A few months ago I picked up this Franka Werke camera for “next to nothing” (20 bucks or so) that appeared from the photos to be in near-mint condition. When it arrived, it looked like it had been stored in its original box since manufacture some 65 years ago. The metal body is covered with rough vinyl made to look like leather, and parts of it were peeling off. But the bellows, all of the metal parts, glass, appeared to be perfect. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try it out.
The Franka cameras were generally inexpensive cameras made in Bayreuth, Germany from 1909 to 1966. This particular camera is marked as a “Bonafix”, which was made for years, and there’s not a lot of information out there to identify when this one was made. I’m guessing it’s from 1952 or so.
The weird thing about this camera is that it has two little windows in the back where you can see which picture you’re on – one in the corner and one in the middle. So I thought this meant I could use the middle window and the pictures would automatically be half-frame – giving me 16 pictures on a roll rather than 8. The numbers in the middle of the film go from 1 to 16 and are spaced half as far apart.
So I happily went out and shot a roll of color film, and discovered that I was sadly mistaken. Apparently you need to do something on the inside of the camera to make this work – maybe some sort of adaptor or something. So all my pictures ended up overlapping.
So that was no good.
A couple of weeks later, I loaded up a roll of Kodak Professional Tri-X and decided to use the other film window and only take 8 pictures. This time the results were much better.
The picture above is an effigy of the type which is commonly hung at building construction sites. Its purpose is to ward off the “evil eye.” While we were in the village, we also discovered that there was a temple procession ongoing. A group of young men carrying some sort of decorated deity over their heads were going from house to house with several percussionists. At each home, people were waiting to anoint the procession’s feet with (what looked like) turmeric, and also engage in rituals such as smashing a coconut in the street. It’s all pretty unclear to us outsiders, but it makes for great photos.
Although I felt the pictures had come out pretty well, I had noticed while unloading the film that there seemed to be lots of dust on the inner lens. Later I would inspect more closely, and it turns out there is fungus growing on the inner glass surfaces of the 3 lens elements:
It looks pretty bad on this picture, but you can only really see it when you put a light behind it and view at an indirect angle. I made this picture and enhanced the fungus to send to a friend to confirm this was the problem. Apparently it can be removed with some work, and it only “softens” pictures supposedly – doesn’t really show up otherwise. But it seems the spores can spread the fungus to other cameras – so I’ll need to take care of this when I can get my hands on some peroxide.
In any case, to sum up, this is a pretty good find I think. For a 1950s camera I’m quite satisfied with the results!