This is a medium format (120 film) camera from Carl Braun of Nürnberg, Germany. This is the Braun that made the Paxette range of 35 mm cameras but the manufacturing standards here are not as high as with the Paxettes. In 1954, the British Journal Photographic Almanac had this paxina 29 camera advertised for sale for £11-1-10 plus £3-12-2 purchase tax giving a retail price of £14-14-0.
focal length: 75 mm
apertures: f/2.9 to f/22
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: PC socket
film size: 120
This camera measures 140 mm wide by 90 mm high and 70 mm deep when closed (95 mm deep when open). It weighs 475g. The body is made from an aluminium alloy casting with an aluminium fascia. Most of the body is covered in black leatherette with the base and edges painted black (and some small chrome plated details).
As a simple 120 camera, the top plate is uncluttered (particularly compared to a later 35 mm SLR). At either end is a large (30 mm diameter) knob although only the left-hand one turns. This turning knob is the film advance used in conjunction with the red window (more later). Both knobs pull up to facilitate the fitting and removal of the roll of film. The film advance knob has an arrow engraved in the top to indicate the direction of turn. Between the two knobs is a decorative plate with printed legends of maker, model name and place of manufacture.
The Braun logo on here is remarkably like the Carl Zeiss and their subsidiaries logos.
Central on the top plate is an accessory shoe with no electrical contacts (so a cold shoe).
The front of the camera has a square fascia which measures 70 mm wide and 65 mm high. Centrally in this is the lens/shutter assembly. This assembly is housed on the end on an aluminium tube, similar to my Balda Super Baldina and Dacora Digna cameras of the same era. This tube slides into the camera body when not in use. To use the camera, the lens/shutter is pulled out and turned anti-clockwise until it clicks in place.
These sliding tubes are usually fairly snug but the fit on this one is rather sloppy. Looking inside the camera, it is clear that this sloppiness is due to wear of the sliding components all of which are aluminium. When collapsed, the shutter release slides into a cylinder to prevent it moving. Presumably, this is to prevent accidental firing of the shutter but as the shutter needs to be manually cocked I would have thought it an unnecessary precaution.
The shutter is a Gauthier Pronto shutter. This is a cheaper version of the Prontor shutter. It offers four speeds (1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200) and B. It has a delay action lever which barely works on this camera – it is good practice not to try the delay action on old cameras as, at best, they cause problems and can wreck the shutter if they physically break. The shutter has a PC socket for flash with no synchronising setting. There is also a socket threaded for a standard cable release.
The lens is marked as a Paxar and was made in Bayreuth – this suggests that the lens was made by Steiner (the only significant lens maker in Bayreuth). At this price range for a camera, the lens will be a triplet and is front cell focusing. Steiner were (and still are) a reputable company so I would imagine that this lens will perform well when closed down to f/5.6 or f/8. The lens serial number is 28722 which is a fairly low serial number (Steiner started business in 1947 and this camera was made in 1953 so a low serial number is to be expected). The lens is coated, at least on the front surface. The rear surface of the rear element does no appear to be coated – there is no visible blue tint there.
The iris diaphragm has ten blades which gives a good approximation of a circular aperture. The maximum aperture is f/2.9 which seems to be a strange value seeing that the standard sequence of apertures includes f/2.8. As Schneider also produced a f/2.9 triplet (the Radionar), I assume that there is a technical reason for the f/2.9 maximum aperture.
There is an aperture on the aperture scale marked with a red dot. With this red dot setting (which is slightly larger than f/8) the hyperlocal distance of this lens is 30 feet. This means that with the red dot aperture and the focus set to 30 feet, everything from about 18 feet to infinity will be in focus – ideal for landscapes.
You can increase the hyperlocal distance by setting the aperture to f/22 when the focus range becomes 5.5 feet to infinity. The makers will have chosen the red dot aperture value to match the lens’ “sweet spot” and so give maximum image quality. At f/22, there will be some image softening due to diffraction.
Above the lens is the viewfinder window. This is square (as this camera produces square images) and not very good. Wearing my glasses, I cannot possibly see the whole image and not wearing my glasses I need to hold the camera uncomfortably close to my eye.
The back of the camera is unadorned apart from the viewfinder eyepiece and the red window. The viewfinder eyepiece is very small – about 5 mm diameter – and hard to use.It is flush with the body and has a slightly raised part of the back immediately below it. The red window is central in the back (this is the position of the series of frame numbers for square negatives on 120 film. Cameras that take 6×9 or 6×4.5 negatives will use the series of numbers towards one edge of the film or the other). To avoid light fogging the film, this red window is furnished with an internal shutter. This has a white square painted on it so it is visible through the red window. It is moved by a round metal stud just above the window.
The base of the camera has a central tripod boss – 1/4 inch Whitworth. At either end of the base is a polished, round, raised, aluminium disc. These pull out to facilitate insertion and removal of the film spools.
Inside, at either end, is a chamber for the film. The new film goes on the right and the take-up spool on the left. In each film chamber is a blue-steel spring to help keep the film taut on the spools. between the film chambers is the film gate. This is 55 mm high by 57 mm wide – the nominal size is 60 x 60 mm. The negatives will be not quite square. either side of the film gate is a chrome plated roller to prevent the film getting scratched as it moves across from one side to the other.