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The Bergheil is a series of well-specified folding plate cameras made by Voigtländer in Braunschweig (Brunswick) from 1912 until the Second World War.[1] It was sold in some English-language catalogues as the Tourist. It was available for a range of smaller plate sizes: 4.5x6 cm, 6.5x9 cm, 9x12 cm and 10x15 cm (the largest size is fairly unusual). It is metal-bodied, with leather covering. In some (but not all) examples, 'Bergheil' is impressed in the leather of the focusing screen (others are impressed 'Voigtländer'), and/or in the carrying handle.

Standard model

The standard Bergheil cameras are covered with black leather, and have black bellows, for most of the period they were made (for a few years after 1932, the 6.5x9 cm and 9x12 cm cameras were only made with green leather[2] (see below; these cameras are often described as 'de luxe', and are discussed here with the true de luxe model).

Most examples seen have a Compur shutter; early ones may be seen with a Compound, or even an Ibsor or Pronto. The cameras are equipped with a wide range of Voigtländer's own lenses; Heliar in particular are very common on later cameras. The (fixed) lenses available on earlier cameras included the Collinear and other double-anastigmats; the front group of such a lens can be removed, and the rear group used alone as a long-focus lens.[3] On later cameras, the standard lens is not a symmetrical type and cannot be separated like this. Instead, the lens and shutter are interchangeable (attached with a bayonet), to allow the use of a telephoto lens. All the cameras have double-extension bellows, which would facilitate both a long-focus lens and close focus with the standard lens. The cameras have rack-and-pinion bellows focusing, with a focusing knob on each side of the front of the bed in most examples. There is usually a focus scale on the left of the bed, and of course a ground-glass screen can be attached. They have front rise, adjusted with the knurled knob at the top of the right hand post of the front standard, and sometimes also geared shift. On many later cameras, there are red or yellow spirit levels inlaid in the focus and front-rise knobs.

Almost all the cameras have a brilliant finder mounted on the lens standard; depending on the age and model, this may be mounted centrally above the lens (common especially on the smallest size), or offset to the left. Most cameras (except for the smallest) also have either a wire-frame finder, or a folding Newton finder (only on early cameras) on the side of the body.[3]

The examples shown here show two different styles of bed strut; the curved style on the camera shown to the right is the later one. McKeown states that this style was used from about 1927; earlier cameras have simpler, straight struts.[2][3]

The 4.5x6 cm example shown here has a square-cornered front standard, only seen on early cameras,[3] and an unusual square front to the brilliant finder. The bed-struts are also of the earlier type. McKeown shows a 4.5x6 cm camera with the later and more common U-shaped standard, as seen on the 6.5x9 cm example above.

Bergheil De Luxe

Brown leather

The true Bergheil Luxus (or De Luxe) from 1923-27 is finished with light brown leather covering and bellows, and has gold-finish standard and fittings (including the plate-holders), after the style of a tropical camera. It was only made in the 4.5x6 cm size.

Green leather

There are also cameras from the 1930s with pattern-textured green leather covering and bellows, but with the same black-painted fittings as the standard Bergheil. These are often described as 'de luxe' cameras.[4] Voigtländer had stopped making the brown-leather Luxus camera by this time. McKeown states that all 6.5x9 cm and 9x12 cm cameras after 1932 had this green leather, and rather dismisses the green cameras as a step up from the black models, but [..] not truly 'Luxus' models.[2] However, a black-leather example dated to 1934 has been seen at Westlicht.[5] McKeown states that the green leather of the bellows tends to darken with age, so that the 'green' cameras are often not particularly green;[2] the texture of the leather, however, is easily recognised.

Interchangeable lenses

Later Bergheil cameras have an exchangeable lens/shutter unit, attached via a bayonet. Many of the standard lenses are Heliars. It would be possible to use the standard lens for a larger camera as a moderate long-focus lens, relying on the bellows extension. The Tele-Dynar shown here is a true telephoto lens, however (i.e. it does do not require a bellows extension as long as its focal length to focus). The example shown is a 25.5 cm lens, giving almost twice the standard focal length on a 9x12 cm camera; a 20 cm example (which would do the equivalent job for a 6.5x9 cm camera) has also been seen.

Late and Early Bergheil Heliar Lenses.
Images by yalluflex. (Image rights)

Early and Late Bergheil Lens mounts.
Images by yalluflex. (Image rights)


  1. These dates are given in notes on the Bergheil at Early Photography.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p950-1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 9x12 cm Bergheil with 13.5 cm f/6.8 Radiar double-anastigmat lens and dial-set Compur shutter, and with an infinity-focus marker on the bed for the rear lens group used alone. The camera also has simple diagonal struts, a folding Newton finder and no brilliant finder; sold as lot 393 at the nineteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction in May 2011.
  4. 6.5x9 cm and 9x12 cm Bergheil cameras with green leather, and listed as 'de luxe'; sold at the tenth Westlicht auction in November 2006.
  5. 9x12 cm Bergheil, serial no. A 517570, about 1934, but with natural-textured black leather and black bellows, with interchangeable 15 cm f/4.5 Heliar (the serial no. 710131 confirms the date as 1933-4) and Compur shutter; sold at the eighth Westlicht auction, in November 2005.


  • Examples sold in past auctions by Westlicht Photographica Auction, not cited in the text:
    • Bergheil de Luxe, serial no. 43201, about 1925, with 7.5 cm f/6.3 Kollinear and Compur shutter; with gold-finish plate-holders, and film-pack adapter in brown leather with gold trim; sold at the nineteenth auction, in May 2011.
    • Bergheil de Luxe, serial no. 61634, with 7.5 cm f/4.5 Heliar in a Compur shutter; sold at the fifteenth auction, in May 2009.
    • 10x15 cm Bergheil, serial no. A 313216 with (apparently fixed) 16.5 cm f/4.5 Skopar and Compur shutter (dated 1929-33 by the lens serial no. 558779); sold at the eighth auction, in November 2005.
    • 9x12 cm Bergheil with green leather and bellows, serial no. C885990, with 13.5 cm f/4.5 Heliar, serial no. 684414 (about 1933); sold at the eighteenth auction, in December 2010.
    • 6.5x9 cm Bergheil with green leather and bellows, serial no. B606732, about 1933; with interchangeable 12 cm f/4.5 Heliar and Compur shutter, and with a 'chimney' loupe accessory attached to the brilliant finder; with a Rollex roll-film back and the leather outfit case; sold at the fourteenth Westlicht auction, in November 2008.