I came across the Finetta the same way I have acquired hundreds of other cameras, in a box with another camera that I was interested in. This box had a lot of odd photographic detritus, unused flashbulbs, filters that do not fit anything, the Voigtlander I bought it all for…and the Finetta.
I was surprised at what good condition this odd little camera was in, however, it was immediately obvious that this was not a camera I wanted to shoot, zone focus and no heft at all put it in the list of bad ideas in camera design. As I inspected it things only got worse, the film advance makes a loud ratcheting noise and the take up spool is about an inch in diameter with just an oddly placed slot to hopefully catch the leader. The leaf shutter only has four speeds, B, 1/25, 1/50, and 1/100 and alternates between a loud slap and silence. The way the body comes off to load film looked like a million light leaks waiting to happen, it was obviously a disaster of a camera.
A bit of research revealed that, despite the Italian sounding name, the camera was made in Germany by some former Voigtlander employees. The lens is a Finetar Anastigmat 1 ⅝” f/4 — about a 41mm — and sits oddly off-center on the camera. The more I looked at it the more I wanted to give it a shot despite all the problems. I figured the worst that could happen was I would lose a roll of dubious expired film so I loaded a roll of Kodak Gold 200.
Hiking above treeline with a camera that weighs less than a pound is a dream compared to my usual solid brass companions. I metered with my phone once, set the aperture and speed, and started snapping away. About halfway through the roll, I noticed that the take-up knob was not turning when I advanced the film. A quick check of the internals revealed that the carefully trimmed leader had not caught in the take-up spool, and all those shots were nothing but memories
5 Frames… On a Finetta IV D and Kodak Gold 200 (35mm Format / EI 200 / Anastigmat Finetar 1 5/8″ f/4) – by Garrison Way
Back at home I fished the leader out of the canister, taped it to the spool with masking tape and made sure it was actually advancing. The next weekend we went camping and I burned through the roll in a day. After getting the film developed I was pleasantly surprised. With the lens at infinity and the aperture around f/8, everything was sharp enough. I metered for EI 100 since I had no idea how old the film really was and scanned with a Wolverine F2D 20, no adjustments have been made outside the scanner.
The Finetta IV D is not my perfect camera. It has a host of issues, mostly with noise and reliability. I had odd frame spacing and a couple of accidental double exposures. But it was fun to shoot. I didn’t expect to get anything special, so I finished the roll a lot faster than usual and the couple of bad frames were not as disappointing. Surprisingly, I got more keepers than usual. I would keep it, but I have another box of cameras to go through.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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