Leidolf from Wetzlar were a camera maker that have long intrigued me. When I have seen their cameras for sale they have either been too expensive or not working. This week I came across this Lordox in working condition for a reasonable amount. The early Leidolf cameras used 127 film and this camera was the first Lordox to use 35 mm film – hence the 24×36 in the name. The camera was introduced in 1952 and does not seem to have been in production for very long.
- lens: Triplon
- focal length: 5 cm
- apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/12
- focus range: 3 ft to infinity
- lens fitting: fixed
- shutter: Prontor S
- speeds: 1 s to 1/300 s
- flash: PC socket
- film size: 35 mm
The body is made from die-cast aluminium alloy and the top and bottom plates seem to be satin finished stainless steel. As is usual, the body is covered with black leatherette. The camera has clearly seen significant use, including on a tripod, but it is still in good condition. It is also clear that someone has taken the camera apart at some time as the lens fascia is skewiff and a few other parts are not back together quite as they should be. That a said, the camera is working well. The only cosmetic defects are slight scuffing on the base (tripod use), a couple of very small tears in the leatherette where the camera has been held and some polishing of the anodising of the shutter housing. For a camera that is 68 years old, that is quite good (and better than my 67 year old body!).
The camera body is rather square – there is minimal curving of the corners and the front and back of the body are absolutely flat. There is no plastic anywhere – to be expected in 1952 – every part that a is visible is either aluminium or stainless steel. The camera measures 121 by 73 by 85 mm and weighs 402 g.
The top plate looks fairly cluttered but that is because the camera is rather small. On the right of the top plate is the film advance knob. This is made from aluminium and turns anti-clockwise. In front of the film advance knob, and partially under it, is a small lever. Pushing this towards the engraved ‘R’ allow the film to be rewound. To the left of these is a raised portion. On this is the shutter release button. This is not threaded for a standard cable release. Rather, there is a dimple on top of the button and a screw thread around the base of the button to allow a non-standard cable release to be fitted. Behind the shutter release button is the embossed legend ‘LORDOX 24×36’.
In the middle of the top plate is a further raised portion which houses the viewfinder. This is a reverse Galilean finder (reverse means the image is smaller than life). On top of this is the logo in the shape of a cemented lens (similar to Zeiss Ikon ) containing the words ‘LEIDOLF’ and ‘WETZLAR’. Behind this is the accessory shoe. In 1952, this was necessarily a Barnack ‘cold’ shoe with no electrical contacts.
To the left of the viewfinder, the top plate is again slightly lower. This portion contains the frame counter. This consists of a stainless steel disc with the numbers from 10 to 40 engraved on it – only the decades are as numbers, the intermediate values are dots. This is a count-down counter. You need to set the counter to the film length when loading a film and then the counter counts down to zero as the film is used.
To the left of this the top plate lowers again. Here is the rewind knob. This is also machined aluminium and turns clockwise.
The rear of the top plate contains the viewfinder eye-piece. This is circular and measures 3 mm diameter. This is very small by today’s standards but quite usual for the early 1950s. The front of the top plate has the viewfinder window. This measures 10 by 6 mm. There are no bright lines or parallax adjustment but, again, this was quite usual for the time.
In the middle of the front of the camera is the shutter/lens assembly. There is an 18mm anodised aluminium tube on which is mounted a Prontor S shutter. This is the flash synchronised version of the Prontor II shutter from before WWII. (This was followed by the Prontor SV and Prontor SVS later in the 1950s.) So, this Prontor S shutter is synchronised for flash but there is no selection between M and X synch. The shutter needs to be manually cocked before use using the lever at the top of then housing. This camera was made about the time that internal connections for shutters were being introduced but not yet for Leidolf.
As well as the shutter release on the top, there is also an external shutter release lever on the right side of the housing which is linked to the shutter release button on the top plate. There are eight shutter speeds from 1s to 1/300s. This is the old sequence which includes 1/50, 1/100, 1/300. This was soon to be replaced by the modern sequence with 1/60, 1/125/ 1/250. The shutter also has a self-timer which is activated by a red lever on the lower left side of the shutter housing. When this is moved beneath the housing it adds an eight second delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing (actually, on my camera, the delay is nine seconds which is surprisingly close).
There is a surprisingly small range of apertures. The largest is ƒ/2.8 which is about about as large as a triplet lens will go. The smallest aperture is ƒ/12 which is surprisingly large – I would expect ƒ/16 if not ƒ/22. The lens is a Triplon which was either made by Leidolf or for them to their design. I have seen a suggestion on the Interweb that the lenses were made by Enna Optik of Munich. The last thing to note about the shutter/lens assembly is the presence of a PC socket for flash near two the top of the housing.
Opening the back of the camera without the benefit of a manual required some imagination. There are no visible catches, slides, levers, buttons to move to release the back. What is actually required is to turn each of the two strap lugs through 90º whereupon the back and base come away in one piece. Inside, in the centre, is the film gate. At each end of this is a chrome roller, both of which still turn freely. Above the film gate, towards the right, a toothed wheel protrudes through the casting. These teeth protrude into the sprocket holes in the film and allow the camera to measure the amount of film moved when winding the film – 7 holes per frame.
I shall be shooting a test film tomorrow and I will post the results here once the film is developed.
5-3-2020: I now have the test from back from Snappy Snaps – and it is not really very good. Exposure is fine, indicating that both shutter and iris diaphragm are fairly close to the nominal settings. But every picture is seriously out of focus. Either this was always a very poor lens, or something has happened to it over the last 68 years. All these pictures were focused on infinity. Some of them have detail both at a significant distance and also within a few metres of the camera and I would expect something to be in focus in that range. I have a suspicion that a previous owner has meddled with the lens without knowing what they are doing. There are certainly indications that some parts of the camera have been taken apart by a non-professional.
Here is a selection of the pictures: