Meopta Opema Camera
In the 1950s, Meopta had no 35mm camera to offer, while the format’s popularity grew like a fire in the hay. The Etareta, a solid and able camera, was adopted by Meopta from Eta to plug the hole. But, the Etareta still subscribed to the classic fixed lens, leaf shutter class.
Meopta had higher aspirations, so at about the same time, they developed the Opema camera. It is a well-made, Leica-inspired camera with a removable lens and a focal plane shutter, but with two fatal flows. It seems that while gathering valuable ideas from the leaders, they picked up some bad influence from fellow maker Photavit, which offered an uncommon 24×24 image on 35mm film, and from Finetta, which had a removable lens mount that matched none of the majors. I would guess that using a common lens mount would involve royalties or alike, but common sense suggests that this was what Meopta should have done.
Meopta was betting high on different camera styles, the TLR and the sub-compacts, so perhaps the 35mm camera idea was left to the engineers, who concentrated on the slide ruler rather than watching the direction the world went. Such has happened to SAAB, killed by the engineers, with many good intentions on the way.
The Opema came in two flavours. A viewfinder and a coupled rangefinder, also referred to as Opema II. A microscope kit was made as well; not many are seen today. The Rangefinder model was identical to the viewfinder, save for the patch window set in the extreme right, the opposite side where you expect it to be. Online, most information found is about the rangefinder model.
As mentioned, there are two oddities. The image format is 32x24mm on 35mm stock, where the Germans, east and west, the Soviets, and the Japanese adhered to the 36×24 mm. The removable, threaded lens is 38mm, almost the 39mm LTM, but still almost, not interchangeable. As with another mouse that roared, Finetta, they offered a line of matching lenses, but bodies and lens count would not justify it.
I have no information about who made the lenses; I assume they were made in-house. Lenses were offered under Largor, Belar, Mirar, Telex, Birrell, and Openar. Most lenses are retractable, while the tele lenses are solid.
At about the same time, Meopta offered two cheap Bakelite models under Pionyr name, which I suspect were made by Druopta. Another take of a 35mm viewfinder camera was with the 1959 Optinetta, the last 35mm style they made.
The camera design is streamlined and sleek, not a sharp edge. Controls are on the small side yet easy to operate. The back is removable and exposes the shutter curtain. No user-accessible curtain adjustment screws. Unlike the machined body of the Etareta, here, the body and back are made of punched and cast metal. Nevertheless, all is very well finished.
Good to know:
- It takes strong fingernails to pull out the retractable lens. No easy way around it.
- Similarly, it takes strong fingertips to scale the nose-mounted aperture dial.
- The lens thread is almost as the Leica 39mm thread. Keyword “almost”.
- Adjust the shutter speed after cocking.
- To allow rewind, turn the dial around the trigger towards the “R’ mark.
Much later, the Opema name was revived with point-and-shoot Opema 95, no information is available.
|420 gr, Body only
|Class average weight
|480 gr, Body only
|Focal plane cloth horizontal
|Service / repair links
|Meopta camera list