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The Stölma II, a Scandinavian Folding Camera

The Stölma II, a Scandinavian Folding Camera

Following my misstep with the Ernemann Heag, it was back to the drawing board in my search for a viewing screen suitable for use with the KW Patent Etui. It wasn't long before another folding camera turned up on the Kamerastore website, and this time I might be lucky.

The Stölma II folding camera was made in the 1920s and sold by the Swedish importer Stölma. From what I can gather, they were either German-made cameras imported by Stölma and rebadged under the company name or were made in Sweden as a collaboration between Stölten, a subsidiary of Stölma, and another Swedish company, Simmonsen. In this case, I reckon that this is the German-made rebadged by Stölma option, as the shutter is a Gauthier AGC (Alfred Gauthier, Calmbach) Vario shutter made between 1910 and the 1920s, and the lens is a Laack Extra Rapid Aplanat f7.7 lens made by Julius Laack of Brandenburg, Germany.

The quality of this camera is actually really nice. It's quite heavy, more like the generic folding camera than the Ernemann Heag all wooden camera, and the shutter still has the original cable release attached, in really good condition. There's also a lovely red bubble level next to the external viewfinder (which is in really hazy condition), still with the fluid and bubble inside. But what really attracted me to this camera on tge Kamerastore website was the rear view of the camera looking down the bellows towards the lens: the rails to hold the viewing back were metal.

Described as, 'in generally poor condition with fungus and haze in the lenses and holes in the bellows. The shutter speeds were not tested', the Stölma II was in the 'Not Passed' category on the Kamerastore website. That didn't really bother me as I was more interested in the viewing back to use with the Patent Etui, so placed my order and a few days later the package had arrived.

Admittedly it was in pretty rough condition, a little grubby and with peeling leatherette. But both of these were easy fixes. I opened tge camera and pulled out the bellows and was pleasantly surprised to find them in remarkably good condition. There certainly weren't the holes that I had come to expect. Indeed, from a quick glance they looked quite sound, though later my little light would show a few tiny pinholes, which I will fix with a little liquid electrical tape. 

Th shutter speeds were 1/25s, 1/50, 1/100s, B and T, and although these were untested a quick run through the dial showed that the shutter was working nicely and the shutter and aperture iris were clean and functioning properly. The aperture range was quite wide, from f7.7 to f44. I turned the camera over and pulled off the back, which came off quite smoothly. I turned it over to check out the ground glass, and ... there was no ground glass. Nooo!

I could not believe it. After searching high and low for a ground glass screen I had come to the decision that getting a cheap folding camera and using the back from flat in the Patent Etui would be more economical than finding just a viewing screen or getting a custom made piece of ground glass. But my first attempt with the Ernemann Heag was a failure and now this second try with the Stölma II folding camera was stymied by the lack of ground glass. What was I to do?

In the meantime I cleaned and dusted the exterior and the bellows of the camera, removed the lenses and cleaned both sides. I also cleaned the viewfinder,  which came out much better but was not as clear as I would have liked.

A while ago I was looking for a diffusion filter that I could use with my old Frankencamera to make a 'ground glass' for some Through The Viewfinder type photography. A really helpful user on Instagram, @hackaninstant, suggested a Leelux 400 diffusion gel, but I just could not find a supplier for this material in Portugal. Then by chance I came across a cheap diffusion filter from my local photography supplier. It's not Leelux but it works.

I cut a piece if diffusion gel to the same size as the ground glass that this camera requires (83×115mm). To maintain rigidity I attached the gel to a thin piece of wood either side then slid the gel into the holders and reassembled the back. I was concerned that the back wouldn't fit smoothly into the back of the camera but intact it was fine. Looking through the film back the image was bright and clear and even on a dull day it came out well.

The last step was to see if the camera actually worked. My existing film holders fitted nicely in the back of the Stölma II so I loaded up two Instax Wide films and headed out. It was a cloudy day and I did not expect that I would need the neutral density filters but brought them along anyway. As it turned out they were not required. I set the shutter speed of the Stölma II to 1/100s and took a meter reading with theapp. The recommended exposure at 1/100s was f32 so I took one exposure at f32 and a second exposure at f44. 

After developing the films I was delighted that they both came put, though my framing was a little off, to say the least. Both exposures came out nicely, although the exposure at f31 was a little underexposed. The exposure at f44 came out really well,  with nice detail in the grey cloudy sky. I think this was in fact a little underexposed, but I'm still really happy with the results. Indeed, although my portable LED light showed some pinholes there weren't really any light leaks visible on the images. I'm still going to try to fill the holes with the liquid electrical tape, though.

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