Welta Weltur Restoration – Part I

Welta Weltur
6×6 120 film folding camera with rangefinder, 1935
  • Project – Restoring a 1933 Weltur 120 folder to create a fully functional and beautiful one-of-a-kind camera

About

The Weltur was a medium format folding camera produced by Welta Kamera Werk of Dresden between 1933 and 1945. There were three models, a 6×9, a 6×6 and a 6×4.5. Each had some variation during production, with different rangefinder cowl shapes, finishes, shutters and lenses.

The Weltur featured an innovative coupled rangefinder with a single combined viewfinder and unit focusing lens bed. It was one of the best engineered production “miniature” cameras at the time, and was widely copied by other manufacturers in Europe and Japan (See for example the Minolta Auto Semi, which is an almost exact copy of the Weltur).

I chose a Weltur as the basis for this project because they are readily available on ebay, are reasonably priced (often below US$200), and make a very usable camera even after 85 years. They are quite simple in design. And they were particularly well made, with high quality materials and lenses.

The camera

The particular Weltur I am using for this project is an early 6×4.5 model with a Schneider Xenar 2.8/75 lens from around 1933. It was purchased from ebay in May 2018. It came from Japan as a lot with two other folders, on an “As Is” basis, i.e. each of the three cameras has problems. I felt the price was reasonable given the issues with the cameras. I intend to use each one as the basis for a project, starting with the Weltur.

The three camera I purchased from ebay (photo courtesy of seller). The Weltur is in the lower right.

This Weltur was described on the auction as follows: “Bellows is worn. The lens seems clean. Shutter is working, but it is unstable.” Indeed this was a fair description once it arrived. The Schneider lens is in excellent condition with no fungus, haze or separation. The bellows is full of pinholes. And the shutter seems to fire at the same speed regardless of the setting on the rim. Additionally the camera appears quite shabby, the paint is worn and the leatherette is peeling and split in a number of places. Another other issue I noticed when the camera was in my hands was a hazy rangefinder.

Given the cosmetic and functional issues with this camera, it makes an excellent candidate for my first restoration project. At least if I don’t succeed, I won’t feel too bad about it!

The fitted Compur #0 shutter only supports speeds of up to 1/250, and as mentioned, doesn’t actually respect the speed setting in any case! I will cover the service of Compur hunters in a later article.

Stage One

The first issue to be resolved is the worn bellows. Shining a small LED torch inside reveals numerous pinholes and some larger splits. Definitely not light tight! However I could see no easy way to remove the bellows, it appears to be glued into the bed of the camera.

I decided to begin with a complete disassembly of the camera in order to gain access to the bed where the bellows is affixed to the body. In any case I intend to replace the leatherette due to its age and condition, so I decided to strip the body back to bare metal.

After prying the leatherette from the body with judicious use of an xacto knife, I used isopropyl and wet/dry sandpaper to bring the body back to metal. The construction consists of a die cast alloy main body and a riveted hinge and film door made of pressed steel. The lens door is also made of pressed metal and the struts are riveted to the main body.

Removing the lens door is now possible, as the six screws which hold it to the struts are concealed under the leatherette.

I removed the lens from the front of the bellows using a lens spanner. I was then able to remove the front lens mount by undoing the three metal tabs which hold it to the bellows.

Then the rear lens mount is also held in by metal tabs. A small screwdriver made the task of releasing it simple.

Finally, after removing the strut spring retainer from the body, the bellows is fully accessible.

Once the body is fully disassembled, removing the bellows is a simple matter of applying some isopropyl alcohol at the bond with the bed of the camera. After a couple of minutes, the bellows can be removed with only a small amount of force.

Part II

This article continues here.

References

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