Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6)

Exa cameras were a cut-down version of Exakta cameras. The first Exa version was just called Exa with no numbers – the second version was called Exa I. This first version Exa was produced in six varieties and my camera is the sixth variety – hence my title above of Exa 6, but the makers, Ihagee, never called it Exa 6 (nor exa 1.6), it was just plain Exa.

P1040209lens:  n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  n/a
lens fitting:  Exakta bayonet
shutter:  guillotine 
speeds:  1/25 to 1/150
flash:  2x PC sockets
film size:  35 mm

Exa, and Exakta, cameras are unique in body shape, control layout and internal mechanisms. If you are used to a Japanese style SLR, Exa take a bit of getting used to. The most obvious difference is the shape. It is rhomboidal rather than rectangular and a lot thicker than other cameras.  Another obvious difference is the shutter speed selector which is a lever. The last obvious difference is that the camera is left-handed. The speed selector is left of the viewfinder and the shutter release button is left of the lens.

As this camera is so unusual, I am going to give a very detailed description.

P1040221The camera measures 130 mm by 48 mm by 85 mm including the viewfinder but excluding the lens. It weighs 528 g.

Looking at the top plate, the viewfinder is central. Most SLR cameras have the lens and viewfinder somewhat left of centre. This camera has them centrally. The viewfinder is removable and can be replaced by various models. My camera has a waist-level finder but several eye-level finders were available (all viewfinders and focus screens for Exakta and Exa models should fit apart from those for the Exakta RTL1000). To remove the finder, it is necessary to move a slide downwards to release the fitting. This slide is on the front panel above the lens and just below the name plate. To fit the viewfinder, it just pushes into place.

When not in use, the waist-level finder folds down which makes the camera significantly smaller and prevents dust from falling on the focus screen. To open the finder, there is a small chrome button on the back of the finder which needs to be pressed in. The finder then snaps into the open position.

To use the waist-level finder, you look down into the finder at the focus screen. My camera has a plain ground glass screen (actually, it is a plano-convex lens with the plane surface ground to form the image and the convex part providing some magnification) but, again, other options were available including one with a split-image centre. The screen is easy to remove and replace – detach the finder from the camera and the focus screen is at the bottom held in place but springs but not very securely – a gentle pull and out it comes.

The image in the waist-level finder is reversed left to right but it is the right way up. There is no pentaprism here to correct the image. At first, this makes composing the image awkward but one soon learns to use it easily. Having the camera away from the eye changes the perspective of the image and looking down at the image also alters your reaction to it. I find that this makes a significant difference to my composition, and, talking to other photographers, this is quite usual.

The big drawback to having the camera away from your eye is focusing. To aid this, Ihagee have supplied a folding magnifier to enlarge the finder image. Raising the camera towards the eye makes focusing easy and you can then lower the camera again to take the shot.

P1040211

On the right of the viewfinder is a nickel plated plate. Prominently, this carries the film advance knob. This requires one complete turn to advance the film one frame and to lower the mirror (more later as this part is seriously stranger). This knob is also nickel plated which I rather like. Nickel is bluer and softer than chrome plating and much more attractive in good condition. Unfortunately, nickel is prone to corrosion and on my camera is very corroded. When I cleaned the corrosion off, I was left with heavily pitted surfaces.

Beside the advance knob is the frame counter. The disc of this is also nickel plated and corroded. It is both hard to clean and cleaning has partially removed the numbers. This counter counts up and needs to be manually set to 1 when fresh film is loaded. There is a little serrated wheel to do this but this is hard to reach and turn.

Behind the frame counter is the button to release the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

P1040212

On the left of the viewfinder is another corroded nickel plated plate. This carries the shutter speed selector. Unusually (apart from Exa being the only cameras I know with the speed selector on the left) this is a lever. Speeds are sparse – 1/25 to 1/150 seconds plus B. Asahi were offering 1/1000 on their Pentax cameras at this time. This speed selector is relatively stiff (my camera or by design?) and has very definite positions. Beside this lever is the film rewind knob. Again, a knob here was already old-fashioned at this time but I find it as easy to use as the more usual fold-out cranks.

