The Futura-S : not just another rangefinder

The history of the Futura camera line starts during the second World War with Optische Anstalt, an optics factory that produced equipment for the German Military. Unfortunately the factory was destroyed during the war, so after the war ended the founder Fritz Kuhnert built a new factory and by 1947 was producing the Efka 24. The Futura rangefinder series became the companies flagship product at Photokina in 1950.

Most likely because of the cameras success, the company caught the attention of Ernst und Eduard Komorowski, ship builders from Hamburg, purchased the company an renamed it to Futura Kamerawerk GmbH. Unfortunately for Futura Kamerawerk their cameras never really caught the attention of the public and they went bankrupt 8 years later in 1958.

Introducing the Futura-S

After the introduction of the Futura line, the Futura-S was the third in the line (Futura Standard, Futura P, Futura S and Futura S III) and started production in 1952. The camera itself is a compact 35mm Rangefinder that boasted a modified and functional light baffle between the flange and the shutter leaves. This feature allowed the standard 50mm to attach to, and drive the longer lenses. Like many other camera of the time the Futura-S does not have an integrated take-up spool so its critical to the cameras function that the operator not loose this spool. Without it, the camera is just a fancy paperweight.

The Futura-S model has the “S” designation due to its Synchro-Compur shutter. The previous models all had different shutters. The Futura-P had a Prontor-SV while the Futura had a Compur-Rapid shutter.

It’s a heavy camera (763g), deceptively so actually given its relatively compact size. The Futura-S is only 12.3cm wide, 8cm tall and 3.4cm deep (7.5cm deep counting the lens extension of the 50mm f/2).

Shooting with the Futura-S

Like many, many other cameras the Futura-S came as a kit with either the 50mm f/2 or the faster 50mm f/1.5 or just a body. I don’t know if you could get the camera in black or just silver; mine is silver.

Camera bottom
Button to open back

Loading film into the camera is super straight forward. You simply slide the hatch lock towards the back (to the “O” position) and slide it off. here you can lock the film canister in place of the left, insert the leader into the take-up spool and either wind it by hand a little or use the winding mechanism. With the film secured slide the back on and set your film counter to 0 by rotating it clockwise.

The finder is bright and clear so its easy to focus due to being couple to the lens. Fair warning, it’s pretty easy put your finger over the secondary opening for the rangefinder. The opening on the right provides light and makes it so you can focus the camera, so don’t block it. Fortunately it’s easy to notice as well since the finder gets much darker.

The shutter is linked to the film advance knob and will not fire again until the film is advanced to prevent double exposures. So if you like to shoot double exposures, the Futura S isn’t your gal. The throw on the advance knob is pretty short so you don’t have to spend much time winding the film. I can easily get it back to “ready to fire” with just two movements. They did make a pretty cool Rapid Advance knob that replaced the standard knob which has an extendable lever like most cameras.

The Futura S has a pretty typical shutter speed range for cameras from this era ranging from Bulb (B) to 1/500 of a second. The flash syncs with both M and X settings on all shutter speeds except Bulb. The only time that I ran into any issues with the shutter speeds was on a bright sunny day and I had loaded 400 film – I should have gone with 100. It can also be easily correctable using filters or just stopping down.

Side front view of Futura S camera
Lens detail

The Futura S is a wonderful little camera that is extremely well built. Focusing using the DoF scale on the lens is easy and smooth. Like I mentioned above the rangefinder is couple to the lens so using the finder is just as easy. You can also get a universal finder that gives and even better view of what is in your field of view. Unfortunately accessories for these camera are virtually impossible to find and can be very expensive if you happen to find one.

Conclusion

The Futura S is a solid performer that does its job with ease. The lenses are clean and sharp and Compur shutters are some of the best shutters ever made. I don’t take mine out much, but even after 70 years the camera could easily take its place as a daily shooter. The only downside is the weight. It’s small than my Leica IIIf and weights more but you can easily drop it in the pocket of your jacket or sweatshirt.

These cameras are only getting more and more expensive though. There weren’t very many made to begin with so the remaining few on the market will take a nice chunk out of your wallet.



General

Minox Model A, B, C
Type : Rangefinder
Lens Mount : fixed
Shutter : curtain Shutter
Shutter Speeds : B -1/1000s
Remote Shutter Release: No (accessory needed)
Self Timer : no
Mirror Lock-up : N/A
DoF preview : No
Flash:
Sync
Flash Mount :
Accessory shoe
Flash Sync : 1/50s
Multiple Exposure : No
Filter Size : Built-in/snap on
Strap Lugs :
Custom leash clasp
Battery : N/A
Production :
1938 – 1972
Weight :
90g – 117g

Download the Minox A manual
Download the Minox B manual
Download the Minox C manual
Other manuals

Accessories

Case (various colors and styles)
Black, Brown, Tan, Reg, Green
Leash/Measuring cable
Filters
Viewfinders (3 versions)
Reflex finders (2 versions)
Flash B-C (multiple models)
Flash B4/C4 (cube type, several versions)
Tripod head (several versions)
Tripods
Enlarger (various models)
Copy stand
Binocular Mount (several versions)
Film & Film tins
Film loupes & Cutters
Minox slide mounts


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