Dr. Nagel Ranca
I got this Ranca at the first break after the first COVID wave, following a long dry period of not adding any new camera. I drove upcountry for over an hour to pick up a Rollei when the seller pulled out “another old camera”. Nikon, Canon, and alike are household names. Most people would be familiar with Kodak, Leica, and Rolleiflex. Only dyed in the wool camera nuts would know what a Ranca is. He suggested a (very) modest price, so I volunteered to take it and drove home happy and content. It was worth the trip.
The Ranca was made by Dr. Ernest Nagel camera works. Dr. Nagel Came with Contessa to the merger that founded Zeiss-Ikon. Although offered to head the newly formed company, He had left in 1928 to establish the company bearing his name, just to be bought by Kodak in 1931, where he came to the Retina fame. In that short time that Nagel Camera Works independently existed, They produced an impressive line of folders under the Libertte, Nagel #s, Recomar, and Vollenda, some of which Kodak continued to sell under its name.
That period saw a transition from bulky wood cameras to compact bodies. Several manufacturers made subcompact cameras, but most were with just a simple body and lens. The Nagel Pupile, like some other German and Japanese models of the era, was fitted with a choice of speeds and aperture settings, making it a real camera.
The Ranca is a watered-down version of the Pupile, which I cannot confirm or deny as I don’t have a Pupile to compare. Kodak transitioned over the Pupile but seemed to leave the Ranca behind. It is mentioned in the Continental Kodak list, but I had never noticed one under the Kodak brand.
There were two Ranca models, different by the speed dial location, marked as 46 or 46/0 and 46/1. McKeowen only recognizes one model. Kadlubek the two, but shows only one image. Kerkmann identified both and specified that Nagel made only 2,200 units of the 46/1.
The Ranca is a tiny camera using 127 film. There are two red lenses in the back, but the mask is 3x4cm, so I guess it could shoot only that size. The lens assembly is mounted on a helicoid that pulls it forward for about ½” to make up for the tiny body. The lens is 4.5/50. The lens assembly contains the shutter speed selector, allowing for 25, 50, 100, T, and B. Aperture lever selects settings from 4.5 to 16. A self cocking shutter trigger with a remote socket completes the available settings.
On the top, there are a winding knob and a fold-down viewer, no glass. At the bottom, a lever marked A for auf and Z for zu, open and close, respectively. An NC 3/8 mounting thread pivots the lever. Unlike other cameras, the bottom does not drop down, but the top pulls up, with the film loading assembly. The loading and offtake bays are spring-loaded, with rollers at the mask edges, easy to load and roll.
The camera is painted all over, shiny at the edges and rough, leatherette-like on the body. The main letdown of the Ranca is that speed settings on the dial are painted, not engraved. I wonder why, as the rest of the markings are engraved and painted. I looked for online images and save for one, and all speed dials are illegible.
On the exemplar I have the speeds work, amazing for a 90 years old mechanism. Still needs some work as the aperture lever does not change the settings. To open the assembly it takes to detach the helicoid from the body, I am yet to decide if a pin or a screw hold it in place, and have set it aside to do it later. Probably never.
Ranca 46 (46/0)