Wirgin Edixa 2MTL

A Japanese camera rebadged for the German firm Edixa.

Wirgin were a German camera maker from the mid 20th century. Wirgin was formed in 1920 and ceased manufacture in 1971 (as far as I can tell). They made both viewfinder cameras and SLR cameras (and others). The SLR cameras were aimed at the cheaper end of the serious photography market. There was nothing wrong with them – see Edixa-Mat Reflex mod B – but they were clearly built to a price. The manual for this camera can be viewed and downloaded here.

Edixa
Wirgin Edixa 2MTL

This particular Wirgin camera – Edixa 2MTL – is solid and well made but was not made buy Wirgin. It is, in fact, a rebadged Cosina Hi-Lite DLR. Cosina have consistently made top-quality cameras for other camera names – they were good enough for Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Zeiss Ikon (to name four) to sell rebadged Cosina cameras as their own. My  Wallace Heaton Blue Book from 1971 has a Zodal 2MTL which is clearly the same camera (Zodal was the name used by Wallace Heaton for their own brand kit. This sold for £89.75 with a Cosinon 50 mm lens.

The camera is metal and is heavy. It measures 145 by 95 by 50 mm and weighs 733 g with no lens. The top plate is pressed brass painted matt black – much of the paint has worn away revealing the underlying metal – clearly a much loved and well used camera: a big positive aspect for me. The base plate is aluminium, again painted matt black. The main body is cast aluminium. There is some plastic, but not very much.

This camera offers TTL metering. This is a CdS meter powered by a button battery. Strangely, the instructions for the camera tell you how to fit the battery but offer no details as to which battery you should be using. The instructions for Cosina’s own version of this camera say that the battery should be a 675 type mercury button cell which are now universally banned. Fortunately, this meter works by centring the needle. When the needle is centred, there is no current flowing through the meter so it does not matter what voltage is producing the zero current. So, any button cell that will fit in the battery compartment will be fine (this really means 1.5v with modern cells). This type of circuit where an unknown resistance (the CdS cell) is balanced by three known resistances is known as a bridge circuit.

P1050056
Meter switch

The meter is activated by depressing a button on the left side of the lens mount (this also doubles as a depth of field preview button as it stops down the diaphragm). The meter needle is visible on the right side of the focus screen in the viewfinder. It is usual to use these as a shutter priority system – set the required shutter speed and then adjust the aperture until the meter needle is centred. 

So – time for a description. the top plate is uncluttered. On the right is the film advance lever. This is metal with a black plastic pad on the end for comfort. This lever moves through around 200° to advance the film one frame. this is not on a ratchet so it must be moved in one go. In front of the advance lever is a window to the frame counter. This counts up from one and is reset when the back is opened. Only the even-numbered frames are numbered with the odd-numbered frames represented by a dot.

P1050055
Top plate

Left of the frame counter window is the shutter release button. This is bright chrome plated and is threaded for a standard cable release. Next to this is the shutter speed selector. This is pretty standard and runs from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B. The shutter is a Copal Square shutter with metal blades and runs vertically. The speed selector will only turn between 1 and 1/1000. to go from 1 to 1/1000 (or 1/1000 to 1) you need to go almost a complete turn around the speeds. 1/125 is marked with a red X and is the synch speed for electronic flash. For flash bulbs, any shutter speed can be used.

This shutter speed selector also doubles as the film speed selector. To select film speeds, you need to lift the selector before turning it. Available film speeds are from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA or DIN 15° to DIN 33°. On my camera, this scale is spotlessly clean apart from 25 ASA which suggests that the user was using Kodachrome 25 almost exclusively (I can think of no other 25 ASA film in the 1970s and 80s that would account for it).

The pentaprism hump is of the size you would expect at this date – this is from just before Olympus rewrote the book with their OM series of cameras. On the left of the pentaprism hump is a pair of PC connectors for flash. One is marked X for electronic flash and must be used at 1/125 seconds or slower – this is marked on the shutter speed selector. The other PC connector is marked with a white M and is for flash bulbs – bulbs can be used at any shutter speed.

P1050059
PC connectors

On the front of the top plate is a pair of strap lugs. One of these is completely worn through so I can no longer attach a strap to the camera.

As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is the M42 mount introduced by East German Zeiss Ikon in 1949. It is also known as the Praktica mount and Pentax mount as these two companies made the use of the M42 mount very common. I cannot comment on the lens as none was supplied. The manual (downloadable here) says that it was a Cosina brand Cosinon 50 mm lens. When focusing the lens (any M42 lens will fit) the only focus aid is a disc of micro-prisms in the centre which acts as a whole series off split-image centres – the first time I have seen this effect. It works very well.

P1050053
Window frame out of focus
P1050052
Window frame in focus

On the right of the lens mount is a self-timer lever. This is activated by turning the lever anticlockwise. When you press the shutter release, the mirror is raised immediately and the shutter fires after 11 seconds. I expect that this delay would have been 8 seconds when new as this is the usual delay. If you do not turn the setting lever as far as it can go, you get proportionally shorter delays.

The baseplate of the camera has four times on it. Starting on the left is the lever to open the back. This is recessed and meeds to be turned through about 45° in the direction of the marked arrow. Next to this is the battery compartment which is designed to take one 675 type button cell. Just behind the lens is the tripod boss. This is, as you would expect, a 1/4 inch UNC thread.Towards the other end of the base plate is the button to allow the film to be rewound. This is well designed and does not need to be held in while rewinding which makes life much easier than with other cameras.

Inside, this camera is entirely standard. Being Japanese, the camera needs foam light seals around the back and these are seriously perished. I doubt the designers expected the camera to still be used after nearly 50 years after manufacture so this is not really a criticism.

The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue. The model advertised is the Zodel 2MTL but it is the same camera – Cosina made these cameras for many resellers as well as Edixa and Zodal.

2MTL 1972012.jpg

Pentax SFX

This camera is very reminiscent of the Yashica 230-AF . They are both early attempts at electronic control of the camera – using a variety of sliders instead of the dials and buttons we expect nowadays. There are certainly no menus! Other manufacturers made very similar cameras.

P1040632lens:  n/a

focal length:  n/a

apertures: n/a

focus range: n/a

lens fitting: Pentax KAFmount

shutter: metal focal plane

speeds: to 1/2000

flash: hot shoe

film size: 35 mm

I am unable at the moment to get this camera working – it is fully electrical and will not work without a battery. The circuit board is basically OK – when I put a battery in (an expensive 2CR5 lithium battery which is still readily available) the LED screen lights up and the camera attempts to load a film. I have put a test film in the camera but it does not load although I can hear the motor running. With the back of the camera open, I can still hear the motor running but neither the sprocket shaft nor the take-up spool move. In fact, the sprocket shaft cannot even be rotated by hand which is suggesting to my non-mechanical mind that there is a mechanical problem.

