Goldammer Goldeck camera (Pic: Rainer Strzolka)
The Goldammer Goldeck, one of a raft of German cameras from the 1950s using a tune lens extension (All pics: Rainer Strzolka)

By Rainer Strzolka

Some cameras just fly at you. One for me is the Goldeck.

Among the many camera manufacturers that existed in Germany after the World War II, the Goldammer company in Mühlheim/Main was remarkably successful. It was founded in the 1920s in Frankfurt/Main, where cameras were manufactured by hand until the early 1950s, one of the last in real camera manufacturers in Germany.

After moving to Mühlheim, they started a quite extensive production of different camera models, starting with the smallest format (16 mm) up to 120 roll film.

My Goldammer Goldeck is a tube camera with a pull-out lens, a counter design to the bellows cameras of other manufacturers, whose products often suffered from leaks.

On the other hand, tube cameras often suffered from clamping problems that prevented the tube from being pulled out or caused it to be clamped in a crooked position.

The Goldammer cameras were delivered with countless lens-shutter combinations, some specimens were sold to Great Britain labelled as “Richard”. In a way, it represents a West German variant of GDR cameras like the Werra, where you also don’t know exactly which lens-shutter combination is meant with which body. Variety in a society of scarcity, as it existed in both German states at that time. In the meantime, I have come across no less than six different variants of my Goldeck.

My variant has a fast 1:2.9/75 lens from Steiner Bayreuth and a Prontor V shutter with times of B, 1/25-1/200 second. The lens is extremely sensitive in terms of focusing. Super sharp when correctly focused, but mercilessly out of focus with minor handling errors. The tube, which is not blackened on the inside, makes for rapturous moods under certain light conditions.

The Goldas were not unique, other manufacturers offered similar cameras, for example Balda’s Baldixette and Dacora’s Digna. However, the Goldammer Goldeck seems a considerably better-built camera.

And it is considerably rarer, which gives it a certain snob appeal that I, as a man of a certain age, like very much.

With a Balda or Dacora, you won’t be noticed on the beach of St Tropez – the Sylt for the really rich. If you have a Goldeck hanging around your neck, you might at least be asked how many megapixels it has… and how much does a frame of 120 film convert to? 180 megapixels?

The tactile feel of the camera is fantastic. The lens barrel pulls out with a rich sound and locks with a deep clacking noise. This operation, however, doe takes a little getting used to.

The shutter is cocked above the lens and released with an almost centred shutter release on the lens mount. There is a PC socket as a flash connection, which works at all shutter times. The viewfinder is an inverted Galilei viewfinder.

Multiple exposures are possible without any problems. I have always found the thwarting of multiple exposures by technology to be a disadvantage. If you can’t remember whether you’ve already exposed a frame or not, you may want to move to a sanatorium and give up photography.

A raised lettering “Germany” is emblazoned on the left side of the case. It dates from a time when “Made in Germany” was still a sign for good work and not for re-imports from Asia with an old German name.

All visible screws on the camera are aligned like on a Leica: all slots are exactly in the same direction.

The camera is unusually loaded, the film to be exposed goes into the right film chamber, the other way around than on most other roll film cameras. The film-marking dial knows only a few settings: ASA – today ISO, but with the same numerical value- from 10-160.

The only disappointment on the camera is the viewfinder, which rightly deserves its German name and has nothing to do with the English “the finder”. Tiny. Small. At best suitable as an approximate aid to aiming. But only soldiers want to aim.

I like mine nevertheless and have taken them out on the island of Föhr, the first time in March 2021 with Agfa Isopan that had expired in 1993, and then with Kodak Ektachrome, 1992 expired, later the same day. In the meantime some exhibitions have been equipped with these pictures. And the camera is always with me in one of my numerous coat pockets. Maybe not a love for life. But for a long time.

And never again a flat battery or a memory card error.

Support Kosmo Foto

Keep Kosmo Foto free to read by subscribing on Patreon for as little as $1 month, or make a one-off payment via Ko-Fi. All your donations really help.

Become a patron at Patreon!

Rainer Strzolka
Latest posts by Rainer Strzolka (see all)
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments