I have had a couple folders for just about as long as I can remember, but they weren’t folders that you’ve been able to get film for, for a very long time (which is why they were given to me). As a result I’ve not shot with them. A couple years ago I stopped in at a local camera store, they had a box of cheap folders, and I picked up a couple that looked like they might take 120 film. As it happens, one was 120, the other 620. The camera that uses 120 is a Franka Rolfix 6×9 Camera, it was made by Franka Werke, and was “Made in Germany – US Zone”. Using the serial number of the lens to date it, shows that the lens was made in either late 1948 or early 1949, and it is a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 105mm f/4.5 lens in a Prontor II Shutter. Apparently the camera was sold with a mask which would have allowed it to be used as a 6×4.5 camera, however, the mask is missing the one I have.
Franka Rolfix 6×9 Folder
I quickly put my first roll of film into the Franka-Rollfix, as it’s the one that takes 120, shot through it, and with some excitement developed the roll. Not a single shot was in focus. A second roll quickly confirmed that there was a definite problem, as even using my Leica M9 to estimate the range, most photo’s were horribly blurry.
On doing some research, I was able to determine that I could use a piece of wax-paper as a primitive ‘ground glass’ substitute, I could check the focus on the camera. It wasn’t even close, but I was able to adjust the focus myself, and the next roll came out great.
Poorly Framed, but Sharp
I haven’t used the Frank-Rollfix much, due to too may other things going on, but I’d really like to give it a try for some landscape photography where the 6×9 negatives it produces would be nice. I would also like to try running some colour film through it, to get an idea of how well the lens handles colour film. One thing I definitely need to do is get better at framing the photographs I take using the camera, as these examples show.
This was my first time shooting a 6×9 camera, and I find that I am really attracted to this size of a negative, it’s significanlty larger than the 6×6 format I normally shoot in 120, yet easier to transport than a 4×5 camera. In fact when folded up, it is one of the smallest cameras I own. Something else I like is that the photo’s from the camera have a definite ‘vintage’ feel when the subjects aren’t blatantly modern.
Another of the local camera stores that I do business with stock 120 film modified to fit 620 cameras. I’ve purchased a couple rolls of film from them to use in the second folder, but so far haven’t had time to give it a try. It isn’t as interesting, as the lens and the shutter are of lesser quality than the Franka-Rollfix. At the same store I was able to pick up an external rangefinder that allows me to set the range on either of these cameras without needing to resort to using an expensive camera as a ‘rangefinder’.
Bower-X 6×9 Folder
For those that wish to try a folder, look around, find something cheap, with a shutter that sounds fairly close. There are are plenty of models around with a wide variety of formats. While the basic design is common across many models, they have different quality lenses and shutters. It is probably best to avoid ones that use film other than 35mm or 120 roll film. Granted you can still find 127 film, or get 120 that has been modified to use in a camera made for 620 roll film, but it is often difficult to find. If you are looking at any other format used in folders besides 35mm, 120, 127, and 620, it’s going to be basically impossible. Though if it’s a really old folder intended for glass plates, or sheet film, you can probably modify it to work with available sheet film, and you might even be able to get the right size via the annual Ilford special order.