The Welti[]

The Welti is a 35mm folding viewfinder camera made by Welta from 1935 through the 1960s. It is one of a confusing family of nearly identical cameras that also include the lower cost Weltix and Watson. Like many European manufacturers, numerous enhancements and changes were made during the production life of any given model. All models have: an optical viewfinder with a spring-loaded mount that compensates for parallax, a depth of field (DOF) table on a metal plated attached to the camera's back, a hinged side-opening back, manually cocked shutters, and knurled knobs for film advance and rewind.

The Welti has a die-cast aluminium body with chrome plated (except in the very early models, which were painted) top and bottom cover plates. The very earliest Weltis also lacked a body mounted shutter release; again, subsequent models added that feature. Weltis with three element lenses utilize front element focusing. Those with four, five, or six element lenses utilize unit focusing helicoid mounts. Most (if not all) Weltis used Compur shutters, usually made by Welta under license. Weltis can be found with either German or English DOF tables.

Early model Weltis have the viewfinder located in the center of the top plate; later model Welti cameras had a viewfinder offset to the user's left. The accessory shoe was optional on both versions but appears to have been standardized at some later point in time.

In 1938, the Welti model with the Schneider Xenon lens was selling in New York stores for $74.50, or about $1100 US in 2007 terms. In 1956, the Welti 1 with a Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm f/3.5 lens sold in those stores for $37.50 ($280 US in 2007), or, with a Meyer Trioplan 50mm f/2.9 for $25.95 US ($195 US in 2007) terms. The main difference in prices was due to the vast economic differences between pre-war Germany and post-war East Germany as well as the lack of appeal of these "old fashioned" cameras.

The Weltini[]

The Welta Weltini is basically a rangefinder version of the Welti with some additional features.

After World War II, production of the Welti resumed in East Germany; the model was then called the Welti I. It features an interesting function copied from the pre-war Welta Weltini - the focusing lever (and lens) automatically returns to the infinity setting when the folding bed is closed, simplifying that procedure and preventing inadvertent damage to the camera. As in the Weltinis, the inclusion of this feature resulted in a much deeper drop-down bed than in earlier Welti cameras. Early Welti I cameras can be found equipped with pre-war Schneider lenses in Compur shutters, which can be misleading when trying to date the camera. Later, after those supplies ran out, the cameras were usually equipped with Zeiss Jena Tessar or Meyer Trioplan lenses in Vebur and Cludor shutters. In production until 1950, it was replaced by the Welti Ic, which has the viewfinder integrated into a raised area on the top plate, with the accessory shoe on top of the that housing. Parallax compensation is provided through the use of a knurled ring surrounding the eyepiece. The this last model was produced well into the 1960s.

The Weltix[]

The Weltix was the lowest cost of all folding Welta 35mm cameras. The body is constructed of metal stampings, with the top and bottom plates painted black. The lenses used are front element focusing as the camera lacks a helicoid focusing mount. This may have been a domestic only model, as observed copies have the DOF table in German. A body mounted shutter release was added in later models. Both Prontor and Compur shutters were used. The Weltix does not appear to have been offered with an accessory shoe.

The Watson[]

The Watson is similar to the Weltix except that it uses the same die-cast aluminium body as the Welti. The top and bottom plates are painted black. This may have been primarily an export version, as observed copies have the DOF table in English. Like the Weltix, a body mounted shutter release was added in later models. Like the Welti, the Watson may be found with or without an accessory shoe.

In 1938, the Watson model with the Weltar f/2.9 lens was selling in New York stores for $19.50, or about $285 US in 2007 terms.

In typical German fashion, the features of all these cameras were enhanced over time, such that a late model Watson may have features lacking in an early model Welti - for example, an accessory shoe and a body mounted shutter release. Therefore, a late Watson may appear nearly identical to an early Welti. Perhaps the easiest way of identifying one of these cameras is that all, except the Welti Ic, have the name of the model embossed in the leather on the left side of the camera's front. If that leather is missing or badly damaged, identification can be difficult, particularly since the Welta factory did not use camera serial numbers.


The lenses used on the Welti included:

  • Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 5cm f/3.5 - 4 elements
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 5cm f/2.8 - 4 elements
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 5cm f/2 - 6 elements[1]
  • Meyer-Optik Trioplan 50mm f/2.9 - 3 elements
  • Schneider Xenar 5cm f/2.8 - 5 elements
  • Schneider Xenar 5cm f/3.5 - 4 elements
  • Schneider Xenon 5cm f/2.0 - 6 elements
  • Steinheil Cassar 5cm f/2.9 - 3 elements
  • Steinheil Cassar 50mm f/3.5 - 3 elements
  • Welta-Freital Weltar 5cm f/2.9 - (possibly a rebadged Cassar)
  • Rodenstock Trinar Anastigmat 5cm f/2,9 - 3 elements

On the Watson and Weltix:

  • Steinheil Cassar 5cm f/2.9 - 3 elements
  • Welta-Freital Weltar 5cm f/2.9 - (possibly a rebadged Cassar)

Japanese advertisement[]


  1. Popular Photography, May, 1941