Arette IA

Akarette Ia front

This is a nicely designed and made camera aimed at the lower end of the enthusiast market. It is not a point and shoot – it is necessary to set both shutter speed and aperture and focus the lens – but the lens cannot be exchanged and there is no light meter or rangefinder.This is a nicely designed and made camera aimed at the lower end of the enthusiast market. It is not a point and shoot – it is necessary to set both shutter speed and aperture and focus the lens – but the lens cannot be exchanged and there is no light meter or rangefinder.

P1050108lens: Color-Isconar

focal length:  45 mm

apertures: f/2.8 to f/16

focus range: 1 m to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Prontor SVS

speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds

flash: PC socket

film size: 35 mm

The camera is made from die cast aluminium with a satin finish stainless steel top and bottom plate. The camera measures 125 by 85 by 65 mm.

On the top plate, at the right hand end, is a memo for film speed (in both ASA and DIN) and film type (colour positive, colour negative or monochrome). Film speed is set on a dial on the top. The film type is set by a wheel on the right hand edge and the film type is viewed through a window. Both these devices are entirely mnemonic and have no effect on the operation of the camera. This memo is on a raised portion which is reflected on the other end. This left hand raised portion contains the film rewind knob and a recessed lever to raise the knob. The rewind knob is raised by a small lever on the inside of the raised portion. Between these two – and not quite centrally for some reason – is an accessory shoe. At the this age, the most likely use for this would have been for an accessory rangefinder. There are no electrical contacts so this is a cold shoe.

P1050111On the back of the top plate is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is round and measures ten millimetres across. This is generously large for the time and is useable while wearing my glasses. When looking through the viewfinder, there are clear bright-lines for framing the picture with dotted lines to (at least partially) overcome paralax between the viewfinder and lens when taking close-up pictures. Completely missing from the top plate is the film advance lever – more later.

Shutter release and flash control
PC socket and cable release socket

On the front of the top plate, at the right when using the camera, is the camera name (Arette IA) in green ‘handwriting’. On the left is the viewfinder window. At first sight, this looks like an elongated window. In fact, it is two windows – the viewfinder window proper and a second, translucent, window to provide illumination for the bright-lines.

As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens assembly. This is central (unlike the accessory shoe) and sits in a decorative stainless steel fascia.

P1050114The shutter is a Prontor SVS shutter made by the company that used to be called Gauthier but was now called Prontor after their most successful shutter model. The S in SVS refers to the fact that the shutter is synchronised for flash and the V (for Vorlaufwerk) indicates a self-time function.

Prontor shutters came in two flavours – unlinked shutter and aperture or linked shutter and aperture. This camera has the linked shutter and aperture known as the EV system. EV stands for Exposure Value. When using a suitable light meter (and most light meters were suitable in the 1950s) you could read off the EV from the light meter and set this value on the shutter. For example, good sun light will have an EV of 15 (f/16 @ 1/100 seconds if you use the Sunny 16 rule). Having set this, you can alter the shutter speed to 1/300 seconds and the aperture will alter itself to half-way between f/8 and f/11 so maintaining the correct exposure without the user having to think about it. The shutter can only be set to click-stop speeds while the aperture will set itself to the precise aperture needed (as in the above example). This is because the shutter will not work with in-between settings but the aperture will. Available EV values are from 2 to 17. EV 2 is 2 seconds @ f/2.8 and EV 17 is 1/300 seconds @ /16. There is a range of shutter speeds in green that cannot be set. So, for instance, at EV 4 you can have either 1/2 second @ f/2.8 or 1 second @ f/4. If you want a smaller aperture, say f/11, you can read off the green shutter speed against f/11 (which is 8 seconds). You then set the EV value so that f/11 is against B (which is EV6) and then manually time an eight second exposure using a cable release.

Available apertures are a quite usable f/2.8 to f/16. The shutter release is a large knurled lever on the top right of the shutter housing. On my camera, the shutter will not fire. I think that this is because the film advance lever is not cocking the shutter. Also on the rear of the shutter housing is a threaded socket for a standard cable release on the top left. Half way down on the left is a PC socket for a flash gun. This can be synched for flash bulbs (M) or electronic flash (X). The selector for the two flash synch modes is on the right of the shutter housing below the shutter release lever. This synch selector also has a V setting for the self-timer.

The lens is a Color-Isconar made by Isco-Göttingen (which is a division of Schneider-Kreuznach). This has a focal length of 45 mm which is normal for 35mm photography (‘normal’ means that it produces the same angle of view as the human eye). I am fairly confident that this is a triplet lens and it is clearly colour corrected. It is also coated on all surfaces.

P1050115The base of the camera holds the missing film advance lever. This is on the right and is easily accessible to the user’s right thumb. As mentioned above, this is not cocking the shutter and does not feel ‘right’ when used. In the middle of the base is a frame counter which counts up from zero and must be reset to `zero when a new film is loaded. On the other end of the base is a tripod socket. This is the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth (or UNC – I am not sure when the standard changed from Whitworth to UNC).

The back is opened by squeezing two studs on the left hand edge. This is a good German camera and copes with light by the back having large flanges that fit into deep recesses – there are no foam light seals here.

