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The Franka-Kamerawerk in Bayreuth was in its time the biggest camera factory in the Bavarian region of Oberfranken (Upper Frankonia). It was bought by Wirgin in 1962. From 1909 to 1966 it built inexpensive cameras. The most distinctive cameras of Franka are the 16mm cameras with built-in meter which were developed together with Wirgin, and the twin-format cameras with two viewfinders.

HistoryEdit

Company namesEdit

In 1909 Franz Vyskocil and his wife Leoni Vyskocil had a small factory and shop for cameras and photographic supply in Stuttgart. In the same year they moved to Bayreuth, where they reopened their business as Vysko-Fabrik Franz Vyskocil, St. Georgen und Bayreuth. In newspapers they announced their new mass fabrication of folding cameras. In 1910 their sponsor Weigand from Berneck entered the company, then named Weigand & Vyskocil. In 1912 the company was refounded as Frankonia-Kamerawerk. In 1913 the company was refounded with Weigand as its sole owner and camera salesman A. W. Schulze from Dresden as partner. In 1914 the company was named Hogaschwerk. Five months later it got its final name, Franka-Kamerawerk.

Camera productionEdit

Until 1915 the company had been successfully producing plate cameras, among them one for a small format. In WWI this camera had been sold with slogans like "Mit Franka in den Krieg" (with Franka to war). The era of the Franka plate cameras lasted until 1930. The earliest cameras by Franka were made of metal. Two thirds of the camera production was made for export.

In 1915 Wolfgang Hirschmann entered the company as bookkeeper. In 1917 he replaced A. W. Schulze in the management. During the war and in the early 1920s the company had some nonphotographic products in its portfolio. In 1919 it moved from Bayreuth St. Georgen into an old liquor factory bulding in Bayreuth, and there the company stayed. The building had to be heightened in 1955. In 1941 Hirschmann's brother Hans and the longterm employee Georg Zettner became the managers. In 1959 Hans and Wolfgang Hirschmann together were owners of the company.

149872403_7b42c346d5_t.jpg
Bonafix around 1950

In 1930 the rollfilm era finally reached Franka. Many Franka rollfilm cameras were delivered with a separate frame which could be used optionally in the camera for shooting a smaller exposure format. In 1939 Franka constructed its first 35mm camera, the Kleinbildkamera, but began its production slowly after the war. In 1955 the next 35mm model was offered. It was the time when rollfilm camera production switched from 6×9 to 6×6 format cameras. Franka's last own camera development was very successful, the Frankamatic Lux, with a selenium meter coupled to shutter, aperture and an underexposure indicator in the viewfinder. The Franka 16 subminiature using 16mm film was conceived by Wirgin. Its further development and production was given to the Franka-Kamerawerk.

In 1958 the company had reached its peak with 154 employees and production of 650,000 cameras.

Many of its cameras were sold badged with brand names of mail order houses like Wenz and Klingel, warehouses like Kaufhof and Sears or camera distributors like Birnbaum and Porst. Even Burke & James sold cameras of Franka (until 1941).

WirginEdit

In November 1962 the company was bought by Henry Wirgin. Hans Hirschmann and Georg Zettner lost procurement but stayed in the company. Highlights of the last years of Franka were the cameras for 13×16mm exposure format, sold as Franka 16 and Edixa 16. In 1966 the factory's production was stopped. In 1967 the machines were moved to Wiesbaden where most of them weren't used anymore. Only the production of the Edixa 16 was continued there for a short while.

Franka-brand camerasEdit

16mmEdit


35mm viewfinderEdit

  • Franka 1948

  • Frankamatic

  • Frankamatic Lux


  • Frankamatic 500 LK



  • Frankarette II


  • Frankarette L I


  • Super-Frankarette SLK

  • Francolor

  • Francolor L

  • Champion IV


  • Franka 125

  • Franka 125L

  • Franka Record

35mm rangefinderEdit

  • Franka (E)

  • Frankarette R I



  • Super-Frankarette LR I

  • Super-Frankarette LR II

6×6 viewfinderEdit

  • Solida Junior (folding)

  • Solida Record B (folding)

  • Solida-Record BS (folding)

  • Solida (folding)


  • Solida II (folding)

  • Solida III (folding)

6x6 rangefinderEdit

  • Solida II E (folding)

  • Solida III E (folding)

6x6 lightmeterEdit

  • Solida II L (folding)

  • Solida III L (folding)


6x6 lightmeter & rangefinderEdit

  • Solida II EL

  • Solida III EL



6×6/4×4 twin-format viewfinderEdit

  • Solida I (folding)

  • Solida II (folding)

  • Solida II L (folding)

  • Solida-Record B (folding)

  • Solida jr. (folding)


  • Solida Record TS

4,5×6Edit

  • Solida 4,5x6cm


4×6.5Edit

  • Bubi


6×9 foldingEdit


  • Donna



  • Präzifix


6.5×11Edit

  • Idafix


4.5×6 plate camerasEdit

  • Westentaschen-Bubi (=vest pocket boy)
  • Achro Bubi


9×12 plate camerasEdit

  • Klappkamera



  • No. 150



OGAEdit

Franka cameras sold by Obergassner, Munich

  • Record T


  • Frankamatic-Lux

  • Francolor



RevueEdit

Franka cameras sold by Quelle

  • Revue 35BL (Franka 125L)

  • Revue 35 Automatic (Frankamatic Lux)



HapoEdit

Franka cameras sold by Hanns Porst

  • Hapo 5 (Rolfix)



UniversaEdit

Franka cameras sold under the name "Universa"

  • Universa

alkaEdit

Franka cameras sold under the name "alka" by Kaufhof

  • alka 16

OtherEdit

The Franka-Kamerawerk made cameras for camera traders like Porst, and from 1961 for its transferee Wirgin. In the mid-1960s the factory took over a part of the production of Agfa's cameras Silette, Rapid, Isoflash Rapid and Iso-Rapid I. The perfect proof for Franka's renownedness is the fake "Franka NX-40", a toy camera which was also sold badged otherwise.

Bibliography Edit

  • Heimatbeilage zum Oberfränkischen Schulanzeiger, Bayreuth Februar 2006 Nr. 326: Fotogeräte und -zubehör aus Oberfranken - Spurensuche, Teil 1: Das Franka-Kamerawerk Author: Bernd Arnal, Editor: Government of Oberfranken ([1])

Links Edit

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