Leitz Eldia

A simple film copying device from Ernst Leitz, the makers of the Leica camera.

I saw this device on Ebay with a very vague description – no real indication as to what the device might actually be. It was made by Leitz (the makers of the Leica camera) which suggests it would be both well designed and well made. So I put a bid in and got the device for £8.00 – a bargain! Fortunately for me, the device came with full instructions, making the use of the device clear (full instructions are three small pages of text plus a diagram).

The device itself has the maker’s name – Leitz Wetzlar, Germany – on it but no other writing. The box has the additional information of “Eldia 17900W” but no more and that is all the information that I had when I bought it.

The instructions (four small pages) have the additional information “Eldia printer” and “printing device for transparency film strips”. It seems that the device is intended for producing projectable positives on black and white film from black and white negatives. Searching on the Interweb suggests that this device was first introduced in about 1930 (dates on the Interweb vary a bit). Leitz Wetzlar was incorporated into a GmbH in 1930 and this name is printed on the instructions – “Leitz Wetzlar GmbH” so my device was made in or after 1930.

Early versions, according to the Interweb, had nickel plated knobs, later versions had chrome plated knobs and the last versions had plastic knobs. Mine has anodised aluminium knobs – so much for the Interweb! Both the device itself and the instructions say that it was made in Germany rather than West Germany which might suggest that it was made before 1945 but might also mean that it was of late enough manufacture that the distinction between West and East Germany was old hat and West Germany had returned to calling itself just Germany. On balance, I think mine is a later rather than earlier model.

The device itself is very simple – no lens, no shutter, no meter. It is fully manual and really simple. The device is basically a box with semicircular ends. It is made from brass which is painted black with a coarse crinkle finish. The is a hinged front – also brass painted black but with a finer crinkle finish.

The top has the only controls there are – a knurled knob at either end. These are different heights – the right hand one is taller and has an arrow embossed on top to indicate the direction of turn. The left hand knob is lower and has no arrow. Half way between these two knobs is a spring catch that holds the hinged front in place.

The rear of the device has a red glass window measuring 38 by 30 mm. It is far from clear why this window is there. In film photography it usually indicates illumination for blue sensitive emulsions but this red window is not involved in illuminating anything. if the red window was replaced by solid metal, the device would work just as well.

The front of the device has a hinged flap. This has a central clear window. On my device, this window measures 25 by 19 mm which is half a standard 35mm film frame. It can be replaced with a larger window measuring 25 by 37 mm. This hinged flap also contains the maker’s logo – “Leitz WETZLAR” and the country of origin: “GERMANY”. This flap is held in the closed position by the spring mentioned earlier.

When the flap is opened, the front of the device is exposed. There is a large aperture – 82 by 35 mm – with a glass window centrally. This time the glass is colourless but, as with the red window on the back, this glass window serves no discernible purpose. On the right side of the glass window is a sprocket shaft. When rotated, this shaft clicks once every time four sprockets pass the front – this equates to half a standard 35mm film frame. This allows you to measure one frame (two clicks) or one half-frame (one click) when winding the film in the dark. The inside of the flap has two guides to hold a strip of developed negatives.

If you open the flap, it is then possible to remove the top of the device – this top is just a push-fit lid with two holes. The two knobs that protrude through the holes are attached to spools to hold a length of 35mm film. The instructions say the spools will hold three metres of film which is about two 36 exposure cassettes worth.

In use, you load a length of unexposed copy film onto the spool with a small knob and pull the film across the glass window with the emulsion on the outside and on to the spool with a large knob. The strip of negatives that you want to copy fits between the guides on the flap, again with the emulsion on the outside. Note that the unexposed film you use must be copying film that can be used under a red safe-light. When the flap is closed, the emulsion side of the two films will be in close contact.

You expose the copy film through the glass window in the flap – through the negative you want to copy – by holding the front of the device 1.5 m from a 25 watt incandescent bulb. If you use black and white film and black and white negatives, you will end up with a black and white positive for projecting which is the original purpose of the device. If you use colour reversal film and colour slides, you will end up with a duplicate colour slide.


Using types of cameras 1: folders

Using types of cameras.

There are quite a large range of old cameras out there.  I am going to look at using serious amateur cameras. So, I am going to ignore point-and-shoot cameras (mainly box cameras as far as vintage cameras are concerned) and large plate cameras.

The cameras I am going to look at can be divided into three groups – folders, viewfinder and SLR (single lens reflex) and I shall deal with them in that order.


These date from the early days of film photography (as opposed to glass plate photography). The basic structure is a compartment to hold the film taut over the film gate and an open-able door revealing a lens that either can be pulled forward into a  locked position or will spring forward as the door is opened. This means that they are very compact when not in use and so make ideal pocket cameras. They have been made since the late 19th century and are still being made today. They were made in a variety of film sizes and those using 120 film (also called BII by German manufacturers) and 135 film (35 mm cassettes) are still usable today.

The viewfinders on folding cameras tend to be designed to be physically unobtrusive in line with their being thought of as pocket cameras. This can cause problems for the user. The best are the folding finders which are relatively large in use. The worst are the fixed finders such as on early Balda and Kodak Retinas. These have been made as small as possible so as not to get in the way but, as a result, are very difficult to use while wearing glasses.

Some cameras (Zeiss Ikon’s Icarette, for example) have a choice of finder – the easiest to use being a large wire frame mounted by the lens and a small frame at the rear of the camera. These are direct vision finders with no lenses and allow the camera to use rise-and-fall mechanisms for the lens and have the finder view the the scene the same as the lens. Using these requires the photographer to align the edges of the rear frame with the edges of the forward frame. This is not difficult but does require attention.

All of these viewfinders are set up for a distant landscape. For close work, the viewfinder will see a slightly different view than the lens does (called parallax error). Sophisticated cameras (Balda Baldina, for example) have a distance adjuster on the viewfinder to slightly alter the direction that the viewfinder points in to remove the parallax error. In the absence of a parallax adjustment, the photographer needs to remember to avoid the area at the top of the viewfinder.

On almost al cameras made before 1939, the shutter is going to need cocking. Cheaper cameras had ‘evereset’ shutters that were spring loaded and did not need cocking. Typically, an everset shutter only offered two or three shutter speeds.

On most shutters, there are two protruding levers. One cocks the shutter and the other releases the shutter. Here is not usually any indication as to which lever is which but the cocking lever is generally at the top. When cocking the shutter, the cocking lever will move quite a long way and will move against resistance (as it tensions the clockwork spring inside the mechanism). If the shutter is set to its highest speed, the resistance to moving the lever might be considerable when compared to the slower speeds. This is quite normal and not to be worried about.

The way you set the speed varies with the age of the camera. Originally, the speed was set by turning a dial above the shutter. These are known as dial-set shutters for the obvious reason. In the very late 1920s this method was replaced by a ring around the shutter housing to set the  speed – known as rim-set shutters. It took a few years for rim-set shutters to completely replace dial-set shutters and dial-set shutters can still be found on cameras made in the mid 1930s.

The speed numbers on a shutter refer to a fraction of a second – 50 being 1/50th of a second and so on. Just about all shutters have a B setting and with this the shutter will remain open while the shutter release is pressed. Pre-war (i.e. before 1940) shutters will usually have a T setting as well. With T, pressing the shutter release will open the shutter which will remain open until the shutter release is pressed a second time. This is intended for very long exposures – films were no faster than 25 ASA/ISO and frequently slower – and the advent of modern fast films made T unnecessary. None of my post-1940 cameras have a T setting (exception being my 1950s Asahi Pentax SV).

Shutter releases can be found in a number of places. Originally, they were always near the lens (I am ignoring focal-plane shutters as I have never seen these on a folding camera). This is rather awkward physically and moves were made to move the release to the camera body. Doing this involved a flexible linkage which need to fold when the camera was closed. By the mid-1930s both Zeiss Ikon and Agfa had body releases. Voigtlander and Balda had their releases on the lens door initially – Balda moving to a body release by 1938 (Balda Jubilette at least) but Voigtlander still used door releases into the 1950s on their Vito folders.

Where the body shutter release is linked to a lens-based shutter mechanism, the release provided by the shutter manufacturer is still there and just about usable. In addition, there is usually a cable release socket on the shutter housing.

As the release button migrated to the camera body, the makers tried a variety of methods to prevent the photographer taking a second photograph without winding on the film. In old cameras. These mechanisms can fail. My Voigtlander Perkeo will allow me to take as many pictures as I like without winding on – unless I give the camera a sharp slap right after pressing the release (indicating the need for lubrication!). On the other hand, my much cheaper Adox Golf has a double exposure mechanism that still works as intended.

Where there is a double exposure prevention system, there is usually an indication as to whether you can take another photograph. This is usually a white/red dot but the Perkeo has a forward/backward arrow and the Nettar 518/16 has a flag in the viewfinder.

Serial numbers to help with dating cameras.

This is information that I have collected over the last few years from a number of sources.  Some of those sources contradict each other so I have had to make decisions as to what I wish to keep.  I cannot guarantee its accuracy.

The date a lens or shutter is made is not always the date the camera was made.  Both lenses and shutters are made and sold to camera manufacturers in batches.  A camera made in one year may have a lens made the previous year.  I have at least one camera (Zeiss Ikon Icarette) when the shutter was made the year before the lens.  It is also possible that either the shutter or the lens is a later addition made by a repairer.

Here are the links to the files:

Voigtlander lenses

Schneider lenses

Not all Compur serial numbers will appear here. Occasionally,  you will come across nonstandard serial numbers that start with Axxxxxxx or 00xxxxx. I have assumed,  without much evidence, that these are for specific production for particular  camera makers.

Compur shutters

Carl Zeiss lenses   (East and West Germany included)

Olympus cameras

Light (or exposure) meters

Light meters (which are also called exposure meters) are a modern invention and early photographers had to guess their exposures and rely on experience to get it right.  An early system used to make guessing easier was to use the Sunny 16 rule which says:
  • “On a sunny day set aperture to f16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight.” 

 (from Bernhard J. Suess (2003). Mastering Black-and-White Photography, Allworth Communications. ISBN 1-58115-306-6)  So, if you are using Ilford FP4 film, which is ISO 125, on a sunny day you set the aperture to f16 and the shutter speed to 1/125 seconds.  This will generally give you a usable picture even if not a perfectly exposed one.  You do need to be aware that the amount of light on a sunny beach will be more than the amount of light in a sunny field – entirely due to the amount of reflected light.  You can easily adjust either the aperture or the shutter speed to compensate.  You also need to be aware that the amount of light present on a sunny day depends on how close to the equator you are.  A photographer in Norway using the Sunny 16 rule will get a very different result than a photographer in Nigeria would.  I have been trying this Sunny 16 rule out in Lincoln this week and in the middle of the day it produced the same exposure as my Ikophot exposure meter suggested.  By four in the afternoon, the Sunny 16 rule was a whole stop out.

A better system was the extinction meter.  This used a piece of translucent celluloid that was painted black apart from a series of grey numbers.  Each number was printed in a darker shade of grey than the last number.  So, in my Braun Paxette, the number 1 is nearly white and the number 16 is nearly black.  In use, the user looks through the extinction meter and notes the darkest number that is visible.  This number is then looked up in an exposure table to get suitable aperture and shutter speeds.  This picture of my Braun Paxette show one of these tables.  It is set up for 50 ASA (ISO) film and tells you to halve the exposure for 100 ASA film and double it for 12 ASA film (films were much slower then than we are used to now).  This chart refers to ‘diaphragm’ rather than ‘aperture’ but it is the same thing.

Light (or exposure) meters
Extinction meter table on my Braun Paxette
These, although simple and not able to go wrong, had their drawbacks.  They depended on the quality of the eye sight of the user and that is very variable.

The next development was the electronic light meter.  Initially, these had a cell made from selenium that produced a small electrical voltage on exposure to light.  This voltage was then used to move a needle across a scale.  This needle would then point to an arbitrary number that has to be set on a scale.  The scale then indicates a range of appropriate aperture and shutter speeds.  It is tempting to think of these as EV numbers but they are not – at least are not on the three light meters I own.  These worked very well in reasonable light but were poor performers in poor light.  These fell out of fashion and were replaced by CdS meters.  The advantage of selenium meters is that they do not need a battery to work.  A big disadvantage is that they lose sensitivity with time.  Towards the end of their useful life they give a low reading which will eventually cause over-exposed photographs.  For this reason, some people will not use old selenium meters but my old (fifty years old, plus) meters all agree with my modern light meters.

 I suspect that the rate of deterioration depends on how the meter has been stored over the years.  If the meter is in the dark inside a case apart from when actually taking a reading, the deterioration doesn’t seem to matter over a period of sixty or so years.

The next development was the CdS meter (Cadmium Sulphide).  These do not produce a voltage on exposure to light but act as a resistor that changes its resistance to electricity on exposure to light.  These always need a battery to work to provide the voltage.  Most modern light meters work this way.  These work in much lower light levels and do not significantly deteriorate with time.  The draw back with these is that battery technology changes and it can be hard (or impossible) to find batteries for older CdS meters.  In particular, mercury batteries are no longer made and the modern equivalents produce a different voltage which alters the accuracy of the meters.

A lot of meters from the 1950s used what are called Exposure Values (EV).  The idea is that you set your shutter to the indicated EV and this sets a combination of shutter speed and aperture.  As you then alter the aperture, the shutter speed will alter in unison – and vice versa.  I like the system but many people do not.

Here is a table of EVs and their associated aperture/shutter speeds:

Table 1. Exposure times, in seconds or minutes (m), for various exposure values and f-numbers
EV f-number
1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22
−6 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m
−5 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m
−4 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m
−3 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m
−2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m
−1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m
0 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m
1 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m
2 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m
3 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60
4 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30
5 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15
6 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8
7 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4
8 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2
9 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1
10 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2
11 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4
12 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8
13 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15
14   1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30
15     1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60
16       1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125
17         1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250
18           1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500
19             1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000
20               1/8000 1/4000 1/2000
21                 1/8000 1/4000
EV 1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22
To my light meters:
I have four old meters, each of the selenium type.  They are a Weston Master III, a Leningrad 4, a Ikophot and a Bewi Automat.  The Weston does not work – I tried to adjust the zero setting and managed to wreck the meter.  The blame for this lies entirely with me, not Weston’s design or manufacturing standards.

First, the Weston.

This is a Weston Master III

Light (or exposure) meters
Weston Master III
It is the most complicated meter of the three I have – presumably it will do more than the other two.  The draw backs for me is firstly there is no ASA or DIN setting, it uses instead Weston values which are their own proprietary system. As films do not come with a Weston speed marked on them, it makes it unnecessarily difficult to use.  Secondly, I find the plethora of black and white marking difficult to distinguish.  As I mentioned earlier, I managed to break this meter, so my complaints about it are moot.

Secondly, Leningrad 4:

Light (or exposure) meters
Leningrad 4  
This is much simpler in layout than the Weston and much easier to use.  The needle points at red numbers, these red numbers are then set against a large pointer on the other end of the meter and the aperture/shutter speed combination are read off a black and white scale.  The film speed can be set in either ASA or DIN and will work with modern films with ISO speeds as they are the same as ASA.  A note of caution:  these red numbers are NOT Exposure Values – they seem to be arbitrary numbers and are different to the equivalent numbers on the Ikophot meter.

Thirdly, Zeiss Ikon Ikophot:

Light (or exposure) meters
Zeiss Ikon Ikophot  
This mirrors the Leningrad in as much as the meter needle points to red numbers and the red numbers are then aligned against a red pointer (actually, I think the Leningrad meter is a copy of the Ikophot meter).  The aperture/shutter speed combination is then read off the scale – aperture in black and shutter speed in white on red.  Again, film speed can be set in either ASA or DIN.  A note of caution:  these red numbers are Exposure Values but only for 50 ASA/18 DIN film (I expect 50 ASA/18 DIN was seen as standard by Zeiss Ikon).  It is possible to use them directly on cameras with a EV scale on the shutter, but you will need to adjust for the speed of the film you are using.  This is simple enough – for 100 ASA, 21 DIN film, subtract 1 from the EV; for 200 ASA, 24 DIN film subtract 2 from the EV and for 400 ASA, 27 DIN film, subtract 3 from the EV.
The DIN/ASA scales on this meter are a bit unique.  DIN 21 SHOULD be ASA 100, but it is ASA 80.   I use the DIN exclusively and that works just fine.  I suspect using the ASA scale would also be fine as the difference between 80 and 100 is fairly small (1/3 of a stop).  As DIN is a German standard and Zeiss Ikon are a German firm, I would expect them to get DIN right.Not cheap – it cost £10/13/5 in 1957 – which was just over an average man’s weekly wage (so about £500 in 2013 values).

This is the meter I most often use as it is nicely made, feels good in the hand and produces satisfactory results.  A scanned copy of the Ikophot manual is available for download as is a scanned copy of Zeiss Ikon’s 1930s exposure guide.

The following is an advert from the British journal of Photograph Almanac of 1957:

1957 003

Lastly, my Bertram Bewi Automat.

Light (or exposure) meters
Bertram Bewi Automat

This is a German meter (made in West Germany).  Bertram have been making light meters since 1928 . This meter works differently from the meters above.  For one thing, it has a digital read-out rather than an analogue needle pointing to a scale. 

The meter is rather larger than is usual for analogue meter – it measures 90 x 65 x 25 mm not including the activating button.  It is encased in ivory plastic.

 The only control is a ring to set the film speed.  This is calibrated in ranges. For instance, the DIN setting is a range of three numbers – 11-13, 14-16, 17-19, 20-22, 23-25.  That is one stop difference between each range.  Given the exposure latitude of film that is plenty accurate enough.  There are also ranges for ASA and Weston (ASA is the same as ISO and Weston is a defunct film speed system devised by the makers of the Weston series of exposure meters.

Using the meter is also different to analogue meters.  If you point this meter at the scene you intend to photograph, nothing happens.  You need to point the meter, depress the activating button for about three seconds and release.  Once you have done this, the shutter speed scale lines itself up with the aperture scale and you can read off suitable combinations of aperture and shutter speed.

The read out also has exposure values indicated – under L on the aperture scale.  These are adjusted for film speed and can be set directly on an EV enabled shutter. 

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