Pentax Spotmatic SP 1000

The Spotmatics were the first auto-exposure SLR – or, at least, the first successful auto-exposure SLR. They built on Pentax’s earlier success with the manual SLRs. Despite the name, the exposure system was not a spot system but was a centre weighted system.
Asahi Pentax SP1000

lens: none supplied
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42 thread (AKA Pentax fit), automatic
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 1/2 to 1/1000
flash: PC connector
film size: 35mm


The SP1000 (and SP500, which was introduced at the same time) built on the design of the original Spotmatic. The body design dates from the first Pentax camera – I have a pre-Spotmatic Pentax, the Pentax SV. For anyone who is used to SLR cameras from the 1960s and 70s there are no surprises here, partly because this camera helped to define the genre. They were made between 1973 and 1976.
So – a general description. The camera measures 143 by 92 by 88 mm and weighs 610 g (body alone). This is heavy by modern standards – particularly compared to Pentax’s later K-mount ME series. I have no objection to weight in a camera if only because weight helps with stability and results in less camera shake.
The layout of the camera is pretty much standard. On the left is a fold-away rewind crank. Around this is an aide memoire for the type of film in use. This gives the options of Empty, Panchro(matic), daylight colour and tungsten colour. The Empty setting is particularly useful as I often have more than one film camera on the go and on occasion open a camera only to find a part-used film inside.  Panchro refers to black-and-white film (which is usually panchromatic). The two colour options are for outside and inside use respectively and refer to the white balance of the film.
Pentax SP1000 – top plate
In the centre of the top plate is the lump of the pentaprism with the viewfinder behind. Traditionally, this is where the accessory shoe is put but the SP1000 has no accessory shoe as standard. Those who needed one could buy one as an optional extra which fitted into a groove around the viewfinder surround.
To the right of the pentaprism is the speed selector. For shutter speeds this simply turns to click-stops and it is quite possible to move directly from 1/1000 to B. 1/60 is marked with a red X to indicate that this is the electronic flash synch speed. The shutter speed dial also doubles as the film speed dial. To alter the film speed, it is necessary to lift the dial and turn. Film speeds are from 20 ASA to 1600 ASA. No DIN scale is available but the selector moves in 1/3 stop click-stops each of which is equal to one degree DIN. (For my younger readers, ASA = ISO [very nearly!])
To the right of the selector dial is the film advance lever. This is metal and is slightly curved to allow the user’s thumb to access it. I prefer this to Pentax’s later style of a plastic tipped lever that stands proud of the body.
The centre of the film advance contains the frame counter. This automatically resets to -2 when the back is opened. When you advance the new film to get rid of the fogged portion on loading, the counter will point to zero.
Between the selector dial and film advance and slightly forward of them is the shutter release button. This is threaded for a standard cable release.
Pentax SP1000 – inside view
The front of the camera has three items (the back is entirely clean). These are the meter switch and two PC (Prontor-Compur) flash connectors. The meter switch switches on the TTL (Through The Lens) meter and stops down the diaphragm. This is basically a shutter priority system.  The user sets the required shutter speed and then turns the aperture ring until the needle in the viewfinder is centred. When you switch off the meter (and you need to remember to or you will rapidly flatten the battery) the diaphragm should then open again to allow you to finesse the composition. On my specimen, this did not happen initially, I assume from the lack of use as it will eventually open itself. I have soaked the linkage with naptha and worked the switch repeatedly and it now works.  The diaphragm stop-down system operated by the shutter release works fine as this is a completely separate system.
The two PC flash connectors are marked for FP and X. FP is for fast flash bulbs and will synch at any shutter speed. X is for electronic flash and will only synch at 1/60 or slower.

This is an old-fashioned camera and it is fairly heavy (610g) – much more so than a Pentax ME Super (445g) or OM10 (450g). Weight is not necessarily a bad thing as it enhances stability. It is much easier to hold a heavy camera steady than it is a very light one. The down side is when you are carrying the camera all day especially when hung around your neck.

The focusing screen is a Fresnel screen with a microprism ring in the centre.  The microprisms break-up the image when it is out of focus. Best focus is achieved when the microprisms disappear. There is no split-image centre here as many SLRs have but the camera is easy to focus without it.

When you press the shutter release, the action is quite light – no heavy ‘clunk’ as with my Zenit or Praktica cameras, although it is still noisy compared to my leaf shuttered rangefinders.

Sample pictures.

Very impressed – both with the camera and with the Helios-44M lens.  I had no battery for this test, so exposures were manually sorted with my Ikophot meter.

Thimbleby, Lincolnshire
Choir screen, Lincoln cathedral
New carving, Lincoln cathedral
Lincolnshire wolds

Pentax ME Super

This is a very compact SLR from Pentax, Japan.  By the time of the K-mount cameras, the company had changed its name from Asahi to Pentax.  Originally, the Pentax name belonged to the East German Zeiss Ikon as a contraction of PENtaprism conTAX.  This camera is a development of the Spotmatic series.

Pentax ME Super

lens: Sirius automatic
focal length: 28mm
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  0.2m to infinity
lens fitting:  K mount bayonet
shutter:  vertical metal focal plane
speeds: 4 seconds to 1/2000 seconds
flash:  hot shoe plus PC connector
film size:  35mm

 The camera has an automatic exposure system that has aperture priority, the user setting the the required aperture and the camera selecting the shutter speed.  There is also a fully manual setting, the shutter speed being set by + and – buttons.
Pentax ME Super
Pentax ME Super front view showing K-mount bayonet

The top plate is rather cluttered.  Starting on the left there is a combined rewind crank, film rewind crank, film speed setting (marked ASA) and exposure compensation.  The rewind crank is standard for the age of camera.  It folds out and is nearly too small for large hands.  Around this is a slightly knurled ring to set exposure compensation in one stop steps: +2 stops to -2 stops. Lifting the slightly knurled ring allows you to set the speed of the film for the light meter.  This runs from 12 ASA to 1600 ASA. That range is pretty much standard for automatic exposure cameras.  This is adjustable in one third stops which equates to a single degree DIN – there is no DIN scale available: even the Germans had gone over to ASA only by this time, at least on export models.

Pentax ME Super
Pentax ME Super – top plate
In the centre of the top plate, on top of the pentaprism, is an accessory shoe with contacts for flash. This has the central contact that has become standard, and a smaller offset contact that is specific to Pentax flashguns.  This second contract allows elementary communication between camera and flashgun and lets the flashgun set the shutter speed to 1/125 seconds (the synchronisation speed) without the user doing anything.  With other flashguns it is necessary to set the shutter speed to 1/125 manually. There is a red cross embossed in the base of the accessory shoe to indicate that it is suitable for electronic flash.

In addition to the hot shoe connections there is also a PC (Prontor-Compur) socket.  This has two uses. First, it allows you to use a simple flashgun with no hot-shoe connection.  The second use is to allow the photographer to use off-camera flashguns.  This is of particular use in a studio where the photographer might have two or three flashguns all triggered from the camera.

Next to the accessory shoe on the right are a couple of buttons.  These are not marked – the markings by them refer to the mode dial.  These two buttons are used to set the shutter speed in manual mode – one button increases shutter speed, the other decreases it.
Beside the buttons is the mode dial.  This has five settings – Lock, Auto, Manual, 1/125x and B.  To turn this mode dial, you need to press down a very small white button on the dial pointer to free the dial.  This is not impossible but I find it very hard to do.
The Lock position locks the shutter release button.  There are two reasons why using this is important. First, it prevents you taking accidental photographs while handling the camera.  The second reason is that partially pressing the shutter release activates the metering system and slight accidental pressure will run the batteries down.

Auto is the expected way of using this camera.  In this mode, the user sets the required aperture on the lens and the camera will decide on the shutter speed.  Cameras of this age do not have any electronic connection between the body and lens, communication being by two small levers.  In Auto mode, the camera selects the exact shutter speed needed for a good exposure, not just they nearest standard speed. The shutter speed selected is indicated by a LED on the left side of the viewfinder.  The speed indicated will be the nearest standard speed even if the actual speed is slightly more or less.  These indicator LEDs are in different colours.  Green means OK, yellow means a slow speed and a tripod is advised and red means no good.

Pentax ME Super


Manual mode allows for manual operation of the camera (a bit of a give away in the name there!). Here, the user must select both aperture and shutter speed.  Shutter speeds are restricted to the standard speeds in one stop steps.
1/125x is for using non-Pentax flash guns.  Shutter speed is 1/125 and the user must calculate the aperture from the flashgun’s guide number and the distance to the subject.  The reason electronic flashguns need a specific synch speed with focal plane shutters is that the shutter exposes the film by a moving slit.  Shutter speed is determined by the width of the slit.  The flash from an electronic flash is very brief (1/10 000 seconds or so compared to 1/10 seconds for a flash bulb) and the width of the slit needs to be the width of the negative.  If you use electronic flash at a higher shutter speed, only a narrow portion of the negative will be exposed.
The last mode, B, is an extension on manual mode where the photographer must time the shutter himself – the automatic system only going as long as four seconds.
In the centre of the the mode dial is the shutter release button.  This is threaded for a standard cable release.  As already mentioned, partially pressing this button will activate the metering system.

