Meopta Flexaret

Flexaret comprises a family of TLR manufactured by Optikotechna (later becoming part of Meopta) for medium format rollfilm, made in the by then Czechoslovakia from the 30s to the 70s.

Meopta developed its own lenses, first the Mirar and, during the 40s, an evolved Mirar II, a great, Tessar-like glass with 4 elements in 3 groups. It was mainly mounted on the Flexaret IIIa, also sold in the US as Flexaret Crown - due to a serigraphied crown in the top cover - and with electronic flash contacts added.

Basically, eight different models of Flexaret, some with variations, were manufactured:

Flexaret I:
Manufactured by Optikotechna since the end of the 30s until the Second World War, with self-made lenses (usually the 75/4.5 Mirar). Shutter mounted is typically a Compur.

Flexaret II/IIa:
The first units, made by the end of the War and right afterwards, still showed the Optikotechna brand, before merging with Meopta. There are three variations (one of them almost legend) and one evolution, the IIa, an entirely Meopta camera by then. Lenses found are usually 80/4.5 Mirar. Shutter may be either a Prontor-II on the Flexaret II or Metax with top speed of 1/400 in the Flexaret IIa.

Flexaret III/IIIa:
This model, in its two versions, has the particularity of being the only model within the Flexaret family whose film advance is made with a crank instead of a wheel, in a failed attempt to copy Rollei's TLR. Flexaret III's evolution, the IIIa, only adds flash synchronization for the shutter.

Flexaret IV/IVa:
Back to the wheel instead of the crank, this model was manufactured in the first half of the 1950s. The Tessar-like formulas are introduced, corrected and named Belar. The maximum aperture of these lenses is f/3.5, and they can usually be found with Metax shutters, less commonly with Prontor-SVS and top speed of 1/400. This model's evolution, the IVa, is the first Flexaret capable of being adapted for using 35mm film, with a couple of adapters and a mask.

Flexaret V/Va:
Basically a re-design of the previous model, with changes mainly cosmetically in the front part and in the focussing knob. Manufactured during the last years of the 1950s, it can usually be found with 80/3.5 Belar lens on Metax (commonly) or Prontor-SVS (less common). The evolution, Va, is quite like its predecessor in the sense of its capability for usage of 35mm film.

Flexaret VI:
The first of the "Automat" models, with capability of automatically positioning the film and film counter. There is no evolution of this model, as all units can take the 35mm adapter set. It is usually found with grey leatherette coverings (only the 55.000 first units came out in black).

Flexaret Standard:
A simplified Flexaret VI, with a ruby window in the back for film positioning and without capabilities for 35mm film usage. It can be usually found with black leatherette coverings, and seems to be one of the hardest to source models. Because of the lack of automatic advance mechanism, it can be considered to be more reliable. They were manufactured in 1964, with a Belar lens mounted on a Metax shutter.
Flexaret VII:
The last "Automat" model, and the last Flexaret as well. Manufactured during the last years of the 1960s until ca. 1971, the main improvement over the model VI is the inclusion of a better shutter, a Prestor-RVS. With grey leatherette coverings, it accepts a 35mm adapter set.

Flexarets IV/IVa and V/Va are not threaded for filters, so you should use 30mm "push on" type filters (those suitable, for example, for an Agfa Isolette). Flexarets VI, VII and Standard all use B36 filters, a 36mm bajonet with two hooks.

It is said that other of the most sought after TLRs, the Minolta Autocord, was inspired and took as working base that of a Flexaret III with its advance crank. This particular model had been at the drawing boards since before the WW2, but because of it and the redirection of resources towards military usage, production was halted.

Metax shutters are not that bad, almost on pair with the West Germany counterparts, and that were replaced by Pentacon's Prestors by the end of the production run, as we have seen. The last of the models, the Flexaret VII, even had a coupled EV scale.

One of the most curious accessories is the Stereobar, a bracket that allowed for having two Flexarets side by side, adding a vertical grip for easier picture taking.

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