Type: Twin-lens reflex medium format film camera
Year of release: 1961-1967
Focal length: 80mm (44mm fullframe equivalent)
Aperture: f3.5 (DOF of fullframe f1.9)
Condition of my copy: Completely functional, but visible marks of use on the body. Lenses appear to be free of fungus, but little scratches are visible. I also have the leather case, which features a tripod mount. Sadly, the seams have started to disintegrate.
The Flexaret Automat or Mk VI is a twin-lens reflex camera by the czech company Meopta. Nowadays known for high-standard microscope lenses, Meopta can be described as the Carl Zeiss of eastern europe. Following that comparison, the Flexaret is build like a tank with an all metal body and a complex system of fine mechanics, which makes this a rather heavy camera. Due to its heft (it weighs roughly the same as a Canon 6D Mk. II with battery, SD card and 17-40mm f4 L lens) and boxy shape it might be difficult to transport in a regular camera bag. If you’re lucky you might get a copy with a leather case. Anyway, the camera features two strap mounts.
As all full manual analog cameras the Flexaret doesn't need a battery; everything is done mechanically. The lens is a fixed 80mm f3.5, but considering the Flexaret's 6x6 medium format crop factor of 0.55, it behaves like a 44mm f1.9 full frame equivalent. The lens is extremely sharp and produces a quite circular background blur which some might see as barrel distortion, however, I think it has a special aesthetic (comparable to other older lenses from eastern europe, like the famous Helios 44-2).
The added „Automat“ refers to a clever mechanism concerning the shutterspeed and aperture. Using the geared dials for respective features, the user is able to set both in relation to each other and then turn another dial to change both in sync, always resulting in the same exposure. This dial is conveniently labeled with lightmetre values.
When I first had the Flexaret in my hands, I was afraid it might be broken. The shutter button didn't work. But some research showed, that this still full mechanical camera has a mechanism, which blocks the shutter as long as there's no film inside. You can trick this mechanism by opening the body and holding down the lever on the right side of the film chamber.
A little treat this camera features is definitely the possibility to adapt 35mm film as well. Sadly though, I don't have this adapter so no sample images here.
If you're interested in a twin-lens reflex, I recommend to look beyond Rollei and Yashica, because with the Flexaret you will get quite some bang for your buck.
Pros: good sharpness and contrast, nice bokeh, clever exposure mechanism, big bright focusing screen, can take 35mm film as well, very robust
Cons: very heavy, slightly overbuild, rather long minimum focus distance