P1040209If we move to the front of the camera – the lens mount is on a nickel plated plate in the centre of the front. At the top of this plate is the name plate. This is painted black with the name “Exa” in script and bright metal. Beneath this is the slide catch for the viewfinder – also nickel plated. Either side of the slide the words “IHAGEE DRESDEN” are stamped in the metal.

On the left side of this plate (as in using the camera) is the shutter release button. This is threaded for a standard cable release. Beside this is a swivel cap which functions to block accidental pressing of the shutter release.

Central in this plate is the lens mount. This is a standard Exakta/Exa bayonet with three lugs inside the throat that connect with the lens. With my Exakta Varex II and my three other Exa cameras, there are three extra lugs on the outside of the mount throat. These are to connect longer focal length lenses as using the internal lugs caused vignetting with lenses over 100 mm focal length. These are missing on this camera so using lenses over 100 mm focal length would be problematical. On the left side of the mount is the lens release lever.

P1040214

This is probably a good place to talk about the lenses. The standard Exakta/Exa lenses are automatic in that the iris diaphragm automatically closes as the shutter release is pressed. The way this is achieved is very idiosyncratic. The lens has a shutter release button attached to one side which sits immediately over the shutter release button on the body.P1040222.jpg

When you press the release button on the lens, this pushes through the fitting on the lens and presses the release button on the body. It also closes the iris diaphragm in the lens at the same time.

On the right hand side of the lens mount are two PC sockets. These are chrome plated. The top socket is for F rated flash bulbs (F=fast) and will fire the flash bulb 12 milliseconds before the shutter is fully open. This is to allow the flash bulb to reach maximum brightness as the shutter fully opens. This requires a shutter speed of 1/25 seconds.

The lower socket is marked X and is for electronic flash (X=Xenon which is the gas which electronic flash tubes are filled with). With the X socket, the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open and needs a shutter speed of 1/50 or 1/25 seconds.

P1040210

The back of this camera is hinged – on my other Exa cameras, the back is completely removed together with the base. When you open the back, the ends of the base come away with it, leaving the middle portion in place.  The reason for this is to allow easy insertion and removal of the film cassettes. As you can see from the photograph, the back of my camera is rather tatty. Leatherette frequently comes loose – it was stuck on with shellac – and is easy to refit. Unfortunately, the previous owner of my camera used a plastic type glue and the solvent has reacted with the leatherette and shrunk it.

In common with a lot of German cameras, it is possible to remove the take-up spool and replace it with an empty cassette. This removes the need to rewind the film and speeds up changing the film – it is necessary only to cut the film and remove both cassettes. In order to  make use of this fast film change, you need your new film to be already attached to an empty cassette. Quite doable but it would require more organisation than I am  really capable of. The down side of this system is that the detachable take-up spool gets lost resulting in  second hand cameras being hard to use. The inner from a standard cassette will fit fine but unless you do your own developing, can be hard to find.

P1040224

The base of the camera is plain apart from a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth threaded socket.

Being a German camera, there are no light seals to deteriorate, the Germans preferring to achieve light-tightness by good engineering.

The shutter is worth describing – this is also unique to Exa cameras. This shutter is neither an in-lens leaf shutter nor a focal plane shutter. It is a guillotine shutter using the mirror as the first part of the mechanism. When the shutter release button is pressed, the mirror moves up through an arc, exposing the film. A curved blanking plate then swings up and finishes the exposure. Once the exposure is complete, the mirror stays raised until the film is wound on. This is the reason for the rather slow top speed of 1/150 seconds as it is not really possible to get the heavy mirror moving fast enough to get a faster exposure. Plus points are that it is cheap to make, keeping the cost of a new camera down, and has no need of lubricants and so can be used in very cold conditions.

P1040225

My Final Word The Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6) camera is a unique camera. Controls are simple and the idiosyncratic. Once you are used to it, it is a delightful camera to use although the slow top shutter speed can be restricting. I like Exa cameras!
Images Handling Features View -finder Feel & Beauty History Age
4 2 4 4 3 4
Bonus  +1 for the overall imaginative design.
Final Score 22

 

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