Bolta Photavit

Last modified date

Comments: 0

Bolta Photavit


Using online sources for camera research is challenging, as available information does not always tally. In extreme cases, it seems like the tale about blind people describing an elephant, where each portrays the part he touches. Consulting the printed guides, one may find different classifications for a camera line, which adds to the uncertainty.

Cameras in focus, the Photavit line. All agree that the Bolta-Werk company was founded as a metal part fabricating shop in 1921 in Nurnberg, Germany. It is further agreed that they specialized in casting, which I would support, judging by how the body is made. The company branched into camera making in about 1935,  under the Boltavit brand; a few years later, it changed the model name to Photavit and changed the company name to match. There is no reference to the founder’s origins, Johannes Bolten, assumingly German. Johannes is the common Dutch version of the German Johann.

From here, it goes downhill. I have one Photavit III and two 828, so I will rely on published information for other models. Good online readings are by the two usual suspects, CJ’s Classic Cameras and Mike Eckman, with a few more listed below.

Photavit made three camera lines. First came the Boltavit / Photavit sub-compacts, then from 1952, the Photina TLR line, and from 1956, the Photavit 36 models. In the 1970s, Foto Quelle or the Revue fame, sold three Instamatic-type models, which had nothing to do with the original company. A German auto parts maker still keeps the Photavit name, having no association with photography.

The classic Photavit cameras were tiny, although heavy, viewfinder cameras. It used a 24x24mm and 25x25mm image size long before half-frame cameras appeared. The models progressed from scant settings to able shutter and lens combinations. The company joined the 135 format only with its 1956 rangefinders line but closed shop shortly after that.

My take on the camera models is derived of from information from Mckeown, Kadlubek, Auer, Kerkmann, Abring, and a few others, as well as online. As stated above, some are contradicting.

Bolta film format is a 35mm non-perforated film loaded into a cartridge similar to the Kodak 135, only smaller, holding 20 exposures. AGFA used the same under Karat cartridges.

Original Photavit / Boltavit

    • Introduced 1935
    • Format 25×25, 20 exposures on Bolta cartridges.
    • The early model had a hinged back, a large hinge at one side, and a clasp at the other.
    • Later, the model changed to a clamshell removable back; some guides identified it as Boltavit II.
    • The model name was changed halfway from Boltavit to Photavit, and I read that rename labels were pasted on some transitional models. The newly named Photavit is sometimes defined as Photavit I.
    • Square viewer superimposed on top.
    • Frame counter around the winder knob.
    • Shutter cocking and release on the lens.
    • Shutters Prontor or Compur R. Kadlubek suggests a Bolta shutter, but I’m not sure what it is as I don’t think they made any.
    • Speeds B, 25-100.
    • The film slides from right to left; late models had a 2nd cartridge as a take-off; here, it seems to be a cartridge to a spool. I’m unsure if a darkroom is needed to unload, as there is no rewind feature.
    • Retractable, pull-out lens mount.
    • Remote port added on late models.
    • Each reference source suggests a different lens, so I gave up after counting six different makes. It could be correct in post-war times with meager supply lines of anything, but it does not sound right for a fledgling 1935 camera maker. The same variations exist with the lens specs; I found references to 4.5/40, 4.5/50, 2.8/35 and 3.5/40. It couldn’t be correct with such an early model.
    • A Luxus model had a chrome body with leather on the front.

Photavit II

    • Introduced 1938
    • A revised design with an elegant stepped top and an integrated viewer.
    • Speeds T, B, 1-175
    • Vario or Prontor shutters.
    • Shutter cocking on the lens barrel.
    • Shutter release on top, motion transferred to on-lens shutter release, protected with a heavy cast guard.
    • A counter around the winder knob.
    • Retractable lens mount, zone focusing.
    • Lens, see note above. References specify 3.5/40 and 2.9/40.
    • Two Bolta cartridges, load and take-off.
    • Here is where I get confused. Some references specify 24x24mm format, others 25x25mm. I don’t have this camera, so it is pending confirmation.

