View Full Version : 9x12 Super Compacts? Recommendations Please

Frank Petronio
11-Jun-2008, 19:26
9x12 Super Compacts have always been under the radar for me -- I've only gleened a few bits and pieces online.

For a modern use, wanting a super compact large format camera for landscapes and middle distances with normal wide lenses (135-ish) and wanting to use film, not glass plates, what should I be looking for? Which brands, models, and timeframes are the sharpest and most reliable options?

Also what about film, holders, rangefinders, and carrying strategies?

What about ground glass viewing? Are they somehow more dim for some reason?

And what kind of prices are we talking about?

I realize these aren't ideal for close portraits due to the lack of a rangefinder, but anything over 15 feet away seems pretty easy to estimate...

Finally, why didn't anyone make a true 4x5 version of one? I don't need a Graflock back, just a plain old spring would do fine.


Ole Tjugen
11-Jun-2008, 22:42
The ultimate "super compact" must be the KaWee Patent Etui. It is smaller than a box of 9x12 film!

Somewhat thicker are a number of "normal" 9x12 plate cameras, of which the best may be the Voigtländer Bergheil.

These all use metal single-plate holders, which can be used with film in inserts. There are, unfortunately, many different types of these.

The 9x12 folding plate cameras seem to all have been made between 1910 and 1935, with the later generally being better. There were also 4.5x6, 6.5x9, 10x15 and 13x18 versions made, only the 13x18 one are extremely rare since anyone wanting that size woud buy a "proper camera".

Here's a picture of a 6.5x9 KW Patent Etui:

Chuck Pere
12-Jun-2008, 05:20
I'm using a Zeiss Maximar 207/7. It has a Zeiss Tessar 13.5 f4.5. I use it like a view camera with ground glass focusing. No dark cloth only the standard glass shield. Gets a little hard to see in bright light. You have to focus, remove the glass and slip in a holder. So you work slow. For film holders need to have the proper inserts. My lens seems very sharp. And the almost 4x5 negative helps. I also like the shape better than 4x5. I'm more of a 5x7 and 2x3 person. I carry mine in a smallish shoulder bag and work out of that. A big advantage for me is I don't have to put the bag down like I do for a view camera.

I bought mine on Ebay for around $130 with shipping. It included 12 holders with inserts and a nice 120 Rada back. The holders even have the inserts drilled along the edge for numbering. This outfit was some body's pride and joy a long time ago. I did have to do a lot of cleanup but all looks OK. Probably did luck out a get a bargain here.

I did find that the only easy to get film in USA was Efke 100. Else you need to look to overseas. Even 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 sheet has more choices. So I may stock up on film because you never know.

Big downside is no interchangeable lenses. That can get old after awhile. If you are looking for more speed of use or a rangefinder I would look to a Graphic type of camera. You can focus my camera using a distance scale. Never tried it. Also holders I have are single sheet not double like modern ones. With a graphic you can fire off 6 shots with a grafmatic holder for speed.

I'm trying to see how uncoated lenses work in hot light in the woods. That's my main thinking on use of these cameras. I also have another 9x12 with no name on it and a Rodenstock's Extra-Rapid-Aplanat lens. The camera is not close to the Zeiss in build quality or condition. Yet it has a certain look I like. The Tessar may be too good.

If you buy one get it with holders and make sure the holders have the film inserts. Else you will spend time tracking down the right holders for your type of camera as they are not standard like modern holders.

12-Jun-2008, 07:11
There are a lot of those old 9x12 film/plate folders out there, many with names I never heard of because they were assembled from off-the-shelf parts or just rebranded from well-know makers.
The three which are most likely to survive in good shape are Zeiss Maximar, Voigtlander Bergheil, and Kodak Reconar, all of which use the same standard-size film/plate holders. The quality of Zeiss construction is clearly superior to the others, but I think the Bergheil to be the most usable.
They typically came with either 135mm or 150mm lenses, but IMO the 150mm is a little too long.
EFKE 100 is a great film for these old folders.

Benno Jones
12-Jun-2008, 08:16
The Bergheils have a bayonet mount and interchangeable lenses, but I've rarely seen the alternate lenses for sale (there's a German seller on the auction site that occasionally lists a long lens for upwards of $1000).

I have 2 Bergheils (6.5x9 & 9x12) with Heliars that I use fairly frequently (I've found 2 rollfilm backs that fit the smaller, one a 6x9 with 6x6 insert, the second a 6x7 so I can be fairly versatile with it), and an ICA in 10x15. Unfortunately with the demise of J&C, I have yet to find a US source for 10x15 film but I still have a box and a half in the film fridge. I suppose when I run out I'll need to order from one of the European sources. The 9x12 Bergheil was a real find -- the green leather version in beautiful shape with a system case and 2 matching leather envelopes that hold 3 plate holders each, all six plate holders with film inserts.

Gordon Moat
12-Jun-2008, 09:51
I have a Voigtländer Bergheil 9x12 camera, finished in dark green leather with a green leather bellows. It came with the bayonet mount, but without original lens. So I have a 13.5cm Rodenstock Eurynar mounted, using a two piece aluminum adapter I made on a lathe. It is super compact, and comes with a separate adapter back for 4x5. Best I can tell is that it dates from 1911, though the 4x5 adapter back seems later. I don't really use it, so if you are interested, feel free to make me an offer.


