Franka Solida III

Franka Solida III

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Solid, compact and simply fun folder that takes 6×6 pictures on 120 rollfilm, made by Franka Kamera Werk in the Bavaria region of Germany. Franka Solida cameras, like the Balda cameras, were kind of middle-of-the road consumer folders, often outfitted with inexpensive 3-element lenses like Enna Ennagon and Schneider Radionar. This makes them less collectible than the better-known medium format folders from the likes of Voightlander and Zeiss Ikon, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be overlooked. Compared to what you see on 35mm negs, even a reasonably fast 3-element 75mm lens can be a great performer when stopped down a bit. And a camera like this folds up relatively compactly for easy transporting. (Plus they’re just fun!)

As with the Balda Baldix, one of the nicest things about this little classic is the perfect placement of the shutter release button. Shooting with it feels like shooting a small 35mm SLR while the result is a whopping 6x6cm instead of 24x36mm. And contrary to its consumer-level status, this camera is well-designed and robustly built. Note that there is a higher-end version with a built-in rangefinder, expect to pay dearly for that one if you find it.


Body obviously worn and painted, the leather smoothed over time, this is a bit of a beater user, but good where it counts: tight bellows, clear coated glass, and strong working shutter. Turns out that the focusing was off, which I discovered when I saw my test roll — infinity was reached when the scale said ~50′. Simple fix (requiring a 6×9 frosted glass and a loupe) – focused to actual infinity, loosened the three set screws on the focus ring, turned it to infinity carefully (without moving the lens) and retightened. Now I just need to figure out a replacement for the missing hand strap.

Tips & Tricks

Bellows release button on the bottom of the camera, large depth of focus field table on the top. You cock the shutter manually, and release with the shutter release on the top of the camera. Standard red-window wind but with a little sliding door to protect the film after advancing to the next number. It also has a PC sync connection, and an accessory shoe.

The one thing that took me a little time to figure out was the switch under the shutter release marked “Time” — if you set the shutter dial to B and have the Time switch set on, the shutter stays open until you click the switch off. My friend Bill suggested that this would help reduce camera shake as it’s less impactful to move the switch than to press the shutter release again. Sounds good to me.

LASTLY, if you don’t trust yourself to estimate distances properly for zone focusing, you can always get yourself an accessory rangefinder and slip it into the accessory shoe. They usually go for about $15-30 US used. But I find that it’s not difficult to estimate distance with just a little practice.

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