Without a film loaded, very little else works. I can change the ISO setting, exposure compensation, drive mode and partially set the exposure mode but the shutter will not fire and the exposure meter does not appear to work. A further fault – probably connected with the sprocket shaft not rotating – is that the mirror is permanently raised. This is not jammed as such as I can lower it by hand but it raises itself again when I let it go.

I am going to describe the camera without going into details as what the controls do as until the camera is working I cannot tell the details.

P1040633First, the top plate (this term, top plate, is not really appropriate on a camera made form moulded plastic but I am nothing if not traditional). On the right, forward of the main moulding, is the shutter release button. This is square plastic and falls easily to my index finger when gripping the moulded grip. Just behind this is a control slider. This has a central rest position and is spring loaded so that it returns to the rest position after use. This is an advance/retard selector and is used in conjunction with other controls to be discussed shortly.

P1050011On the far right of the top is an accessory shoe. This has the standard large, central electrode and so can be used with generic flash guns. It also has three smaller electrodes for use with Pentax dedicated flash guns with TTL facilities. This accessory shoe comes with a slide-on plastic cover.

To the left of the accessory shoe is the on/off switch. This offers three position: off; on silent; on with beeps. Even when off, the LCD screen is live suggesting that the battery would run down while the camera was not being used. Actually, I think there must be a secondary battery somewhere inside the camera because when the battery is removed, the LCD screen remains live for one minute. Or is this secondary battery a capacitor?

P1050014The pentaprism hump is not then usual shape. It is fairly low with a square profile. On the top of the pentaprism at the front is a flash gun. This is activated by a white button on the left side. Behind the flash gun is the LCD screen.

P1050010

Behind the pentaprism is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is lacking the soft rubber surround on my camera. Just above the eyepiece is a slider. This is a diopter adjuster to allow for the user’s eyesight. Normally, this slider is covered b y the soft rubber surround. To the left of the eyepiece is a red LED to indicate that the flash gun is ready. On the left of the eyepiece is a white button with a black ‘C’ on it. Pressing this resets all the adjustments you might have made.

P1050013Left of the pentaprism are two sliders. The right hand one is for adjusting the program mode and drive. The left hand one is for exposure compensation and ISO. These are used in conjunction with the advance/retard selector mentioned earlier.

As you might expect, there is little on the front of the camera. In the centre is the lens mount. This is a development of the Pentax K mount – the KAF mount.The A denotes that the aperture is controlled through electrical contacts and the F denotes there is an autofocus drive shaft. These only work with the appropriate lenses. The automatic aperture lenses have a ‘A’ setting on the aperture ring (or no aperture ring) and the autofocus requires that the lens has a focus drive socket. This is backwardly computable with the original K mount and older lenses will work with this camera but only manually.

While looking at the front of the camera, there is, top left of the lens mount, a focus assist lamp. On the right of the lens mount are two items. the lower item is a focus mode selector. Options are

  1. single – to focus on a static subject
  2. servo – to focus on a moving subject
  3. manual – as it says.

Switching between single and servo is simple – just slide the selector – but to move to manual requires a button to be pressed first. Above the this focus mode selector is a small plastic cover. Behind this is a three pin electrical connector. This is for a wired remote shutter release.

P1050015The lens mount itself incorporates seven electrical contacts in the lower left quadrant. six of these are sprung contacts but one is not. In the lower right quadrant is the autofocus drive. This normally protrudes slightly and is sprung to allow lenses to be fitted. When manual focus is selected, this drive shaft is retracted. I have an earlier autofocus Pentax – the Pentax ME-F – but this is a totally different system.

This camera came without a lens so I cannot comment on the lens that would have been supplied when new.

On the far right of the camera (when in use) is the grip. This doubles as a battery chamber. The cover is fixed with a screw designed to be tightened/loosened with a small coin. The battery is a lithium 2CR5 battery chichis still readily available even if a bit expensive. An alternative grip cover was available which held four AA batteries.

P1050007Inside is broadly similar to all my 35 mm cameras. A chamber on the left for the film cassette, a central film gate with the shutter, the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool. The cassette chamber has a sturdy chrome spring to keep the cassette in the correct position. Along the right hand edge of the cassette chamber is a row of electrical contacts.There are two large contacts and eight smaller contacts arranged in pairs. These read a code the film cassette and tell the camera about the film.There are more contacts here than is usual with DX enabled cameras. Most cameras just read the film speed (ISO) from the cassette but much more information was potentially available. This camera would seem to be able to read all the DX information. For details of the DX codes see here.

P1050009Beneath the film gate are five more contacts. I would think that these are for a data back – the supplied back is detachable which usually signifies that alternative backs were available.

This camera has (or would have if the camera worked)  an automatic film loading system. You fit the cassette in its chamber, pull the leader across the film gate to the orange mark and close the back. The camera then pulls the film onto the take-up spool and winds the film on to the first frame.

On the inside of the back is a large central pressure plate. Towards the hinge are two rollers and a spring to help guide the film onto the take-unspool and keep the film tight across the film gate. At the closure end of the back is a clear acrylic window so that the user can see the cassette incase they have forgotten which film is in use – or, indeed, if any film is in use.

The base is fairly plain. There is a standard 1/4 inch UNC tripod boss in line with the lens. There is also a recessed rewind button. As this camera does not work, I am not going to be able to test it with film.

Voigtlander Bessamatic

P1040597This is a big lump of a camera – it weighs 927g – and will not be easy to use for long periods. The basic design is the same as the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex series, Kodak Retina Reflexflex, Mamiya Korvette (aka Family) and several others. The camera uses a reflex version of the Synchro-Compur shutter. This is very complicated shutter that does a bit more than control the exposure. East German Zeiss Ikon in the late 1940s introduced a reflex version of the Zeiss Ikon Contax which became the standard for SLR design that is still with us with DSLR cameras. This East German SLR used a focal plane shutter (as had the Contax) and most SLR manufacturers followed suit. West German Zeiss Ikon went with a design using the in-between the lens leaf shutter instead as did Voigtlander. This complicates things as the shutter must be open to enable viewing through the lens without exposing the film. The solution – designed by both Compur and Gauthier – is to use a secondary shutter behind the mirror. To expose the film requires seven steps:

  1. close the leaf shutter
  2. raise the mirror
  3. open the secondary shutter
  4. fire the leaf shutter
  5. close the secondary shutter
  6. lower the mirror
  7. open the leaf shutter.

This is relatively slow compared to a focal plane shutter and involves more moving parts working in synch. The thought process behind doing this in preference to a focal plane shutter is long lost but the system had a long life and was used by Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya and others for medium format SLR cameras well into the 2000s. This camera cost, in 1965, a whopping £117-8-3 (in old British money, or £117.41 in modern British money). Average wages in Britain in 1965 were £70 per month so this represented 170% of a month’s wages. In 2019 terms, this equates to around £5,156 for this camera.

P1040598This camera is partially automatic. The two controls are the light meter and the shutter speed. To set the exposure, you first set the required shutter speed and then turn the meter knob until the two needles in the viewfinder are superimposed. This sets the aperture required for that shutter speed. If you would prefer to choose the aperture rather than the shutter speed you can do this by matching the two needles in the viewfinder and then adjusting the shutter speed until the required aperture is by the black index pointer on top of the shutter housing. There is no way of directly setting the aperture.

