Vredeborch Nordetta 3D
For camera collectors, vintage cameras come in several interest levels. It ranges from the nobility, such as the Leitz and Rollei, to the plebeians. Somewhere by the bottom sits the short-lived, low-tech Vredeborch brand.
Vredeborch produced about 90 models, perhaps even less, discounting name variants. Today, their cameras hardly show up for sale, and only a precious few do change hands. On eBay, there are less than a dozen sales a year.
An online search about Vredeborch returns a void. My library only mentions it on the fly, just that they existed. I wrote the museum in Nordenham, Vredeborch home town, and they promptly suggested a book about it – Goergens, Harald: Vredeborch GmbH Kamerawerk. Die Geschichte einer erfolgreichen Firma. Still searching, this time about the Nordetta 3D, I found a detailed article by Daniel Sánchez Torres that I assume uses the above book as a reference. I would have spent a fortnight going through that book with my rudimentary German, so although this article is in Spanish, Google Translate did the trick.
(As a side note, I have no particular interest in stereo cameras, I have a Kodak and a Sputnik, with an addition of the Nordetta. Reading through the said article, where the writer melts away over the ISO Duplex, I couldn’t hold back and got one. More to come.)
Nordeham is a small city on the Baltic sea, across the river from Bremerhaven and upstream the river from The much larger Bremen, of the Hanseatic League fame. Bremen was and still is a busy port, a commercial hub, and a major industrial center. During the war, Bremen and Bremerhaven were flattened by the allies, bombed by the Brits at night, and the Yanks by day. The meager bombing efficiency ended with miles upon miles of scorched earth, including the neighboring Nordham. Not much industry was left.
The German economy was in dire straits at the war’s end, torn between the superpowers. The East, say Soviets, looted, pillaged, and plundered any industrial facility lock, stock, barrel, and for good measure, the staff too. The West, say the US, began salvaging whatever was left of the German economy. Not for altruistic reasons, but to avoid a bankrupted economy as was after WWI, where Germany had to pay reparations way over its meager means, leading to a second and larger war.
Here is the place to wonder how a camera factory in Nordenham came into being. The primary industry in the area was shipyards, which had nothing to do with Camera making. There was no optical, fine mechanics, or instrument-making manufacturing tradition there.
There may be a hint in the names of the founders. Waldemar Krause and Eduard Moyzes are good Jewish-sounding names of Polish origin. There are ethnic Poles in Germany, but East of this area. Further, although there was nothing much left of Germany, there was even less in Poland, now a workers’ paradise under the Soviets. Another observation, neither founder was a Dr. prefix to his name, which seems a must-have title to any heavy-weight camera maker of that era.
The two founders seemed to be displaced persons who survived hell with no way to go. Vredeborch early incarnation was a manufacturer of simple metalware, which could be pencil sharpeners, corkscrews, or whatever. The move into the camera making was with no fanfare or innovations, just by recognizing an upcoming market demand. The early products were basic camera styles, as were available then, good old box cameras: metal body, some levers and springs, and the simplest of glass.
The cameras made by Vredeborch were aimed at the lower end of local markets and rebranded for national and export distributors; Foto Quelle, Prinz, and Hanimex are the usual suspects.
In the mid-1960s, the company had graduated from box cameras into simple viewfinders; none made a splash. The latest products appeared in the late 1960s, leading to the company’s demise in 1974. It is common for camera distributors to salvage camera makers’ names. Regrettably, there was no value attached here, so the Vredeborch name died together with the company.
The only camera of interest is the Nordetta 3D. It was introduced in 1951, perhaps trying to break away from the basic models they made. Stereo photography was popular in the early days, from the late 19th century to the war. With advances in picture printing, the novelty wore out, and by the mid-1950s, it had all but died.
Further to the timing, Vredeborch also missed in technology. With single element glass used, early cameras employed bellows to compensate for decent focal length. From the 1940s onwards, stereo cameras became a compact affaire, like most other cameras, mid-level and above. The 1938 Verascope F40, 1947 Realist, and the 1950 Edixa Stereo, to name just a few, were all compact stereo cameras. Having single speed and aperture settings limited the camera for landscape or stationary objects, all that with ideal light, Also, there is no thread for a tripod, so with that’s slow shutter speed, it would take a firm hand. This is the equivalent of a plain box camera, good as a box but not as a notch up stereoscopic. I am not sure about the cost comparison against other similar cameras, but I feel that the Nordetta was already outdated at the design stage.
Further, using the camera was awkward. Coking the shutter is via a small, unfriendly sliding lever in front of the viewer. The shutter release is located at the side, protruding so much, for sure be in the way of handling. Closing the front assembly is by shifting a tiny lever at the back, again tricky to reach. Both levers, cocking and folding catch release, could do with a slight rounding or bend to be easier on the fingers.
The viewer is smallish, made of two sections, one at the main body and another on the front assembly. Not only is it tiny, it also reduces the image. Guess it wasn’t an obstacle at that time.
A neat option, not sure if it was available in other stereo cameras of that era, is a red paddle covering one lens so the camera will take a single image. To do that, turn a dial between the lenses so the paddle will drop. I hope it was sufficient to block the light entirely. Not to be undone here, the dial here is both tiny and challenging to maneuver.
Overall, the camera is not a great exemplar of what the so-called German engineering. There were only 2,700 units made, and it is pretty elusive. In the used market, it carries a high price tag, out of line with its quality, so I assume it reflects the model’s rarity.
Postscript: found an online book copy about Vredebroch. Please see here.
|127 – one or two images
|520 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight