As mentioned in my thoughts on Neidig, many camera makers flourished in post-war West Germany. So was Montanus, making cameras for about a decade. Based in the Solingen district, it subscribed to a long history of precision tools makers, going back to the Middle Ages. Solingen name is primarily known for its blade industry, where it is taken with pride as a mark of quality to this day.
My first overseas trip fifty years ago was to the Solingen area, to Wuppertal, to visit impressive cutting tools factories. As remarkable was the suspended rail system over the main street, the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, devised some 120 years ago, as a worldwide first.
The Montanus brand was proven difficult to research, as well as the Montana model. There is little online information about this company, the usual copy and paste, where a search returns much about ski slopes, horses and religion. Same as the printed material, it is mentioned just on the fly.
From what I managed to gather, Montanus, established in the 1920s, was a maker of something I am not sure about. When plastics came into the mainstream in the post-war years, they ventured into this industry and, among other products, began making cameras under the Potthoff brand, loosely translated as a garden nursery. This was fifteen years before The Graduate was filmed.
The first model was a 1952 Bakelite body, slick Plascaflesx TLR, with shutter assembly and lens borrowed from specialized manufacturers. This model did not enjoy much appreciation, so they progressed into metal bodies and stayed with it.
Montanus made just two camera types, TLR and viewfinder models. They also sold in the US, where they added Regula-made rangefinders under the Montanus brand. As they did not offer any outstanding qualities or innovation, they closed shop in the early 1960s.
The Montana camera was the first model away from the TLR style, a viewfinder introduced in 1956. It came in several variations, cosmetic changes only, with or without a nameplate, and as the Tina or Montana Luxus, with snakeskin, gray or gold body.
It is not a pretty camera, nor is it well made. Other German-made cameras of the same class are a pleasure to hold or look at, but not here.
It looks like it was assembled from a leftover parts inventory, shoehorned together.
- The top is cast aluminum, roughly finished, resembling the cheap Italian bodies.
- The lens base seems to be the same material, but hammertone painted; trying to match the top, but it does not. One is dull, and the other shiny.
- The aperture is a disk with four holes punched, representing four F stops. To dial it where it protrudes at the bottom taxes the fingers.
- Shutter speeds are changed via a fin over the lens, offering B and three others.
- Setting the frame counter takes a screwdriver or sacrificing a fingernail.
- Opening the back door is counterintuitive and takes pulling the closing bracket backwards.
- The viewer is just the right size if you are an ant.
Not all is dark; there are two redeeming points:
- Cocking the shutter pulls one frame over so avoids a double exposure.
- And most importantly, the camera’s initial price was DM 45, about half of an equivalent model.
There was no succession to this model, whereas the next ones, the Rocca line, were nicely made cameras.
|Value at camdex.ca||Montanus
|Weight||350 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||470 gr, Body with lens|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Aperture||Disk: 3.5, 5.6, 8, 11|
|Speeds||B, 50, 100,200|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|
|More||Camera Collector Board|