P1050118Inside, the camera is much like any other 35 mm camera. The main difference is the absence of a sprocket shaft and the presence of two sprocket wheels – one above and one below the film gate. The sprocket wheels are necessary to measure how much film has been advanced. These sprocket wheels should free-wheel backwards to allow the film to be rewound but these will not. I am sure that this will be connected to the problem with the film advance lever not cocking the shutter. There is some evidence that someone has attempted to dismantle the camera at some point, presumably to sort this out. Or maybe they caused the problem by fiddling.

The take-up spool is very thin – this will bend the film more than usual and will be likely to make it difficult to store the negatives flat.  Because of these problems, I shall not be able to test this camera with film.

The following is an advert for this camera from the British Journal of Photography Almanac of 1957 – not quite the model I have described here but a sibling with the same name:

1957 002

Author: John Margetts

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

14 thoughts on “Arette IA”

  1. Hi John,
    I love your in depth analysis of the cameras that you discover.I have just bought the Super P version of this lovely camera, non-working as yours turned out to be but mine was avertised as such. It arrived almost two hours ago so haven’t had time to give it more a superficial examination, it is immaculate.
    Have you made any headway with your attempt to correct the camera problems in the intervening year or so since you published this article? It would be interesting and possibly helpful if you have. Another camera has literally just been delivered by DPD, I haven’t opened it yet, it is an EXA 1B from Germany with a ” 12 months guarantee”of of all things. I look forward to your reply when you get the time.
    Kind regards


    1. Hi John,
      A follow up on my previous comment. I have examined the Arette Super P to find that there is NOTHING wrong with the shutter or the winding mechanism , the “problem” lies in the winding arm mechanism, it has a VERY LONG travel to activate approximately 210 degrees right around to the front and then let go. I imagine that you have already discovered this, but i thought it warranted another comment.I am really pleased to have a lovely working camera.
      Regards ian


      1. I think that lot of problems with non-working leaf shuttersis down to the internal cocking mechanism but I am not a good enough mechanic to check this. I will check mine to see if a final push on the lever makes any difference.


    1. I have at present six Exa’s five Exa500’s all working and the 1b also working and I have three Exakta’s a V, a Varex IIb and a Vx IIa all in decent cosmetic shape but all need curtain replacement. I followed some advice on how to remove the inner mechanism, the wrong call for a relative rookie like me, I got almost there with two of them when the winding springs unraveled and I am unable to put them back, on the third, the V, I ignored some of the advice and found that it was not necessary in order to remove the innards.I am waiting for the repair items to arrive from Japan.All good fun. All the Exa500’s had jammed winding arms sticking out side ways,a good clean and lubrication sorted it.


  2. Your camera may actually be in working condition. Here are 2 suggestions:

    1 – REWINDING: There is a small metal tab on the base of the winding lever that is supposed to be the rewind release.

    NOTE: This is actually mentioned near the end of the text from the ad whose photo you attached.
    It states the following: “A small catch to free the take-up mechanism for rewinding is neatly built-into the lever itself.”

    (It is similar in design philosophy to the release for the rewind knob on top . . . . )

    2 – SHUTTER COCKING: When you open the back, there are two sprockets obviously visible in the center, above and below the film gate. Besides advancing the film counter, there is a good chance that they also cock the shutter. You can test my theory by “rolling” the two sprockets while simultaneously winding the film advance lever. If I am correct, when the sprockets lock, the shutter should be cocked and ready to go. If so, you can simply repeat the process to check all the shutter speeds (keeping in mind that, as with any old mechanical shutter, the slow speeds may “drag” or stick . . . ).

    I have encountered this system with Zeiss-Ikon cameras from this time period, which work in the way I described. They were designed to work with film loaded only, not to be “dry-fired” for testing.

    I hope that I am correct, and I hope this helps.

    I have an Arette that I bought on eBay on its way over from Europe. If anybody is still reading this blog and is interested, I will post an update once I receive and test my Arette.


    1. Unfortunately, I am aware of the various ways that cameras can cock shutters and none of them are working on this camera.

      Yes, please post an update. There are plenty of people reading my blog on a daily basis.


      1. Hi John,
        I have also found an AKW Arette Ia plus case,to go with my Arette Super P ,again listed as not working, upon examination I found it was working flawlessly once the winding arm was fully wound, but as Gil Zilberstein noted there is a potential flaw in the mechanism,so I experimented. I went through a remove film sequence including rewinding the imaginary film,”reloaded’ with film and wound the camera on, which seemed slack and puny,pressed the shutter release there was a quiet click but no response from the shutter ( shucks,I thought) on examination I found that the two sprockets were still free wheeling and not engaged, so wound them forward in the film wind direction until there was a click and they were now as they should be, then wound the lever as normal feeling more resistance towards the end of its arc which reset the shutter. from then on it worked as normal. Hope that helps,
        best regards


    2. It is seldom the shutter on these, but the cocking mechanism itself. 1st the winding arm has a very long travel right round to the front 2nd there are two cogs that cocks or resets the shutter when the film is wound on, so install a film to test this out [ you can always rewind it after ] or leave it in if the action cures the “problem”, I have three different models all fractionally different in action. Or you can try as has been suggested already, wind the cogs towards the winder, followed by a full wind on the winding lever to check the action, but normally there needs to be a film installed when the cogs are turned as the film is advanced, completing the cocking cycle, but don’t forget a full wind on the lever arm, one of mine needs a very short extra wind to complete the sequence.


  3. Hi, just got a Arette IBn with the exact same advance/shutter problem. Don’t suppose you came across a fix? Thanks.


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