Finetta 99

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Finetta 99

Since its inception as a camera maker in 1949, Finetta made entry-level cameras. Styled differently from other cameras of that time, they were quirky, with little upgrades from one model to another. Yet it must be remembered that the company came and went within eight short years, so whatever they did in this period is outstanding.

Finetta still wanted to make a splash, und wenn schon denn schon; it should be one-up over models that ruled the market. They collected all advanced camera features offered then, added a spring-loaded winder, and the Finetta 99 was born, later sold in the US as Ditto 99.

At the company’s tradition, an odd camera was prematurely presented to the market before ironing out all childhood malaise. It had likely contributed to the company shutting down within a couple of years.

Offering five different lenses system is a tall order even today, let alone for a company with a manufacturing capacity of 100 units a day. Relying on a third party’s mount could have changed the model and company’s fate, but I would guess that hubris also played a role. Also, this was the third lens mount offered by Finetta, and neither was compatible with the other. A spring-loaded technique was not new, but shipping it to the market without thorough testing was irresponsible. Similar to the  Fotochrome, cameras were shipped out and returned for service at the same rate. All that with a model that was supposed to change photography and was sold at the time about USD 100, equal to some USD 1,200 in 2023. You would expect more reliability once you spend such an amount. Adding the iffy quality and reputation of the Finetta brand, it was doomed from the jumping board.

Spring-loaded cameras have been available since the dawn of photography in cine cameras. This was translated into compact or miniature models before the Finetta 99. Searching for such models points to John Wade’s book, Clockwork Cameras. Available from Amazon or the publishers,, that print and ship one copy upon demand. Oddly, the entire book is available online at, I am not sure why and for how long. Looking for clockwork cameras, Robot is the name that comes to mind, with an early model offered in 1938. The first to gain wide distribution was the Robot IIa, of which I have a pair that work perfectly. This Robot had led the way to a long list of siblings, including the notorious and dreaded STASI models. The Japanese had some early models, miniatures by Niagawa, followed by a glut of Ricoh models. The US Kodak dipped their feet with the Automatic models, which didn’t last long, and Bell and Howell presented the one-off 1949 Foton. Tessina of Switzerland offered some tiny, highly desired models in 1951, and the Soviets had it with the in-your-face 1956 Leningrad. The trend had ended with the miniature battery-operated and cheap electric motors that made the spring loaded redundant.

For good measure, I added a searchable list of spring-loaded / clockwork cameras at the bottom of this page. It is probably incomplete and could be corrected; I appreciate notes, corrections, and additions.

Before getting into the camera, I would quote an excerpt from the English language user manual. Printed in Germany but probably written elsewhere, judging by the style. For this camera, reading the manual is essential.

Long life and faultless performance can be guaranteed for the Ditto 99 with the automatic film advance only if the following notes, and the booklet of instructions, are most scrupulously attended to. (sic)

Further, there is a note to wind gently and a strong warning against self-servicing it. I guess there were some precedents. And lastly:

For the rest (in case you have already gone so far), we need only to say that if you use your largest pair of pliers, a giant screwdriver and a sledgehammer, you can say goodbye to all your hopes of good photographs.

Oops. Untypical language for a user manual, very. It brings to mind Dan Aykroyd explaining to Ned Beatty how not to operate a gun, in the movie 1941.

The camera is neat, good-looking, and nicely styled, much heavier than its contemporaries. With chromed metal and gray skin, it differed from the black-on-black of most cameras at the time. The above note about studying the manual is justified, as it has some mystery functions.

The top has a large winder drum set above the spring mechanism that is contained within the oversized take-off spindle. Frame counter nearby it, with a protruding setting cog at the back. The speed selector is divided into three groups:  50, 100-1000, and B, 25. To use the ‘B’, slide the ‘B’ lever at the front, and remember the manual’s note about not winding while there.  A hot shoe and a rewind knob complete the top. A later model, the 99L has an additional slow speeds dial located by the rewind knob.

The side has a lever sliding between X and 1, setting the flash synch delay. The manual has a table specifying which setting is for which bulb. I am not sure how the synch mechanism works in other models, but I have yet to see such a configuration.

The back is boring. The bottom has a flat thumb nut in the middle to unlock the back cover. In my model, there is no indication as to which direction to turn. To open turn anti-clockwise. It is not held by a screw but via two mushroom-headed pins that fit into grooves in the body. A side thumb nut, smaller, is to allow rewind. When unscrewed, it releases the clutch holding the take-off spool. The nut has a matching hole in the bottom of the back cover, so it is accessible with a mounted back cover.

