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Camera industry in Dresden
Balda | Certo | Eho-Altissa | Eichapfel | Ernemann | Feinmess | Heyde | Hamaphot | Huth | Hüttig | ICA | Ihagee | Kochmann | Kerman | KW | Eugen Loeber | Ludwig | Mentor | Merkel | Meyer | Mimosa | Pentacon | Richter | Sommer | Stübiger | Unger & Hoffmann | Werner | Wünsche | Zeiss Ikon | Zeh
Camera distributors in Dresden
Camera industry in Freital
Beier | Pouva | Stein & Binnewerg | Thowe | Welta

KW is a German manufacturer, founded in 1919 by Paul Guthe and Benno Thorsch. KW stands for Kamera Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch.


The company was successor of the camera factory Guthe had founded in 1915. The innovative, compact Patent Etui cameras were introduced in 1920 and continued in production until 1938. The case - or Etui - of these cameras was slim enough to allow them to be slipped into a pocket.

In 1931 KW introduced the Pilot: the first TLR for 3x4cm negatives on 127 film. This was followed in 1932 by the Pilot Box: a 6x9cm 120 roll-film SLR; then in 1936 the Pilot 6, a 6x6cm 120 SLR[1].

In 1937 Paul Guthe emigrated to Switzerland; as a Jew he no longer felt safe in Germany. Benno Thorsch emigrated to the USA in 1938, for the same reason. Benno had already met Charles A. Noble of Detroit (who was of German origin) while Noble was on a visit to Germany[2]. Thorsch had suggested selling KW in exchange for Charles' Detroit Photographic business.

The sale went ahead and Charles moved to Germany with his family. Charles soon realised that the company's future was in making 35mm SLR cameras.

The new company Kamera-Werkstaetten Charles A. Noble is mostly known for the Praktiflex 35mm SLR, developed by Benno Thorsch and Alois Hoheisel. The company moved to a larger factory building in the Bismarckstrasse and launched the new camera in 1939, that became the Praktica after the war.

KW was situated in the Eastern part of Germany, in the suburb of Niedersedlitz, in Dresden, the centre of German photo-optical manufacture. It was nationalised in 1945 by the East German post-war Soviet controlled regime. Charles A. Noble and his 23 year old son Henry H. Noble were arrested and imprisoned later they were sent to a Soviet Special prison, formerly Buchenwald, Charles was released in 1952 and returned to the USA, but in 1950 John was sentenced to 15 years in a Soviet work camp in Siberia and was only released after President Eisenhower's personal intervention in 1955.

The company launched the innovative Praktina in 1952, and was renamed as Kamera Werk Niedersedlitz. In 1956 it launched the Praktisix 6x6 SLR and took over the production of Zeiss Ikon's Contax F/Pentacon F.

In 1959 it was merged with the East German part of Zeiss Ikon into VEB Kamera- und Kinowerke. In 1964 the merged company became VEB Pentacon, while continuing the production of Praktica models.

After the reunification of Germany in 1990 John H. Noble tried to get back the factory and camera brand. He got back his father's old factory in the Bismarckstrasse and named it Kamera Werk Dresden. Today it makes the Noblex panorama cameras, carrying on the Noble name. John H. Noble died on the 17th November 2007.

The Praktica brand stayed in the hands of Pentacon, used for the last Praktica SLRs up until 2001, and for OEM-made compact cameras and compact digicams which are produced in East Asia.


35mm film cameras





See Praktica

Contax F

120 film cameras



See Pentacon.


127 film cameras


Plate cameras


  1. The first model of the Pilot 6 had a fixed lens, and from 1938 onwards it had interchangeable lenses.
  2. A devout Christian, Charles A. Noble had worked as a missionary in the USA before settling in Detroit, Michigan, after the birth of his son John in 1923. He had later taken over an ailing photo-finishing business that his wife worked for and turned it around into one of the largest in the USA.


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