That’s the camera, not the author (yet). Odds on, you haven’t even heard of the Welta Perfekta, let alone used one. But this fine 1934 example of a rare camera example came into my possession to help quench my old-camera passion, and I can report that it lives up to its name even 86 years on.
It’s a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR), like a Rolleiflex, and was made near Dresden in the 1930s. Unlike the Rolleiflex, however, this camera is a folder type and it expands, almost like a flick-knife, when a button on the side is pressed, to give this bizarre shape
Welta used a variety of lenses for its various models, including ones made by Leitz, Zeiss and some with its own name. My camera came with the humblest of versions, a 7.5cm f/3.5 Meyer Görlitz Trioplan. Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to a camera as rare as this, but I already knew that the Trioplan on my father’s Super Baldina, which has featured on this site before (see author link below), was a pretty good performer.
The Darkroom, Dublin
I have been working quite a bit with film recently here in Dublin and I have been improving on my meagre (almost non-existent) darkroom skills under the tutelage of my good friend, Mella Travers. Mella, who had previously been a fashion and portrait photographer, set up The Darkroom ten years ago to practice her own techniques with film photography and to pass on the experience which she had acquired during her professional career.
Last January, on a very windy day, that seems so long ago now, I took my Welta Perfekta loaded with a roll of Kodak 400 T-MAX 120 over to the local park. I also had with me a Nikon FM3a loaded with a roll of 400 T-MAX 35mm for additional shooting experience and also to use as a ‘metering mule’. While I have a number of hand-held meters by Gossen and others, I usually prefer to take meter readings through a device that I can look through in order to know where my reading has come from.
I took the two rolls to The Darkroom where I processed them under Mella’s supervision and then brought them home for scanning. The 35mm shots from the Nikon were good, but I was really thrilled with the 120 negatives from the Welta, some scanned examples of which are shown below
One of the reasons I am so pleased is that, on the day in question, the wind was so strong that it kept blowing the metal leaves of the viewing hood over to obscure the screen. I mainly used the little fold-out magnifier for focus. Also, the noise of the storm was such that I could not hear the almost silent Compur-style shutter — with speeds from 1s to 1/300s — as it clicked. The only way that I could tell whether I had taken a shot was by looking at the position of the cocking arm.
I was so satisfied with the results that I have since shot some rolls of Fomapan 100 and Kodak 100 T-MAX 35mm film on a Leica M6 with a 50mm DR Summicron but, as The Darkroom is now closed for the duration, it may be some time before I can see the results.
Some other film projects are lined up, but it’s likely to be some time before I get them fully underway. The main task is to use one of my superb Grubb brass lenses which were made in here in Dublin in the 19th Century. I now have five Grubb lenses. The smallest one, from about 1863, is capable of superb results such as those above when linked up with a digital camera. However, these lenses should really be used with a more in-period camera. And, perhaps, with more in-period materials.
Wet plate collodion, for instance, was common around the time that the lenses were made. I participated in a wet-plate workshop in 2018, but, with poor dexterity, I was useless at it and, of course, you need to be near to processing facilities when taking the photos. I discussed this with various friends and decided that I would see how I might use the Grubb lenses with 5×4 (4×5 if you are in the USA) sheet film. I attended a 5×4 workshop at The Darkroom late last Autumn and I was pleased with the results
I have since acquired an ICA Reisekamera (travel camera), from around 1910 to 1925, with a view to adapting it suitably at the front and the back for the Grubb lens (shown above, left, beside the camera) and 5×4 film slides respectively.
The no-brand brass lens on the camera is mounted on a roller-blind shutter based on the famous Thornton Pickard (TP) design. I will need a shutter of some type as simply taking off a lens cap and counting will not work, even with ISO 100 film.
Other projects include linking up the Leitz lens shown above (right) with a 5×4 camera produced by the Intrepid Camera company. It is somewhat overdue now and I may be waiting a long time for it in current circumstances. The Leitz lens was really designed for 120 film cameras, but I will decide on what to do when I get it. I could fit the Intrepid with a 120 back, or I could get another lens. It is just the idea of a medium/large ‘Leica’ film camera that appeals to me.
Dalliance with the Contessa
Finally, I have just acquired this beauty. It is a gloriously named, Contessa Nettel Cocarette II Luxus from the period in the 1920s when Zeiss was taking over this company. It is made for the now long-since-defunct 116 film. I had acquired some spacers from Camerhack in Italy to allow 120 film to be used with the camera when a friend told me that he had a roll of old 116 film which he could give me.
He swears that it was never exposed before. So now I have a roll of about 65-year-old Kodak Verichrome Pan sitting in my 92-year-old Contessa ready to be shot. I have even sourced an old Universal Developing Tank, made by Johnsons of Hendon, which can be adjusted to take 116 film. My major issue is how to rate the film while shooting it as it will have lost some ‘strength’: ISO 50, 25? Suggestions would be welcome.
My journey with old cameras and lenses is just starting and, hopefully, it will be never ending and the source of many stories. It is temporarily on hold because of present circumstances, but readers will see the results when they arrive.
Currently here in Ireland, as an over-70, I am confined to barracks and cannot go out except for medical reasons. I am seeing a lot of 70+ types walking past my house although none with cameras. I am the only one that fits that description with a ‘real camera’ in these parts.