The front contains an extensive lens board, having two modest-looking pins at its sides. Squeeze in both pins, and the lens pops out. The lens has a large diameter mount – 46mm / 1 7/8″ ring, much larger than the lens body diameter, hence the size of the lens board. A notch in the lens base directs to a pin in the body, making it easy to remount. The front of the lens takes the ends of two fingers to turn the aperture dial, a typical Finetta. Depending on the model, focusing is marked in meters or feet, and the focusing dial forever turns to a full 3600.

Opening the back, a fold-down pressure plate tends to be in the way. The film track has no guide gears, so it advances only by the pull of the spool. There are two bulges on the spool to catch the film’s perforation and pull. I think the designer dropped the ball here; it is impractical. The spring mechanism is set in the take-off drum. At the bottom are two spring-loaded pins; it seems the only purpose they serve is to push the back cover off once the catch is released. I think it is an overkill, so it may serve another purpose, but the manual does not mention it. A crude, very early horizontal cloth shutter is mounted in the middle of the camera. Curtain shutters were earlier available in the Leica models, copied by a host of makers, widely offered by the Soviets, Canon, and a long list of Japanese and a few US, UK, and Italian; other than Canon, none is still among the living. It means that a camera like the Finetta 99 was premature in its days, and to succeed, it needed the manufacturer’s deep pockets and a serious customer base, neither of which was there.

Finetta had high aspirations for this model, so it had announced a full lens line to match and a slew of accessories. Other than the kit 2.8/45 lens, there were also  4.3/45, 4.5/70 and 6.3/105. I have not seen any for resale, so I will cautiously assume that actual distribution was limited based on the initial cost and the short life of the brand.

My unit sat on the shelf for a good decade, and the winding mechanism and the shutter are dead. Popular camera models have easy-to-find service manuals; here there is only one source, a well-edited booklet by Jean Bruno. The first 15 pages are available online in Google Books. A hard copy can be bought online for 25 Euro, but the best is to get immediate gratification with a cheaper PDF copy at the author’s site. It has pictures galore and French descriptions, easily translated via the camera on Google Translate on your mobile or on a desktop with a PDF editor, copy and paste. I got the PDF copy and will attend to it when time allows, most likely never.

For the collector, I would highly recommend having it on the shelf. It is a unique model, an exemplar made by a mouse that roared.


List number 13115
Brand Finetta
Model Finetta 99
Manual Buktus
Value Finetta 99
Finetta 99L
Format 35mm
Introduced 1953
AKA Ditto 99
Country Germany
Qty made
Initial price 260
Currency DM
Type Viewfinder
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 620 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 480 gr,  Body with lens
ASA range N/A
Kit lens 2.8/45
Lens make Finetar
Filter size N/A
Lens mount Proprietary bayonet
Mount size
Shutter Focal plane cloth horizontal
Shutter make
Light meter None
Winder Knob, spring-loaded
Lock No
Speeds B, 1-1000
Mirror N/A
Viewer Viewfinder
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe Hot
External sync X & manual delay setting
Sync speed
Timer No
Battery, original N/A
Battery, replacement N/A
Battery voltage N/A
Integral flash None
Service / repair links See
More Finetta camera family list
Casual Photophile
Cameracollector board
CJ’s Classic cameras
Odd  Cameras



