A few years ago, I had the odd (OK, well now typical for me) fortune of having a mercy camera pick-up that I shot with only half-hearted interest, only to have it pleasantly surprise me with its image results. That camera was none other than the 6x6 folder known as the Franka Solida.
Of course, as soon as I became more enamored of this camera and its Schneider Radionar lens, the shutter began to get particularly flaky. It hit the point where I developed a love-hate relationship with the Solida, in which each roll would prove a major pain to shoot, but the good shots from the roll mostly made up for this headache of a camera.
I kept my eyes open for another cheap Solida with the same specs, particularly the f/2.9 lens. By the dawn of 2016, I had found one, and elected to more or less retire the cantankerous Solida to focus upon its sibling, whom I'd christened as my "Solida 2.0."
One roll in this replacement camera and my thoughts began to change. This Solida seemed to not only suffer from some lens fungus, but it didn't seem to render with any sort of pleasing tonality. Even worse was that the focusing distances didn't seem to match up to the rendering of the lens, indicating a need for a lens collimation. Finally, the film rollers tracked muck onto the film surface, resulting in gritty lines across some exposures.
While some of its issues could be addressed, this Solida was not one that I was quite ready to putz with. I briefly considered if I could transfer the lens from the original Solida to the "2.0" version, but the camera essentially sat next to the other one for the better part of a year.
And then a few months ago, I just happened to stumble upon this in a nearby antique store, priced at a very modest $25.
This Franka was already fittingly labeled as a Solida IIIL, and it became the 3rd Franka made product in my collection. The lens was the Radionar 80mm f/2.9, and the shutter seemed to work. I had no hesitation in adding it to my stable. The meter doesn't seem to work, and the accessory shoe is a missing one of its mounts, but these were non-issues to me.
I had some challenges getting the camera to fold, and just elected to work with it later. And with some coercion I did get it to fold. Only thing is, when unfolded, the camera's linkage doesn't line up properly to fire the shutter. It requires some bending of metal back into place if folded and unfolded. Due to this, I've elected to just leave it unfolded, and dub it as the "Franka Solida non-folding camera."
Luckily, everything else works well. The shutter does just as it should and the focusing distances on this camera are spot-on. The rendering is great, and the bellows are light tight. The only issue is that the darn thing won't fold up properly, and I can not figure out what is wrong. One the best (albeit "non-functional") features of this camera is how it can fold up to compact size, and this camera just isn't able to do this properly.
In any event, here are the results of the inaugural roll in my third Franka Solida...
A little bit of haze is evident in this image, but the tonality is excellent. Sharpness and details on this image taken at f/5.6 are outstanding.
Another shot taken around f/5.6 portrays just as hoped.
One of my favorites of the batch, shot at f/4 at 1/300 of a second. The Delta 100 film gave off outstanding tonality on the VW.
Focused near infinity and shot at f/5.6, there is some softness near the sides, but centers are sharp, a desirable trademark I'd noticed in images taken with my first Franka Solida.
Some images gave off a bit of an eerie glow from the Solida, such as this one.
By the second half of the roll, I was really starting to feel a good vibe from this Solida, and had more confidence in the rather lackluster lighting conditions.
Taken at closer distance with about a 6 foot focusing distance to the marker lamp on this bus and an f/4 aperture that allowed little room for error, the Solida nailed this shot and gave a great result!
The only distance that seemed a bit off was the closest focusing distance of 3.5 feet, which I'd estimated to be around the area of the truncated rail near the left of the frame. The actual point of focus seems to be a good bit closer. Still I like the results!
Set at a focusing distance of 50 feet, the Solida seemed to do just as it should.
Again at f/4, the focusing distance seemed to be right about where expected. The background details are nicely muted into a dreamlike portrayal.
A shot like this reminds me of why I like medium format so much. The wheel shows some excellent sharpness and despite being about 20 feet from the camera, there is still a great separation between the focal point and the backdrop. On even a DSLR, one would likely have a hard time achieving a limited depth of field effect to this degree.
Closing with this, focused on the tree wrapping around the left and top of the frame. Again, a nicely muted backdrop to give off a whimsical rendering.
I'm quite thrilled with this Franka. Now if only I could get it to actually fold and unfold as it should. Anyone have any suggestions?