Help with Primaflex

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by darin_cozine, Jun 7, 2014.

  1. Today I stopped by an estate sale and it just happened to be of a late photographer.
    Unfortunately, the Leica was already gone (sold for 75$!).
    I did find this unusual camera and I have heard very little about it.
    It is a Primaflex made by Curt Bentzin, Gorlitz
    This is a nice SLR made in the 1930's. This one has a nice Meyer Trioplan f2.8 attached. The mount is a simple screw mount. The shutter speeds have settings from 1-1/1000 with T and B. There is also a self timer.
    The shutter is a vertical cloth blind similar to that of a graflex.
    Unfortunately, the shutter does not seem to raise to it full height, so it only exposes half the film. And the shutter seems to only fire at a fast speed.
    I dont want to blindly go into it. Has anyone taken it apart? SLR's are horribly complicated.
    Does anyone have any information about it? there is one knob (bottom right) that has arrows that indicate it should turn, but I cannot get it to turn.
  2. Side view
  3. Some info I found about the company:
    Founded 1889 by Curt Bentzin in Görlitz (East Germany)
    Production of high quality cameras,
    among others 1898 the renowned Primar SLR.
    Around 1900 to 1902 close cooperation with Palmos AG.
    From 1939 the company was lead by son Ludwig and produced a.o. aerial cameras.

    In 1945 the Company was put under state control within "Industrieverwaltung Feinmechanik-Optik-Elektrotechnik, Volkseigene Betriebe Land Sachsen".
    From 1948 to 1951 the company produced under the name "Primar Kamerwerk-Görlitz". On March 1, 1951 the company was taken oven by "VEB Feinoptisches Werk Görlitz (Meyer-Optik)".
    1954 was the last year for the Primarflex 6x6, Primarflex II and Reflex-Primar 9x12.​
  4. Here is a bit of info from a book about submarines I found..

    During WWII, before the battle of Tarawa (US fighting Japan), submarines were used to surveil the islands. They mounted cameras to the periscopes, but the Navy issued cameras did not work (well for this application?). One captain was a photo enthusiast and tried his primaflex, which did work well. He reccomended the other submarines doing this surveilance use these cameras as well. No new cameras were available, but they were able to procure ten cameras that were used on all later submarine missions.
    -Silent Victory, by Clay Blair, p 520

    -So a German made camera was used by the US against Japan. How interesting!
  5. Nice find, and it is an interesting camera. If it's any consolation, when it was new, it didn't sell for a whole lot less than a Leica.
    P R I M A R FLEX
    Primarflex is one of the cameras sometimes suggested to have been the model found in the crashed German plane in Sweden that supposedly led to the Hasselblad, or at least the Soviet "Hasselbladski" ("We didn't copy it from the Swedes, no it was a German camera....").
    Here are some ads for it from 1938 to the short-lived East German revival in the 1950s.
  6. The Primarflex was very likely one of the cameras Victor Hasselblad knew and remembered when he designed his own, but it was not (!) the camera on the German plane the Swedish military got hold of.
    The copy, rather better version (the anectdote goes that they asked him if he could build a copy of the German camera, to which he is said to have replied "No. But i can make a better one") Hasselblad made of that camera was nothing like the later civilian camera the Saljut and later Hasselbladskis were copies of.
    That German camera was very likely a camera made by Fritz Volk. The "copy" can be seen near the top of this page. It and the Primarflex are two rather different thingies.
  7. Darin,
    The knob at the lower right is to manually lower the mirror, without tensioning the shutter.
    Here is a link to a German manual for the post-war version:
    To service the various items under the side plate with the knobs is fairly straightforward and access is good. Did that years ago with my previous Primarflex, and no, I took no photo's! The various knobs can be readily removed (note orientation of each beforehand!), followed by the cover plate. The shutter speed selector mechanism is a bit finicky and quickly goes out of adjustment. If I remember correctly (it was more than a decade ago!), there is a thin cam which needs to be accurately aligned with a follower pin. If this cam tilts, causing the pin to slip off the cam, you only have one shutter speed.
    Servicing the shutter curtains is another matter entirely and likely much more complicated (have not done so, yet!). Quite a few German camera's have a nasty habit of hiding screws which are required for access under the leather covering.
    I also have a Primarflex once again. It too is in need of shutter (curtain) service. At present, it is just one of my treasured museum pieces!

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