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)

Glenn Thoreson
12-Jun-2008, 11:28
Gordon's camera would make a nice outfit. The Eurynar lens is very sharp. I have a 9X12 Zeiss Taxo, which is the "budget" camera of the Zeiss line. It has the Novar triplet lens in the questionable Derval shutter. The Novar lens can be quite good, stopped down. I would use the old girl if I could ever run across some film holders. The camera is no bigger than a large Kodak folder.

Emmanuel BIGLER
13-Jun-2008, 02:28
I have offered a Voigtländer Avus 9x12 plate camera to a member of my family, it features front rise and lateral shift but might not be eligible as super-compact !

So far I have no problem finding 9x12 cut film in Europe. At least in B&W.
It should not be too difficult to insert a 9x12 sheet of film inside a 9x12 "normalfalz" plate holder with a spacer plate ?

I have seen recently on e-bay a 6x9 rollfilm holder in 9x12 normalfalz attachement, common, as Ole Tjungen explained to me, to many European 9x12 plate cameras. My understanding is that the owner of this normalfalz rollfilm holder is now a well-known German member of this group ;)

As far as 10x15 cm cut film supply is concerned, this size was originally listed for the Rollei/Maco R3 ; I have no idea whether this size is actually supplied for this film, buth the German Wephota company sells 10x15 cm B&W cut film.
So as long as vintage 10x15 cm cameras refuse to stop working, there will be a supplier for 10x15 cm film;)

Jiri Vasina
13-Jun-2008, 02:49
Foma still lists their Fomapan 100 in 10x15cm size (and 9x12cm among others). So that is another alternative should local sources fail...

Emmanuel BIGLER
13-Jun-2008, 02:56
Thanks Jiri for the info ! long life to Foma products !
off-topic : may be our Irish friends do not want to hear about the Lisbon Act, and as a French citizen I am not really the right person to criticize Ireland about a future European Constitution, but no need of a referendum to decide that we do need European film manufacturers !

Gordon Moat
14-Jun-2008, 19:55

Just for comparison, here is a Voigtländer 9x12 next to a Shen-Hao HZX45AII. Both have a 135mm lens in place, though quite different in size there too. Excuse the shoddy video cam pic; just something I did quickly.


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)

Emmanuel BIGLER
16-Jun-2008, 00:50
Great image, Gordon !
Which Voigtländer model is-it ? It ressembles the Avus I offered to my brother-in-law.

16-Jun-2008, 02:03
One project I've put on hold for a few more months is to convert a 9x12 camera to take bayonet fit lenses. I'll fit a K mount to the camera and adapters to each lens. Like this. (http://www.apug.org/forums/583400-post14.html)

They are great small LF cameras, there is someone in the US who still occasionally makes one off custom adapters to allow them to take 5x4 dark-slides.

Some of the better 9x12 cameras "Recomars" were made by Kodak/Nagel plant in Germany for the US market and were finished in the US with US Optics, some were also fitted with a rangefinder.


Chuck Pere
16-Jun-2008, 04:39
Do Kodak Recomars use 9x12cm film or do they use 3 1/4 x 4 1/4? My McKeown's guide shows the Recomar 33 as using 3 1/4 x 4 1/4.

16-Jun-2008, 04:51
The US Recomars use 3 1/4 x 4 1/4, but it's only the plate/film holder that differs they are essentially the same as the German 9x12 Nagel cameras.

Remember that film sizes are nominal not exact.


16-Jun-2008, 06:41
The Recomars used either 9x12 or 3.25x4.25 film adapters for the plate holders, and the film pack adapters took standard 3.25x4.25 film packs (as did Polaroid peel-apart pack cameras). What a pity that film packs are dead and gone!

16-Jun-2008, 07:01
Remember that roll film backs were also available, I have 2 Rollex 6x9 backs for my 9x12's


16-Jun-2008, 08:12
I like to carry my 9X12 Voigtlander AVUS when I travel. Four holders and the Avus filt easily in a Domke 803 satchel with room to spare. (My Avus has had a 90/6.8 Angulon adapted to it.)

Unfortunately the holders are relatively heavy. Four 9X12 Voigtlander holders weigh 12 oz. My future project is to build a few double-sided holders out of aluminum and plastic.

Glenn Thoreson
16-Jun-2008, 10:52
Here's something as rare as hen's teeth to ponder: With my Recomar 18 6.5X9cm camera, I received two Kodak holders that were made specifically to hold U.S. 6X9 sheet film on the original back. I've never seen or heard of any more of these. The best thing about them is they're still brand new in the package. I'm sure Kodak made metric to U.S. holders for the 9X12cm cameras at one time, but That's another mystery for someone to solve.

Gordon Moat
16-Jun-2008, 14:24
Great image, Gordon !
Which Voigtländer model is-it ? It ressembles the Avus I offered to my brother-in-law.

Merci Emmanuel. This is the Voigtländer Bergheil, which best I can tell dates near 1911. The lens is a slightly later 13.5cm Rodenstock Eurynar. I made a two part aluminum adapter that allows the bayonet to be used, so this lens can be removed, though it folds up easily into the camera.

It only has shift (rise/fall) so I don't really use this camera. There is also a 4x5 adapter back that slots into place. A few more images at:


You can see how much smaller it is than my Shen-Hao, though I really do prefer all the movements on the Shen-Hao. A modern camera is much more versatile, even if it is nearly as big as two Bergheils, and substantially heavier.

Seriously, if anyone is interested in the Bergheil, it is up for sale. It is unrestored, though the bellows seem light tight, and the shutter speeds all sound different (untested).


Gordon Moat Photography (http://www.gordonmoat.com)