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Zeh Zeca-Flex
France Version française
Photos by FLAND text by FLAND. From the collection of FLAND. Last update 2021-02-24 par Sylvain Halgand.

Manufactured or assembled in Germany from 1937 to (After) 1939.
Index of rarity in France: Rare (among non-specialized garage sales)
Inventory number: 6759

See the complete technical specifications
Chronology of cameras Zeh 

The Zeca-Flex, released in 1937, is a unique camera. Its silhouette is slim and elegant, its construction and finish are of quality, its photographic potentials are excellent. In short, it had everything for success!

And yet it was a commercial failure for its maker Paul Zeh Kamerawerk of Dresden, Germany. It has therefore only been produced in a limited number (less than 2,000 apparently).

It was certainly the daring, for the time, formula of the folding twin-lens reflex that did not appeal to the public. It is unclassifiable: I am folding see my bellows, I am TLR see my two lenses, I am Klapp see my extension struts! The only two other examples of this type, the Perfekta and Superfekta from the company Welta, simultaneously suffered the same setbacks.

The formula must have seemed too complicated and arguably more fragile than the robust, compact and reassuring appearance of Rolleiflex and other existing twin-lens reflex cameras. Furthermore, the saving in size or weight due to the folding ability is not obvious. Finally, the fact that at the same time the market was quickly turning to 35mm cameras must also have played a role.

Nonetheless, by creating rarity, this initial fiasco contributed to make the Zeca-Flex an iconic device today, sought after by collectors.

The use of the Zeca-Flex is not a problem for a connoisseur of foldings or TLRs of the time, once the taking lens has been deployed and the position of the various settings has been identified.

Note that the distance is adjusted by rotating the button located at the top left of the camera front. The selected distance is displayed on a scale above the viewing lens (scale in feet on this camera).

One originality of the camera is the mechanical frame counter (situated on the right side) coupled to the film advance. However, there is also a red window on the back but it was probably uniquely to position the first of the 12 frames.

Another original feature of the Zeca-Flex is its very bright viewing lens, smaller and with a shorter focal length than the taking lens. This was aimed at having a mirror and focusing screen noticeably smaller than on conventional TLRs, in order to get a reduced volume once folded. This design requires a special mechanism to coordinate the focus for the focusing screen and for the film which have different displacement ranges (2.5 mm for one, 7 mm for the other). Reducing the focusing screen surface does not hinder focusing accuracy at all, and a magnifying glass is present in the waist-level finder if required.

The difficult years of the beginning at present forgotten, the Zeca-Flex has now many years of assured success, commanding admiration for its superb Art-deco-influenced look as well as the ingenuity and daring of the technical solutions it implements. In addition, in the hands of enthusiasts, it can still dazzle you by producing splendid photos.

Zeh Zeca-Flex



Zeh Zeca-Flex