Having given an overview of the workings, I shall give a more detailed description of the camera.

On the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This rests flush with the back of the top plate. The lever moves through about 270° to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet so the lever needs tone moved all the way in one movement. This is surprisingly easy to do in one motion. Embedded in the advance lever is a film reminder. This has three options:

  1. Black and white
  2. Daylight colour
  3. Artificial light colour

This is purely a mnemonic and has no effect on the operation of the camera.

P1040601Just to the left of the advance pivot is a small lever marked “R” and arrow. Moving this lever in the direction of the arrow allows the film to be rewound into the cassette. This is reset by winding the film advance lever.

At the front of the top plate, between the film advance lever and the pentaprism hump, is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated metal and is threaded for a standard cable release. The pentaprism hump is rather broad compared to other SLR cameras and the image in the viewfinder is accordingly large.

To the left of the pentaprism hump is a large combination knob. This has four functions:

  1. setting the film speed
  2. setting the light meter
  3. adjusting the exposure for filters
  4. rewinding the film

P1040602First, setting the film speed. This is a German camera and although both DIN and ASA scales are present, the German DIN scale dominates over the American ASA scale. Speeds available are from 11 DIN/10 ASA TO 36 DIN/3200 ASA. To set the film speed you need to slide out a nipple on the film speed scale and rotate the scale until the required film speed is against the red index mark.

To set the light meter, you need to be looking through the viewfinder. Zeiss Ikon, on their Contaflex, included a meter read-out on the top plate as well as in the viewfinder but with Voigtlander the only read-out is in the viewfinder. This means you holding a rather heavy (927g!) camera up to your eye for no good reason. In use, you turn the outer ring of the combination knob until the needle with a ring is superimposed on the meter needle. Turning this adjusts the aperture, turning the aperture ring on the shutter housing directly. If it is not possible to superimpose the two needles at the selected shutter speed, it is possible to turn the now stiff ring with more effort which will adjust the shutter speed as well as the aperture.

P1040611As this camera is not metering through the lens, the meter takes no notice of any filters in use. If filters are attached to the lens they have an exposure factor printed on them. Beside the combination knob is a scale from zero to five. These are filter factors. To use these, you set the exposure in the normal way. Any the base of the combination knob is a series of alternating red and black dots. To set the filter factor, you select the red or black dot by the zero and turn the light meter ring until that selected dot is beside the appropriate factor on the scale.

In the centre of the combination knob is the rewind knob which is used in conjunction with the rewind lever mention earlier. This pulls up about 5 mm to make rewinding easier and then pulls up a further 10 mm to allow the film cassette to be removed.

The front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens assembly. Above the shutter housing is the light meter sensor. This is a selenium meter and so has no need of a battery.

P1040603

“This bayonet mount was also used by the Retina Reflex (it is called the DKL mount and Voigtlander and Kodak versions were slightly different).”

The other item on the front is a PC socket for attaching a flash gun. This can be used with either M rated flash bulbs or with electronic flash – there is a lever to select between the two on the side of the shutter housing. As well as M and X, this selector has a third option of V. This is short for Vorlaufwerk and is a shutter delay timer. This can only be set once the film has been advanced and currently (on my camera) delays the shutter firing by 12 seconds. To mover this selector between M,X and V, you need to simultaneously press a small lever on the other side of the shutter housing.

On the shutter housing itself, there are three movable rings. The inner-most controls the shutter speed and can be moved between 1/500 and 1 seconds. This moves easily without altering the exposure as the aperture ring moves at the same time but in the opposite direction. The next ring out is the aperture ring and can to be directly controlled by the user. There are two ways to change the aperture – change the shutter speed or adjust the light meter. The next movable ring is the focus ring – this will focus between 1m and infinity. To aid focus, there is a ring of micro-prisms in the viewfinder with a split-image centre.

This lens does not have a separate DOF scale. Instead, there are two red pointers by the focus scale  which move as the aperture changes and these red pointers indicate the new and far limits of the DOF for the selected aperture.

P1040604
P1040605

The lens on this camera is exchangeable, although few options were available. The lens is fitted in a bayonet mount just in front of the shutter blades. This bayonet mount was also used by the Retina Reflex (it is called the DKL mount and Voigtlander and Kodak versions were slightly different). To remove the lens you press a plunger beneath the shutter housing and simultaneously turn the lens through about 45° anti-clockwise.

The lens is a Color-Skopar X f/2.8 50mm lens. It has the DKL bayonet mount. The serial number (5,671,055) dates the lens to 1961. The camera body has a separate serial number (100433). Focusing moves the whole lens, not just the front element. The focus ring is fairly deeply scalloped to both provide a grip and also to allow the ring to be found by touch.

P1040607The back is opened by squeezing together two serrated lugs on the left side of the back. The back is hinged (which is better than Zeiss Ikon’s idea of a detachable back which makes loading film in the field awkward). Inside is as you would expect from a late 20th century camera. The film cassette goes on the left and the take-up spool, which is fixed, is on the right. Beside the take-up spool is the toothed sprocket shaft. This shaft has a milled section which is used to rotate the shaft prior to loading the film. The reason for doing this is that this is the only way of setting the frame counter. The frame counter counts down to zero so must be set to the length of the film plus two prior to loading the film. This is a very crude and cumbersome way to do this – it takes quite a long time – and is not up to Voigtlander’s usual standards.

Praktica Nova (no name version)

This camera has no name on it anywhere – in fact, no writing on it at all. The only clue to its identity is the Ernemann Tower embossed in the leatherette on the back. Ernemann was one of the four camera makers that merged in 1926 to form Zeiss Ikon. With the partition of Germany after WWII, East German Zeiss Ikon (Zeiss Ikon also got partitioned along with the country) used the distinctive Ernemann Tower as a logo. With the morphing of East German Zeiss Ikon into Pentacon and the establishment of VEB Pentacon as a merger of the East German camera makers (Exakta, KW, Balda, Zeiss Ikon and others) the Ernemann Tower was used as a logo on all of them.

P1040580So this is a Pentacon camera. There are clues to the marque in the design. The shutter release is angled on the front right of the camera. This narrows it down to Contax or Praktica (a dangerous statement as I do not know all East German camera models!). There are two PC connectors on the top of the front left of the camera. Looking at imagers of Contax and Praktica cameras on Google, only one camera looks like this one – an early Praktica Nova. As a check, I went to www.praktica-collector.de and they have details of a model that was issued with no printing – the Praktica Nova No-Name. I already have a Pentaflex SL which is a cut-down Praktica Nova and this camera is very similar although the Pentaflex SL dates from the year that the Praktica Nova No-Name was discontinued.