Photavit III

    • Introduced 1946.
    • 25x25mm image format; at least, this is what I measured. Guides specify 24x24mm.
    • A threaded focusing lens, operated via an easy-to-reach arm, Corygon 2.9/40.
    • Shutters Vario or prontor II.
    • Shutter cocking on the lens barrel.
    • Speeds are T, B, 1-200.
    • The lens base and mechanism cover are similar to Photina II.
    • A self-timer lever is at the bottom of the lens.
    • The trigger and frame counter are on top, as in the II.

Photavit IV

    • Introduced 1947
    • T slider on the body, overriding the speed selector.
    • Added mechanism to equally space exposures.
    • Frame counter by the trigger knob, with a reset fin.
    • With or without a remote trigger port.
    • Format 25x25mm (?)
    • The aperture lever is at the bottom, and the speed selector is at the top of the lens.
    • Shutters Compur Rapid or Synchro Compur.
    • Shutter cocking on the lens barrel.
    • Speeds B, 1-300 or to 500.
    • A helical thread lens, as the III. Rationar or Xenar, 3.5/37.5, 2.8/37.5.

Photavit V

    • Introduced 1951.
    • Sold alongside the IV.
    • Similar to the IV, but with Prontor S, SV or Vario.
    • Luxar 2.9/38 lens.
    • Some references state this is a 135 format. I think it is mistaken.

Photavit 828

    • Introduced 1948.
    • Mark “Film 828” on the bottom.
    • Similar to IV, with an 828 stock. 35mm paper-backed film, spool-to-spool loading. No rewind.
    • Shutters: Synchro Compur with an X/M synch lever and a Compur Rapid without.
    • Speeds B, 1-500, T slider on body overrides speed selector.
    • Lenses Xenar 2.8/37.5, 3.5/37.5.
    • Format 25.5×24.5mm. As measured. Odd.

Later Photavit models, just a mention:

  • Photavit 36, 1956, a 135 format rangefinder, interchangeable Ennit 2.8/50 lens, Prontor SVS shutter.
  • Photavit 36 Meter, 1956, same, with an uncoupled meter.
  • Photavit 36 Automatic, 1958, same, with a coupled meter, Prontor SLK shutter.
  • Three 126-format Photavit cheap plastic cameras were sold in the 1970s by Foto Quelle; assume the name was up for grabs.

Photavit cameras in review

Photavit III

This tiny camera looks as if it was made of two unrelated parts. The body is a plain style, simple-looking camera. The lens assembly is a contraption packed with levers and arms pointing in all directions. The body is smaller than a cigarette box, where the lens looks as if it is borrowed from a larger camera. The body is cast metal, true to the company’s background in parts casting; the removable back is made of punched steel. All is nicely finished, chromed or polished, and well-stood the burden of time. Considering these models are almost 80 years old, the maker should be proud of such quality.

A prominent, mast-like, chromed trigger is easy to reach, set next to an equally bulging square viewer assembly with a tiny, hardly usable viewer. A single winder knob on the left is contained within an easy-to-read frame counter. There is no rewind knob; the film moves from one Bolta cartridge to another, from right to left. In between the winder and the viewer base, a small lever (D) slides towards the winder once the shutter fires and a pin (B) on the winder drives it back. This is to prevent double exposure, a simple and efficient solution. A solid catch (C), mounted on the back cover, is positioned by the winder. To remove the back, pull the pin by the winder.

