The ‘Flash Gordon’ camera: Voigtlander Perkeo 3×4

Imagine the world with smoking factory chimneys, black limousines, black bowler hats, white zeppelins. Back to the fantasy of Fritz Lang and the music video of Queen. A world where the Perkeo of Voigtlander saw light.

Voigtlander Perkeo 3x4
Voigtlander Perkeo 3×4 for the popular (still available) 127 film.

Everything about this camera is unusual, a curiosity of Voigtlander. The medium format is due to the serial number from 1933, not with the well-known 120 film (6×6 cm shots), but with the ‘new’ 127 (A8) roll with recording format 3×4 cm: 16 photos on one roll. It makes the camera special and rare. It has only been produced for a small number of years and was overtaken by the rising popularity of the famous Bessa I.

Voigtlander Perkeo 3x4
Voigtlander Perkeo 3×4. Look at the chain on the front cap. It is attached to the focussing knob and works even with the camera closed in order to fastly focus (Sports Photography).

The camera is self-erecting. As often with folding cameras, it was available with a range of lenses (all 5.5 cm; slightly longer than standard) and shutters: f/4.5 Skopar in Embezet shutter, f/3.5 Skopar and the high quality Heliar in Compur shutter. There is not much known about the camera, except that it has the same body-mounted focusing knob as the larger-format 1930s folding ‘serie-cameras’ Prominent and Virtus (with Rangefinders), moving the whole lens and shutter unit on focusing rails. It is even apparently possible to set the focus before unfolding the camera. The camera has the same characteristic ‘Flash Gordon’ chunky knurled control knobs as those other two Voigtländer folders. The original model (which is shown) has a folding frame finder on the body.

voigtlander perkeo 3x4
On the front an elegant iron plaquette with the shallow depth of field table (voigtlander perkeo 3×4)

The Embezet shutter has a fastest time of 1/100 s and can go slower to 1/50 and 1/25, plus T(ime) and B(ulb). Not a luxury, but it is sufficient to take photographs in many conditions. In addition, the Skopar lens has a thread for possible filters. There is also a self-timer and a threaded connection for external shutters. On the top (or is it the bottom anyway?) is a collapsible viewfinder for 3×4 rectangular photos. Furthermore, one of the eye-catching buttons serves to adjust the focus (from 90 cm to 20 metres and infinity).

voigtlander perkeo 3x4
voigtlander perkeo 3×4 with its characteristic knobs for film winding and focussing

Checking the film numbers is done through the two red viewing windows on the back. The two equal numbers appear in the windows so that the negative is exactly aligned with the lens. Checking the film numbers is done through the two red viewing windows on the back. The two equal numbers appear in the windows so that the negative is exactly aligned with the lens. Please note that only black and white rolls are insensitive to red light entering through these windows. De Perkeo has a high collector’s value. The Perkeo (meaning dwarf) is a very small pocket camera with a very high quality lens. Especially in those times when competition was fierce with the upcoming Leica III and the Zeiss Ikons rangefinders. But the oldest German brand, Voigtlander, was able to hold its competition off for decades due to its unique design and its attachment to medium format in particular.

Perkeo 3x4
An advertisement from 1933 for the Voigtlander Perkeo 3×4

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