When I first saw a picture of the Welta Perfekta I knew I had to have this camera in my collection. The Perfekta TLR was introduced by Welta in 1934. The idea of a folding TLR is very intriguing. Although the Perfekta viewfinder does not fold, the difference in size compared to a regular non-folding TLR is reasonable. The folded Perfekta in it’s transport case is 7.5 cm thick, while a Weltaflex or Ikoflex in it’s respective case is about 11 cm. But intriguing idea or not, folding TLRs were no success in camera design. Welta left the path after the Superfecta and the Perfecta. And just a handful of TLR folders exist from other manufacturers: Zeca-Flex by Zeh, Primarette by Bentzin, Pilot Reflex. Probably the folding mechanism made production too complex and too expensive compared to a “regular” TLR.
To unfold the camera you push the small button on the right side. From now on the handling is exactly like with any other TLR: open the viewfinder, compose your image, choose aperture and shutter speed, cock the shutter, and shoot. When you have a first look at the camera, the lever to cock the shutter seems to be placed in the wrong place. It’s between the viewing and taking lens, and there is not much room between those two lenses. But when holding the camera in front of you for shooting, the lever works just fine.
Focusing is done using the lever on the front plate, the corresponding distance scale is placed above the taking lens. The scales for aperture and shutter speed are placed on top of the taking lens showing you all the current camera settings by just looking down the front.
On the negative side is the viewfinder which gives a bright picture in the center only. The borders are rather dim and not very useful for focusing. The reason for this lies in the folding mechanism which does not allow for the mirror case to be completely closed. So stray light is falling on the mirror and ground glas which is somewhat problematic especially in bright sun light.
The other source of potential trouble is the exposure counter. Well, the switch to turn the exposure counter on, to be exact. The switch will jump into position “A” (probably for the German word “Aus”, meaning “Off”) when the film is completely spooled to the taking spool. After loading a new roll of film you turn the film advance knob until the number 1 for the first exposure is visible in the red window on the back of the camera. Then you move the exposure counter switch to position “E” (probably for the German word “Ein”, meaning “On”). Check if the switch has really reached it’s end position. In my first attempt I did not move the switch the full way, and the exposure counter was not counting. I realized this fact while advancing the film after the first exposure as the counter did not move. After shifting the switch to the correct position the counter worked as expected. But I lost one exposure because the film was moved almost 2 frames for the second exposure.
Besides those little inconveniences the Perfekta is a fine camera. Well crafted and well designed, from my point of view a milestone in photographic history.