100 to really make it sing. The Meritar is a very good lens and would take beautiful, high-quality pictures in skilled hands. The 6x9 format is a huge negative with level of detail no digital camera currently on the market can match, no matter the price. This type of camera is a challenge to use well and there are many people on this site who would love to try it out, just for the sheer fun of it. I happen to be drooling all over my keyboard, but am not in the market right now.
A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.
We can fix that. :-)
Originally Posted by cparrish
That's an odd one, but I would tend to trust the body of the camera rather than the instruction book. The name "Fixfocus" suggests that it would have been, well, fixed-focus, but the Belfoca isn't---you should see a focus scale on the rim of the lens and be able to turn it to focus, right?
It's either a Belfoca, or a Balda Fixfocus 6x9. The front is marked with the Belfoca script on one side and "MECHANIK DRESDEN" on the other, but the back has only one sliding red port (I have no idea what it's called, feel free to educate me) where every Belfoca I've seen in pictures had two. Additionally, I have the original instruction pamphlet (I'm sure it's original, the camera has been in the family since new) Which shows a picture of the same camera, but with a Balda script on the front instead of the Belfoca script, and strangely, a label has been placed on the front cover which says "BELFOCA 6x9 cm", but when I hold the cover up to a bright light, I can see that underneath it used to say "FIXFOCUS 6x9 cm".
The Prontor-S is quite a decent shutter, I think always from the postwar era---the fact that the lens is marked in mm rather than cm also suggests postwar. If the camera was early-postwar, that might explain a certain level of disorganization in things like the relabelled user manual, but I'm just guessing.
As others have said, you can still get film for it and it should be well worth using. The older "triplet" lens design has some eccentricities that a lot of people like; this is also a camera that will make you do everything manually, which IMHO is a refreshing change of pace from auto-everything "you push the button, we'll do the rest" photography!
Really old film is worth a shot at developing. Sometimes it works astonishingly well, sometimes there's nothing left of the image, usually you get something in between. Wherever you are, there should be members local to you who can help out with this stuff.
I wouldn't be too quick to assume that the camera will need major rescuing to work well. In my experience a lot of neglected folders do just fine, especially on the faster shutter speeds (the slow-speed mechanism tends to gunk up over the years; here "slow" usually means "longer than 1/25 second"). It should be easy for someone to set you up to shoot a roll as a smoke test and see how it's working.
Enjoy it! I love these old 6x9 folders personally.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
Ntenny is right - the shutter isn't necessarily slow. As he says, the best thing would be to put in a roll of any ISO 100 film, color or B&W won't matter, and go out on a nice sunny day with the aperture at f/16 and the shutter at 1/100. If some clouds show up, change it to f/8. That way all you have to worry about is the distance scale. For best results, do this in early-to-mid morning or mid-to-late afternoon, avoid mid-day. You might end up hooked and keep it for yourself.
A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.
Yeah, I saw that site. And that's part of my confusion. The camera shown there is like every other Belfoca out there. It has two sliding covers over red lenses on the back. (still not sure what these are called). Mine only has one. Plus, if you notice, the Belfoca pictured on the site you mentioned has a shutter release button that looks completely different from the one I have. Mine looks just like the one in the picture I posted. Confused yet?
Originally Posted by BMbikerider