Focasport

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Three series of 35mm fixed-lens cameras made by the French maker OPL in the 1950s and 1960s appeared under the name Focasport.

The first Focasport series


The first Focasport series lasted from 1955 to 1962.

The original Focasport is a simple 35mm viewfinder camera with an Atos (sometimes Crouzet) leaf shutter up to 1/300. It has a Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:3.5 three-element lens with front cell focusing. These characteristics are modest, but it is a well-finished camera, and at least in France it benefited from the aura of the more expensive Foca models, a line of 35mm rangefinder cameras with focal plane shutter and interchangeable lenses meant to be a local equivalent of the Leica. It met with success in its country of origin. In 1957 its name was changed to Focasport I.

In 1958 it became the Focasport IL with the addition of a winding lever, and in 1960 the lens became a faster Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:2.8, also with three elements. Apparently in the catalogues it never had the name Focasport IL but simply Focasport I, maybe the IL name has been forged later by collectors.

In 1957 a model equipped with an uncoupled selenium meter appeared, called the Focasport IC (presumably C for cellule or cell).

In the same year, the more luxurious Focasport II appeared with a coupled rangefinder, and a four element lens Foca Oplar Color 4.5cm f:2.8 with helical focusing. The very last Focasport II cameras had a Foca Oplex Color 4.5cm f:2.8.

In 1959 appeared the Focasport IB and Focasport ID, that had both a new projected frame viewfinder, and the Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:2.8 three-element lens. The IB had no meter, while the ID had an uncoupled selenium meter and replaced the IC. The IL remained in production as the cheapest model.

The Focamatic

The Focamatic model appeared in 1961. It has a totally new body with a boxy shape. It has a selenium meter commanding a mechanical programmed exposure. It was one of the first cameras with programmed exposure, two years after the Agfa Optima. The Focamatic has a projected frame viewfinder, of the same design as the one on the first series Focasport IB and ID. It has a Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:2.8 three-element lens, and shutter speeds up to 1/250.

The Focamatic was normally sold in black, but it also exists in cream white, blue and red.

The second Focasport series

The second series of Focasport cameras lasted from 1962 to 1964. Their body was based on the Focamatic, but they have traditional manual exposure. All have a collimated finder, like the Focamatic. The two first models were introduced in 1962, with shutter speeds up to 1/250. The three next models seemingly appeared in 1963 and have shutter speeds up to 1/500.

The Focasport CF has a coupled selenium meter, readable in the finder and on the top plate, and the Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:2.8 three element lens. It is very much like a Focamatic without the programmed exposure.

The Focasport IIF was the top of the line, with a four-element Foca Neoplex 4.5cm f:2.8 and a long-base coupled rangefinder. However the integration of the rangefinder left no room for an exposure meter.

The Focasport CF was quickly replaced by the Focasport C, which is the same with shutter speeds up to 1/500 and a little change to the cell.

A simpler model called the Focasport I appeared, identical to the Focasport C but with no meter.

Lastly, the Focasport IIC is like the Focasport C with the addition of a short-based rangefinder. The rangefinder's second window is outside of the frame containing the meter window and the two windows of the collimated finder, as if it was an afterthought. We could think of it as the top of the line, but it still has the simpler three-element lens. It seems that OPL somewhat downgraded the Focasport models, from the more ambitious IIF to the more amateurish IIC.

A version specially designed for use on a microscope was based on the second series of Focasport.

The third Focasport series

The third series of Focasport showed a marked degradation in ambition and quality of construction. They are cheap plastic-bodied cameras, with no advanced features. All have the Foca Neoplar 4.5cm f:2.8 three-element lens and a plain, not collimated, viewfinder.

The Focasport S has no meter and a simple B-30-60-125 shutter. The Focasport SC is similar but with a selenium meter, and the Focasport SF has in addition the 1/250 shutter speed and a folding magnesium flash unit incorporated in the top plate.

The third series of Focasport met quite limited success.

A user's summary

The first series of Focasport are very common in France and can be bought cheaply. Their finish and quality of construction is excellent, the quality of the images delivered by the three-element Neoplar is very acceptable. The Focasport II, with its rangefinder and four-element lens, is yet more desirable, and is not uncommon to find. It is a great compact camera, an alternative to a Voigtländer Vito, Zeiss Ikon Contessa or Agfa Super Silette, but with no meter.

The second series is a bit rarer, and its boxy style might make it less attractive to some. Their finish is said to be good but not up to that of the first series. The Focamatic is best left to the collectors, one would not expect too much from the mechanical programmed automation of the 1960s.

The third series has a much cheaper feeling, and today it only has a very marginal interest for Foca collectors.

Bibliography

  • Princelle, Jean Loup. Foca Historica. Mialet, France: Éditions Cyclope, 1997. ISBN 2-910284-38-6.
  • Vial, Bernard. Histoire des appareils français. Période 1940–1960. Paris: Maeght Éditeur, 1980, re-impressed in 1991. ISBN 2-86941-156-1.

Links

In French :