Welta were a relatively minor camera manufacturer – at least when compared to the likes of Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer. Their cameras do not appear for sale so often and seem to attract generous prices at auction.
lens: Steinheil Cassar
focal length: 50 mm
apertures: f/2.9 to f/16
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash: no facility
film size: 35 mm
Once Dr Nagel designed the Retina for Kodak there was a flurry of similar designs – all looking very similar on the outside but having to avoid Kodak’s patents on the inside.
This Weltix measures 120 mm by 80 mm by 40 mm closed and by 85 mm open and weighs 500 g. As a cheaper model, it is made from pressed steel. The main body is covered in black leatherette with the top and bottom of plates being painted gloss black as are the edges and insides. Inevitably this black paint has worn away in places and the steel is now rusting. The bright parts (film advance, rewind, frame counter, shutter release etc) are nickel plated. This camera was introduced in 1939 and cost £8-8-0
I don’t have any instructions for this camera and operation is not entirely obvious. The camera is opened by pressing a small button on the base. This results in the lens door snapping open and the lens coming forward to its operational position very quickly. In this position, the lens is held very securely. The door is held in place by plated metal struts. Some secondary, black, struts attached towards the front of the lens door hold the shutter assembly/lens in place.
There is a black fabric bellows connecting the shutter to the body. This seems to be in light proof but the test film will show for sure. The shutter is a rim-set Compur (not a cheap option) offering speeds for one to 1/300 seconds. There is also a B setting but this does not work at all on my camera. The shutter has three different mechanisms for controlling shutter speed. The slow speeds engage a whirring timing mechanism (these speeds are roughly correct). The mid range speeds (1/25, 1/50, 1/100) open and close without the slow speed escarpment and also seem to be roughly correct. The fastest speed (1/300) uses a further mechanism which results in significant resistance when you move the selector ring from 1/100 two 1/300. Again, this speed sounds to be roughly correct.
Being an old shutter, it needs to be manually cocked before use. As it is a Compur shutter, the cocking lever moves clockwise (when looking at the lens) – Gauthier shutters move in the opposite direction. The cocking lever is the lever to the right of top when looking at the lens or to the left of right when using the camera. The shutter release is a second lever which is nearly inaccessible behind the door struts. Fortunately, the shutter release lever is connected to a release button on the top plate in the centre of the frame counter. This allows the makers to include a double exposure prevention mechanism inside the top plate.
Between the cocking lever and shutter release lever is cable release socket threaded for a standard cable release. Using this bypasses the double exposure of invention mechanism in the top plate.
The shutter offers six apertures from f/2.9 two f/16. The strange use of f/2.9 will be down to limitations of the triplet design of the Cassar lens. Schneider Radionar triplets also have a maximum aperture of f/2.9. There are no click stops here so intermediate apertures can be selected.
The shutter has a non-standard serial number which prevents me dating the shutter( the serial number is A105276 which is outwith Compur’s normal serial number sequence).
The lens is a Steinheil Cassar – this is a triplet and should be capable of fine images if stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8. This is a 5 cm lens (measuring lens focal lengths in millimetres only became normal in the very late 1940s). Steinheil lenses were made in Munich. This lens has a serial number (413431) but there is no available data on Steinheil serial numbers and dates so I cannot date the lens either. (Welta did not use bodies serial numbers at all so there is no way of dating this camera apart from adverts and such). The lens will focus down to about one metre.
As far as I can tell, this camera was introduced to the market in 1939 and never had the chance to be produced as an export version. Hence the distance scale is in metres not feet and there is no “Made in Germany” on the camera. In fact, I know where this camera was sold as a retailer put a brass sticker on the back. The retailer was Foto-Glockefrom Coxhaven which is in Lower Saxony.
Advancing the phone is not as straightforward as later cameras. First, you press a small button to free the film advanced mechanism (CF Retina 1, Baldina and Jubilette cameras). The film advance is via a nickel plated knob which has an arrow inscribed on it to show you which way to turn it (it won’t turn on the other way, regardless). Next to the film advance knob is the frame counter. The advance will only move the film one frame. Once the sprocket shaft inside has rotated one complete rotation the film advance locks. The sprocket shaft nudges the frame counter with each rotation – the frame counter counts up and the user needs to reset it by turning it anti-clockwise until ‘1’ is against the index mark. In the centre of the frame counter is a fairly large domed shutter release button. This can only be depressed once the film has been advanced. If you forget to cock the shutter, that frame is lost unless you use a cable release for that frame. Between the film advance knob and frame counter and near the front edge of the top plate is the button to release the film advance mechanism. The nickel has worn off this and it is now a brass button.
