The Welta Weltur was a range of high-end medium format folding cameras produced by Welta of Dresden in the late 1930s.
Medium format folders
Medium format cameras use 120 format film to produce a variety of negative sizes, all of which are larger than 35mm film, but smaller than 4×5-inch film, between three and six times the area of a 35mm frame.
Folding cameras are designed, as their name suggests, to be folded into pocketable boxes. Once folded, they are often smaller than a 35mm SLR.
Before 35mm film cameras began to dominate the market from the 1950s, the most advanced medium format folding cameras were produced between the world wars in Germany. This was before the era of planned obsolescence, and they were extremely finely engineered. If cared for, these cameras will function well for over 100 years.
The Weltur was the successor to Welta’s 1933 Solida line of 6×9 cameras. The most sophisticated folding camera Welta ever made, the Weltur was introduced in 1935 and finished production around 1940. The Weltur was available in three negative sizes: 6×4.5, 6×6 and 6×9. The larger cameras could also be used with masks to produce exposures in the smaller sizes.
McKeown’s lists four cameras in the line:
- Weltur 6×4.5 with a black rangefinder (1935)
- Weltur 6×6 with silver rangefinder (1937)
- Weltur 6×4.5/6×6 with viewfinder slider (1938)
- Weltur 6×9 with silver rangefinder (1938)
- Coupled rangefinder
- Unit focusing bed from knurled knob on right
- Rotating distance scale
- Automatic infinity reset when closed
- Self-erecting bellows
- Red window film advance
- Body shutter release button (not on 6×4.5 black model)
The Weltur features a coupled rangefinder which enables fast and accurate focussing. The 1933 Welta Solida had introduced a coupled rangefinder, but a used a separate viewfinder to frame the shot.
Earlier folding cameras generally used scale focussing, which involves guessing the distance to your subject. Some added an uncoupled rangefinder, where you are required to manually enter the focus into the lens after measuring through the rangefinder.
The Weltur integrated all these functions into a single sophisticated coupled rangefinder/viewfinder mechanism. This patent application from 1936 suggests they were the second manufacturer to add this feature to folding cameras (after Zeiss in 1933).
For context, Leica introduced coupled rangefinders to 35mm format photography with the Leica II in 1932.
The Weltur was fitted with lenses of triplet or Tessar type.
- For 6×4.5 and 6×6
- Schneider Kreuznach Radionar 2.9/75
- Steinheil München Cassar 2.9/75
- Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 7.5cm f/2.9
Tessar or Xenar
- For 6×4.5 and 6×6
- Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 2.8/75
- Carl Zeiss Tessar 2.8/75
- For 6×9
- Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 3.8/105
- Carl Zeiss Tessar 4.5/105
The Weltur was equipped with an F. Deckel Compur or Compur Rapid shutter in size #0. Compur shutters have a top speed of 1/200, Compur Rapid adds 1/400.
The Weltur’s design inspired some Japanese camera companies to produce copies.
The Minolta Auto Semi was a pretty decent replica, which actually even improves on the Weltur by adding a frame counting winder to the bottom. Otherwise it is such a close copy that many parts are interchangeable between them, although it has a slower lens, the 3.5/75 Promar Nippon.
I have collected four Welturs. Two 6×4.5 versions, one 6×6 and the 6×9. All are fully functional with good shutters, lenses and rangefinders. All in all, they are superlative cameras; tiny, accurate and producing extremely high quality images on 120 film. I have posted some of the photos made with these cameras here.
This Weltur is in fairly good condition. I have serviced the shutter and rangefinder.
Weltur 6×4.5 restoration project
This Weltur was in very poor condition, with a big hole in the bellows and deteriorating covering. I replaced the bellows and covering, and rebuilt this Weltur as my first restoration project.
Weltur 6×4.5/6×6 with viewfinder slider
This was my first Weltur, and it’s in excellent condition. I have serviced the rangefinder.
This is my most recently acquired Weltur. It is in excellent condition, and it did not require any service beyond a little cleaning!
The Weltur is becoming quite rare to find on eBay in 2019. I have seen prices range from US$200-400 for the 6×4.5 version, and up to US$800 for the 6×9 version. This is around 400% over the prices in the 2001-02 edition of McKeown’s Cameras.
This apparent popularity may be short lived, as it may simply be the result of camera maven Dora Goodman’s restoration of a Weltur (which she finished in gold leaf).
Then again, it’s also entirely possible that people are starting to recognise what a magnificent and capable camera a Weltur still is, and Dora has helped it reach a wider audience who will cherish their own Weltur.