Sunday, March 27, 2011

Certo Dolly Super Sport (rf model)

(Guest Post by Gil Zilberstein)

Mike Connealy asked me to write a bit about my Certo Dolly camera.
If you haven’t seen it yet, his website is: < > .

Let me start with the markings on the camera:
While I am sure it is a Certo Dolly, all it actually says on the camera is “ Super Sport” embossed in leather on the front.

On the lens/shutter assembly, it says: Compur for the shutter (the speed range
is 1-250 plus “B” and “T”). The lens is marked: Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 1:2.9, f=7.5cm, Nr. 884813.

I bought the camera on ebay, and didn’t expect much from it. I just wanted an inexpensive large format folder, and I have had good luck with getting nice photos from German folding 35mm cameras from the 1930’s (a Certo Dolina, and a Weltix).

The camera came with a leather case in excellent condition, with what appears to be a locking latch ! (No, I don’t have the key . . . ) (see fig. 1 below)


Here are some general views of the camera with the front closed:



Now, I don’t know how evident it is in these photos, but the top viewfinder/rangefinder/extinction meter unit was probably heavily brassed, because when I got the camera, someone had touched these areas up crudely with black paint ! I wish they had left it alone . . .

Now here are some views of the back, with the depth-of-field table/ red window cover open and closed:



And here is a close-up of the depth-of-field table:


And now for some views of the lens/shutter assembly:




So that’s what my camera looks like. So, how well does it work?

I’ll answer that in two parts: firstly, how well the features work over 70 years after it was built, and secondly, what kinds of photos it takes with modern films.

The shutter works perfectly, as far as I can tell, at all speeds. This alone is remarkable for a 70-plus year old camera. By the way, the shutter release lever is a backwards “L-shaped” lever on the lens/shutter mount. You can see it above in fig 9, with its hinge/fulcrum to the left of the “COMPUR” label. One rotates the top part with the teeth and the hole in it outward and downward to trip the shutter. The action is very easy. The shutter must be cocked manually before each picture. Referring to fig 7, the lever with the hole in it above the “B” on the shutter speed ring is for cocking the shutter. It moves to the right as seen in the photo.

Now for the focusing, referring to fig 7, the solid lever without the hole in it above the “1” on the shutter speed ring is the focusing lever. It is to the right of the shutter cocking lever mentioned earlier. As you swing it around, the whole lens/shutter moves forward and backward from the front of the bellows. The focusing action is smooth, but the rangefinder is very difficult to use. I don’t know if that was the original design, or if it is age-related and subject to improvement by adjustment.

Exposure adjustment is from the front. Referring to figures 7-9, the shutter speed is changed by rotating the ring at the top so that the desired shutter speed is opposite the pointer. To adjust the f-stop, there is a silver metal triangular tab (just below the shutter release lever fulcrum and under the letter “C” in “COMPUR”. you slide this back and forth to the desired f-stop setting.

By the way, you open the front by pushing a chrome button on the bottom, next to the wind knob (see figures 1 and 2). To open the back, there is a sliding cover-tab on the wind-knob side of the camera, under the carrying strap.

Now to the back of the camera for viewing. Referring to figures 4 and 5, the larger round window on the left is for viewing and composing. Right above it is a flat round knob for moving a mask into place if one is shooting 6x4.5 photos instead of 6x6. The knob can also be seen in figures 2 and 3, but note that the window for the viewfinder is square on the front. To the left of the viewfinder window is a slightly smaller round window for the rangefinder. Mine is so far out of adjustment, that only a particular, low eye position even lets me see it, and then it is hard to tell if it is the coincident type, or the split-image type . . . To the left of these round windows is a long rectangular window. It is on the left when viewed from the back (figures 4 and 5), or the right when viewed from the front (figures 2 & 3). This is the extinction-type “light meter.” I say “light meter” because: a) this device was always notoriously inaccurate, b) it is not a light meter in the modern sense. The way it works is you look through a kind of graduated neutral density filter at a series of numbers, and read off the dimmest one you can read without straining. Then you look up this number in an exposure table to get your shutter speed and f-stop settings. The problem is that your eye adapts, especially if you stare and take too long trying to figure out the dimmest number. (In other words, if you stared at the numbers long enough, more and more of them would become readable ! ! ) It was better than nothing, but not really accurate.

Film advance is by a rather stiff knob on the bottom. AND, you have to flip down the depth-of-field table by pulling up the tab at the top. Then you can see the three red windows so you can see the paper backing of your film roll and know where to stop advancing the knob for the next picture. (See figures 4, 5, and 6). I only use the middle window, which is marked for “6x6” (barely visible after all these years). If one wanted to shoot 4.5x6 photos, one would have to do three things: 1-install a special mask inside the camera BEFORE loading the film; 2 – turn the knob above the viewfinder window all the way counter-clockwise to put the correct viewfinder mask into place; and 3 – advance the film carefully until the next exposure’s number is in the LEFT-hand upper window, shoot the photo, then advance it carefully just a bit to put the same number in the RIGHT-hand upper window, and repeat for the next
exposure’s number. As I said, I only have the 6x6 mask (thanks to Mike Connealy’s generosity), so I only use the lower 6x6 window and use each exposure number only once. (Note: before Mike sent me the 6x6 mask, I did manage to shoot a roll successfully. What was remarkable was that I didn’t scratch the film, since the camera has no built-in rollers. The film rollers come with the mask . . .

(continued in next post with pictures from the camera)

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