Just left of centre on the top plate is the viewfinder. This is of the very small design used by Kodak on the Retina, Balda on the Baldina, Voigtländer on the Vito etc. It is very difficult to use while wearing glasses. A nice touch on this camera is a parallax adjustment for when taking portraits rather than the landscapes. There is lever behind the viewfinder – moving this to the left releases the rear of the viewfinder which springs up perhaps 2 mm causing the viewfinder to point down a bit compared to its usual position. It is reset by pushing the rear of the viewfinder down until it clicks in place. The position for this lever is marked ‘N’ (nahe=near) and ∞ (infinity) on top of the viewfinder. The eyepiece of the viewfinder is only 2 x 4 mm while the font is 5 x 9 mm.
To the left of the top paid as the film the wind knob. This also has an arrow described on the top to tell you which way to turn it. In this case, the knob can turn in both directions. There is also an “R” inscribed on the knob to indicate it is the rewind knob.
The back of the camera is dominated by a depth of field table (Tiefenschärfen Tafel). Although this table is in German, it is quite easy to use with a bit of common sense. Above this table is the brass sticker I mentioned above giving the retailer. Above this, the makers name, Welta, is embossed in the leatherette.
On the base plate are largish plated bosses. One of these, on the left end of the camera, is the tripod socket. This is a 3/8 inch thread (frequently referred to as Continental) and would need an adapter slug to bring it down to the modern ¼ inch UNC if you wanted to use this camera on a modern tripod.
Inside is fairly standard. The film cassette sits on the left – the rewind knob pulls up to allow the cassette to be inserted and pushes back down to hold the cassette in place. On the righs of the film gate is a sprocket shaft with prongs that need to fit in the holes in the film. On the right is the black take-up spool with two slots to take the end of the film leader. In normal use, this spool is firmly fixed to the film advantage shaft and rotates with it. When rewinding the film back into the cassette, it is necessary for the spool to rotate freely and this is achieved by putting up the film advance knob. Between the sprocket shaft and take-up spool is a steel spring which is there to keep the film neatly on the take-up spool and not interfere with the sprocket shaft. The inside of the door has a pressure plate to keep a film flat against the film gate.
The next stage is to try this camera with film. I shall be using Agfa Vista+ film as usual. As this camera dates from the 1930s, the lens will not be colour corrected and it will be interesting to see how it copes with colour film. My expectation is that it will cope very well as the lens will be corrected to work with panchromatic film – film that is sensitive to all wavelengths of light. We shall see.
I shall have a slight problem using this camera as the double exposure prevention mechanism is not working as it should. This means that the shutter release button on the top plate will not work most of the time. I shall use a cable release to overcome this.
I have now finished my test film on this cmera. The results are a bit mixed. There is clear flare in a lot of the pictures regardless of the amount of bright light in the frame. This sugests a fault in the glass giving internal flare within the glass of the lens elements, rather than flare caused by reflections from an uncoated lens surface (although the lens is certainly not a coated lens at this date). I have a Zeiss Ikon Tenax I that is unuseable for this reason. On a plus, the lens is handling colour well even though colour film was a rarity and the lens is unlikely to be colour corrected on a camera of this age and price.
These first two show the flare very clearly. It is visible on all the frames but these two arte the worst. The flare is just about the same shape and in the same position in all frames suggesting it is not down to the light.
The next two show the effect of static on the film in an old camera. Winding the film on produces a very small amount of static electricity on the film and this will attract any dirt and dust lurking about in the camera. The dirt specks stop the film from being exposed where the specks are resulting in dark specks on the scans. This is a very good way of cleaning out the last stubborn particles of dirt!
These last two are the best of the bunch. There is some evidence in all the frames of shutter bounce. This is when the shutter opens and closes as it should and, as it closes, briefly opens slightly a second time giving a very pale secondary image which is slightly out of register with the main image.
This camera is 78 years old and was not the most expensive when new. Bearing that in mind, it is performing very well but it is not a camera I will be using in earnest (I have older cameras I do frequently use)..