- Produced c 1945-50? Welta Kamera Werke for Peerless Camera
- Film type 120
- Picture size: 6cm x 6cm
- Weight 1lb, 14.2oz (856.2g)
- Lens (taking) ROW Pololyt 75mm f3.5
- Filter Size
- Focal range 3.6′ to infinity
- Shutter Cludor
- Shutter speeds B, 1/10 – 1/200
- Viewfinder TLR
- Exposure meter none
- Accessory shoe, PC sync (syncs at all speeds)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know anything about this camera when I bought it, I just thought it looked really cool. And, it can’t be too bad, it’s a Welta, right? Wait a second — isn’t that how most of my stories start? Ah well, by now everyone knows that I’m a sucker for a pretty face.
My understanding now is that German Welta made these versions of its Reflekta TLR to be sold by Peerless Camera in the US. Welta is famous enough as a middle-grade camera maker, though probably better known for its Welti, Weltini, and Weltur than the Peerflekta and its sister the Reflekta. I believe there were several versions of both TLRs, numbered with roman numerals, and lens/shutter variations within each (Meritar, Pololyt, Trioplan / Cludor, Vebur, Compur etc.). This is a Peerflekta II. Not to be confused with Welta’s very uniquely-designed earlier folding TLR, the Perfekta, that pretty much has to be seen to be believed. Yes I said folding.
This particular sample says ‘Made in Germany’ on the back in English and also has a stamp on the bottom, partially obscured, which says ‘Germany USSR Occupied’, which pretty much narrows the manufacture date down to 1945-48 I believe. I had to do some digging to find out about the lens, which I’d never heard of and am not sure I can even pronounce properly. It’s a Laack design, here manufactured by VEB ROW aka Rathenower Optische Werke in Rathenow Germany. They were apparently makers of microscopes since about 1800, and before WWII were called Busch Rathenow. I also read that the name changed again several times and that they supplied Carl Zeiss Jena, I assume as an OEM. Laack lenses were largely used on view cameras.
As for the Cludor shutter I believe it’s a Compur copy by VEB Belca Werk (there’s a BW script logo); these can be found also on some Altissa and Balda cameras. Pure speculation on my part is that these were made for a brief period during a time when parts suppliers were few and Zeiss Ikon AG perhaps had exclusive contracts with the other large shutter maker(s). I don’t know, it just seems like they came out of nowhere and then went away just as suddenly, maybe when other avenues opened up.
By the way, if you can add to or subtract from this section, drop me a line!
Enough with the history lesson dude, how is it as a camera? Well, pretty nice! It’s no Rolleiflex, but it’s no Duaflex either. It’s a pretty solid mid-range TLR with a fairly bright screen for old ground glass (as opposed to a fresnel screen) and can definitely take a decent pic. Note that YMMV with the taking lens — I’ve heard that the Meritar is not much to write home about, and I’ve heard some perhaps too nice things about the Trioplan… as you know I think triplets are by and large underrated but seriously it can’t be that desirable for heaven’s sake. Not over a Xenon, Rikenon or Yashinon, or even a good Industar. Right? So… there you have it. I think. Here, I’ll sum it up in two words: pleasant surprise.
Cloudy glass and inconsistent shutter. And a very dim viewscreen. Cleaning the glass is easy enough: the taking lens front group unscrews counter-clockwise; the viewing lens has a collar that unscrews and then a spanner-slotted retaining ring that unscrews. Getting to the groundglass is pretty easy as well — like most TLRs I’ve seen, the top comes off with 4 little screws, here on the sides of the cover. Once the top is removed you can clean both sides of the groundglass, and the rear element of the viewing lens. The glass is still a tad cloudy but much better for having been cleaned. But wait, what is this I see? A dilapidated mirror! Oh horrors! Gently I touched it with a Windex-dipped Qtip and the silver came right off…. Curse those ancient front-silvered mirrors! (shakes fist) I came up with what I thought was a clever fix and am still not sure why it didn’t work – I went ahead removed the rest of the badly oxidized silver, then with silicone caulk cemented a new mirror to the old glass, figuring that rear silver would be on the same plane as front silver, done deal. But I couldn’t get it to focus. For some reason it worked better to replace the mirror altogether even though the net difference in planes was greater. (Found a 4-pack of 2″x2″ thin mirrors by Darice, Inc. at JoAnnn Fabrics, which worked perfectly.) Then, to adjust the viewing lens focus, I found out, you unscrew the viewing lens tube and adjust a brass stop ring before screwing it back in, which changes the distance of the lens to the mirror. Apparently most good TLRs have this feature, I had no idea! Can you say “trial and error…?”
The shutter was another story. When I had the top removed I could see into the front enough to see that the shutter release was a pretty simple mechanical linkage like some folding cameras I know. So I carefully removed the front chrome plate (4 screws) and the very tight but eventually removable front cover (4 more screws). Note – this maneuver is easier with the shutter cocked and the focus all the way in to infinity. Removed and lubed the linkage and the double-exposure mechanism, and though it turned out that the shutter itself still seemed to be somewhat inconsistent, I put it all back together anyway because frankly by then it was very late into the evening. What fixed it in the end was a small squirt of 97% alcohol into the shutter and some exercise. The culprit as I suspected – old lube (as usual).
Tips & Tricks
None, really, it’s pretty straightforward as TLRs go. Except that focusing is done from a front lever below the taking lens, rather than the usual knob on the side. A little different but easy enough. PC port sticks out oddly, broken off on my example, possibly a common problem (see below for a remedy). And the shutter release is on top of the camera instead of the bottom, I guess to make it easier to use your thumb? It also has a simple double exposure prevention mechanism, accessible with the top cover removed. (I like not having to completely dismantle the thing to get to the mechanisms – TLRs can be tricky!)
I was shooting around the house in available light, testing out a new film, and thought it was a pity that the flash port was broken off. It ocurred to me to install one, why not, the shutter mechanism was already in place… So I took a PC port, the threaded kind that’s held on the top cap by a nut, from a broken Minolta rangefinder in my parts bin and found a spot for it on the easily removable front plate.
Here’s the disassembly order: unscrew the viewing lens, then remove the four screws that hold down the chrome frontispiece and distance scale. Set focus to infinity and take off the frontispiece, then take out the four screws on the sides that hold down the front plate. Then carefully remove the two screws that hold down the flash port cover (they’re tiny). Tips for drilling: 1) cut the circle out of the leatherette FIRST, 2) lightly punch the center of the circle with a small nail or hardened drywall screw so the drill bit doesn’t wander, 3) use a small block of wood for backing, 4) be patient and start with a small bit and work your way up to the correct size, I used six different bits to get the hole I made. I used the PC port’s nut to size the leatherette circle but the OD threads are better for sizing the actual hole. Took a long meter wire from another broken rangefinder, stripped the ends, slipped it through one of the holes in the moving lens platform and looped it through another, this was to take stress off the solder joint since the wire needed to move with the platform. I taped the wire to the body with a piece of packing tape (leaving slack at the top), soldered the far end to the center of the ‘new’ PC port and then the top part to the tip/center of the existing flash connection. You just need the one wire to the center of the flash connection because the outside part is the ground that completes the circuit through the body of the camera once you screw the front plate back down. I finished it with some matte tape over the emtpy hole in the old flash port cover. Looks factory fresh and syncs at all speeds eh!
- My buddy Erik Fiss has a similar but much nicer Reflekta