P1040584
Ernemann Tower embossed in the leatherette

This is an early part of the Praktica Nova series. It dates from 1964 to 1967. It lacks a meter and has a top shutter speed of 1/500 seconds. The shutter speed selector is old school for the time with separate low and high speed rangers. The slow speed range is in red and offers 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 seconds. The high speed range is in white and offers 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500. Also in the high speed range is the flash synch speed (denoted by a lightning flash) and B. The flash synch speed is between 1/30 and 1/60 seconds and I am guessing 1/40 based on other Praktica cameras of the time.

P1040582Although B is in white and so a part of the high speed range, it can be used with the selector set at red. Switching between low and high speed ranges is done by a ring on top of the speed selector dial. Actual shutter speeds are selected by lifting the outer ring of the selector snd turning. The selected speed is indicated by a red dot. This works both before and after advancing the film.

This camera is a big step forward from my Praktica F.X2 which lacks a pentaprism. The shutter release button, as mentioned, sits on the front right the camera and is angled for ease of use. This is an improvement over the F.X2 where the shutter release is at right angles to the camera body. The button is threaded for a standards cable release. The edges of the button are milled and the button can be turned clockwise to lock it – a feature that will save me many blank frames.

P1040581The lens mount is M42 (42 mm diameter and 1 mm pitch) and not to be confused with M43 digital mount. It is the automatic version. This means that a bar comes forward when you press the shutter release button which presses on a pin on the rear of the lens to close the aperture. If you are using a non-automatic lens which would foul this bar – or if you just don’t want to use it – there is a red rivet just behind the bar which can be moved to one side to disable the auto feature.

The viewfinder eyepiece has a sort of bayonet fitting which I assume was for fitting a rubber eye cup or correction lenses so the user can discard their spectacles while using the camera.

The focus screen is a Fresnel lens which gives uniform brightness over the focus screen. In the centre is a plain ground glass circle (I initially thought that this was a micro prism ring but it is plain ground glass). Inside this circle is a split-image disc. This has a horizontal division. To use this, you find a strong vertical near the centre of the image and superimpose the split-image part over it. While the image is out of focus, the image in the part will be disrupted. You adjust the focus until the disrupted image comes together again.

P1040583There are a few other features worth noting. Under the rewind crank on the left of the top plate is a film reminder. This has two components: film length and film speed. To use this, you rotate the film speed ring until the required film speed is against the film length. Available film lengths are 12, 20 and 36. Film speeds are in either DIN (German system) or ASA (American system). Din speeds range from 9 to 33 and the ASA speeds from 6 to 1600. The back of the camera, as well as having the Ernemann Tower embossed in it, also has a triangle with a ‘1’ in it embossed below the Ernemann Tower. This indicates that the camera is of the first quality. There is a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket on the base which is otherwise plain.

Also, there are two PC connectors on the top, front left of the camera. One is marked ‘F’ and is for using flash bulbs and the other is marked ‘X’ and is for electronic flash. The ‘F’ connector will fire the flash slightly before the shutter is fully open to give the flash bulb time to burn to maximum brightness while the ‘X’ connector will fire the flash as soon as the shutter is fully open. The frame counter is below the film advance lever and it counts up from zero. Opening the back to change films automatically resets the counter to -1.

The film advance lever has lost its black plastic tip – there is a rivet still in place that used to hold the tip in place – but it works fine as it is. The camera has studs on the front corners for attaching a neck strap. This is the form of the early Praktica Novas during the three year production run of the model. Later in the production run these were changed for eyelets.

Pentacon F (Contax F)

This is a ground breaking camera. This was the first modern 35 mm SLR camera (in the S version). SLR cameras have been around for a very long time and there were many SLR cameras that used glass plates rather than film. There were also earlier 35 mm SLR cameras – the Kine Exakta is generally accepted as being the first – but these earlier designs did not lead on to the ubiquitous 35 mm SLR of the 1950s and beyond.

P1040528
Pentacon F

lens: n/a
focal length: n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/1/1000
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

The name ‘Pentacon’ was only used for cameras sold in Western Europe and North America. Elsewhere, it was the Contax F. This other name tells us a great deal about the design of this camera. It is a development of the pre WWII Zeiss Ikon Contax rangefinder. The main changes made are that the brass shutter is replaced with a cloth one, the shutter moves side to side rather than up and down and the rangefinder is replaced with a mirror and pentaprism. This last give rise to the name Pentacon which is a contraction of PENTAprism CONtax. There are also other changes – the Contax bayonet lens mount is replaced by the M42 thread lens mount. It was necessary to change the lens mount to increase the film to lens flange distance – the mirror needs the additional room to move – the diameter of the M42 lens mount (at 42 mm!) is also significantly larger than the diameter of the Contax bayonet mount (35 mm) allowing longer focal lengths to be used.

P1040529
Pentacon F rear

The camera measures 145 by 80 by 50 mm and weighs 850 g. It is an all metal construction and the exposed metal is chrome plated with a matt finish. The rest of the body is covered with a fine grained black leatherette. The controls are bright chrome plated.

P1040530
Pentacon F top plate

The top plate is not what later became ‘standard’, but is not far off. On the right is the film advance. This is still a knob at this age. This knob rotates clockwise which in turn turns the take-up spool clockwise so that the film is wound with the emulsion side outward. To the left of the film advance is the shutter speed selector. This is v very different to the speed selectors that became normal in the 1950s and 1960s. The selector wheel turns clockwise and must be depressed teen-age the mechanism beneath. In front of the speed selector wheel is a window. This gives onto a disc with two speed scales – one black and one red. The black scale is the fast speeds and offers speeds of 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, 1/500 and 11/1000. The red scale is the slow speeds and offers 1, 1/2, 1/5, and 1/20 and B. To choose which scale to use, there is a slide on the back of the top plate. When this is slid to the left a red arrow appears on the left of the selector window and the red range is selected. Moving the slide to the right changes the red arrow to a black arrow on the right and the black range is selected.

The idea is that you only select a red speed while the red arrow is present and only select a black speed while the black arrow is present. However, there is nothing to stop you choosing a black speed with the red range selected – and vice versa. If you do this, the shutter fires just fine but there is no telling as to which shutter speed you will actually get. Shutter speeds can be changed either before or after the film is advanced. Before the film is advanced, the selector knob will only turn anti-clockwise (actually, it will turn both ways but will not select a new shutter speed if turned clockwise) but after advancing the film it will turn in either direction.

When you press the shutter release button, the disc in the selector window will rotate clockwise – part of one revolution while the release is depressed and the remainder of the revolution once the release button is raised again.

Left of centre is the pentaprism hump. This is a normal pentaprism and there is not a lot I can say about it. It turns the image on the focus screen so that it is the right way around in the viewfinder. The eye-piece is nice and large and the focus screen is plain ground glass – no focus aids here.

