Franka Kamera Werk, with headquarters on Bayreuth, Germany - to be more precise, at the bavarian region of Oberfranken - was once the biggest camera maker in the area, committed since its founding by the early 20th century until 1966 to the manufacture of affordable photo cameras. Porst, a German retailer founded by Hans Porst at Nüremberg and a giant in the photo industry, sold Franka cameras rebadged under their own brand, such as the Hapo 5. Porst was also reseller for Balda cameras, such as the Hapo 66, and other makers such as Birnbaum followed the same principle.
The Solida series of cameras were manufactured during the 50s. As mentioned, Franka made mostly mid-range cameras, therefore they lack of some sophisticated features that were present in other, more expensive cameras of the era. Most of the cameras made by Franka mounted 3-element lenses, Cooke triplets such as the Frankar or Enna Ennagon, with different Gauthier shutters to provide some customization options. Some cameras were provided with Synchro-Compur, and a few units of some models even featured Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar lenses.
There are seven main variations of the Solida made during the 50s:
- Solida I:
- Usually fitted with a 75mm Frankar Anastigmat, in either f/4.5, f/5.6 or f/6.3 configurations, with 4-speed Pronto or Vario shutters. The release button is located on the top cover, and the door open vertically.
- Solida II:
- Most frequently found with 75/3.5 Ennagon lens on Pronto or Prontor-S shutters, with 4 or 5 speeds. Las units made by the end of the 60s were fitted with Jsco Westar lenses made by Schneider-Kreuznach.
- Solida IIE:
- Same than the previous model, but with uncoupled rangefinder.
- Solida IIL:
- Like the Solida II, fitted also with a Gossen lightmeter.
- Solida III:
- Usually found with Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar lenses and 9-speed Prontor-S or Prontor-SV shutters. The door opens sideways, by means of a button located at the bottom of the camera.
- Solida IIIE:
- Like the Solida III, with a rangefinder that can be either combined or uncombined.
- Solida IIIb:
- Like the Solida III, with a lightmeter added
The list above is not complete, but a description of the major models. There were others, such as the Solida Jr or the Solida Record.
This Radionar is a triplet, but it is a fast one, with a maximum aperture of f/2.9. It becomes better when at f/8 or f/16, but it is still a quite capable lens indeed. The Radionar takes 42.5mm filters. It is possible to approximately date Schneider lenses based on the serial number, check by yourself at licm.org.uk or Schneider Optics
In all cases, lenses are front focusing. Advance and film positioning is achieved using the red window on the rear door of the camera, with a sliding cover to avoid light entering when not checking the position. Moreover, the Solida has a double exposure prevention mechanism.
Most of these cameras were made for export, and therefore a legend is embossed on the leatherette of the camera that says "Made in Germany - US Zone". They were sold at Montgomery Ward, the first mail-order retailer founded in 1872.