Pancro meets... Meopta Flexaret III

In todays article I´m writing about a little test with the 120 Bergger Pancro 400 in one of my oldest medium frame cameras, the Meopta Flexaret.

This camera is a two-lens medium frame camera, built from 1939 until 1971 in Czechoslovakia in different versions.

Mine seems to be a strange mix of III and IIIa... The III/IIIa was built between 1947 and 1956. The III was the regular version with a Compur rapid shutter up to  

1/500sec. The IIIa was the oversea version, especially for the US, with a silver crown on top, a synchro-contact on the side of the body and a synchronized Prontor-S shutter up to 1/300sec. Normally I own the oversea version, but the range scale is in meter than in feet and the fast times are on the wrong side... 

Some facts about that old beauty:

The lever for the film transport does only a 100 degrees turn, so you have to obeye the small window on the back for a correct transport without overlapping pictures.

The cock lever is placed on the left side of the lens, a very fine and short way lever, so handle with care...

The shutter is the lever below the lens. To take the picture you have to push the lever to the left, not easy to get comfortable with.

The focus is a also a lever below the Mirar 80mm f3.5 lens, to focus you have to move the lever from left to right.

The focusing screen is very dark, even with the magnifying glass focussing is a challenge sometimes.


But how would this old lady stack up with one of the most modern films of our days?

The first image of every row is straight out of camera, the second one after post-processing and different close-ups of remarkable parts of the image. Click the images to enlarge...

The house with a typical Berlin entrance was a good motive due to its various color tones, light and dark areas. Already in the non-processed image you can see the dynamic range, the Pancro 400 is able to depict. In the second image, only the contrasts has been strengthened. The image was really blurry in the corners, especially on the left lower side. In the center, the details surprised me... I didn´t expect very much of that old camera due to sharpness and details, but the results has been very positive. Clear lines of the window frames, the milky glass and the structure of the wall is shown in a really great way, the Pancro 400 shows absolutely what he´s able to deliver in medium format.

The grain is very smooth and comfortable, not disturbing and giving this unique real analog look.

This image has been made with "open aperture" of f3.5... You can still see that comfortable grain of the Pancro, the contrasts and details are really fine in the non-processed version. With stronger contrasts and more clarity in the second one, the Pancro delivers a image with the typical medium frame look.

when working with open aperture, the film showed a smoother and softer sharpness but keeps the details very well. The screws at the holder of the wheel, the details of the indicator are displayed very good.

Here´s an example how difficult it might be to work with the dak focusing screen of the Flexaret, especially when working with full aperture. Normally the main focus point should be on the scooters, but you you can see it about two meters before them in the blurry area of the image. But even with this photographers mistake, the processed image in the middle is a very good result for a nearly 70 years old camera.


Finally, I was really surprised by the working condition of the old camera. I checked it before the tests, especially lens, shutter and light sealings but in that age you never know... There weren´t much more results, because the rear window for the film transport didn´t work fine, so I had to estimate how far the lever transports the film roll and I can tell you, three movements are to much, take one and a half for safe results...

I knew how the Bergger Pancro 400 works in the Hasselblad 500 and the Mamiya 645... The biggest difference shown by the Flexaret is at first a softer sharpness, the so called "crispyness" of the images. The Pancro delivers fine detailed results in a smooth way with this vintage TLR. 

You always have to remind yourself, this is a 70 years old camera, don´t know where and how it was stored and treated during the last decades with a uncoated lens... The results, the Bergger delivers with that camera are really awesome and now, knowing the camera and it´s working conditions and after changing the focusing screen, I´m planning a second part of this challenge as a professional portrait work with the Bergger Pancro 400...