Piet Saraber's Finetta 88

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. Pride of place on a shelf, the intriguing 1954 Finetta 88, almost the last in a line of interesting and innovative cameras.
  2. Piet Saraber was born in Holland in 1899 and trained as an electrical engineer. He married a German woman and moved to Goslar in Germany in 1942, opening a consultancy dealing mainly with electrical and engineering projects, with a sideline interest in the development of cameras. The company was apparently named Finetta Werk. In 1947 Helmut Finke, a former Voigtlander designer, joined forces with Saraber, and in 1949 the first camera was produced, a relatively simple viewfinder model of bakelite construction named the Finette. Between 1949 and 1951 an astonishing range of cameras was produced, culminating in 1952 the very interesting and collectable Finetta 99, with a very similar body design to the Finetta 88 but having a clockwork film advance, focal plane shutter to 1/1000th and 3 lenses. This was apparently sold in the US as the Ditto 99, and today a working copy will fetch rather impressive prices. The company formed an association with Jacques Bogopolsky to develop the Bosley 8, a sub-miniature camera of some repute. However, the mid-50's saw the company fall into insolvency, like so many German camera manufacturers of the era, and production ceased in 1957.
    The Finetta 88 is a curious but rather loveable camera that actually takes very good photographs. The body and lens seems to be constructed of aluminum, with the detachable back constructed of a sheet metal of some description. The body is clad with a very attractive herring-bone patterned vinyl. Three lenses were available, the standard one as fitted to this copy being the 45mm Finetar f/2.8, and the others being a 43mm Finetar f/4 and a 70mm Finetar f6.3. The lens mount is about as simple as I can imagine, with the lens bayonet mounting to the body without any locking device, held in place by a friction fit. The tolerances seem very good and the lens mounts very firmly. The 45mm lens appears to be a nicely-coated 4-element design, but where it was made remains a mystery. The focusing is by estimation, the whole lens moving on a helical screw, with a somewhat awkward aperture adjustment, stopping the lens down to f/22, set into the front of the lens barrel.
  3. The large knob that advances the film and cocks the shutter revolves anti-clockwise, which takes a little getting used to, but the film is advanced solely by the friction of the take-up spool without a sprocket drive. Consequently, as the film is wound onto the spool, the spacing between the frames begins to increase, posing a few scanning problems with today's automated machinery. To rewind the film the winder knob is lifted, disengaging a pawl. The shutter release goes on for ever, and is one of the poorer features of the camera. The interior of the camera is tidy, with a rather glamorous hinged pressure plate.
  4. The back/base unlocks by a screw fitting on the base plate and slides downwards and off.
  5. The camera has a simple two-bladed shutter giving speeds of 1/25 to 1/250 plus B, and has a flash connection socket, though there's no indication which flash mode it synchronises with. The viewfinder is pleasantly bright with a grey-tinged outer frame; I worked on the assumption that the whole area was to be use for the 45mm lens and the centre for the 70mm lens, and my results seem to confirm this. The top of the camera is branded "Saraber: Goslar", some models apparently bearing the words "Finetta Werk" on the inside. The camera was also available in a tasteful dove-grey cladding, and was marketed in the US by Hanimex under the "Hanimar" name.
  6. I shot a roll of Fuji Superia 200 and found the results very pleasing; the little lens is very sharp and lacking in distortions with excellent contrast. I post a few samples below, and I think you'll agree that the quality is surprisingly good from such a simple camera. Scans from the Fuji Frontier.
  7. A very neat looking camera and nice pictures. With all that sophistication i wonder why they stopped with two shutter speeds! You got a very clean sample, as usual. Thanks for posting, a pleasure to browse. sp
  8. Where in this tired old world do you dig up such interesting cameras? You must have a museum grade collection by now. Any chance of a book? An E-book?
    As always, a special treat for the CMC crowd, thank so much for posting.
  9. SP, I should have been more explicit; the shutter speeds run from 1/25 to 1/250,including 1/60 and 1/125. It really is a very nice little camera. I'd love to put together a book of some sort, John, but it's currently all the old problem of too few hours in a day...
  10. What John said..... I think a treatise on classic camera design with exquisite examples from your vast collection. Perhaps an historical look say postwar to about 1975. mix it up on afforability, market(manuf etc !! .. Ok Ok not enough hours in a day! I do love your shooting anyw3ay and this little unheard of gem is amazing!
  11. Rick, you keep comming up with these strange cameras that I add to my "watch out for" list
    and the list is getting too long. Great looking camera and it works superbly.
  12. Another bravo for a story well told. Thanks!
    I had heard of this camera marque, but had not seen one before.
  13. Thanks, Chuck, Rod and JDM, it's satisfying when one can post quality pictures from an unusual camera.
  14. Dear Mr. Drawbridge, hello from Wiesbaden/Germany! For you, this article on the Finetta is, I suppose, already far from today, it's the past. But for me, it's absolutely fresh and new! I apologize for the following, but it is very hard to believe that you took these photos with a Finetta 88. Did you use a rangefinder (Watameter or...)? But, naturally, you are a serious, honest man whom I can trust. Why should you not tell the truth here? It would make no sense. I have to admit that I am extremely surprised by the quality and performance of the camera. Normally, we old stuff lovers all over the world are constantly told that only a Tessar or Elmar or Xenar can deliver good results. I can only say: Thanks a lot for your courage and talent to prove that all this silly babble is not true at all. Tessar & Co.: certainly fine, but "other mothers have pretty daughters too". And Mr. Saraber had to work under very hard conditions. Being in Munich or Stuttgart or Braunschweig or Wetzlar after WWII was rather easy, compared to the little town of Goslar where he settled down. No industry there which could help him, nothing. And Goslar was only a few kilometers away from the iron curtain! It was in a "photographic desert". If you don't know it: About two years ago, a book (in German language) was published on the Finetta cameras, the author is Heinz Veddeler and the title is: Finetta (Peter Sarabèr Kamerawerk Goslar 1948-1956), I don't know the publishers, I have seen an ad just know, a seller from Berlin offers copies for about $ 32.00 each (postage for Germany included): Mr. Dierk Ullrich, e-mail: raumbild@gmx.de. He is completely unknown to me, but I am sure he speaks English. Now I say goodbye, all the best to you and thanks again for your marvelous article on the Finetta! Kindest regards: Ralf Lauer (my neighbor is an American and many, many thousands of Americans (army members) live here and people of Wiesbaden are glad about this fact.)
  15. Ralf, I'm pleased you found the article after all this time. The Finetta isn't a well-known camera, and I'm interested to hear that a book has been written regarding the Finetta and Peter Sarabèr; thank you for the link. The little research I did to write this article suggested that there was an interesting history attached to the camera. I recently bid on a Finetta 99, with focal plane shutter and clockwork motor, a very interesting camera and probably the ultimate Finetta, but they fetch prices beyond my pocket. Yes, the photographs were all taken with the Finetta, the Finetar lens being a really competent performer. I'm old enough to be able to estimate distances fairly accurately, and I don't use a rangefinder. There is another interesting article and further samples on Mike Connealy's fine site:


    Thanks for the background information. While I'm certainly a Tessar fan, (the Finetar may well be of Tessar construction), over the past few years I've come to realise that there are huge numbers of different lenses from a large variety of sources both European and Japanese that compete in terms of quality, and "Tessar &Co." isn't always the winner. I hadn't realised that so many Americans live in your area; I'm actually down in New Zealand, but the Americans are our buddies!

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