The winding and shooting take familiarization:

  • The winder knob is made of two equally sized parts, the bottom (A2) connected to the frame counter and the top (A2) connected to the cartridge.
  • Once the cartridge is in place, the pivot connected to the winder top part drops into a matching indentation in the cartridge.
  • Lift both parts and set the counter to zero.
  • Once the trigger is fired, lift the winder button. This will permit the pin (B) at the winder base to climb over the catch, allowing for a complete turn of the winder.
  • With the back cover in place, the catch (C) on it will be positioned near the frame counter.
  • With the winder turn, the lever (D) will be pushed slide aside the arm by the viewer, allowing a trigger press.
  • To remove the loaded take-off cartridge, pull up the top part of the winder.

It seems complex, and it is. More images are below.

The front is busy. The lens base is similar to the body, with a heavy guard over the rod that activates the lens-mounted shutter, all nicely finished. A helical mount lens assembly, operated via a well-positioned arm, is easy to reach and is smooth as if it came today off the assembly bench. Gradient units are unmarked. The aperture and speed levers are on top of the lens assembly, with the self-timer lever at the bottom. The shutter is a third-party part, a Prontor II on this camera, so it is no different from other models using the same shutter, and I mean difficult to read.

Nevertheless, the shutter here buzzes as an eager bee. A cover protects a lens-mounted trigger lever on the side. The remote trigger socket is just under it.

The camera is state-of-the-art. Compared to other models of that crop, it stands miles ahead in style, finish and thought put into it.

Photavit 828

  • Overall, it has the same style as the previous models.
  • Market “Film 828” on bottom
  • The camera uses Kodak 828 film format. This format was a lame-duck trial that never gained practical followers. It was a paper-backed 35mm format, with no perforation or one perforation per image. Spool to spool load on a short film strip. The original image size was 40x28mm, very close to 40x30mm available on the 127 format, larger than the 135 format, 24×36mm. Original spools were meant to take eight exposures. The 828 on Photina used a smaller mask, 25mm wide, so assumingly got 12 exposures per roll over this format.
  • Bright and large, magnified viewer. A welcomed improvement over the Photavit III.
  • A larger lens base, easier to read DOF markings.
  • Lighter and refind lever guard over the lens trigger mechanism.
  • The remote trigger port was moved to the top, by the trigger.
  • The frame counter has a half-moon ressecced display near the trigger. The Photavit IV / V had a counter reset lever, which was discontinued on the 828. Not sure how to reset the counter.
  • On the back, at the film path, a small roller is set against a cavity in the pressure plate. The roller activates a mechanism allowing for the next shot and preventing double exposure. It’s simpler than the system on the III, but it’s kind of iffy as I am not sure how receptive the roller is to the film sliding over it. It does not readily turn by a thumb, and I have no matching film to test it.
  • On the body, latches hold the rolls in place. Two latches on the feed roll and one on the take-off.
  • To load/remove the take-off spool, pull up the winder knob.
  • Two shutters were available, one with a synch selector. A flash connector is available on both models.
  • T slider overrides the speed selector.
  • The aperture lever moved to the bottom.
  • No self-timer.
  • An interesting feature, the serial number is engraved on the body and back cover.

List number 35480 11670
Brand Bolta Bolta
Model Photavit III Photavit 828
Value at at
Format Bolta / Karat 828
Introduced 1946 1948
Country Germany
Qty made
Initial price
Type Miniature
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 300 gr,  Body with lens 310 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 285 gr,  Body with lens 285 gr,  Body with lens
ASA range N/A
Kit lens 2.9/40 3.5/375
Lens make Corygon Xenar
Filter size N/A
Lens mount Fixed lens
Mount size N/A
Shutter Leaf
Shutter make Prontor II Synchro Compur
Compur Rapid
Light meter None
Winder Knob
Lock No
Speeds T, B, 1-200 T, B, 1-500
Mirror N/A
Viewer Viewfinder
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync No F/X
Sync speed
Timer Yes, mechanical No
Battery, original N/A
Battery, replacement N/A
Battery voltage N/A
Integral flash None
Service / repair links See
More (archived)
UK Camera (archived)
Mike Eckman
CJ’s Classic Cameras

Photavit III images

Photavit 828 images


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment