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Polish TLRs

So far as I know, only WZFO ever made TLRs in Poland, but I'm ready to be corrected if I'm wrong!

My informants, Per Backman from Sweden and Barbara Wróbel-Trzeciak from Poland, say that in addition to the WZFO models here, the last model was a Start 66S, the same as 66 but with an automatic framecounter. The only halfway decent picture of the rare 66S I've found is at this Polish site.

The Start II is interesting in being the only crank-wind (Rolleiflex-style) model in the WZFO series.

Barbara also sent some further information, which I have copied at the bottom of this page - below the camera details

WZFO was merged with PZO in 1964-65.

Michal Adamczyk's site is useful on Polish cameras. If you find any errors on this page or have any camera I might be interested in, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. Click on the small "thumbnail pictures below to go to larger ones.

As on all pages, click on the small picture for any camera to go to a page with more details.

WZFO Start

The first of the Start series dates from 1954. It's a basic, but neat model, fairly limited, but seems to be very robust. The shutters on these don't seem to get sticky and useless like some more upmarket models...
Taking lens is Euktar 75mm f4.5
Shutter unnamed 1/10 to 1/200

WZFO Start-B

The Start-B is a development out of the original Start, although I'm not sure what date (late fifties?). It isn't a vast improvement, but the lens and shutter were changed, although still not very sophisticated!
Taking lens is Emitar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed 1/15 to 1/250

WZFO Noco-Flex

The Noco-Flex is identical to the Start-B, apart from the nameplate and the badge in the centre of the viewfinder lid. It's certainly fairly rare - this is the only one I've ever seen, although McKeown has a photo of one. I found it in a London camera shop and managed to get a fair deal - it was a bit dirty!
Roel Schiedon sent me this piece of information from Holland: "NOCOFLEX was the brandname for export to the Netherlands during the 60's. The importing company was NOORDHUIS and COMPAGNIE, which explains the NoCoFLEX brandname.

Taking lens is Emitar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed 1/15 to 1/250

WZFO Start 66

An interesting one. I bought it at a fair quite cheaply. It's not in McKeown - I only found one other on the web - I contacted the owner and he'd never heard of another before. Another did turn up on eBay recently, and I have heard from a photographer in Poland who had bought a third one.

It's not quite the last Start model; there's a rare 66S, which turns up for sale only occasionally (see below).

Taking lens is Emitar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed 1/15 to 1/250

Universa Uniflex 66

This is another rebadged Start-B. I've only ever seen a couple for sale - this one turned up in Germany. I suspect that it may have been made for a foreign distributor - perhaps in Germany. Any information gratefully received!

Taking lens is Emitar 75mm f3.5
Shutter unnamed 1/15 to 1/250

Start II

Otherwise rather similar to the knob-wind models, the Start II is the only crank-wind version WZFO produced. The lens surround is unique to this model, and the lens is a the Euktar found on the original Start. This confirms the sequence with the Start II looking to be the second one produced. One would suspect that WZFO dropped the crank as being too expensive or unreliable, and went back to knobs for the later models.
Taking lens is Euktar 75mm f3.5
Shutter Valor 1/10 to 1/250

Piotr Wróbel-Trzeciak wrote (September 2007):

"I would like to tell you some information about the family of START tlr cameras. As you stated at your website, these cameras were produced by WZFO that, after a merger, were incorporated by PZO - the Polish Optical Enterprises in Warsaw (est. 1921). The PZO factory still exists in Warsaw (address: ul. Grochowska no. 316/320, Warsaw) but unfortunately they gave up with the photographic equipment manufacturing and and now are in the microscopy and medical products business.

As far as the START TLR cameras are concerned, the last two models were: START 66 and START 66S. The START 66 is shown at your website (in production from 1967 to 1970). The START 66 S was the latest model with the same shutter and lenses as START 66.The only difference is that START 66 S enjoys an automatic frame counter, so you do not need to observe the primitive red glass window at the back of the camera in order to advance the film properly. This feature of START 66 S is common with START II, but START II was fitted with a film crank, whereas START 66 S is supported by a film knob known from START 66.

Anyway, mechanically the START II is the most advanced camera of the whole family. Another difference is that START 66 and START 66 S were made of the steel plates whereas the earlier cameras were made of the alloy casts (better mechanically but more heavy).

The START 66 and START 66 S had new shutter using more modern sequence of speeds (B, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250), whereas the earlier STARTs had: B, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 sequence (START II had: B, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250).

All START cameras were fitted with the f:3.5 'triplet anastigmat' (or 'Cook triplet') type of lens. EUKTAR lens in the earlier cameras and EMITAR lens in START 66 and START 66S. I know from some web pages that EMITARs were assembled using the (east) German elements whereas EUKTARs were made of elements from WZFO.

Comparing to Rolleiflexes, Autocords etc., the STARTs were not exciting, but I saw on the web some pictures taken by START 66 (probably at f:11 of f:16) that were just wonderful (tack sharp and very plastic)."