Ihagee Exa 1a

Ihagee Exa 1a

Exa 1a, front view

This is a German SLR camera made by Ihagee of Dresden, Germany.  Ihagee (short for Industrie- und Handelsgesellschaft) was started in 1912 by a Dutchman in Germany.  Until the mid-1930s, Ihagee made more or less standard folding film cameras.  In 1933 they introduced the first Exakta, an SLR which used 127 film (the roll film equivalent of 35mm).  Using 127 film enabled them to make very small cameras.  In 1936 they introduced the Kine Exakta, an SLR which used motion picture (35mm) film (hence Kine).  The Exa range was a smaller and simpler version of the Exakta.

lens: Carl Zeiss Tessar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: 2.8 to 22
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Exakta bayonet
shutter: Exakta mirror shutter
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/175
flash: PC connector, bulb or electronic synch
film size:  35 mm

The Exa 1a was introduced in 1964 and was produced until 1977.  In some markets it was called Elbaflex 175, Exakta 100 or VX 100. The Exa II range were made concurrently with the EXA I range.  The camera can be dated by the origin engraved on the top plate.  This ranged from ‘Ihagee Dresden’ to ‘aus Dresden’, the Pentacon tower, to ‘Dresden’ to no engraving.  Mine has ‘aus Dresden’.  The back of the camera has ‘MADE IN GDR’ stamped in the leatherette as well as ‘1’ in a triangle.  The ‘1’ in a triangle is a quality mark indicating the finished product is of the first quality.   (There were briefly two Ihagees – the original Dresden Ihagee in East Germany and a new Ihagee formed by the pre-war owner in West Germany – this camera was made in East Germany.). This camera cost, in 1965, £22-12-4 ( in old British money, or £22.62 in modern British money) which equates to £731 in 2020 values.

This is an idiosyncratic  camera in some ways.  The camera is rather wide front to back (150 mm) in the middle and narrows at each end with the typical Exakta trapezoidal shape.  The shutter release is on the left side on the front and presses in rather than down.  The shutter release continues through a lug on the lens which shuts down the iris diaphragm just before the shutter is released.  The shutter itself is idiosyncratic  – it is neither an leaf shutter in the lens nor a focal plane shutter next to the film.  Rather, the mirror acts as the shutter in a way that I do not quite understand – but see here for details (link no longer works).  The viewfinder and pentaprism are removable, the focussing screen replaceable and the whole thing can be replaced with a waist-level finder.

Ihagee did not make lenses so the Exa 1a was supplied with various lenses. My Exa 1a has a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (as opposed to a Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar from West Germany) dating from 1970.  It is a f2.8 50mm lens with an Ihagee bayonet fitting.  Any Exakta or Exa lens should fit although I am told that long lenses (i.e. 100 mm) will cause vignetting.  There is an idiosyncratic aspect to the Ihagee bayonet – it is, in fact, two bayonets – one inside the mouth (for most lenses) and one outside the mouth for larger lenses.  The lens focusses from 0.5 m to infinity and has apertures from f2.8 to f22 available in 1/2 stop click positions.  As mentioned above, the shutter release acts through a lug on the lens and stops the lens down as it releases the shutter.

Shutter speeds are 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/175 (+ B).  Because of the way the mirror is used as the shutter, faster shutter speeds are not possible.  On the shutter speed dial there is a red dot for synchronising the shutter  for flash.  For electronic flash this is 1/60 seconds and for bulb flash it is 1/30 seconds but the actual setting is against a lightning icon for electronic flash and against a bulb icon for bulb flash.  There is a lever to the left of the viewfinder that will lock the shutter to prevent accidental exposures – a feature I wish more cameras would have.

There is no accessory shoe for a flash gun but grooves around the viewfinder eyepiece suggest that an optional shoe might have been available.  This does not matter to me – I never use flash – except I usually put a film type reminder in the accessory shoe to remind me that there is a film loaded and which type it is.