P1040533
Film reminder – B&W at 100 ASA

Left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind knob. On this camera, the rewind knob does not double as a catch for the back – that is a slide on the right-hand end of the camera – nor does it pull up to ease the insertion of film cassettes. Beneath the rewind knob is a film memo. This consists of a ring with three icons on it. One icon is a black circle next to a white circle – this represents black and white film. The second icon is a sun and this represents colour film balanced for daylight. The third icon is a light bulb and represents colour film balanced for artificial (specifically tungsten bulb) light. To remind yourself as to what film is loaded, you rotate this ring anticlockwise until your chosen icon is against the film speed (which is ASA only. I assume that cameras intended for the home German market will have had this film speed reminder scale in DIN).

Between the pentaprism hump and the rewind knob is a PC connector for flash. There is no accessory shoe on this camera so the flash gun would need to be fitted to a bracket or separate stand. There is no indication given on the shutter speed disc as to what speed is required for flash but the manual states that it is 1/10 seconds.

The shutter release button is on the front of the camera to the right of the lens mount. Its is angled and falls nicely to my fore-finger when holding the camera. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. Below the release b button is a delay action lever. To use this, you move the lever anti-clockwise as far as it will go. To set it off, you give a slight turn to the knurled knob holding the lever in place. This takes eight seconds (on my camera) to fire the shutter. It is not possible to move the lever part way to give a shorter delay. If you try this, the shutter will not fire.

The lens mount is an M42 (42 mm by 1 mm thread) mount and so will take a very large number of lenses from many makers. This is the automatic version of the M42 mount which means that just inside the mount at the bottom is a plate that a moves forward as the shutter release button is pressed. This plate presses on a pin on the back of the lens and closes the diaphragm to the set aperture. Just beneath the lens mount there is a folding foot. Folding this out will allow the camera to stand level on a suitable surface to let you take selfies in conjunction with the delay action lever.

P1040536
back and half base removed

As mentioned above, the back is opened by a slide catch. The Contax that this camera was based on and all West German Contax derivatives have the back and base come away from the body in one piece. With this camera, the back is hinged but still takes a significant portion of the base with not. This is to facilitate the insertion and removal of the film cassettes. As was common with German cameras, the take-up spool is removable and can be replaced with an empty cassette. This avoids the need to rewind the film at the end and supposedly makes changing films faster and easier. The downside is that it is easy to drop the loose take-up spool when fitting a new film.

P1040539
back and other half base

As was the German practice, the flanges around the edges of the back are designed to be light tight and so this camera has no foam light seals to go bad. There are two light seals – velvet, not foam – by the hinge and by the slide catch. Apart from these velvet light seals, this camera has no need of seals. A boon for collectors of old cameras!

P1040540
back inside view

The one weakness of using flanges to keep out light is where the sprocket shaft attaches at the top. This shaft is connected to the film advance mechanism to control the length of film advanced each time. This locally reduces the depth of the flange. To keep the camera light tight, there is a secondary flange at the top of the back just where the sprocket shaft is.

On the base is a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod boss. It looks to me that this has been fitted into a 3/8 inch Whitworth boss. Also on the base is the button to release the advance mechanism for rewinding the film. The only other thing to note is the presence of a strap lug on either front corner.

Praktica F.X2

This is an early Praktica made by KW (Kamera Werkstätten) between 1958 and 1959 i.e. before the merging of East Germany’s camera makers into Pentacon. In many ways, this camera is much like what became the ‘standard’ SLR camera – such as Asahi’s Pentax and Nikon’s F. In other ways it shows its position in the move from rangefinder to SLR. It also, of course, reflects the available technology of the day.

P1040504In the 1940s and 50s, East and West Germany were both at the forefront of redesigning their existing cameras into SLR cameras. East German Zeiss Ikon produced the Contax S from the Contax rangefinder. West German Zeiss Ikon also started with the Contax rangefinder and produced the Contaflex SLR series. The West German attempt was well engineered and over complicated and was a design dead end (but not for Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya and their medium format SLR cameras which used a similar system). The East German attempt lead to modern SLR cameras and not that much has changed to produce our current digital SLRs.

P1040505There are four things that really date this Praktica F.X2 camera. The first is then use of a film advance knob rather than a lever. This was quite usual for the time and the design changes necessary for using clever happened slowly over the 1950s.

The second thing is the shutter speed selector. In common with many cameras with a focal plane shutter, there are two separate mechanisms for fast speeds and slow speeds. There is a single selector knob but this is used in conjunction with a fast/slow selector. Fast speeds are the black range and slow speeds are the red range.

The third item that dates this camera is the viewfinder. Most 35 mm SLR cameras had/have an eye-level pentaprism finder or an interchangeable finder such as on Exakta cameras. This camera has a fixed waist-level finder but did have an optional pentaprism to convert the viewfinder to eye-level – I do not have one of these.

The fourth is the mirror. This does not return automatically after the shutter fires and so the viewfinder in blanked out until the film is advanced. Apart from being surprising, this does not really matter as you cannot use the camera without advancing the film.

P1040506
top plate

This camera also has innovative features. The camera name, FX, is one of them as the camera provides flash synch for bulbs (F) and also for the newer electronic flash (X). Two PC connectors are provided for this.

The camera also offers automatic aperture closing which allows for composition and focus at the widest aperture and then closes the aperture to the set value without the user worrying about it (or forgetting it!). This is achieved by way of a moving bar just inside the throat of the lens mount – this bar moves forward and presses a pin on the rear of the lens which in turn closes the aperture.  In case this bar fouls the rear of a non-automatic lens, there is a rivet painted red just behind the bar that a can be slid to one side to disable the mechanism. I have never found this to be necessary.

P1040509
Close-up showing the red rivet

I shall give a very general description: The camera body measures 155 by 90 by 48 mm and weighs 630 g. Film advance is a knob rather than a lever. The top surface of the advance knob is a frame counter. This counts up from zero and needs to be set to zero manually when a new film is loaded. Frames are indicated by marks with frames 0, 10, 20 and 30 having numbers.

The shutter speed selector has two ranges of numbers – one is black and one is red. The red range is the slow speeds and are 1/2, 1/5 and 1/10 seconds. The black range is the fast speeds and are 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and 1/500 seconds. Also in the black range is B. There is also a lightning flash on the black scale for the flash synch speed. The manual suggests that this is 1/40 seconds and will be the fastest shutter speed at which the shutter is fully open (at faster speeds, exposure is by a moving slit).

Shutter speeds are set by lifting the outer ring of the speed selector and turning until the red dot aligns with the required speed. To select between fast and slow ranges, you turn the inner ring so that the red arrow points at either the other red arrow or the black arrow. Shutter speed can be selected either before or after advancing the film (unlike shutters used on the Leica mechanism). If you select a ‘red’ speed while the selector is pointing at the black range then the shutter still fires but who knows at what speed. Same applies if you select a ‘black’ speed while the selector is pointing at the red range.

P1040507
finder opened for use

The viewfinder initially looks very strange – there is no eye-piece! First, you must open the viewfinder by pressing a small stud on the rear of the top plate. The top of the viewfinder then springs up and forward and a small baffle at the rear springs up. At this point you can use the viewfinder (if it is blank, you need to wind-on the film).

The fact that the image is reversed left to right can make composing the image awkward until you are used to it. Focusing the lens is possible  at this point but critical focus is hard. To make it easier, there is a pull-out magnifier to enlarge the centre of the image. Using this entails holding the camera very close to your eye.

P1040526
view of waist-level finder

There is a second option of converting the waist-level finder to a ‘sport’ finder. To do this, pull magnifier into place, pull up the front of the viewfinder lid and pull up a small eye-piece at the rear of the finder (see photos for clarity). Looking through this, you line up the edges of the two frames. You are just looking through the frames – no glass or focus screen is involved. You need the lens to be focused on infinity and the aperture small enough so the depth of field obviates the need to focus precisely. The idea is that it makes it easy to track movement such as a sportsman  – the image reversal in the standard viewfinder makes this very difficult.

KW also offered a pentaprism insert for the viewfinder to convert it to the ‘standard’ viewfinder used by nearly every other camera maker.

On the front of the camera, beside the lens, are two PC connectors for a flash gun. The bottom one is for F synch (that is flash bulbs – the flash is fired just before the shutter is fully open) and the top one is for X synch (electronic flash – the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open).

P1040512
PC connectors

On the other side of the lens, at the top, is the shutter release button. usually with front mounted shutter releases, they are angled for ease of use. This one pushes in at right angles to the front. The button is threaded for a standard cable release.

The catch for the back is a slide on the left hand end of the camera. Sliding this up causes the back to come away completely from the camera – there is no hinge. As this is a German camera, the flanges around the edge of the back are large enough to prevent light leaking in without using the silly foam seals that the Japanese insisted on.

The serial number is stamped inside near the catch in the well the film cassette sits in. Mine is 311540. The take-up spool is firmly fixed in place unlike cameras from Zeiss Ikon and Exakta at this time where the take-up spool was loose.

There is an undocumented feature. On later and more expensive SLR camera, it is possible to move the mirror separately from opening the shutter. This allows any vibration caused by the mirror hitting its stop to dissipate before the film is exposed. On this camera, you can press the shutter release gently and the mirror will flip up and then you can wait a second before pressing the release button further to trip the shutter. This works well with the camera on a tripod and using a cable release.

Other features: there is a tripod boss on the base, significantly left of centre. This is a 3/8 inch Whitworth thread and mine has a more usual 1/4 inch Whitworth slug fitted in it to allow most tripods to be used. This slug is easily removed with a screwdriver if the user wants to use a larger threaded tripod. There is a lug on each front corner for fitting a neck strap.

The name of this camera is F.X2. There were three versions: FX2, F.X2 and FX.2. The position of the dot is significant but I have no idea in which way . The praktica-collector.de site tells me that the position of the dot signifies a modification of the F synchronisation

I shall be fitting a test film this coming week to try out this camera. I have no reason to suspect the it will be other than excellent but time will tell. I would like to try it with an East German lens but I do not have one. Instead, I shall use a Soviet Helios 44M lens (which is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Jena  Biotar lens – designed in East Germany if not made there).

1-4-2018

I have tested this camera using Agfa Vista+ film. As this camera came with no lens, I have used my Soviet Helios 44M lens – this lens is a Jena design even if it was made in Russia, so it is the most appropriate lens I have. Film was developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln as always. Here are a selection of results.

I am quite pleased with the camera. There are no light leaks (it is German so I did not expect any) and the shutter is behaving at least adequately. This is a delightful camera to use and I suspect I will continue to use it. All photos were taken in Lincoln.

Praktica FX2-12
Praktica FX2-7
Praktica FX2-3
Praktica FX2-22
Praktica FX2-14

Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6)

An unusual SLR camera from East Germany (DDR).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1040211

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

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

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

P1040212

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

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

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

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

P1040214

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

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

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

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

P1040210

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

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

P1040224

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

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

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

P1040225

I have run two test films through this camera and – disaster! The camera appears to be working fine when taking photos but on rewinding the film, it is tearing the sprocket holes on the upper edge of the film. This is ending with the film tearing and I have not been able to process the torn film. This camera is not a user!

My Final WordThe Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6) camera is a unique camera. Controls are simple and the idiosyncratic. Once you are used to it, it is a delightful camera to use although the slow top shutter speed can be restricting. I like Exa cameras! My particular camera is eating the film and so is unusable.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
 0424434
Bonus +1 for the overall imaginative design.
Final Score22

Fuji STX-2

a competent but basic film SLR from the 1980s.

This Fuji STX-2 is a Japanese SLR camera from the 1980s (the Interweb seems to think it was introduced in 1985). Fuji Photo Film had been making cameras previously under the Fujica name. This is the first camera to be sold under the Fuji name. Previous Fujica cameras used the ubiquitous M42 threaded mount; this Fuji STX-2 uses the Fuji X bayonet mount (which is very different to the modern Fujifilm X-mount!). Most camera makers used the M42 mount at some point in their production but when they made the move to bayonet mounts they felt the need to have their own proprietary mount. This Fuji mount is not so dissimilar to Pentax’s K-mount and it would have made user’s lives easier if Fuji had adopted the K-mount as both Cosina and Chinon (and others) did. Obviously, it is a bit late to worry about that now, but I do wonder what went through designers’ minds.

fujilens:  X-Fujinon
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f/1.9 to f/16
focus range:  0.6 m to infinity
lens fitting:  Fuji X-mount (not the modern digital X-mount!)
shutter:  horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds:  2 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash:  hot shoe X synch
film size:  35 mm

The Fuji STX-2 is a capably designed and well made camera with no surprises. I am not going to do my usual detailed description and stick to salient points that distinguish this camera from its rivals. The camera body weighs 480 g without the lens. The camera has a manual exposure system with a TTL light meter which requires the user to set the meter needle to a central position. This suggests a bridge circuit type meter and so the battery voltage will not matter – the meter will remain accurate as the battery voltage drops towards the end of the battery’s life.

Shutter speed is set in the standard way with a shutter speed dial on the top plate. The set speed is also visible in the viewfinder by a needle pointing to a series of numbers. This is entirely mechanical as the meter needle correctly points to the set shutter speed even when there is no battery in the camera.

P1040188The aperture is set by a ring on the lens. This is close to the mount and has two scales. The outer scale has larger print and is clearly visible to the user. The second, inner, scale has smaller print and is not readily visible. I assume that some cameras in the range had a window below the pentaprism to allow this second scale to be visible in the viewfinder. This is not the case with my camera.

Fuji 1

As exposure is set manually, the shutter will fire correctly at all speeds – if the battery runs out during a session, the user can continue with Sunny 16 (or a hand-held meter if hw has one).

P1040192The bayonet mount is a three tab bayonet – much like other bayonet mounts. As this is a pre-electronic system, all communication between the lens and body is mechanical – there are not electrical contacts. There is a lug just inside the mount on the lens which moves in the mount as the aperture ring is turned. This lug engages with and turns a ring inside the camera part of the mount. The degree to which this ring turns is determined by the set aperture on the lens. This tells the metering system the set aperture and allows open aperture metering.

P1040190When the shutter release is pressed, there is a lever at the bottom of the mount in the camera which moves sideways, pushing a lug on the lens which closes the diaphragm just before the shutter opens. When this lever moves sideways, there is a ‘needle’ which pushes out of the mount at the same time. With my lens (the kit lens supplied with the camera) this does nothing. I suspect that it is there to allow the use of M42 lenses with an adapter. The diameter of the lens mount is certainly large enough to allow this as is the flange distance to the film (important to allow infinity focus).

STXJapanese cameras always have foam light seals around the back and a few other places. This camera is no exception but Fuji seem to have used better foam than other makers as the foam is all still in tip-top condition. I can use this camera without doing any work on it at all.

P1040187The battery compartment is on the top plate beside the rewind crank. It takes two LR44/A76 batteries, one on top of the other. The cover is a black plastic slide which is easier to use than the more usual screw-on metal cover. The only other thing I am going to mention is the shutter release lock. This is a slide beside the shutter release button and exposes a bright orange flash when the shutter release is locked. This is entirely mechanical and does not prevent the delay timer or cable release from tripping the shutter. However, you are unlikely to use either of those two by mistake.

18-04-18

So, I have finally got around to running a test film through this camera. My usual film – Agfa Vista+ – and my usual lab – Sunny Snaps in Lincoln. The results are fine. No light leaks, shutter is working quite well., light meter is spot on (image density on the negatives is what I would want, even though I cannot show that here). Only slight niggle is that when shooting into the sun, there is some flare.

The LEDs in the viewfinder needed to set the exposure are rather faint but clearly work as they should.

I have included one picture where most of the frame is out of focus to show the bokeh of the X-Fujinon lens.

This is quite a usable camera even though I am unlikely to use it on a regular basis – this is merely because I have better/nicer cameras to use.

Fuji STX2-20
Bokeh
Fuji STX2-24
The ubiquitous bike
Fuji STX2-15
Lincoln Cathedral
Fuji STX2-16
Witham
Fuji STX2-17
Witham
Fuji STX2-21
Stamp End

This next is a challenging shot for a light meter as there are both very dark and very light components in the picture. I am quite happy with the result.

Fuji STX2-3
In the Stone Bow

This next photograph was taken to test the light meter when large part of the image was sky. The subject of the image is the red kites which are exposed very well.

Fuji STX2-5
kites
Fuji STX2-7
New bus station
Fuji STX2-11
Cathedral
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
8844300
Bonusno bonus as this is a very unremarkable camera for its age.
Final Score27

Soligor TM

A no-nonsense SLR from Miranda

Any first glance, this is a standard design 35mm SLR from the 1970s. It does, however, have a number of idiosyncrasies – I shall mention each in due course. I shall start with a general description.

P1040175lens: not supplied
focal length:  n/a
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  n/a
lens fitting:  M42
shutter:  horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds:  1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash: 2 x PC sockets
film size: 35 mm

The top plate layout is as you would expect from a Japanese SLR. Film advance lever is on the far right and is made from anodised metal with a black plastic tip. This sits almost flush with the body but is proud enough to allow the user’s thumb to easily move it. The lever moves through just over 180° to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet so the lever has to move through its full arc to advance the film – not an issue for most people but might be for those with limited dexterity in their thumb. As well as advancing the film, this lever switches on the light meter. This means you need to leave the camera without having the film advanced in order to preserve battery life. I would find this awkward but no doubt I would adjust if this was my only camera.

P1040176Just to the left of the film advance lever is the window to the frame counter. This has a magnifying lens over it which I find makes it harder to read the numbers. This counter resets to S when the camera back is opened. The counter displays even numbers with the odd numbers as dots. Frames 20 and 36 are in red as these were the usual film lengths when this camera was made. Once 36 is reached, the frame counter will stop counting but the film can still be advanced.

P1040177At the front of the top plate, left of the frame counter window, is the shutter release button. This sits in a chrome collar and only protrudes a very small amount. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. Behind the shutter release button is the shutter speed/ film speed selector. This, again, is of a standard design. The selector turns to select shutter speeds from one second to 1/1000 seconds. This has the flash sync speed for electronic flash marked on it in red, between 1/30 and 1/60 seconds so around 1/45. To select film speed, the selector is lifted and turned. Film speeds are in ASA only (which is functionally the same as ISO even if not technically) and range from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA.

In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. This is slightly, but definitely, loose. It took me a while to work out how to remove the pentaprism viewfinder. It slides backwards but it is held in place by a catch. This catch is operated by a ring around the rewind crank which will move slightly anti-clockwise when the viewfinder is free to slide out. When the viewfinder is removed, the focus screen is exposed. This screen does not seem to be replaceable – at least not easily. On the top of the pentaprism hump is an accessory shoe. This shoe has no electrical contacts so it is  cold shoe.

P1040179P1040180I assume that other viewfinders were available but being removable meant that I could clean the top of the focus screen which was rather dirty. On the other hand, if the viewfinder was fixed and sealed, the focus screen would have stayed clean.

P1040178To the left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is of the small sold-out type and, again as usual, pulls up to release the catch for the back. Around the crank is a film type memo – the options are B &W, colour negative and colour positive.  To help the hard of reading, ‘B&W’ is in black, ‘color’ is in red, ‘neg’ in green and ‘pos’ is in yellow. This has no function other than as a mnemonic. As already mentioned, there is a ring around the rewind crank which only moves slightly anti-clockwise and releases the viewfinder for removal.

The front of the camera is, of course, dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 threaded mount (the thread is 42 mm in diameter with a 1 mm pitch) – the ‘TM’ in the camera name means Threaded Mount as the makers also made bayonet mount cameras. This mount is also known as a Pentax mount (not to be confused with Pentax’s K mount nor with the M43 mount which is the Micro Four Thirds mount) and Praktica mount. This mount was very widely used from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s (and occasionally since) so there are very many lenses available that will fit this camera.

P1040181This is the ‘automatic’ version of the M42 mount which means that a plate moves forward at the bottom of the mount when the shutter release is pressed. This plate pushes a pin on the lens to come the aperture in the lens just before the shutter opens.

To the left of the lens mount (on the right, looking at the lens) is a largish button.Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens which gives you a preview of the depth of field. It is also necessary for the light meter as the meter needs to measure the actual light entering the camera. The button operates on a toggle – pressing once closes the diaphragm; pressing again opens the diaphragm again. This allows you to continue to compose your picture after you have set the exposure. The meter is of the type where you centre the needle in the viewfinder. This suggests that the meter is based around a bridge circuit which, in turn, means that the exact voltage of the battery does not matter so long as it is not nearly flat – no worries about using the right type of battery as any that will fit will work.

The sensor for the meter (a CdS sensor) is behind the mirror and there is a definite half-silvered pattern on the mirror over the sensor. When looking through the viewfinder, this is not visible but if you remove the lens and look into the throat of the lens mount it can be easily seen. The sensor covers most of the middle and lower parts of the image except where the micro-prism focus aids are right in the centre (in the picture above, this sensor can be clearly seen. It is at the top of the mirror as cameras make the image upside down).

To the right of the lens mount (left when looking at the lens) are two PC sockets for flash connection. The top connector is marked FP and is for fast flash bulbs (FP=FocalPlane) and the bottom connector is marked X and is for electronic flash. For FP flash bulbs, any shutter speed can be used as the flash duration is long enough to properly expose all the picture at any shutter speed. For electronic flash, the shutter speed must be at the red marking (1/45th second) or slower. Other flash bulbs can be used but must be at 1/30th second or slower (that is mostly academic as flash bulbs are no longer available new).

P1040182The base plate of the camera has a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth or UNC) threaded tripod socket. This is immediately behind the lens so should balance well. Beside the tripod socket is the battery holder. This takes one SR44 battery – I have no idea if this is what the makers intended but it fits and works. Towards one end is the button to allow film rewind.

Inside, there are no surprises. The shutter is a horizontal focal p[lane shutter with cloth blinds. The blinds look to be in good condition – no wrinkles and no visible holes: the test film will show for sure. The take-up spool has multiple slots to make attaching the film leader easy, but to be honest, I have never had any trouble loading film into any camera. Being a Japanese camera, there are foam light seals in the groove that the back sits in when closed and these have now aged to a sticky goo so need replacing before I can test the camera.

P1040183
P1040184
My Final WordThe Soligor TM is a no nonsense SLR from the mid 1970s. It is well designed and well made but has no innovative features. Easy to use, it would be a good work-horse of a camera for a keen amateur.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
4424311
Bonus0
Final Score19

Chinon CE-4

Chino CE-4 film SLR camera from Japan. This camera uses the Pentax K mounty so there are very many lenses available.

Chinon do not have the good name and reputation of the big Japanese camera makers. Along with Cosina, they get thought of as cheap, bottom end of the market cameras. If truth be told, both Chinon and Cosina are excellent designers and manufacturers. In fact, Chinon were good enough for Kodak to buy the company in 2004. In its heyday, Chinon was at the forefront of camera technology.

lens: Chinon zoom
focal length: 28 – 50 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Pentax K mount
shutter: Seiko electronic metal focal plane
speeds: 8 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash: hot shoe for dedicated Chinon flash, PC connector
film size: 35 mm

P1030839This camera, the CE-4, is an electronic film SLR with both automatic and manual capability. It was introduced in, as far as I can ascertain, 1980 and uses the Pentax K mount although Chinon refer to this as a Chinon bayonet mount. This is the plain vanilla K mount for fully manual lenses, rather than one of the later versions with electrical contacts and focus drive shafts.

Top plate layout is pretty standard – film advance lever at the right, a frame counter on the right hand edge and a shutter speed selector dial between the film advance lever and the pentaprism hump. The shutter release button is in the centre of the shutter speed selector.

P1030844

In front of the film advance lever is a small lever that is fairly unusual. Pulling this to the left while turning the film advance lever means that the shutter is cocked but the film is not moved. This allows you to have repeat exposures on one frame of film – no limit to how many exposures (other than the length of the film, of course). I have no idea why anyone would want to do this.

Just behind the shutter speed selector is a mark to indicate the position of the focal plane (i.e. the position of the film).

P1030838

On top of the pentaprism hump is a hot-shoe accessory shoe. This is synchronised for electronic flash if you use Chino’s dedicated flash gun. This uses a second electrical contact to ‘talk’ to the camera and automatically sets the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds. For non-Chinon flash guns, the synch. speed must be set by hand – still 1/60 seconds for electronic flash and 1/30 seconds for flash bulbs.

P1030843To the left of the pentaprism hump is a standard fold-out rewind crank. This doubles as a door latch as pulling it up releases the back of the camera.

Around the rewind crank is the film speed selector. This is only in ASA (similar to ISO for younger readers). This also offers the facility to set exposure compensation by +1 or -1 stop in 1/3 stop steps. The ASA dial is locked in place and it is necessary to press a small chrome button while turning it.

P1030831

On the left side of the lens mount are two items. The top one is a PC connector for flash guns that do not have hot-shoe connection (or for off-camera flash). The bottom item is a button for exposure memory. This is the oldest camera I know of to have this facility. To use this, you point the camera at something that has the tonality of your main subject and press this button. Keeping the button depressed, re-compose your shot and press the shutter release button. The main use for this is probably to avoid having the camera metering too much sky.

P1030833

On the right hand side of the lens mount are a further two items. The top one is a depth of field preview button. Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens so the user can see the depth of filed of the final image. Below this is the lens relase button.

Close to the lens mount on the front of the camera is a delayed action control. This is entirely electronic. The user can select either a five second or ten second delay. Once set, it is actuated by the shutter release button. When actuated, the central red LED flashes – the speed of the flashes increases as it gets nearer to the shutter firing.

The back of the camera has one thing on it – a memo holder for the end of the film carton. This is an essential item that should be on every film camera.

P1030829The base plate (which, incidentally, is made from brass) is relatively busy. Right by the lens is a standard (1/4 inch UNC) tripod socket and beside this is the battery holder. This takes three LR44 (or equivalent ) bateries which are readily available. My camera currently has three hearing aid Wein cells which are cheap but not very long lasting.

Also on the base plate is the attachment for a power winder. This consists of a locating hole at either end, four electrical contacts and a mechanical connection to the film advance system. As I do not have a power winder available, I can say no more about this.

Inside, the camera is as you would expect from an early 1980s film SLR. Film cassette goes on the left, shutter and film gate are roughly central followed by the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool. The shutter is a Seiko electronic shutter. Being electronic, it will not work at all with flat or missing batteries. The upside is that the shutter speed is continuously selectable from 8 seconds to 1/1000 seconds in Auto (but not when set manually when only the shutter speeds on the shutter speed dial are available).

My overall, initial, impression is that this will be an easy camera to use. I have loaded a cassette of Agfa Vista+ 200 film (which is really Fujifilm 200 film) and now we shall see how easy the camera actually is.

Test film:

I have now run a test film (Agfa Vista+ 200) through the camera and had it developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln. The camera is very easy to use on Auto – all the photographer has to do is compose, focus and press the shutter release button. I tried a few shots on manual – still using the built-in meter but adjusting the aperture until the meter was happy. This works fine as well as you might expect.

The meter is working well with the hearing aid batteries and the image density on the negatives is as I would expect a well exposed colour film to be.

The shutter is moving smoothly with no speed variation on either shutter curtain. The last two pictures below are with the lens at its closest focus position – again, focus is fine.

The lens is susceptible to flare when shooting into the light. None of the pictures were unusable and a lens hood might well have prevented any flare.

Chinon CE4-2
Chinon CE4-4
Chinon CE4-11
Chinon CE4-14
Chinon CE4-17
Chinon CE4-19
Chinon CE4-26
Chinon CE4-25
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