The Franka Solida II L was, together with four other cameras, a gift from my cousin and once belonged to my uncle. As I was curious how a folder medium format with a proper lens would perform compared to my Agfa Isola I and the Holga, it was the first of the five I treid out. Unsurprisingly it outperforms the two simple box cameras ones easily. Sadly the Selenium light meter stopped working. (although you’ll read this happens frequently, it’s the only faulty one in my collection) To compensate this, I finally bought a cheap and small external lightmeter and managed to produce some well lit shots.
About the camera:
The Franka Solida II L belongs to series of folding medium format consumer cameras build by Franka Kamerawerke in upper Franconia, Bayreuth (hence the name “Franka”). As I started my studies in Bamberg which is close by, I knew that the area is rightfully famous for their excellent beers, but was totally unaware of the small camera industry. The Solida family ranges from simple viewfinder model I to the top model III EL with uncoupled rangefinder and Lightmeter (The E stands for the German word for rangefinder, Entfernungsmesser, and the L for BeLichtungsmesser, German for Lightmeter). There are two Solida II L versions, one build from 1957 and one from 1962, I assume mine is the earlier model. Both were equipped with different lenses and shutters as well, on mine is a Schneider-Kreuznach f 3.5 80mm with a Prontor SVS shutter. The camera has a accessory shoe, a tripod mount, a pc sync connect for flashguns, a double exposure lock and a self timer. Folded it fits in the pocket of a (winter) coat.
Open the back by pulling the small lever on the side. (if you never loaded film in a medium format camera, check my Holga post for instructions). Close the camera, forward the film untill the “1” appears in the small red window. If the lightmeter is working, set ASA to the film’s speed. If it doesn’t, do it anyway in case you forget which film you loaded. Especially if you own too much cameras… Open the camera front with the small button on the left side of the body, measure the light and transfer the EV value to the lever on the bottom of the lens. Similar to my Retina’s design, you can select now the speed / aperture combination which fits best to your subject. Aperture ranges from f 3.5 to 22, shutter speeds from “B” to 1/300. Cock the shutter with the lever on top of the lens, guess and set the right distance and shoot. To help focussing, the specific depth of field is indicated on the top of the lens. To avoid double exposure, the camera blocks the shutter after each picture, which is indicated by a small red dot on the top. To close the camera, set the lens to infinity and press the silver button in the middle of the lens’ door. In low light use a tripod and cable release or the self timer, or attach a flash using a standard PC sync cable.
If you want to slowly step up from you Holga or Diana to a real medium format camera, the Solida might be the right step. I was deeply impressed by the sharpness of the pictures and the overall handling of this camera.
|Camera||Solida II L|
|Year built||From 1956 – 1962|
|Serial number||350576 (Lens 5068411)|
|Lens||Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm f 3.5 -22|
|Special features||Uncupled light meter, self timer|
|Manufactured by||Franka Kamerawerke Bayreuth|
|Date of purchase||2016 (gift from my cousin)|
|Place of purchase||Königsfeld im Schwarzald|
Tips & Tricks:
When you close the camera, set the focus to infinity, as you won’t be able to close the front and risk to bend the lens.
Film purchase & processing:
The camera can use any 120mm film, I usually shoot with 400 ISO which can be developed anywhere.
http://camarasclassicas.blogspot.de/2010/11/franka-solida.html (Review of the Solida family)
http://www.butkus.org/chinon/solida/solida_6x6_i_ii.htm (Manual for the similar Solida II)