Exa 1a, top view

The film advance lever is rather small but moves the film on with one movement.  In the centre of the film advance is the frame counter   A wheel under the the film advance sets a reminder for the type of film in use – DIN, ASA, negative or reversal.

The viewfinder gives a 1:1 view of the scene and with the focussing screen supplied is clear and bright.  As is usual with a new old camera, near the end of my test film I am beginning to use the camera automatically.  I also have a waist-level viewfinder for this camera.

Waist-level finder, closed

The viewfinders snap out of position fairly easily when you want to change them (but are firmly held in place normally going on) and both the finder and the focussing screen can be replaced.  Both my focussing screens are plain ground glass.

Waist-level finder, open

It is fairly easy to use from waist level but critical focussing is difficult from that distance.  Using zone focussing, this viewfinder is certainly ok for composing the shot and is much more discrete than holding the camera to your eye.  For critical focussing, there is a built-in magnifier but to use this, you need to raise the camera to face level and you then lose the advantage of having a waist-level finder – but still better than changing finders mid session, I would think.

Waist-level finder with magnifier

I think this camera will be a user if there are no shutter problems or light leaks.


I have just bought a 2X teleconverter for this camera.  It cost me £7.00 including postage.  It was described on Ebay as a Pentax teleconverter and only attracted one bid – mine!  I could easily see it was an Exakta fit converter by the offset shutter release on the lens body – a feature that I have only ever seen on an Exakta (or Exa) camera lens.  It is excellent condition – there are no moving parts to go wrong – and just needed a good clean.

2X teleconverter, Exakta fit

Unfortunately, I cleaned it with ROR lens cleaner and sprayed directly onto the glass instead of on to a tissue and I now have condensation between the lens elements.  I am thinking that if the moisture got in that easily, it will dry out again fairly easily. When it has dried out, I will try it and post the results here.

2X teleconverter, top view


I now have my test film developed so here are some of the test pictures.  They disclose a slight fault as many of the pictures have a dark wedged shaped line at the top of the picture.  It is present on the negatives so is not down to the scanning.  I suspect the shutter is slightly out of line.  Bearing in mind that this camera has lain unused for many years before I bought it, I am hoping that the fault will rectify itself with the camera being used.

Lincoln High Street through the Stonebow
Lincoln Corn Exchange
River Idle at Gringley Carr
Lincoln High Street


I now have finished my second film on this camera and the shutter is working fine.  Those black wedges have gone from the tops of the frames entirely.  Many old cameras that are a bit ‘hesitant’ just need to be used for a couple of films to be alright.
The Trent, viewed from the Nottingham-Lincoln train
Canal in Nottingham

Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

7 thoughts on “Ihagee Exa 1a”

  1. John, my wife had this same camera when she graduated in the 1970-ies. She has not used it very much and a long time ago. A maual may be lost during several house movings. Your comments were quite clear so I now know how to use a few of the buttons, In I can use the film forward button. I am not sure whether a film is inside the camera. Since you describe the camera in detail, I would like to know how a film can be placed, or removed, since I do not see any slide or button to open the back. Can you help me out please.


    1. I cannot believe I did not include this in the article! I shall correct this as I have time.
      To open the back – or, rather, to remove it – you turn a ring around the tripod socket and pull the back and base (they are one item) down. Be careful as the take-up spool is not fixed and can fall out.


      1. Thank you for the swift reply. Your instructions were very usefull.
        I have another question however. Are you aware of anyone wanting to purchase the camera? There are three 3 lenses available for it as well; a Domiplan 2.8 / 50 from Meyer-Optik, Görlitz, a Pentacon 2.8 / 135made in GDR, and the ens fitted on the camera, Carl Zeiss Jena, Flektogon2.8 / 35, and my final question, what would such a set cost when sold by me?
        Kind regards,

        O.J. Dussel


        1. I cannmot hazard a guess as to price. Old camera prices are increasing at the moment – I have been collecting cameras for about 12 years now and recently prices are about double what I was paying 12 years ago. Your best bet is to look on Ebay at finished auctions (an option with their advanced search facility).


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