Franka Super-Frankarette camera (C) J. Margetts

Franka Super-Frankarette

I have two other Franka cameras – both folding Solida cameras, models II and III. They are both medium format cameras. This is a Super-Frankarette, the name indicating a smaller camera. It is, in fact, a 35 mm camera which were still known as miniature cameras in the 1950s. The ‘Super’ part of the name indicates a coupled rangefinder. There is no light meter. The lens is a Schneider lens which mens that I can date it from the serial number. The information for this is fairly sparse so I cannot get a precise date for the lens but I can say that it dates from between the last quarter of 1956 and the first quarter of 1957.

lens: Xenar
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor SVS
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

Visually, this camera could pass as a product of Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander or Balda (or, indeed, any other camera maker from the late 1950s).

Franka produced the Super-Frankarette from either 1957 or 1958 depending on the source of your information. It is worth remembering that camera bodies, camera shutters and camera lenses were made in batches and that a newly produced body might be fitted with one of the last lenses of a batch. Or vice versa, a newly produced lens might be fitted to one of the last bodies of a batch. This can mean that there is up to a year difference in the production date of the lens, body and shutter. The body also has a serial number but I do not have any Franka dating data (yet!).

Visually, this camera could pass as a product of Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander or Balda (or, indeed, any other camera maker from the late 1950s). Mostly, the camera works fine. I have identified two faults. One is that the focus ring is extremely stiff and it is only just possible to turn it. But turn it does, the lens moves and so does the rangefinder spot. The second fault is that the film advance lever does not advance the film. It does cock the shutter and is clearly still connected to the take-up spool and sprocket shaft as these both move a bit but then return to their original position when the film advance lever returns to its rest position. I know better than to fiddle so the fault shall remain.

The camera measures 130 by 81 by 65 mm and weighs x g.

P1050141The top plate is entirely standard for a viewfinder camera from the late 1950s. On the right is the film advance lever. This sits flush with the body but there is a serrated tip which sits slightly above its surrtounds. The lever moves through 180° to advance the film one frame. In the centre of the lever is a frame counter which counts up from 1. When loading a new film, the user needs to set the counter to ‘A’. Once the leader and fogged film have been wound on the counter will be at ‘1’. Just to the left of the advance lever pivot, at the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. This is chrome stainless steel and is threaded for a standard cable release.

The centre of the top plate is raised. This raised portion houses both the viewfinder and the rangefinder. The viewfinder is very small for the time – it is very reminescent of viewfinders of ten years previously. I cannot use it while wearing my glasses. The eypiece is rectangular and mesures 6 by 4 mm. The viewfinder window on the front is similarly small and measures 12 by 8 mm. this means that the viewfinder image is not very bright. The rangefinder window is also in the front, is square, and measures 8 mm.  There is a small diamond shaped mask just inside the rangefinder window to give a diamond shaped rangefinder spot. This rangefinder spot is yellowish green and is clearly distinct from the surrounding image. I have only done a crude check on the rangefinder accuracy and it seems to be accurate. Horizontally, it is just dandy.

On top of the raised rangefinder part of the top plate is the accessory shoe. No electrical contacts here so a cold shoe for flash. Also on the raised part the name ‘Franka’ is stamped in the metal in  script.

To the left of the raised portion is the rewind knob. This is fairly large – 25 mm diameter – and contains a film memo in the centre. The options are Color K (K = “Kunstlicht” (Artificial light)), Color T (T = “Tageslicht” (Daylight)) or film speed (German translation by courtesy of Bruce). This is a German camera and gives preference to film speeds in DIN (from 14 to 23) but also has ASA (from 25 to 200). This is entirely a mnemonic and has no effect on the working of the camera. This rewind knob pulls up to release the film cassette for removal.

The front of the camera has a square stainless steel fascia containing the shutter/lens assembly. Also, in the lower left corner, there is a PC socket for flash.

P1050137The shutter is a Prontor SVS shutter. This is the EV version. Closest to the camera body is the focus ring. This focuses from 3.5 feet according to the scale but in fact the ring moves well beyond this last figure and focuses on less than 2 feet as a minimum. When focusing, the whole shutter/lens assembly moves rather than just the front element of the lens as on cheaper cameras. The focus ring has two large lugs to ease both finding this ring without looking and also to ease turning the ring.

P1050136With an EV shutter, the shutter speed and aperture rings are linked together. Turning the shutter speed ring also adjusts the aperture. This is to allow the user to adjust the shutter speed or aperture without worrying about maintaining the set exposure. There are a total of 16 EV settings from 2 to 18. Many light meters of the day offeredEV numbers as a part of their read-out. If we assume a nice sunny day and 100 ASA (sorry, ISO) film, the ‘correct’ exposure would be 1/100 seconds at f/16. this is EV 15. having set this EV value on the shutter, you can rotate the shutter speed to 1/300 and the aperture will set itself to between f/8and f/11. Or you can set the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds and the aperture will set itself to f/22. The shutter speed can only be set to the marked speeds but the aperture is continuously adjustable between f/2.8 and f/22.

Shutter speeds run from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B. There is a further scale of shutter speeds in green from 4 seconds to 60 seconds. These cannot be set which might appear to be pointless but are there to tell the user the required speed at smaller apertures. An example: the light meter tells you EV 6. This gives you speed aperture options of 1/8 & f/2.8, 1/4 & f/4, 1/2 & f/8 or 1 & f/8. Suppose you want the maximum depth of field so need to use f/22. The speed aperture ring will not turn to f/22 with EV6 set. The furthest it will go is to B. Set at B, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release is depressed. Looking at f/22 on the aperture ring, it is against a green 8 (which is eight seconds). So, with the shutter speed set to B, adjust the EV (as detailed below) so that f/22 is against B (this is EV 8 as it happens but it is not relevant) and then press the shutter release and use your watch to time 8 seconds. Even though you will not achieve critical timing by using a watch, you will be well within a fraction of one stop of the required exposure.

Setting the EV value is done by pressing a pressed metal lug on the left of the aperture ring and turning both the aperture ring snd the shutter speed ring until the required EV is against the red index mark on the right side of the shutter housing. Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk which is German for ‘delay mechanism’ and offers a delay of 8 seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing – or it should; on my particular camera, this ‘V’ setting just causes the shutter mechanism to jam up.

The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar of 45 mm focal length. All surfaces are coated. This Xenar has four elements in three groups – it is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens and is an excellent performer.

P1050140The back of the camera is opened by pulling up a small lever just below the rewind knob. Inside is unremarkable for a 1950s 35 mm camera. The body serial number is stamped in the metal just above the film gate. My camera’s serial number is 046899. The film cassette goes on the left and the take-up spool is on the right. There is a sprocket shaft between the film gate and take-up spool.

The base of the camera is plain. There is a tripod socket with a 1/4 inch Whitworth thread and a recessed button to release the wind-on mechanism for rewinding the film.


  1. re “Color K” & “Color T”:

    K = “Kunstlicht” (Artificial light)
    T = “Tageslicht” (Daylight)

    … just for the record.


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