Spring loaded / clockwork camera list

Ansco Memo Automatic 1963ViewfinderUSA
Ansco Memo II 1967Eye level directUSA
Bell & Howell Dial 35 1963Viewfinder Half FrameUSA
Bell & Howell Foton 1949RangefinderUSA
Canon Dial 35 1963Viewfinder Half FrameJapan
Canon Dial 35 II 1968ViewfinderJapan
Canon Dial Rapid 1965ViewfinderJapan
Debrie Sept I 1921CineFrance
Debrie Sept II 1923CineFrance
Finetta 99L 1953ViewfinderGermany
Finetta Finetta 99 1953ViewfinderGermany
Fotofex Mini Fex MG 1939SubminiGermany
Fuji Drive 1964ViewfinderJapan
Fuji Rapid-D1 1966ViewfinderJapan
GOMZ Leningrad 1956RangefinderUSSR
Great Wall Great Wall SZ-1 1969RangefinderChina
Great Wall Great Wall SZ-2 1976RangefinderChina
Japy Le Pascal 1898BoxFrance
Japy Le Pascal Prototype 1897JumelleFrance
Kilfitt Robot Prototype spring motor 1948ViewfinderGermany
KMZ Foton 1969Eye level directUSSR
KMZ Foton 2 1973Eye level directUSSR
KMZ Foton 3 1975Eye level directUSSR
KMZ Foton M 1970Eye level directUSSR
Kodak Autosnap 1962ViewfinderUSA
Kodak Automatic 35 1959ViewfinderUSA
Kodak Automatic 35B 1961ViewfinderUSA
Kodak Automatic 35F 1962ViewfinderUSA
Kodak Automatic 35R4 1965ViewfinderUSA
Kodak Instamatic 400 1963Instamatic typeUSA
Kodak Instamatic 814 1968Instamatic typeUSA
Kodak Instamatic X-45 1970Instamatic typeUSA
Kodak Instamatic X-125 Instamatic typeUSA
Kodak Motormatic 35 1960RangefinderUSA
Kodak Motormatic 35F 1962RangefinderUSA
Kodak Motormatic 35R4 1965RangefinderUSA
Kodak Motormatic 35B 1960RangefinderUSA
LOMO Lomo 135 BC VS 1975ViewfinderUSSR
LOMO Lomo 135 M 1980ViewfinderUSSR
Lone Riders Gatling 72 1963Viewfinder
Minolta Autopak 800 1969Instamatic typeJapan
Miyagawa Boltax I 1938MiniatureJapan
Miyagawa Boltax II MiniatureJapan
Miyagawa Boltax III 1941MiniatureJapan
Nichiryo Nicnon TF Binocular Camera 1970NicheJapan
Nichiryo Teleca 240 1970NicheJapan
Ricoh 126 C Automatic 1968Instamatic typeJapan
Ricoh Auto Half E Auto Sun 1968Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half SE Black 1968Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half SE2 Black 1968Point and shootJapan
Ricoh A-2 1979CompactJapan
Ricoh AD-1 CompactJapan
Ricoh Auto Half 1963Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half E 1966Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half E2 1976Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half EF 1978Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half EF2 Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half SE2 Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half Professional Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half S Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half SE 1967Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Half SL Point and shootJapan
Ricoh Auto Shot 1964CompactJapan
Ricoh Hi-Colour 35 1970ViewfinderJapan
Ricoh Hi-Colour 1968ViewfinderJapan
Ricoh Hi-Colour 35 S ViewfinderJapan
Ricoh Super Shot 1967RangefinderJapan
Ricoh Super Shot 24 RangefinderJapan
Robot 375 1938FinderlessGermany
Robot 82 Electronic 1982FinderlessGermany
Robot I 1934ViewfinderGermany
Robot II 1939ViewfinderGermany
Robot IIa 1951ViewfinderGermany
Robot IIa red-brown 1951ViewfinderGermany
Robot IIa Deluxe 1952ViewfinderGermany
Robot Junior Green 1952ViewfinderGermany
Robot Junior 1951ViewfinderGermany
Robot Motor-Recorder Post NicheGermany
Robot Motor-Recorder NicheGermany
Robot OS 35 F 1985NicheGermany
Robot Royal 18 1957RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 18A 1957Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 24 1957RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 24 Black 1957Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 24 FKF Danish Army RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 24A 1957RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 36 1955RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 36 III 1955RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 36 Vl 1955Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 36 A 1955Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 36 B 1959RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 36 B Black 1959Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 36 S 1956RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal 36 S A 1961Leica type RFGermany
Robot Royal 40 1952RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal II 1954RangefinderGermany
Robot Royal III 1953RangefinderGermany
Robot Star Junior 1952ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 1952ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 25 1969ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 25 Endoscope 1969NicheGermany
Robot Star 50 1969ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 D 1969ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 DA 1991ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 ED 1975ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 18 1975ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 ES Black 1975ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 S 1975ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 Spy Outfit 1969ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 STASI 1969ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star 50 STASI Briefcase 1969NicheGermany
Robot Star 90 1970ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star Classic Colours 1996ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star I Sweden Air Forces 1955NicheGermany
Robot Star II FKF Danish Air Force 1955NicheGermany
Robot Star II S 1958NicheGermany
Robot Super Recorder 24 1973FinderlessGermany
Robot Star II Auto Side Winding 1958ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star II Auto Scientific 1954NicheGermany
Robot Star II Auto STASI ViewfinderGermany
Robot SC 1982FinderlessGermany
Robot Star E ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star D 1996ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star III Auto ViewfinderGermany
Robot Star II Auto Danish Army 1958ViewfinderGermany
Sears Easi Load FC 600 1970Instamatic typeUSA
Standard Projector & Equipment Gatling 1963ViewfinderUSA
Teraoka Auto Terra IIB 1957RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra IIBS 1958RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra IIL RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra P 1959RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra Super 1959RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra Super L 1959RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra II RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra Super P police 1961RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra RangefinderJapan
Teraoka Auto Terra Super A RangefinderJapan
Tessina Tessina 35 red 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina 35 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina 35 'STASI' 1966MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina 35 black 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina 35 Gold 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina L Black 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina L Chrome 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina L Gold 1957MiniatureSwitzerland
Tessina Tessina L Red 1957MiniatureSwitzerland

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