This week our review camera is the Rheinmetall Weltax self erecting, dual format folder, taking 6×6 images, or 6×4.5 with the addition of a reduction mask placed over the film gate. It looks like this one was ‘top of the line’ as it has the four element Tessar 75mm F/3.5 lens, but ironically is equipped with an eight speed Tempor shutter, maxing out at 1/250, which was a bit slow for the times.
I purchased this Rheinmetall Weltax complete with the original box and all the paperwork, carrying case, and reduction mask. The date of manufacture appears to be late 1955 if I read the identification card correctly.
The Rheinmetall Weltax and Welta Weltax are the same camera, but VEB Welta-Kamera-Werk, according to online gossip, was overwhelmed with orders, and shifted some production to VEB Rheinmetall for a period of time.
The Weltax looks and feels like a quality camera, and has a good lens, so how does it perform? Read on, and be sure and check out the samples below.
Name; Rheinmetall Weltax. Model 37/286 0000?
Manufactured by; VEB Rheinmetall.
Made in; Germany.
Date of manufacture; Approximately 1955.
Original Price; unknown to me, but I’d guess around $50. Now about $100-$250 in good working condition on ebay. The Rheinmetall version seems to go for a little more money.
Build material; metal body with a leather bellows, and leatherette? coverings. Dull finish on top and bottom plates. Fit and finish are good.
Box contents; carrying case, operating manual and warranty card, camera and reduction mask.
Weight; my measurements, no film, 21.4oz (604g).
Dimensions; body is; 5.4″ (135mm) wide, 3.7″ (95mm) tall, and 1.75″ (45mm) deep closed, with lens extended; 4.4″ (111mm).
Focal length; 75mm. Totally different aspect ratio, but similar to the horizontal view of a 50mm lens in 135 format.
Focusing; front element type focusing; 3.1′ (1.0m) to infinity. Indicated (meters) marks at: 1.0 – 1.2 – 1.5 – 2.0 – 2.5 – 3.0 – 4.0 – 5.0 – 8.0 – 15.0 and ∞.
Viewfinder; very small but bright reverse Galilean type. Has a sliding button on top for changing the format (aspect ratio) of the image to either 6×6 or 6×4.5; and a parallax adjustment button on the side for close focusing.
Approximate resolution; good film and technique will make good 11×14″ prints. See sample images farther down the page.
Distortion; very little, and not noticable.
Light fall-off; I see moderate “corner shading” at wide apertures.
Color fringing; none that I notice.
Background blur or “bokeh;” good I think, I took one picture at close focus, see below.
Lens; 75mm F/3.5 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar T coated four element design.
Shutter and speed; Tempor eight speed shutter from 1 second to 1/250s. Ten aperture blades, and five shutter leafs. Aperture stops from F/3.5, F/4, F/5.6, F/8, F/11, F/16 and F/22. Ten second self-timer. No cable release at the shutter, but there is one on the shutter button, and it may be capped with a screw.
Double exposure prevention, no, so don’t forget to wind the film after each shot!
Film; 120 roll. Makes 12 pictures without the mask, and 16 with the mask. Has a native picture area of 56mm x 56mm. The “6×6” picture area is 3.6x larger than 135 film.
Flash; no, and no accessory shoe either, but has a PC nipple for off camera use.
Accessories for this model; probably some slip-on filters; the outer diameter of front lens rim is 37mm.
Crippling features and omissions; no double exposure prevention.
Good features; takes commonly available 120 film, has a reduction mask for more economical picture taking, and a self timer.
Quirks; the viewfinder mask is not terribly effective for framing 6×4.5, so it mostly resembles the 6×6 format.
Problems; none, but may suffer from the typical old folder issues like leaky bellows, sticky shutter etc. The slower shutter speeds on my copy are sticky.
Other versions; Welta Weltax is the same camera.
Go here to see the owner’s manual and make sure you tip the site owner.
Product shots with descriptions. Click pictures for larger versions.
The Weltax is a nice looking folder, similar to a Zeiss Ikon I think, except for the viewfinder. Here the vertical leveling foot is extended for table top use; unfortunately, there is no horizontal foot. To fold the camera back up, collapse the struts by pushing in on them, and then close the door until it latches. The camera will close even when the lens is extended for close focus.
The back opening latch is located under the leather hand strap on the right side, although not visible here.
The front cell is used to focus the camera, and extends out about 2mm at close focus.
The aperture scale is quite visible with silver numbers on a black background. The adjustment lever is well beyond the F/22 mark, but the pointer is at F/16.
The shutter cocking lever, self-timer and aperture lever are all in a row and lined up here. Incidentally, if you want to set the self-timer, you press the little round silver button next to the shutter lever towards the front (which releases a travel limiter), while moving the cocking lever all the way to the end until it stays; then press the shutter button, run back and get in the picture, and wait about 10 seconds for the shutter to trip!
The top view shows us the threaded shutter button to the left of the viewfinder, or below in this view.
The viewfinder has a sliding button to ‘mask’ the view for 4,5×6; however, I didn’t see much difference when changing it from 6×6. Inside is a sliding piece of thin steel that simply spreads, (6×6), or releases (4,5×6), two metal shields to block part of the horizontal view. If you look closely at the viewfinder button you can see some waded up cloth or paper inside the slot by the 4,5×6 side, I’ve since removed it. I guess the original owner only used the 6×6 format, and wanted to make sure the button didn’t work its way back over time and block the view.
The ∞-N button on the viewfinder side is for adjusting the framing for parallax. The ‘N’ is for ‘nahe’ or ‘near’ in english, and tilts and points the viewfinder slightly downward for correct close focus framing. You push down on the back of the viewfinder to set it back to infinity.
At the very top is a large knob used for advancing the film. They’ve included an directional arrow to make thing easier as it turns counter-clockwise, and is not unidirectional unless you force it and break the teeth off.
Not much to see here except the beautifully engraved cursive Rheinmetall name and logo. The inconspicuous button on the upper left side of the plate is for opening the camera and extending the lens. The off-center tripod socket is 3/8-16; get a reducer like this one to fit the more common ¼-20 screw.
With the back cover open you can see the shielded film roll holders, which I don’t care for. The supply side is easy enough to open, but the take-up holder is a real pain to load. To take out the full spool you have to pull up hard on the winding knob while swinging out the holder to clear the tab that engages the spool, then reverse the process to put the empty spool back in; it’s easier said than done.
The white serial number is behind the supply spool, see it in the shadows in larger version.
The reduction mask (also see very first image at the top) snaps over the film gate, and creates a different format; instead of square, you get an image similar to 135 (35mm) format, but in the vertical orientation, so you have to turn the camera sideways for your landscape type shots.
The back cover features two ruby red film advance windows; the center one is for the 6×6 format, and the left bottom one for 6×4,5. The sliding silver button is for closing both windows to block light when not actually advancing the film. Markings on the back include: an ‘arrow’ sign between the two red windows; ‘Made in Germany’ and 37/286 0000.
Here’s the carrying case that that I forgot to photograph in the box and contents picture at the top of the review, it has been thoughtfully designed with holes for seeing the film advance windows so you don’t have to take the camera out of the case. There are no markings on the case as far as I can see.
Sample shots below.
All samples are displayed at 4000 x 4000 pixels wide when enlarged, and that’s all the resolution included in the film. Scanned on a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED.
Here are a few samples for your viewing pleasure. Kodak Portra 400 film used. Click images for a larger version.
I focused in front of the flowers for some reason-is it me or the camera? However, the lens seems to have a nice background blur signature. I think this was taken at F/5.6.
Colorful aspen near the ‘Iron Door’ restaurant. This image was taken around F/16 at infinity focus, but it doesn’t seem all that sharp.
The same picture as above, but in the 6×4,5 mode using the mask.
Hillside vegetation is returning nicely after being burned flat years ago. About F/16.
Yellow! Colorful Aspen trees line the parking lot of ‘Ski Valley’ on Mt Lemmon.
The Rheinmetall Weltax is a good solid performer; my copy has no light leaks or any other major issues other than a sticky shutter at slow speeds. I used Kodak Portra 400 so I was able to keep the shutter speeds around 1/250 to 1/125 for my bright late morning photo shoot, and all went well. I like the colors and contrast from the Zeiss Tessar with ‘T’ coatings, but for some reason the sharpness was not as good as I thought it would be. None of the images are tack sharp, some are totally acceptable, and some are not good at all, that’s why I only have four sample images for you. I didn’t notice any camera movement or other issues that would cause a slightly soft image across the frame.
I remember another 1950s folder I reviewed that I wasn’t overly impressed with, and it also had a Carl Zeiss ‘Jena‘Tessar. Are those Jena lenses not as good as the others, or what? Of course, sharpness is not the only quality one might want from an old folder; size, weight, and certain features might be more important to some people than mere sharpness.
On a different note; while doing some research on the Rheinmetall Weltax before the review, I came across the exact same features and specs on nearly every site out there, although there aren’t many that specialize in just the Rheinmetall version. Unfortunately, I think one person did a review, and all the others copied that review. Most mention there is no cable release, (located on the shutter button and may be capped with a screw), or ‘Rheinmetall is embossed on the back of the camera, (mine is not), and no one mentions the ‘T’ coatings on the Tessar lens; is my copy the only one? I think not. Some didn’t have ‘T’ coatings, and some did like mine; I suppose it depends on when the lens was made. Oh well, much of the info on those sites turned out to be correct, so that’s good. The Rheinmetall version is not that popular, so maybe those sites included the Welta specifications thinking they were all the same.
So I really do like this old folder, I may even get the shutter CLA’d and take it for another spin. Someone sure took care of the camera, and it still looks great after nearly seven decades. I also appreciate that the owner kept the box and all the papers that came with it; obviously they took the purchase seriously, and probably enjoyed making pictures with it.
That’s it for the Rheinmetall Weltax review! Please consider buying through my links and help support the site. Thanks for visiting!