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Focaflex Automatic

Focaflex Automatic

Style, film format 35mm fixed-lens SLR

Lens, shutter Coated 5cm f/2.8 Oplar-Color, leaf shutter

Photo quality Should be good

Ergonomics Very good overall.

I'm a fan of the French Foca cameras, and so when the opportunity came to pick up this camera, I jumped.

The Focaflex Automatic is an SLR camera with a most untraditional approach.

The specs are good: Shutter-priority automatic exposure; leaf shutter with a full range of speeds including slow ones and B; coated f/2.8 5cm lens; a rewind crank; and a removable back for loading the film.

The camera has a unique design among SLRs. It has a flat top. It isn't hiding a traditional pentaprism under the top deck. Instead it uses a prism and a semi-gilded mirror that reflects the image onto the viewing screen, which has a mirror under it and which sits in the base of the camera.

The photographer peers through the eyepiece, through the prism and downward through the semi-gilded mirror to the viewing screen. The mirror flips down -- rather than up -- when the photo is taken.

But because of how the viewing system works, it's necessary to block the light from the eyepiece, so there is a light baffle that slips into place when the shutter is released.

When the photographer advances the film, it first erects a second light baffle across the film plane, opens the eyepiece baffle and lifts the mirror into place.

If all of this sounds complicated, it is. And it isn't.

However, the use of the semi-gilded mirror has a negative effect. The viewing image isn't particularly bright, which makes focusing indoors a challenge.

The Focaflex Automatic is a large camera with a clean functional design. As mentioned earlier, the back is removed when loading film. There is a small window under the rewind crank to show if the film has been loaded correctly. If you don't see alternating black and white marks move when advancing the film, you haven't loaded the film correctly.

The rewind crank folds neatly out of the way, contributing to the camera's clean looks.

The film advance sits flat against the back, and the chrome-dome shutter release sits nicely just above the top deck. The accessory shoe is for a flash. It isn't a true hot shoe -- you will need a sync cord. The small flap on the front of the camera covers the selenium meter cell.

To take a photo using the automatic exposure system, flip open the cover over the selenium cell, turn the aperture dial to "AUTO," select an appropriate shutter speed or press the large black button. The meter needle in the viewfinder will indicate an aperture. If you want a smaller or larger aperture, change the shutter speed. Focus the camera, press and hold the large black button and take your photo.

In real-world, it's easier to manually set the shutter speed and aperture.

The camera has excellent workmanship, and I'm looking forward to finishing the roll of film, so I can see the photos. Based on my previous experience with a Foca Sport II, which also uses the Oplar-Color lens, I expect the photos to be very good.

Focaflex Automatic manual

This page from the owner's manual explains how the viewing system works.

Focaflex Automatic

The Focaflex Automatic's very clean and functional design.