CAMERAS > BEIER
The company Freitaler Kameraindustrie Beier & Co. was founded on April 1st, 1923, at Freital - near Dresden - by Woldemar Beier who by than was already 37 years old. Having been co-founder of another camera maker, Thowe's, he quit to run his own business when Thowe had to be recapitalized as a direct consequence of 1923's Great Inflation. Of course, during those initial stages the cameras that came out of the factory were wooden cameras, designed for glass plates.
In 1926 the company employed 50 people and moved to Richard Wagner street at Freital. Two years later, in 1928, they moved again, this time to the upper part of the Dresden street, actually to number 127. The company growed steadily and by then, 80 people worked for Beier. Next year, 1929, during the Spring, Beier made their first appearance at Leipzig's Photography Fair, where three plate cameras were unveiled, the Erika II, the Edith II and the Lotte II, with a great, innovative design out of aluminum. That same year the company begun the production of their firs rollfilm folding camera, the Gloria.
1930 started with the introduction of Beier's first two box cameras, models 0 and 1. In 1931 they presented their first miniature camera, the Beika. Aimed initially to cinametographic usage, it was rebranded in 1932 as Beira. Also in 1931 the box camera family gets updated, with model 1A.
In 1932, Beier introduced its first 35mm camera for 24x36mm negatives: the Beier Beira, that received a Leitz Elmar 50/3.5 lens on a Compur Rapid shutter with speeds between 1 and 1/500. However, from then on, it seems that Beier decided to focus on the production of cameras with features - and, therefore, price range - of lesser amount; examples of that are Rifax, or the Voran from 1937, being probably the Beier-Flex - first shown at Leipzig's Fair in 1938 - an exception.
In 1934, the news were a new box camera model, 2 (that can be identified because of its diamond-shaped pattern in the front part) and Beier Okula. By the end of that year, company was renamed as Kamera Werke Woldemar Beier Freital II. In 1937 the company bought a building at Krönertstraße, 3 where they moved again production facilities. Also, in 1939 the Beirette was introduced.
In 1941 all the facilities were adapted to suit the growing need for parts aimed to the war machine, and operating as a subcontractor Beier made parts for Askania Werke's airplanes. After the War, in 1945, the Soviets fully dismantled the factory, sending it by train to Uljanowsk. However, Beier managed to recover some parts and machines, and recovering whatever the russians had left behind they resumed production, initially by making household appliances such as pots. During the next four years and with 25 employees, new tools and machines were made out of scraps. That way, in 1949 they resumed camera production manufacturing nearly 4.000 cameras from the 6x9 pre-war Beirax model. In 1950 5680 Beirax were made, and begun the production of the 6x6 Precisa.
In 1953, due to some finantial issues related with taxes from 1944, the company was put under fiduciary control and trustors investigated Beier, which in a few months was "plundered". After that, Werner Beier took over company's control and one year after, in 1954, Beier was present, for the first time in its history, at world's most important photo fair, Köln's Fotokina.
In 1955 the Beirax was upgraded with the addition of a new top cover that now houses a viewfinder and a flash shoe. New models of Beirax and Precisa, the Beirax II and Precisa II, were introduced at Leipzig's Photo Fair that year. In 1956 the Precisa is improved once more, this time by adding an uncoupled rangefinder: this new model was to be called the Precisa IIa.
Woldemar Beier died on February 18, 1957, having been one of the last independent camera makers in DDR, until it was finally merged into the VEB Pentacon in 1972. But not without having produced 10.137 Beirax in 13 years, 43082 Precisa in 11 years, 13648 Precisa-II in 5 years and exported to more than 30 countries around the world.