FED 35A (ФЭД 35A)

FED 35A or ФЭД 35A
a 35 mm rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union.

This FED 35A camera is a compact 35mm film rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union. With the FED name, I would assume that it was made in Kharkiv, Ukraine. This camera was made between 1987 to 1990 according to the Interweb – this means that the serial  number does not start with the year of manufacture (number is 849208). This is my fourth Fed camera – my others being the Fed 2, Fed 4 and Fed 5.

The camera seems to be intended for home consumption. All the writing on the camera is in Cyrillic. There is a logo on the rear of the camera – a pentagon with a four pointed star and the letter CCCP (USSR in Cyrillic). This logo indicates that the camera has been manufactured to international standards and should be as good as a camera made elsewhere in the world.

It could be that the camera was officially exported but the expected sales levels might not have supported an export version. The camera is entirely black with white writing. The body measures 112 by 78 by 32 mm. The lens protrudes a further 28 mm. The camera weighs 446g.

The body is metal – die-cast aluminium with a pressed aluminium top plate and brass base plate. Most of the body is covered with black leatherette and the rest is painted satin-black.

ФЭД 35A or FED 35A
35mm rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union.
Front view
www.oldcamera.blog
FED 35A rangefinder camera, front view

The top plate has the bare essentials. On the right hand end is the film advance lever. This is black painted cast aluminium and is held in place with a black painted brass disc. This lever is not on a ratchet and needs to be moved in one go. It moves through about 130º to advance the film one frame. At this date, the film advance lever also cocks the shutter.

In the right hand rear corner of the top plate is a small window (6mm diameter) giving on to the frame counter. This counter is reset by opening the camera back. It is necessary to advance the film three frames to get to frame 1 – this is to remove the length of film fogged while loading the film. Apart from frame 1, the odd-numbered frames are represented by dots, only the even-numbered frames having digits. Number 2 is missing entirely. Frame numbers go up to frame 36. If you wind beyond this, the frame number does not move anymore.

ФЭД 35A or FED 35A
A 35 mm rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union.
Top view 
www.oldcamera.blog

Next to the film advance lever, right at the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. This appears to be made from stainless steel. It is a simple cylinder which is threaded for a standard cable release. The button falls easily to my fore finger while holding the camera for use, which is more than can be said for the FED 2,4 or 5.

Nearly centrally on the top plate, on a slightly raised portion, is the accessory shoe. This has one central electrical contact and so is a hot shoe – it can be used with most electronic flash guns made since the late 1960s. On the left of the top plate is the rewind crank. This is very small (14mm diameter) and folds out to 23mm. It makes the Japanese rewind cranks look very generous.

On the rear of the top plate is the viewfinder eyepiece. This measures 8 by 6 mm – it is not the smallest eyepiece I have come across but it is close. This eyepiece double as the rangefinder eyepiece.

ФЭД 35A or FED 35A
a 35mm rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union.
rear view.
www.oldcamera.blog

The front of the top plate (looking at the front of the camera) has, on the left, the camera name painted in white in Cyrillic characters. To the right of this, on a slightly raised portion, are the rangefinder and viewfinder windows. The rangefinder window is centrally over the lens. It measures 6mm square. Around this is the light source for the bright lines in the viewfinder. The viewfinder window measures 14 by 9 mm.

The rangefinder is coupled to the focus ring on the lens. To use the rangefinder, you look through the viewfinder and put the central yellow dot on a strong element in the image. The yellow dot will contain two images slightly displaced one from the other. As you move the focus ring, these two images move relative to each other. When you have moved the focus ring so as to superimpose the two images, the lens is in focus. 

The yellow dot is nice and bright and the two images easy to see. The down side here is that the rangefinder window is very close to the viewfinder window. This means that the two images do not move much as you turn the focus ring. The focus ring also does not rotate very far. These two together make critical focus other difficult. incidentally, the colour of the yellow dot is achieved by using gold on the internal mirrors rather than silver.

The viewfinder image has bright lines – large corners for landscapes and small corners to allow for parallax with close-ups.

The front of the camera has the shutter/lens assembly in the centre. The shutter is an anonymous Soviet leaf shutter offering speeds from 1/4 seconds to 1/60 seconds in manual mode. I am told by the Interweb that when in the automatic mode, the shutter will go to 1/300 seconds but as I do not have a manual for this camera I cannot confirm that. This manual range is very poor and I would struggle to get good exposures with these shutter speeds and the limited aperture range. The other Fed cameras the I have – FEDs 2,4 and 5 – all have cloth focal plane shutters. I assume that the designers went for a leaf shutter here to maintain compactness.

The lens is an Индустар (Industar in the Latin alphabet)  81  lens. I am assured by the Interweb that this is a four element lens with three groups – a Tessar copy. My experience of Soviet lenses is that they are excellent performers – it remains to be seen if this lens lives up to the Soviet’s reputation. The lens has a focal length of 38mm – this is slightly wide angle for 35mm photography (43mm is ‘normal’) but quite usual for compact cameras as the shorter the focal length of the lens, the shorter the lens barrel – and more compact the camera. The lens has apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. This is a usable range even if a bit short (but see my comments above about this aperture range and the rather slow shutter speeds in manual mode). The diaphragm is a disappointment – it consists of only two leaves each of which has a right-angle notch cut in it. As these two leaves swivel from the bottom, the hole varies from a flattened diamond at f/16 to an inverted and elongated kite at f/2.8 – not good for lovers of bokeh. When the shutter speed is set to either B or A (automatic) the aperture opens to f/2.8.

FED 35A or ФЭД 35A
35mm rangefinder camera from the Soviet Union.
Detail of the lens bezel.
www.oldcamera.blog

The lens bezel contains the light meter window. This is rather small and sits to the right of the lens. The meter is a CdS device and so requires batteries (see below). On the opposite side of the lens is a window showing the selected film speed. This is in gost – but is labelled гост in Cyrillic – which was the Soviet Union’s own film speed standard. This gost film speed is very close to ASA or ISO speeds but apparently not quite the same. This offers film speeds from 16 gost to 750 gost. When I try this camera, I shall just assume they are ISO speeds.

Altering the gost setting is entirely mechanical. It is achieved by rotating  knurled ring between the lens bezel and the lens itself. What changing the gost setting does is move a Waterhouse Stop over the meter sensor. As the film speed gets faster, the Waterhouse Stop gets larger. I don’t think anything electronic happens.

Opening the camera uses the now standard method of pulling up the rewind crank.As far as I can see, the back is rendered light tight by using felt light seals rather than the more common foam seals. This bodes well for light tightness in an elderly camera – my test film will show for sure.

The take-up spools a full length steel spring to hold the film leader. This take-up spool turns clockwise so the film is wound with the emulsion side outwards.

The base of the camera has a central tripod socket. This is the usual 1/4 inch UNC thread. Next to this is the battery chamber. I have no idea as to what size battery is intended but I am using two silver batteries which will give me a 3v supply. This seems to work so far as the automatic system is concerned but the test film will confirm whether this is correct regarding exposure or not.

On the there side of the tripod socket is the button to enable rewinding of the film. Push this in far enough and it is not necessary to hold it in while resining. The base is also where the serial number is stamped.

In use: 

I have run a test film through this camera and had the film developed (by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln, as usual). I am quite pleased with this camera. The automatic exposure does not work (well, it does on rare occasions, when it feels like it, but not usually). Using my trusty Leningrad light meter all the exposures are usable – negative density varies from good to slight overexposure with most shots having good negative density. It was easy and pleasant to use.

One down side with the test film – which has nothing to do with the camera – is that  as the film moves through the camera, both while taking pictures and when rewinding, the moving film generates a small amount of static electricity. This static attracts any dust inside the camera – and this camera seems to have had plenty of dust in it which has affected the images. The photographs below show this dust – I have removed some of the dust but not all.

There are no light leaks, the consistent exposures shows that the shutter is working as it should with timing being at least approximately right and consistent (and that my Leningrad light meter is still OK).

FED 35A
www.oldcamera.blog
FED 35A
www.oldcamera.blog
FED 35A 
www.oldcamera.blog

Montanus Rocca

This camera was made by a German maker that I have never heard of before. This is not really any cause for concern as they bought in both the lens and the shutter from established suppliers – the lens from Ennna in Munich and the shutter from Gauthier in Calmbach. The maker is Montanus who were based in Solingen, Düsseldorf, West Germany.

This camera was made with snob appeal as it looks for all the world like it has a built-in light meter. In the 1950s this was unusual  and only found on the more expensive cameras. The light meter on this camera is not actually a light meter. The bobbly light meter window has nothing behind it and the light meter readout and controls on the top plate is actually a Sunny 16 exposure calculator. This camera does, however, have a fully functional coupled rangefinder.

lens:  Enna Ennit
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter:   Prontor SVS (EV version)
speeds:  1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash:  PC connector
film size:  35 mm

The camera is well made from metal. The main casting is aluminium, the top and bottom plates and the shutter fascia are stainless steel and the back is steel..  The body is covered with black leatherette which is in good condition – there is a small amount of lifting around the hinge of the back. The edges of the body and the back, where they are not covered by leatherette, are painted satin finish black. The hinge is chrome plated steel and is rusty.

 In fact, this is a Sunny 16 calculator

Montanus were basically a plastic company and you might expect their products to be made from plastic but the only plastic that I have found is the take-up spool and the Sunny-16 calculator.

Now for the description. The camera is oblong with a slightly curved profile. It measures 124 by 90  by 72 mm.

The top plate is satin finish stainless steel (as far as I can tell). On the far right is the mock exposure meter readout. In fact, this is a Sunny 16 calculator. This consists of two rotatable plastic discs. The bottom disc is clear perspex. Beneath it is a series of shutter speeds and four icons representing different scene types. These are yatch and lighthouse to present a beach, mountains and ski lift to represent snow, houses and trees to represent landscape and finally four trees to represent shaded (woodland) landscape. 

Towards the middle of the bottom disc are printed three numerical series. They are DIN film speed, ASA film speed and apertures. The top disc is made from aluminium. This has two painted pointers to allow you to set your film speed in either DIN or ASA. Behind them are three more icons to represent the weather. They are: cloud with rain, cloud with sun and bright sun.

To use this, you set your film speed, line up the weather icon with the scene icon and read off an exposure couplet from where the aperture scale is against the shutter speed scale.

In the centre of the the top plate is the accessory shoe. This will have been intended for a flash gun. It is a cold shoe as direct connection of flash guns was still in the future. On the far left of the top plate is the rewind knob.This is generously proportioned – 22 mm diameter – and pulls up to release the film cassette and allow the insertion of a new film cassette. This rewind knob has a film type reminder in its top. This has six options – colour negative and colour positive both for sunlight film, colour negative and colour positive both for artificial light film, positive for monochrome film and negative for monochrome film. This is set by gently depressing the centre and turning it.

On the rear of the top plate, on the right, is the film advance lever. this moves through 180 ˚ to advance the film one frame. The lever is made from chrome plated pressed steel. When at rest, the tip stands a few mm proud making it easy for the user’s thumb too get a grip.

In the middle of the rear of the top plate is a name plate announcing “Montanus Solingen” in painted script. To the left of this is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is only very slightly raised (by about one mm) and measures 10 by 7 mm. There are bright lines for composing landscapes but no additional bright lines for close-up work. In the centre is a bright disc – this is the rangefinder spot. With more up-market rangefinders, the internal mirrors were made with gold rather than silver, giving an orange rangefinder spot. The orange colour makes the split-image easier to see. This spot is silver but bright enough to be easy to use.

The front of the camera is dominated – as always – by the shutter lens assembly.

When focusing the lens, you get a double image within this disc. As the lens gets nearer to focus, the two parts of the double image move closer together. When the lens is fully focused, the double image becomes a single image. Rangefinders need calibrating occasionally and this particular rangefinder would seem to be correctly set up.

The front of the top plate has a large chrome fascia taking up most of the available space. Inside this fascia are four items. First, on the left while looking at the front of the camera, is what appears to be a light meter window. There is no light meter fitted to this camera but one was available as an optional extra (and cost over £8.00 which was a lot of money in the 1950s). having the light meter window in place without a light meter b behind it would have given an element of undeserved street cred. It would have also made actually fitting a meter both easier and cheaper.

Next to the dummy light meter window is a small (5 mm diameter) hole which is the rangefinder window. This is 42 mm from the centre of the viewfinder which is a respectable distance (the longer the distance, the more accurate the rangefinder) and compares favourably with the Leica rangefinder of the time.

Next to this is the camera model name is silver script – Rocca. Around the name is a rectangular slit – this slit provides the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder. On the right of the fascia is the viewfinder window. This measures 20 by 15 mm and has a distinct orange coating (which is not apparent when  looking through the viewfinder).

The front of the camera is dominated – as always – by the shutter lens assembly. This is surrounded by a curved rectangular fascia of satin chromed metal. The profile of this fascia is typical of the 1950s. As well as the shutter/lens assembly, this facia carries, on the top left (right, when using the camera), the shutter release button. This is chromed metal and is threaded for a standard cable release. This shutter release button is at right anglers to the camera body. On the opposite top corner is a PC connector for flash. This is the only way of attaching a flash gun as the accessory shoe is a cold shoe – no electrical contacts. 

Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk 

The shutter itself is a Prontor SVS from Gauthier. This is the EV version of the SVS shutter. With an EV shutter, the shutter speed and aperture rings are linked together. Turning the shutter speed ring also adjusts the aperture. This is to allow the user to adjust the shutter speed or aperture without worrying about maintaining the set exposure. There are a total of 16 EV settings from 2 to 18. Many light meters of the day offered EV numbers as a part of their read-out. If we assume a nice sunny day and 100 ASA (sorry, ISO) film, the ‘correct’ exposure would be 1/100 seconds at f/16. this is EV 15. Having set this EV value on the shutter, you can rotate the shutter speed to 1/300 and the aperture will set itself to between f/8 and f/11. Or you can set the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds and the aperture will set itself to f/22. The shutter speed can only be set to the marked speeds but the aperture is continuously adjustable between f/2.8 and f/22.

Shutter speeds run from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B. There is a further scale of shutter speeds in green from 4 seconds to 60 seconds. These cannot be set which might appear to be pointless but are there to tell the user the required speed at smaller apertures. An example: the light meter tells you EV 6. This gives you speed aperture options of 1/8 & f/2.8, 1/4 & f/4, 1/2 & f/8 or 1 & f/8. Suppose you want the maximum depth of field so need to use f/22. The speed aperture ring will not turn to f/22 with EV6 set. The furthest it will go is to B. Set at B, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release is depressed. Looking at f/22 on the aperture ring, it is against a green 8 (which is eight seconds). So, with the shutter speed set to B, adjust the EV (as detailed below) so that f/22 is against B (this is EV 8 as it happens but it is not relevant) and then press the shutter release and use your watch to time 8 seconds. Even though you will not achieve critical timing by using a watch, you will be well within a fraction of one stop of the required exposure.

Setting the EV value is done by pressing a pressed metal lug on the left of the aperture ring and turning both the aperture ring snd the shutter speed ring until the required EV is against the red index mark on the right side of the shutter housing. Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk which is German for ‘delay mechanism’ and offers a delay of 8 seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing – or it should; on my particular camera, this ‘V’ setting is very hesitant but does eventually fire the shutter.

The lens is an Ennit from Enna in Munich. Enna are not a big name lens maker but produced a number of innovative lens designs over the years.  This Ennit would seem to be a Tessar clone – four elements in three groups. This should be a good lens – my test roll will tell for sure. The apertures for this lens are f/2.8 to f/22 which is a very respectable range for a general purpose camera. There are five aperture blades with straight edges giving a pentagonal aperture. For lovers of bokeh this is not good news but for the rest of us it will be fine.

The lens has a focal length of 45 mm (which is ‘normal’ for 35mm photography). The lens focuses from about three feet (the actual minimum distance is not marked on the lens but is closer than the shortest marked distance of 3.5 feet. This closest distance is going to be close to one metre.

The lens focuses by moving the front element only – usual for cheaper cameras – which is not ideal but I doubt that any user of this camera will have noticed the slight image degradation. I know that the lens is front cell focusing as the rear element is behind the shutter and visible from inside the back of the camera. When focussing, this rear element clearly does not move. The lens is coated – certainly the front surface of the front element and the rear surface of the rear element. I cannot see the internal surfaces but I would think that they are coated as well. The barrel of the lens, as distinct from the shutter housing, is black painted aluminium with a heavy machined grip at the front.

Insides of the camera.

Franka Super-Frankarette

I have two other Franka cameras – both folding Solida cameras, models II and III. They are both medium format cameras. This is a Super-Frankarette, the name indicating a smaller camera. It is, in fact, a 35 mm camera which were still known as miniature cameras in the 1950s. The ‘Super’ part of the name indicates a coupled rangefinder. There is no light meter. The lens is a Schneider lens which mens that I can date it from the serial number. The information for this is fairly sparse so I cannot get a precise date for the lens but I can say that it dates from between the last quarter of 1956 and the first quarter of 1957.

lens: Xenar
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor SVS
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

Visually, this camera could pass as a product of Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander or Balda (or, indeed, any other camera maker from the late 1950s).

Franka produced the Super-Frankarette from either 1957 or 1958 depending on the source of your information. It is worth remembering that camera bodies, camera shutters and camera lenses were made in batches and that a newly produced body might be fitted with one of the last lenses of a batch. Or vice versa, a newly produced lens might be fitted to one of the last bodies of a batch. This can mean that there is up to a year difference in the production date of the lens, body and shutter. The body also has a serial number but I do not have any Franka dating data (yet!).

Visually, this camera could pass as a product of Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander or Balda (or, indeed, any other camera maker from the late 1950s). Mostly, the camera works fine. I have identified two faults. One is that the focus ring is extremely stiff and it is only just possible to turn it. But turn it does, the lens moves and so does the rangefinder spot. The second fault is that the film advance lever does not advance the film. It does cock the shutter and is clearly still connected to the take-up spool and sprocket shaft as these both move a bit but then return to their original position when the film advance lever returns to its rest position. I know better than to fiddle so the fault shall remain.

The camera measures 130 by 81 by 65 mm and weighs x g.

P1050141The top plate is entirely standard for a viewfinder camera from the late 1950s. On the right is the film advance lever. This sits flush with the body but there is a serrated tip which sits slightly above its surrtounds. The lever moves through 180° to advance the film one frame. In the centre of the lever is a frame counter which counts up from 1. When loading a new film, the user needs to set the counter to ‘A’. Once the leader and fogged film have been wound on the counter will be at ‘1’. Just to the left of the advance lever pivot, at the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. This is chrome stainless steel and is threaded for a standard cable release.

The centre of the top plate is raised. This raised portion houses both the viewfinder and the rangefinder. The viewfinder is very small for the time – it is very reminescent of viewfinders of ten years previously. I cannot use it while wearing my glasses. The eypiece is rectangular and mesures 6 by 4 mm. The viewfinder window on the front is similarly small and measures 12 by 8 mm. this means that the viewfinder image is not very bright. The rangefinder window is also in the front, is square, and measures 8 mm.  There is a small diamond shaped mask just inside the rangefinder window to give a diamond shaped rangefinder spot. This rangefinder spot is yellowish green and is clearly distinct from the surrounding image. I have only done a crude check on the rangefinder accuracy and it seems to be accurate. Horizontally, it is just dandy.

On top of the raised rangefinder part of the top plate is the accessory shoe. No electrical contacts here so a cold shoe for flash. Also on the raised part the name ‘Franka’ is stamped in the metal in  script.

To the left of the raised portion is the rewind knob. This is fairly large – 25 mm diameter – and contains a film memo in the centre. The options are Color K (K = “Kunstlicht” (Artificial light)), Color T (T = “Tageslicht” (Daylight)) or film speed (German translation by courtesy of Bruce). This is a German camera and gives preference to film speeds in DIN (from 14 to 23) but also has ASA (from 25 to 200). This is entirely a mnemonic and has no effect on the working of the camera. This rewind knob pulls up to release the film cassette for removal.

The front of the camera has a square stainless steel fascia containing the shutter/lens assembly. Also, in the lower left corner, there is a PC socket for flash.

P1050137The shutter is a Prontor SVS shutter. This is the EV version. Closest to the camera body is the focus ring. This focuses from 3.5 feet according to the scale but in fact the ring moves well beyond this last figure and focuses on less than 2 feet as a minimum. When focusing, the whole shutter/lens assembly moves rather than just the front element of the lens as on cheaper cameras. The focus ring has two large lugs to ease both finding this ring without looking and also to ease turning the ring.

P1050136With an EV shutter, the shutter speed and aperture rings are linked together. Turning the shutter speed ring also adjusts the aperture. This is to allow the user to adjust the shutter speed or aperture without worrying about maintaining the set exposure. There are a total of 16 EV settings from 2 to 18. Many light meters of the day offeredEV numbers as a part of their read-out. If we assume a nice sunny day and 100 ASA (sorry, ISO) film, the ‘correct’ exposure would be 1/100 seconds at f/16. this is EV 15. having set this EV value on the shutter, you can rotate the shutter speed to 1/300 and the aperture will set itself to between f/8and f/11. Or you can set the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds and the aperture will set itself to f/22. The shutter speed can only be set to the marked speeds but the aperture is continuously adjustable between f/2.8 and f/22.

Shutter speeds run from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B. There is a further scale of shutter speeds in green from 4 seconds to 60 seconds. These cannot be set which might appear to be pointless but are there to tell the user the required speed at smaller apertures. An example: the light meter tells you EV 6. This gives you speed aperture options of 1/8 & f/2.8, 1/4 & f/4, 1/2 & f/8 or 1 & f/8. Suppose you want the maximum depth of field so need to use f/22. The speed aperture ring will not turn to f/22 with EV6 set. The furthest it will go is to B. Set at B, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release is depressed. Looking at f/22 on the aperture ring, it is against a green 8 (which is eight seconds). So, with the shutter speed set to B, adjust the EV (as detailed below) so that f/22 is against B (this is EV 8 as it happens but it is not relevant) and then press the shutter release and use your watch to time 8 seconds. Even though you will not achieve critical timing by using a watch, you will be well within a fraction of one stop of the required exposure.

Setting the EV value is done by pressing a pressed metal lug on the left of the aperture ring and turning both the aperture ring snd the shutter speed ring until the required EV is against the red index mark on the right side of the shutter housing. Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk which is German for ‘delay mechanism’ and offers a delay of 8 seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing – or it should; on my particular camera, this ‘V’ setting just causes the shutter mechanism to jam up.

The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar of 45 mm focal length. All surfaces are coated. This Xenar has four elements in three groups – it is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens and is an excellent performer.

P1050140The back of the camera is opened by pulling up a small lever just below the rewind knob. Inside is unremarkable for a 1950s 35 mm camera. The body serial number is stamped in the metal just above the film gate. My camera’s serial number is 046899. The film cassette goes on the left and the take-up spool is on the right. There is a sprocket shaft between the film gate and take-up spool.

The base of the camera is plain. There is a tripod socket with a 1/4 inch Whitworth thread and a recessed button to release the wind-on mechanism for rewinding the film.

Continue reading “Franka Super-Frankarette”

Agilux Agima

This well designed 35 mm camera was made in Britain in the mid to late 1950s. I would like to say that it is an example of superb British design but it is, in fact, a close copy of a German Paxette camera from Carl Braun in Nurnberg.

P1050060

lens: Anastigmat
focal length: 45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/16
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: Agima specific
shutter: Agilux
speeds: 1 second to 1/350 seconds
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm

The camera has a coupled rangefinder which was a rather upmarket option for the time – the Paxette II only offered an uncoupled rangefinder. I am not able to find any reference to this camera in either Wallace Heaton’s Blue Book or the Photography Almanac for the late 1950s so I have no idea as to price or available options. Sylvain Halgand’s Collection d’Appareils website has technical details of the camera – in French but rather easy to understand.

The shutter housing has no name on it and I assume that it was Agilux’s own design. The design is rather innovative. The shutter release is a lever on the top right of the shutter housing. This lever depresses a short way to fire the shutter. It then travels to the base of the housing to advance the film one frame. This allows for very fast shooting – I can manage two frames a second.

The other main feature of the shutter housing is that the lens is removable. The mount is based on a two pronged bayonet and must include a linkage for the coupled rangefinder but for the life of me I cannot see how this is achieved. Actually, I have just had a closer look at the lens – part of it came away and it is now clear that the front of the lens is missing and that the focus helical is not held securely in place. There may be other things missing which impinge on the rangefinder mechanism. Sadly, this means that the camera is unusable and I shall not be able to test it with film.

This is my second Agilux camera. My first is the Agilux Agifold folding medium format camera that was not well designed. The Agifold camera gave the impression that its was designed by an engineer who had a clear brief but had never actually used a camera. The chap who designed this camera had clearly used a camera – a Paxette!

P1050061

Time for a detailed description. The camera measures 4.5 inches by 3 inches by 2.5 inches (this is an English camera and no pesky millimetres were used). Its weighs x ounces. The ends of the camera are semicircular (or, to be specific, semi-cylindrical). The top plate is satin finished pressed metal – I think it might be stainless steel. The immediately strange thing is that there is no film advance knob or lever. On the right hand end of the top plate is the frame counter. This counts up from zero to a maximum of 40. Only the multiples of five have a number, the intermediate frames having a line. At least one actual number is visible at any one time and frequently two. This counter is reset to zero by hand – there is a thumbwheel for this purpose just behind the numbers.

Dead centre on the top plate is the accessory shoe. This has no electrical contacts and so is a cold shoe. halfway between the accessory shoe and the left hand end is a small hole towards the front. This goes nowhere and is immediately blanked by chromed metal. Just behind this is a small screw. I am thinking that this is some sort of adjustment. I am unable to make it do anything.

To the left of this hole is a small window which gives onto a rotating disc with black and white segments. This is very useful. The film cassette fits onto a two-pronged shaft. When this shaft rotates so does the disc in this window, giving a visual indication that the film is moving. This is useful when advancing the film as its confirms that the film is firmly attached to the take-up spool. This disc also rotates in the opposite direction when rewinding the film. Just behind this window is the camera name – Agima – stamped in the metal.

On the heart of the top plate on the left is what looks for all the world like a film advance lever. It is, in fact, a film rewind lever. I have cameras with a rewind knob and cameras with a rewind crank but this is the first time I have seen a rewind lever. The advantage is that it is not at all fiddly. It has two drawbacks for me. It has to be used left-handed and for most of us that is awkward. It also needs to be used 38 times for a 36 exposure film which is both slower and more tiresome than either a knob or a crank.

Just behind the accessory shoe is the viewfinder eyepiece.This is reasonably large and bright. It also does duty as the rangefinder eyepiece.I can make no comment on the rangefinder as there is clearly visible in the viewfinder the half-silvered mirror for the rangefinder in two separate and loose pieces.

There are bright lines in the viewfinder. A large set which almost fills the viewfinder is for the standard, 45 mm, lens. The other, smaller, set are for use with the optional long focus lens. On the far right of the rear of the top plate is a small hole. This gives onto a small screw and I am sure that this is for adjusting the rangefinder.

The front of the top plate has a raised bezel. This is black plastic and should be covered by a metal fascia which is missing on my camera. This bezel has three windows. On the left (while looking at the front of the camera) is the small circular rangefinder window. On the right is the large square viewfinder window. Between them is a matt grey window. This has the function of providing the light for the bright lines in the viewfinder.

P1050062

The front of the camera is, as always, dominated by the lens/shutter.These are of Agilux’s own make – at least there are no marks to indicate otherwise. The lens has no model name but is marked as an anastigmat with a focal length of 45 mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The glass has a blue tint indicating that it is coated. As mentioned above, the front element is missing together with its fitting. This has the knock-on effect that a the rest of the glass (at least two elements) and their fixing is now loose enough to come off. It also means that the camera is unusable.

P1050063

The lens is designed to be replaceable. There is a small, unobtrusive, lever on the left side of the shutter housing. Pulling this up as far as it will go releases the lens. The lens is held inplace by an idiosyncratic bayonety fitting with only two tabs. The lens housing includes the iris diaphragm which has eight blades and offers apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. The focus helical offers distances from 3 feet to infinity.
Once the lens is removed, the shutter blades are exposed. There are only two of them – they are blued steel – and they move with a scissor action. Shutter speeds range from one second to 1/350 seconds. The last is only half a stop faster than the slower 1/250 seconds and probably represents the limits of Agilux’s design. On the top of the shutter housing is a flag. When the shutter has been fired the flag is white and when the film has been advanced the flag is red. On the top left of the shutter housing is a cable release socket. This is not standard and will not accept a standard cable release. The standard is a conical/spiral thread but this socket has a helical thread. I presume that Agilux could have provided a suitable cable release.

P1050064

On the top right of the shutter housing is the shutter release/film advance lever. Pressing this down about 1/4 inch fires the shutter. Pressing this lever all the way down advances the film one frame. This is quite a nice feature which is both easy and fast to use. The big drawback of this is that there is a long, wide slit down one side of the shutter housing – 1/8 inch wide by 1.75 inches long – which means that there is no water or dust resistance at all.

Right at the bottom of the shutter housing is a small peg. This is there to allow the camera to stand stably on a flat surface.

P1050065

To gain access to the insides to load film it is necessary to remove the back and base in one piece. To this end, there is a small slider at the bottom of the back. Sliding this to the left releases the back/base.

P1050066

P1050067

With the back removed the first thing I noticed was that the pressure plate is not fixed to the back but is a hinged plate – the hinges are at the top of the film gate (copied straight from the Paxette!). Lifting this plate up reveals the film gate itself which is pretty much standard. At the base of the film gate is a large sprocket wheel. It is this sprocket wheel which actually moves the film. In most cameras, the sprocket wheel/shaft will only turn in one direction and there is a button which needs to be pressed to free this to allow the film to be rewound. Here, the sprocket wheel can freewheel in either direction which makes rewinding much easier.

P1050068

The take-up spool has two slits in it to take the film leader – there are no tabs or springs to hold the film in place but the system works well. The film cassette sits on the left and engages on a two-pronged shaft at the top. There is nothing to hold the cassette securely until the back/base is replaced. The casting details at the base of the cassette chamber suggests that Agilux had originally considered a hinged bracket as in the Paxette they so clearly copied.

Ars Acon 35 model II

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">This is a small Japanese rangefinder camera from 1956 to 1958 (according to Interweb sources). The general styling is very like a Zeiss Ikon of the period – square with heavily champhered corners. The camers measures 117 by 77 mm and by 60 mm deep. It weighs 588g without film.This is a small Japanese rangefinder camera from 1956 to 1958 (according to Interweb sources). The general styling is very like a Zeiss Ikon of the period – square with heavily champhered corners. The camers measures 117 by 77 mm and by 60 mm deep. It weighs 588g without film.

P1050040

lens: Vita Anastigmat

focal length:  45 mm

apertures: f/3.5 to f/16

focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Signa leaf

speeds: 1/10 to 1/200

flash: PC socket

film size: 35 mm

On the right hand end of the top plate is the film advance knob – this is a knob and not a lever which is already a bit old fashioned by the mid-1950s. This camera dates from the period when knobs were being replaced with levers but not yet on this camera. The knob is not on a ratchet which would make advancing the film easier. Rather, it is necessary to turn the knob a complete rotation to advance the film one frame. This is not difficult but does slow down the rate of photographing. In the centre of the advance knob is the frame counter. This counts up from one and needs to be set to zero by hand. It will count up to 39 frames. Just behind and to the left of the film advance knob is a button. This is not the shutter release button (no prizes for guessing what I was trying to do with it!) but the button to enable the rewinding of the film – there is no shutter release on the top plate.

“The actual shutter release is a lever on the right side of the shutter/lens housing with a fairly large knurled knob on the end”

Left of the film advance knob, the top plate is raised. This raised portion houses the rangefinder. The rangefinder is coupled to the lens and is operated by the lens focus ring – more later. On top of this raised portion is the accessory shoe – this has no electrical contacts. In front of the accessory shoe is the name of the camera – ACON 35 MODEL-II. Beside the accessory shoe is the camera serial number – 63208.

P1050042

On the back of the rangefinder part is the viewfinder eyepiece. This incorporates the rangefinder eyepiece. On many early rangefinder cameras there were separate viewfinder and rangefinder  eyepieces. The eyepiece is round, it has a diameter of 5 mm. This is pretty standard for the time but is very hard to use while wearing glasses. On the front of the rangefinder part of the top plate are two windows. The larger one is the viewfinder window and measures 16 by 11 mm. The smaller window is the rangefinder window. It is smaller as it is only providing the central rangefinder spot in the viewfinder image.

On the left of the top plate is the film rewind knob. Later in the 1950s these got replaced by a small crank but, to be honest, I find a knob to be much easier to use. Inside the rewind knob is a film reminder. This is entirely a mnemonic and has no effect on the functioning of the camera. The options here are : empty; panchro; h.s. pan; colour; inf red.

P1050041

As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the lens/shutter housing. This is offset to the left and is mounted on a satin-plated brass square. The shutter is a Signa which is a make I have never heard of before. It is a between the lens leaf shutter and is clearly modelled on the Compur/Prontor design from Germany. It offers speeds from 1/10 to 1/200 seconds and B – a fairly standard and eminently usable range.

“The lens is a Vita Anastigmat which (like the Signa shutter) I have never heard of before”

The aperture is controlled by an iris diaphragm with ten blades – this will give an almost circular aperture with implications for bokeh. Apertures range from f/3.5 to f/26. The setting lever for the aperture is on the underside of the shutter/lens housing right where the delay action lever usually is. There is no delay timer lever on this shutter.

Focusing the lens is by a lever that is also below the shutter/lens housing. This moves through something like 70° to focus from 3.5 feet to infinity . The lever is attached to the rangefinder in the top plate (so it is a coupled rangefinder. The focus lever moves the entire shutter/lens assembly which maintains the integrity of the multi-element lens and is a superior method of focusing. Many cheaper camera only move the front element which will change the optical characteristics of the lens.

To use the rangefinder, you look through the viewfinder at the small yellowish square in the centre of the image. If the image is out of focus, the image in the small square will be double. You move the focus lever until the double image moves to become one single image at which point the lens is in focus. This works best if there is a strong vertical in the image but that is not essential. Incidentally, the rangefinder square is made yellowish by using a thin layer of gold on the internal rangefinder mirror rather than using silver.  This increases local contrast and makes the rangefinder easier to use.

P1050043
Shutter release
P1050044
Focus lever

Before the shutter can be fired, two conditions must be met. First, the film must be advanced. This is to prevent accidental double exposures. Secondly, the shutter must be manually cocked by pulling a lever on the top of the shutter/lens housing to the right. The actual shutter release is a lever on the right side of the shutter/lens housing with a fairly large knurled knob on the end. This is pressed down to fire the shutter. A word or warning – if you advance the film but do not cock the shutter and then press the shutter release you will reset the double exposure mechanism. You would then need to advance the film a second time before you can take a picture thus wasting a frame of film.

The lens is a Vita Anastigmat which (like the Signa shutter) I have never heard of before. It was quite common for camera makers to buy-in lenses from specialist optical companies and use their own names for them. Focal length is 45 mm which is normal for 35 mm photography.

The base of the camera is satin-plated brass and has two 25 mm bright plated, serrated discs – one at each end. Together, these discs act as feet and allow the camera to sit stably on a level and even surface. One of the discs has a tripod boss in the centre. This is 1/4 inch UNC as is standard. It is right at one end of the camera so bodes badly for level attachment to a tripod.  The other disc has an arrow beside it and the legends ‘O’ and ‘C’. To open the camera you turn this disc from ‘C’ to ‘O’. The base plate and back will then come away in one piece.

P1050045

Inside is standard. The chamber for the film cassette is on the left. The film gate is next – this is smaller than usual. Of course, the actual gate is 24 by 36 mm but the surrounds are smaller. The film sits on 3 mm either side of the film gate rather than the 10 mm in my Zeiss Ikon Contina Ic. The wider the surround to the film gate, the flatter the film will sit which has implications for image quality.  Keeping these areas small allows the camera to be smaller as well (117 mm wide compared to 123 mm with the Zeiss Ikon Contina Ic) and this is a compact camera (not as compact as a Rollei 35, perhaps, but smaller than most).

P1050046
Interior of camera
P1050047
film gate

All parts of this camera seems to work well so I shall be trying it with film – results soon.

Test Film.

My set film is back and the results are good. All exposures are as expected – partially that is down to the Leningrad light meter I used but also shows that shutter speeds are pretty much spot on. It does not show in scans as the scanner adjusts the scan for exposure defects, but the negatives have the level of density I would expect from a well exposed shot.

There is slight vignetting which only shows in some shots. I have been looking critically at the images but for normal domestic use the vignetting is negligible. There is also some flare in a couple of shots but not enough to worry about.

The rangefinder is spot-on. The first shot is me focusing on the first finial on the fence which is as sharply focused as you could want. Not bad for 60 years since adjusting.

Normally, my test shots include a kid’s bike chained to railing on the banks of the Witham. Alas! Someone has tidied up the area and the bike is no longer there (after about eight years in place!).

The photographs:

Acon-16
The Rangefinder Test.
Acon-5
Lincoln Station
Acon-6
New Build I
Acon-7
Lincoln Cathedral
Acon-11
Broadgate
Acon-13
Stamp End
Acon-17
Witham
Acon-25
New Build II

Taron Auto EE

This is a fixed lens rangefinder camera made in  Japan by Taron. Taron were not a major manufacturer but seem to have made respectable cameras. The basic outline of this camera is much the same as the offerings from Yashica and Petri, etc. In fact, there is little to set it apart. There is a rangefinder for focusing – the rangefinder window is 45 mm from the  viewfinder window which is far enough to give good accuracy in focusing. For comparison, my Yashica Minister D has 35 mm and my Petri 7s has 25 mm (my Soviet Fed 2 has 65 mm!). This camera cost, in 1965, £37-15-0 (in old British money or £37.75 in modern British money). This equates to £1,219 in 2020 values which is a sizeable price.

P1040483_v1lens:  Taronar
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/1.8 to f/16
focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Citizen MVL leaf shutter
speeds: 1 second to 1/500 seconds plus B
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

There is a light meter built in that is coupled to the aperture and shutter speed controls. This is not a TTL (Through The Lens) meter but has a sensor window beyond the rangefinder window. To use the meter, you set the aperture to Auto,  and the shutter speed to the speed you want (i.e. it is a shutter priority system). The camera then sets the aperture. A fully manual mode is also available.

Time for a description: the camera measures 135 mm by 85 mm by 40 mm (body) or by 72 mm (body plus lens). It weighs 772 g with no film in place.

On the right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This moves through about 135° to advance the film one frame. In addition to advancing the film, this also cocks the shutter and switches on the light meter. To conserve the battery,  you need to store this camera without advancing the film. In the centre of the film advance lever is the frame counter. This counts up from S to 36. Only every fifth frame has a number, the other four frames being represented by a dot. Frames 20 and 36 (and S) are in red as these indicate the end of the film  – 20 and 36 exposures were the normal film lengths in the 1960s. When fitting a new film, you set the counter to S, fire two blank shots to get unfogged film in place and you are ready to go at frame 1.

P1040489_v1At the front of the of the top plate, 10 mm from the film advance lever, is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated metal and is threaded for a standard cable release.

The front part of the top plate, left of the shutter release button, is a black painted plate. This bears the legend “TARON Auto EE” – the ‘O’ has a cross superimposed on it to represent the rangefinder and the ‘EE’ means Electric Eye or light meter. Behind the black painted plate is the accessory shoe. There are no electrical contacts so this is a cold shoe. On the far left of the top plate is the film rewind crank. This is the fold-out type. The crank lifts up to allow film cassettes to be inserted – more later – but it does not function as a latch for the back.

Moving to the front of the camera, the front part of the top plate has a black bezel containing three windows. On the right (when looking at the lens) is the viewfinder window. This measures 18 x 14 mm. Left of this is a grey area. This actually has a function. It provides the light needed to create the bright lines in the viewfinder.If you put your finger over this, the bright lines disappear. To the left of this grey area is a small rangefinder window – 5 x 3 mm. This provides the split image in the viewfinder used for focusing. Left of the rangefinder window is the light meter sensor window. This measures 7 x mm in a larger secondary bezel which measures 18 x 14 mm. Left of the black bezel is the name Taron in Art Deco capitals.

P1040485_v1

Very slightly left of centre is the shutter housing. This contains a Citizen MVL leaf shutter. The shutter leaves sit within the lens. This is a coupled shutter which is linked to both the rangefinder and light meter.

The innermost ring on the shutter housing is the focus ring. This has  a largish lever on the left which both helps the user to turn the ring and makes it easy to find by feel. Focus range is from 0.9m to infinity. Turning this ring moves a split-image in the viewfinder – when the two parts of the split-image are superimposed, the lens is in focus. On my camera, the split-image is rather faint and does not move smoothly with the focus ring.

Just outside the focus ring is the aperture ring. The camera is designed to be used with this ring set to auto – the meter sets the aperture based on the shutter speed and light level. It can also be used manually with an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/16.

The outermost ring is the shutter speed ring. This readily offers speeds from 1/4 seconds to 1/500 seconds. 1 second, 1/2 seconds and B are also available but it is necessary to press a button beneath the shutter speed ring to select these. The shutter speed ring also incorporatesa film speed selector. This is adjusted by a lever in the underside of the speed selector ring. This offers film speeds from 11 DIN to 24 DIN or 10 ASA to 200 ASA (ASA is basically the same as ISO). The upper range of 200 ASA might seem rather slow in 2018 but in 1963, 100 ASA was fast film and Kodachrome slide film was either 25 ASA or 64 ASA.

P1040486_v1Also on the shutter housing is a delay action lever. The standard advice is to never use  these as they can be quite fragile with age. This one works mostly but requires manual help with the last part of it travel.

By the delay action lever is the flash synch selector – X or M. On the other side of the shutter housing is a PC connector for a flash gun.

P1040484_v1The lens is a Taronar f/1.8 45 mm focal length lens with six elements (according the Sylvain Halgand‘s site). It has a serial number of 70198. The camera itself has a serial number of E4295. Both of these are rather low numbers suggesting that Taron never produced large numbers of cameras.

The left hand end of the camera has a battery holder. At this age of camera, it is designed for a mercury battery. Also, as the camera can manage auto exposure, the meter is not using a bridge circuit to measure light so the battery voltage is critical. Using a modern alkaline or silver battery will produce poor exposures (although you can compensate by adjusting the DIN/ASA setting). This is academic with my camera as the light meter does not work.

To open the back of the camera, there is a slide catch on the left hand edge of the camera. Inside, the layout is absolutely standard. Film cassette goes on the left, film gate in the middle followed by the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool.

Opening the back also allows you to look at the back of the lens. The rear element is clearly coated. You can also see the iris diaphragm – this has a meagre four blades producing a square aperture. For exposure, this is fine but it will impact on bokeh quite dramatically.

Other comments: there is a strap lug on either front edge just below the top plate – an essential item that is frequently missing. The body of the camera is covered in black leatherette (as you might expect) which is firmly fixed and in good condition except at the left hand edge of the back. There is a fair bit missing here, presumably removed by the user’s fingernails as they opened the back. When you open the slide catch there are only smooth surfaces to get a hold of to open the back.

There is a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod boss on the base. This is offset from the centre – it is 1/4 of the width of the camera from either the centre or the edge. On a cheaper tripod, this will have issues for stability and levelling the camera.

The shutter housing is not rigidly fixed to the body – it should be – and occasionally the shutter will not fire when the release button is pressed. I suspect that these two are connected.

My Final WordThe Taron Auto EE is a workman like rangefinder camera but it is not outstanding. There is nothing to set it apart from its competitors from either Japan or Germany. It is robustly made.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
 ————–555511
BonusI can think of no bonus features so 0
Final Score22

Voigtlander Vitomatic IICS

Another derivation of the Vito B from Voigtlander – the last of the Vito B line.

I already have a Voigtlander Vitomatic II which in turn is based on the Voigtlander Vito B camera. This camera is from the same stable. I now have four Vito B derivatives as the Vito BL is a precursor of the Vitomatic cameras. This first photograph shows my four Vito B derived cameras. They are very similar – they share the same basic body casting – but vary in many details. The Vito B was the first old camera I bought and is still a very special camera to me.P1030956

P1030957

lens:  Color-Skopar
focal length:  50 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 3.5 feet
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor 500 SLK-V
speeds: 1 second to 1/500 second
flash: hot shoe plus PC connector
film size: 35 mm

P1030971

This CS model has a more modern looking bezel around the viewfinder, rangefinder and meter sensor than the earlier Vito B range but is otherwise much the same as the earlier cameras.

Description:

I will give a simple description concentrating on the differences introduced with this model.

The top of the camera has a translucent dome on the right-hand end which has two functions. Its primary function is as a battery holder for the light meter which his clearly a CdS meter rather than a selenium meter in the earlier Vitomatic II. The battery is a PX 625 button battery which is a banned mercury battery. Modern alternatives are available but will affect the light meter as the voltage will be slightly too high. The secondary purpose is the translucence which provides light to enable the user to see the meter needle in the viewfinder.

P1030958

At the other end of the top is the rewind crank. The earlier Vitomatics (and Vito B, Vito BL) had a rewind knob – this has been replaced with a fold-out crank as has become usual. This has an idiosyncrasity in that in order to fold-out the crank, it is necessary to flick a serrated lever on the end of the camera below the rewind crank. In the older Vito series, this caused the rewind knob to pop up. Now it causes the crank to pop up – the user still needs to unfold it.

In the centre of the top is the accessory shoe. This now has electrical contacts for a flash gun so is a hot shoe. This camera also retains the ability to use off-camera flash with a PC connector on the left-hand end above the serrated lever for the rewind crank. The viewfinder eyepiece on the back of the camera is nice and large and has clear bright-lines for framing the picture. These have secondary lines to allow for parallax in close-focus photographs.

In the centre of the viewfinder image is the rangefinder spot. This is decidedly orange (achieved by using gold-plated mirrors instead of silvered mirrors) and quite easy to see but is a bit on the small side. The split-image rangefinder spot has high contrast making it easy to align the images (Note:  while writing this article, the rangefinder has stopped working. The linkage between the focus ring on the lens  and the rangefinder mechanism in the top plate has become de-linked in some way. I shall not attempt a repair as the camera is otherwise excellent).

P1030964

At the bottom of the viewfinder image is the light meter display. This has a green area on the left, a red area on the right and a larger white area in the centre. At the moment, I do not have a suitable battery for this so the meter is not working. When the batteries arrive (ordered from The Small Battery Company) I will find out if the meter is functional and if so, how to use it. I will then update this article.

P1030968

In the bottom right of the viewfinder is a prism which allows the user to see both the aperture and shutter speed which have been set. The visible shutter speeds are limited to 1/60 to 1/500 which are printed in silver on the shutter barrel. To achieve this, the shutter speeds are offset to the left with the highest speed – 1/500 – being at the top of the shutter housing. Slower speeds are available down to 1 second which speeds are printed in bronze. These speeds are not visible in the viewfinder but that is not going to be a major problem as then user will not be using these slower speeds hand-held so they will stile visible.

In common with the other cameras in the Vito B range, the film advance lever advances the film but does not cock the shutter. The shutter is cocked by the moving film rotating a sprocket wheel above the film gate. This means that the shutter will not get cocked if there is no film in the camera leading people to falsely think that the shutter is broken.

P1030961

The lens is the Voigtlander Color-Skopar which is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Tessar four element lens. It is a very good lens. Its serial number – 7004871 – tells me the camera was made in 1967 so this is an early version of the Vitomatic II CS.

The shutter on this camera is a Prontor 500 SLK-V. The V indicates that the shutter is a special version to Voigtlander’s specification (FYI – S=syncronised for flash, L=coupled light meter, K=coupled rangefinder). I assume that a this refers to the internal linkages to the rest of the camera as outwardly the shutter is the same as non-V Prontor 500 SLK shutters. The 500 tells us the top shutter speed – there were 125 and 250 versions of the shutter made. This shutter is both light meter and rangefinder coupled so there is no need to manually transfer either exposure details or distance to the shutter once they have been read.

The shutter has a delay action lever – re on then underside of the shutter housing. Standard advice is to never use these with old cameras as they are liable to failure and can wreck an otherwise good shutter mechanism. On this camera, the delay action works well and smoothly giving a delay of about eight seconds before the shutter fires.

The shutter barrel also has a film speed setting. This is in both DIN (on the right, 15 to 30) and ASA (on the left, 25 to 800).The focus ring has three Happy Snapper settings. the first, denoted by a red dot, is for head-and-shoulder portraits and gives a focus range of nearly four feet to five feet. The second, denoted by a red triangle, is for group shots and gives a focus range of eight feet to sixteen feet. The third Happy Snapper setting is denoted by a red circle and is for landscapes with a focus range of fifteen feet to infinity (my apologies to non-British and younger readers, this camera does not do metres!). All these assume an aperture setting of f/8 which is printed in bronze on the aperture scale. If you use f/22 and the red triangle, this will give an aperture range of five and a half feet to infinity and shows an hyper-focal distance of eleven feet. Ideal for landscapes in good weather!

P1030963

The shutter release has moved from the top plate to the front of the camera and is now a slider rather than a button. At first glance, there is no provision for a cable release, but the socket for this is on the underside of the shutter release slider.

P1030965

The rest of the camera is basically the same as the rest of the Vito B series – the strange way of opening the back, for instance, by undoing a small part of the base and then the back hinges out as you might expect – see the next two photographs.

P1030966
P1030967

I currently have several cameras with filom in them so I shall be delaying testing this one for a short while. When I have run the test film, I shall post the results here. I have high expectations – no Voigtlander camera has let me down yet. The big advantage of German cameras over the Japanese cameras is that the Germans never used foam light seals so light leaks are rare.

Mike Eckman has devised a system of scoring cameras for his reviews. With his permission, I am going to copy that system for my own blog. Details of how this works can be found here.

My Final WordThe Vitomatic IICS is a very well designed and made camera. It was designed and made towards the end of German photographic industry. It is visually pleasing and easy to use but the Japanese were already doing it better.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesViewfinderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
2448620%
Bonus
Final Score30

Phenix 205DS

This is a Chinese camera made by Seagull. The only Chinese camera I have come across before is my Hakin Halina 30 5X. This has been prejudicing my opinion of Chinese cameras. I have never heard of the Phenix brand before but looking at a Chinese auction site, it seems that they made a range of SLR and rangefinder cameras.

P1030399lens: Phenix
focal length:  50 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Phenix
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 + B
flash: Hot shoe only
film size: 35 mm

This Phenix 205 DS is a rangefinder camera which is very reminiscent of Japanese rangefinder of the late 1950s and 1960s. The name Phenix is a Chinese attempt at Phoenix and that bird is used as a logo on the camera. It is solidly made and feels good in the hand. While the camera has a coupled rangefinder it lacks a light meter – coupled or uncoupled. This is no problem – sunny 16 works well with film and I have a number of handheld meters.

The top plate is made from a grey, fairly soft plastic which looks like anodised aluminium. On the far right is the window to the frame counter. This is reset when the back is opened and counts up. Only even numbers are displayed (except two for some reason) the odd numbers being represented by dots. 18 and 36 are in red, the rest are in black. After 36 are just dots.

P1030403Just left of the frame counter window is the film advance lever. This is black plastic and has a tendency to sit entirely over the top plate which makes it slightly harder to use that it could be. The winding action is just over 100°. To the left of the film advance lever – and forward of it – is the shutter release button. This is aluminium and is threaded for a standard cable release.

Almost in the middle is the accessory show. This has the standard flash contacts and so is a hot shoe. This will be synchronised for electronic flash. In front of the accessories shoe are two Kanji characters and the model number 205. To the left of the accessory show is the film plain marker. On the left of the top plate is the wind crank. This is the standard foldout type and it doubles as the catch for the back by being pulled up.

The front of the top plate has three windows. One is occupied with the camera name. The middle window is both the rangefinder window and the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder. The third window is the viewfinder. Below these is the lens/shutter housing. The shutter has no name but is very reminiscent of Japanese Copal/ Citizen/ Seiko shutter. Its use is basically as you would expect with one unique (as far as I know) feature.

P1030400Right by the camera body is the focus ring. This is calibrated in metres and has grips all the way around. This links to the rangefinder in the top plate. The central ring the aperture ring with the stops marked in a variety of colours – more on the colours in the “In Use” section. The outside ring is the shutter speed ring. This gives speeds from one second to 1/300 seconds. The lens is marked as a Phenix lens and has the serial number 942348. It has a focal length of 50 mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8.

On the underside of the shutter is the delay timer lever. This gives a delay of about eight seconds. Strangely, it is marked with a V which has got to be an echo of the German shutters’ V which is short for Vorlaufwerk. The unique feature I mentioned is a second cocking mechanism.

P1030402Once upon a time it was necessary to cock the shutter by hand before it could be fired and a lever was provided for this function. During the nineteen fifties, shutter design changed so that the shutter would be cocked by an internal mechanism while advancing the film. After this, cocking levers disappeared. On this camera, the shutter is cocked internally by the film advance mechanism in the modern manner. However, it also has a cocking lever. This allows you to cock the shutter without advancing the film. This is only of any use if you want to deliberately produce a double exposure.

On the right end of the fun is a modest grip. This is mostly shaped and he’s holding the camera steadily.

The rear of the camera has the viewfinder eyepiece. This is nice and large and has a black plastic surround. Apart from this, the rear is featureless. The underside of the camera is similarly featureless – it just contains the tripod boss and the rewind button.

Inside the standard. The cassette chamber is on the left and the sprocket wheel and take-up spool are on the right.

The inside of the door is dominated by the pressure plate. This is firmly fixed and a sprung. By the hinge is a small roller which presses against the film as it goes on the take up small and helps to prevent scratches. By the catch is a chrome spring which keeps the cassette properly located.

In use

It is easy to hold this camera steady with your right-hand while manipulating the shutter controls and focus with your left hand. One big weakness is the aperture ring which has no click stops and is easy to move unintentionally while focusing stop. It also has the advantage at intermediate apertures are available. As mentioned above, the aperture ring has the f/stops marked in different colours. There are also coloured markers for the distance scale so if you use the aperture f/8 (in yellow) the yellow distance markers give you the depth of field for that aperture.P1030401

The viewfinder produces a clear and bright image with clear bright lines for framing. The rangefinder spot is yellow (Indicating that the rangefinder mirror is silvered in gold) and not particularly distinct. However, the rangefinder image is bright and easy to see. There is sufficient separation between the viewfinder and rangefinder images to make focusing definite. The only negative here is that the rangefinder image is not vertically aligned with the viewfinder image. So long as the horizontal alignment is correct, it really doesn’t matter.

Having now uploaded a test film, I have a new problem. The rangefinder image has disappeared from the viewfinder. I can only suspects that the rangefinder has come loose inside the top plate. My test film has been done entirely with night with me guessing focus. For landscapes with infinity focus this is okay. Former close-up of the pushbike the focus is obviously out. Here is a selection of the test photographs: (all on Agfa Vista+ film)Phenix-01-1_edited-1Phenix-05-1Phenix-06-1Phenix-07-1_edited-1Phenix-08-1Phenix-09-1Phenix-10-1Phenix-13-1Phenix-14-1_edited-1Phenix-16Phenix-17Phenix-18Phenix-19_edited-1Phenix-21Phenix-23Phenix-25

Voigtlander Vito CLR

1960s fixed lens rangefider from Germany

This is a development of Voigtlander’s Vito range. That started as the folding 35 mm Vito of 1939. The folding Vitos were replaced by the rigid bodied Vito B in 1954 . The Vito B sired a small range – Vito BL, Vito BR and Vitomatic. Then in 1960 came the Vito C and a small range – Vito C, Vito CD, Vito Cl, Vito Cs, Vito CLR and Vito CSR and these were followed by the Vito Automatic (very different to the Vitomatic of 1957).

So, this is the third range of Vito cameras. The name, Vito CLR, tells us it is the C range with a Light meter and Rangefinder. Both the light meter and the rangefinder are coupled to the shutter. This camera cost, in 1965, £56-19-5 (in old British money, or £56.97 in new British money). This equates to £1,840 in 2020 values which is a very expensive camera.

Voigtlander Vito CLR  (C) J. Margetts
As I usually do, I shall start with a physical description of the camera, followed by notes on using it.
My camera is the third iteration of the deluxe version. Deluxe means there are slight variations on the layout of the top plate and I get a ring of black leatherette around the base of the shutter housing. The camera is somewhat bigger than the Vito B – it measures 125 mm by 85 mm by 75 mm and weighs 730g. The main difference in appearance is that the camera now has a ‘standard’ hinged back fastened with a catch on the left-hand side. This is much easier to use than the Vito Bs somewhat strange back (although I like the Vito B’s back for its idiosyncrasy).
On the top plate on the left is a recessed rewind knob. This has a turnable film reminder which can be set to either blue or yellow – sunlight or artificial light? Just right of centre is an accessory shoe. As was usual at the time this camera was made, there are no flash contacts so this is a cold shoe. To the right of the accessory shoe is the window for the light meter. This is reflected into the viewfinder so you can set the exposure without removing the camera from your eye.
Top plate – (C) J. Margetts
On the back of the camera there are three items. On the left is the viewfinder eyepiece. This has bright-lines directly on the rear glass with parallax markings for close-ups. Below the viewfinder and slightly to the left is a lever to raise the rewind knob and free the film advance mechanism. To the right of the back is the film advance lever. This moves through 220 degrees as far as I can judge and advances the film one frame and cocks the shutter.
The front of the camera is a lot busier. At the top is a chrome rectangular bezel. This contains on the left (while looking at the lens) the light meter lens, above the shutter housing the rangefinder window and on the right the viewfinder window.
In the middle of the front, just off centre, is the shutter housing. This contains a Gauthier Prontor 500 LK shutter. The outer ring on the housing is the focussing ring. This ranges from 1 metre to infinity (my camera is marked in metres rather than feet which usually means a grey import but the body is clearly stamped ‘Made in West Germany’ so it is a factory import). This ring has three Happy Snapper settings at 1.3 m, 3.2 m, and 10 m. The last one is the hyperfocal distance at f5.6 and the middle one is the hyperfocal distance at f16. This lens is front cell focusing (only the front element of the lens moves when you turn the focus ring.
The next ring is the shutter speed ring – this adjusts from 1/15 to 1/500 and B. This is also used to set the film speed for the light meter – you need to depress a small black tab immediately behind this ring while setting the film speed. Behind the shutter speed ring is the aperture ring which runs from f/2.8 to f/22. This ring has two sizeable black tabs attached which makes finding the ring by feel easy – this is important when setting the exposure with the camera at your eye.
Add caption
In the centre of the shutter is the lens – a Color-Skopar f/2.8 50 mm lens. This is front cell focussing so not ideal but will still produce excellent images. The lens will take 32 mm push fit filters and lens hood. To the left of the shutter housing (again, while looking at the lens) is the shutter release button. This is threaded on then underside for a standard cable release. Below the shutter release is a PC flash connector.
The base of the camera has then usual 1/4 inch tripod boss – slightly left of centre and slightly forward – and a frame counter. The frame counter counts down so tells you how many frames you have left.
Vito B (top) Vito CLR (bottom)

27/10/14

I have completed a test film using Fomapan 200 Creative. This has shown up a problem with the camera – one the seller drew my attention to – the exposure meter under-exposes by around two stops. So, using this camera I need to set the meter for ASA 50 rather than the correct ASA 200. I suspect this is due to the selenium  sensor in the meter deteriorating. This is something we are always warned about with old selenium meters but not something I have actually come across before (it could, as the seller suggested, be the setting ring having moved from its correct position, but I doubt it).
Because of the metering problem, the negatives are very thin and getting a good scan has been difficult. tonal range is not as it should be and there are very visible horizontal lines in each picture. There is also some evidence of a light leak in the pictures – it is on the left-hand side which means it must be from around the hinge of the back. In some pictures it is not very evident, so, perhaps, if the pictures were exposed correctly, it would not be a problem. There are no foam light seals in this camera to deteriorate.
Second test film results are below the monochrome results.
Voigtlander Vito CLR
Cathedral from Broadgate, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
City Square, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
High Street, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
Add caption
Voigtlander Vito CLR
Voigtlander Vito CLR

Flowers to test the lens for close-ups.

Second test – with Agfa Vista+ colour film, processed by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln.  Negative density is fine, so the earlier problems were either lack of use or my developing of the film.

This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit

Here.

This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit

Here.

This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit

Here.

This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit

Here.

This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit

Here.

Fed 4 (ФЭД 4)

This Soviet Feed 4 is a camera with an impressive pedigree. The original design was by Oskar Barnack and the Leica 1 introduced in 1926 by E.Leitz (Leica =  LEItz CAmera). An orphanage in Karkiv, Ukraine set up a workshop to produce copies of the Leica II as a training exercise for teenage boys. This copy was sold as the Fed (named after the head of the NKVD). In time, this changed from a training exercise to full-bloodied commercial production.

During WWII, the factory was destroyed and after the war ended, production was temporarily moved to the Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod factory outside Moscow. When the Fed factory was rebuilt, production was moved back but the Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod factory also continued production with cameras now called Zorki.

I already have in my collection, Fed 2, Fed 5 and Zorki 4. The Fed 2 and Zorki 4 only differ in details, the main one being the extended rangefinder base of the Fed 2.
Fed 2, Fed 4 and Zorki 4
The Fed 4 is a further refinement which embodies an uncoupled light meter.
So, a description:

The overall shape of the camera is a rectangular ‘brick’ with rounded ends. The ‘brickiness’ is broken up by the film advance being in a lowered section of the top plate.

The film advance is a lever. This is slightly curved and is quite comfortable to use. The travel of the lever is just over 180 degrees and easy to do in one motion. The lever is on a ratchet and it is possible to advance the film with several shorter motions.
ab9e3-fed2b4_0603_edited-1
rear and top plate
The central boss of the film advance has the frame counter. This needs to be set to zero manually and counts up. If you are lazy like me, you can ignore this completely and continue to use the camera until you cannot advance the film anymore. The counter counts up to 39. Right in the centre of the frame counter is a reminder for film type. There are three settings: sun, light bulb and circle. With colour film, each brand would come in two versions, one colour balanced for sunlight and one colour balanced for artificial light. The circle position is intended to represent black and white film. This is merely a reminder has has no effect on the operation of the camera.
Nestling in the corner of the film advance is the shutter release. This is chrome plated steel and is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release button is a milled collar. This has two positions marked B and C (in Cyrillic – V and S in the Latin alphabet). This is depressed and turned to allow rewinding of the film. This is very fiddly to get at and turn.
Next to the shutter release, on the raised portion of the top plate, is the shutter speed selector. This is used by lifting and turning to the required speed – indicated by a red arrow. In common with the other Leica derived cameras (Zorki, Zenith and other Fed models) it is important to do this only after advancing the film. Speeds available are the standard range from 1 second to 1/500 seconds.
Next along is the accessory shoe. No electrical contacts here so a cold shoe.
On the left hand end of the top plate are the light meter controls. This is a selenium meter and so does no require a battery. Looking at Interweb articles, you could gain the impression that selenium meters eventually deteriorate and lose their sensitivity and so should be avoided. I have selenium meters that are over 55 years years old and still agree with my modern digital camera.
This is a match-needle type meter – you turn the outer ring on the controls until the red needle is over the white needle. At this point, you can read the correct exposure from the black scales. Before this, of course, you need to tell the meter the speed of your film. This is in ASA but the range offered is rather strange: 20, 40, 80, 160, 320. The reason for this (my guess here!) is that it is translated from the German DIN scale, being centred on DIN 20 (=ASA 80). Assuming this makes setting the camera easier: ASA 100 = DIN 21 = one division past ASA 80. ASA 200 = DIN 24 = four divisions past ASA 80 or ASA 160 plus one division.
Front of camera with no lens
The front of the camera is in two parts. At the top is a deep, chrome top plate. This contains a square viewfinder window, a small, round rangefinder window hiding by the ФЭД-4 logo and a square light meter window. By the corner of the light meter window is a PC (Prontor Compur – named after the two German shutter makers, both owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation) connector for flash. This will be X synch for electronic flash at this date.
At the left hand end of the top plate is a milled wheel protruding from the side of the top plate. This is for rewinding the film. It also acts as a visual check that the film is advancing correctly.
On the back of the top plate is a small round viewfinder eyepiece which has a milled surround – guaranteed to scratch modern plastic spectacle lenses. This milled surround can be rotated to adjust the eyepiece for spectacle wearers so there is no need to wear glasses when using this camera which obviates scratching the lenses. There is also an embossed ФЭД logo and the legend “MADE IN USSR” indicating that this camera was made for export.
Beneath the deep top plate, the camera is covered with a black plastic ‘leatherette’.
On the front, below the ФЭД-4 logo, is the lens mount. As this camera derives from the Leica II, the lens mount is LTM or M39 (Leica Thread Mount which is 39 mm diameter and 1 mm pitch). Just inside the lens mount, at the top, can be seen the focusing cam. As the lens is focused towards infinity, the lens pushes this cam inwards which in turn moves the rangefinder image. Around the lens mount are four chrome screws which I assume hold the internal shutter crate in place. To the right of the lens mount (left, when looking at the camera rather than using it) is the self delay lever. This rotates through 180 degrees to wind up the mechanism – it is activated by pressing a small chrome button just below the top plate.
Lens mount with focus cam at top.
The base of the camera has a tripod boss just below the lens (1/4 inch UNC), next to which is the serial number. On many Soviet cameras, the first two digits of the serial number are the production year but not here. The number is 097010 – I do not yet know which year this is.

 

On either end of the base plate are a folding cam. These are lifted and turned half a turn to release the base and back in one piece to allow access to the inside of the camera. Inside the camera, the film cassette fits on the left. On the right is a removable take-up spool. These frequently get lost, unfortunately, and when buying a Soviet camera it is worth confirming that the take-up spool is included. The idea behind the removable spool is that it can be replaced with an empty Leica cassette (not the modern Kodak cassette) removing the need to rewind the film. The take-up spool rotates ‘backwards’ and winds the film emulsion side outwards.
Loose spool having been removed

 

The lens supplied with the my camera is the Industar-61 which is a Carl Zeiss Tessar design.  The lens has a focal length of 53 mm and an aperture range from f/2.8 to f/16 with click stops (it would seem that many Industar-61 lenses go to f/22 but not this one). There were a number of optical factories making lenses in the Soviet Union with differing reputations. This lens was made in the Fed factory in 1989 – whether that is a good thing or not, I don’t know but the lens certainly performs well enough.
Industar-61 lens

Industar-61 lens facia

My test film.

The negatives are exposed well showing the light meter is OK. There are no light leaks and the shutter curtains are moving smoothly enough to give an even exposure.  The only camera fault is the level of flare in one (just one) frame – see below. I had a fault in that the viewfinder is always in focus and a couple of times I forgot to focus the camera. If I was using this camera all the time, that would become second nature. I am pleased to report that I did not fire off half a dozen shots with the lens cap on – which I did with my Fed-2. I did a rangefinder test by focusing on a steel fence. I focused on the first ‘silver’ finial which should have been in sharp focus but it is barely in focus at all.  See below.

The pictures:

The frame with lens flare
One I forgot to focus
Rangefinder test – the first finial should be in focus.
Steep Hill, Lincoln

 

Remains of a public tap, Lincoln

 

Steep Hill, Lincoln

 

The Strait, Lincoln
Broadgate, Lincoln and the cathedral.
My usual photo of the abandoned bicycle.

 

%d bloggers like this: