Julian Tanase Photography

My Minox journey continues…

Amator – oldest Romanian camera ?

Amator – oldest Romanian camera ?

As far as I knew until a few weeks ago, the optics equipment production in Romania started in the mid-30’s (1936), when the Romanian Optics Industry (English for Intreprinderea Optica Romana) came into being as a private enterprise. As far as I knew, no cameras were produced during the inter-war years.  Main work was contracted and produced under licenses acquired from Germany and France.

During the WWII, the factory was put under governmental control, working for the war effort, with the main products being military optics equipment. After the war, in 1948, Romania fell behind the Iron Curtain, and as the Bolshies came into power, the private property was nationalized. The factory became a state-owned one and a strategical production facility.

The factory started to design and produce cinematography equipment, microscopes, eye glass lenses, and in 1954 it produced the first photographic camera, the Optior, which you can read about and see here. Subsequent models were produced, both in 35mm and 120 formats, some of the cameras under various licenses, such as the Orizont Amator. As far as I know, the factory produced 6 cameras, in 35 and 120 film format. I have only 3 of these in my collection, and they do still work: Orizont Amator, Orizont 3 and the oldest, the Optior.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled onto a small article on the FB, where someone mentioned something about “the earliest Romanian camera”, and posted a photograph of an unknown (to me) camera.

I am not the owner of this item, and the image may be protected, so I do apologize for any infringement. Cannot recall exactly where the image was taken from, so I guess ” from the internet” is a good source indication as any.

From what I can tell, without actually holding the camera, it appears to be either a metal or bakelite body, very simple design, of 127 (40mm) or one of the 60mm format range (120, 220, 620). From what I can judge, without seeing the camera, I would say the 127 (40mm) looks about right. I may add to this that the camera bears a striking resemblance to the Agfa Flexilette, which could be (or not) a thing to consider.

Of course, I can be wrong, so if you have any information regarding this camera, I would appreciate sharing it with us. If you wish to read more on Romania cameras, please follow this link here.

Re this camera here: the lens is probably a simple uncoated meniscus, featuring two shutter speeds, marked M and Z (probably Moment and Zeit, both in German). From what I have seen in other cameras from this age (the simple ones), the Z setting is actually T for Time, and M is usually 1/30 or 1/50. This could be a camera inspired by either a German design or built under a German license. Focus (f number) is obviously fixed, but not mentioned anywhere. I would venture to say it could be anywhere from 6 to 9, as these figures were the norm in those days.

The shutter speeds are briefly marked, but I would say that I am not very far in my assumptions on how this camera works. And of course, the name on the camera, “AMATOR”, is Romanian for, yes, “Amateur”. Not entirely sure on the upper glass, above the lens; looks like a viewing type. It may be that this camera has a viewing screen on the top plate, and the folding viewfinder is then a secondary (direct) way of framing the subject ? I do not know. If it is so, then it is a very crude prism or mirror implicated.

Plugged into the front lens housing, the release button (I believe). A simple metal stamped viewfinder of the folding type. Backplate is hinged, and has a locking of some sort, not very clear which type. Film advance is a simple one, see the right-side knob, but I do not see the rewind one. The body is covered in something similar to the vulcanite.

I am not clear about the small lever, seen on the right side of the lens housing, it probably shifts the lens cover or blocks the shutter, I suspect. As I do not have the camera in my hands to check it, it’s hard to tell what is what.

Is this a Romanian clean concept, or a camera produced under license? No idea, so I am awaiting yours.