To the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever.  This has a closed position with the lever parked over the top plate and a rest position where the lever sticks out at about thirty degrees.  The lever moves through about 130 degrees to advance the film one frame.  By the tip of this lever when in the parked position, there is a small window.  When you take a picture this turns to black.  When you wind on the film, this changes to red.  This is supposed to tell you if the camera is ready to use or no.  I find it easier to gently turn the film advance.  If it will not move, the camera is ready.  In front of the film advance is the frame counter.  Opening the camera resets this to -2 (indicated by a red dot).  On loading a film, you need to wind on the fogged start of the film which is two frames. Once you have done this, the counter will be at zero.

On the front right of the camera is a delayed action lever.  To use this, you turn it through 90 degrees to set it and then to activate it you nudge it upwards.  You then have ten seconds to get yourself in the frame.

On the bottom plate are a number of items.  In line with the lens is a tripod boss.  This is the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth (or UNC).  Next to this is a battery cover.  This takes two button batteries of LR44 size.  The meter electronics have a bridge circuit which means the exact voltage from the batteries is not important so when using alkaline batteries you can continue to use them safely until they are entirely flat.

At the opposite end of the base plate is what looks like another battery cover.  Under this is a mechanical connector for a motor-wind unit.  There are also three electrical contacts in a line which I assume are also for the motor-wind unit.

On the back is one of the most useful innovations in photography – a holder for the end-flap of the film carton.  Using this, you always have a reminder of the type of film in the camera.

Also on the back is a strange indicator.  This consists of a small window with black and red stripes in it. When the film moves – either advancing or rewinding – these stripes wobble.  The benefit is twofold – it tells you the film is inserted correctly and is advancing and it also tells you the film is rewinding.  When rewinding film, when these stripes stop wobbling you cans top rewinding.

Pentax ME Super
Pentax ME Super back view
The lenses I am using with this camera are a Sirius 28mm macro lens and a Rokoh Riconar 55mm lens. Although the Sirius lens is called a macro lens it is not really as the best reproduction ratio is 1:4 – macro is usually taken as being 1:1.
The Sirius lens focusses down to 0.2m (8 inches for my older readers) which is why Sirius call it a macro lens.  Looking on the Interweb, this lens does not have a good reputation but I shall make up my own mind when the test film is finished.  The claimed fault is that the lens is very soft.
Any softness apart, this lens is a delight to use.  Both the aperture ring and focusing ring are easy to find by feel – the aperture ring has wide ribs and the focussing ring has a coarse rubber knurling.
Focussing is through very nearly a complete circle giving very precise control over focussing.  This compares well with my modern Canon EOS lenses that only move through 80 to 90 degrees or less.

This lens is a prime lens and is multicoated.  The focussing scale is in both metres and feet which will benefit some although I am entirely metric.  The lens is made for a more modern K-mount standard than the camera.  The lens contains electronics (I can clearly see a resistor through the mount end) and has two electrical contacts in the bayonet.  It also has an aperture setting marked (A)P which I assume is to do with the electronics. The camera mount is plain machined, chrome-plated brass with no electrical contacts. However, this lens fits well and works well with this camera – the more modern K-mount is clearly backwards compatible with the original K-mount.

The Riconar lens is to the older standard – it has no visible electronics inside the lens and no contacts on the bayonet mount. This lens focuses down to 0.8 metres which is just under three feet.  Its aperture range is less than the Sirius lens – f2.2 to f16.  I am now using this lens with a roll of film and will post the results when I have finished the roll (the results below are for the Sirius lens only).

This camera is very small and light – it measures 130 x 45 x 85 mm – compared to most SLR cameras. It is certainly much smaller and lighter than the Spotmatic. The body of a focal plane shutter camera is always going to be longer than the body of a leaf shutter camera as the mechanism for the shutter plus the rolled shutter blinds must fit in there somewhere. Lighter will go with smaller.

Having made the camera smaller, Pentax have left enough room for my not-too-small hands to hold this camera securely. The final weight of the camera will depend on the lens attached but with no lens attached it weighs 445g. My two lenses are small prime lenses which reduces the total weight compared to using a zoom lens. On the other hand, these two lenses have metal barrels which will add weight compared to a modern polycarbonate lens. Any road, the lens/camera combination is one of the lightest of my collection.

I have created a small problem with this camera in that I have bought two lenses which focus in opposite directions. This is a camera I really like and I intend to use it as one of my go-to cameras. I am helped by the fact that I frequently change from SLR to rangefinder to viewfinder cameras and from German to Japanese so I have no instinctive expectations as to camera controls.

The only controls on the body that you use frame-to-frame is the on/off control and the shutter button. I find the on/off control hard to use as you need to press a very small white interlock while turning the knob. I am unable to do this with one hand and switching the camera on or off is a two handed affair.

The film advance lever, while the camera is not in use, sits very close to the body which is slightly awkward to use, but after the first shot it sits slightly proud which makes it much easier to use.

Walking around with this camera slung around your neck is much nicer than with most of my other SLRs – my OM10 being the exception. Both the ME Super and the OM10 are similar in size and weight. It is no hardship to use either of these two cameras on a long day out which is more than I can say for any of my German SLRs or my modern digital SLR.

Sad note: I picked up this camera today after cleaning it and the back swung open and my thumb went through the shutter – it is well passed repair.  But they are common enough so I don’t expect it to take too long to find another one in good condition.

Sample pictures.

These are taken on Agfa Vista + colour film, 200 ISO (actually made by Fuji) and the Sirius 28mm lens.  With the third picture, I have taken a detail from the centre to see how the lens performed as I have been told this Sirius lens is ‘soft’.  My test reveals very little as the scan the lab did was only a medium resolution scan but this lens does not seem to be unduly soft to me.

Pentax ME Super
Cannon Street, Lincoln


Pentax ME Super
Wheat Harvest, Lincolnshire
Broadgate, Lincoln


Detail from above

Praktica MTL5B

This is my second Praktica (the other one being a Praktica TL3).  It is in good condition – including the battery compartment – and came with a number of extras.  These were a Vivitar 2x teleconverter (M42 thread so usable with my other M42 thread cameras), a Praktica flash, a Leningrad light meter and a cheap but quite good carry bag.
Praktica MTL5B
Praktica MTL 5B


lens:  Helios-44M
focal length:   58 mm
apertures:  2 – 16
focus range:  0.55m to infinity
lens fitting:  M42 thread
shutter:  horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds:  1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000
flash:  Hot shoe, no PC connector
film size: 35 mm

This is a fairly standard late 70s to mid-80s SLR camera. My first Praktica – I also have a TL3. It is squarish and heavy with minimal use of plastics.  It is 150mm by 95mm by 55mm, not counting the lens.  The controls are standard for the time and where you would expect to find them.  The film advance is on the top right of the camera and is a lever which moves about a quarter of a turn.  At this late date, advancing the film also cocks the shutter.  Next to the film advance is the combined shutter speed selector and film speed setting control.  Shutter speeds are noted above and are all any photographer could realistically want.  Film speed can be set from 12 DIN/12 ASA to 33 DIN/1600 ASA.  The setting can be changed in one DIN increments (one third of a stop).

The camera came with a Soviet Helios-44M lens which is not original.  The Helios-44 lenses have a very good reputation – they are good copies of the Carl Zeiss Biotar lens – and this one is in very good, clean condition.  It is an automatic version of the lens – I also have a manual Helios-44 lens which came with my Zenit E – with a switch  to change between manual diaphragm and automatic diaphragm.  The aperture can be changed in half stops which is an improvement on my other Helios-44 lens.

The shutter release is an angled button on the right face of the camera.  My finger falls fairly naturally on this and it is comfortable to use.  Right by this button is a plastic lever which actuates the TTL metering system.  In use, you put your finger on the shutter release and instead of pushing down, you push towards yourself.  The diaphragm closes and the needle in the right side of the viewfinder moves.  You then adjust either the shutter speed or aperture to get the needle lined up with the notch in the middle (this is basically a match-needle type of meter).  It is designed as a shutter priority system, the idea being that you set the shutter speed with the camera away from your eye and then move the camera to eye level and adjust the aperture ring with your left hand while pressing the meter lever with your right hand.  Used this way, it is fairly easy to use.

If, like me, you prefer aperture priority metering, you need to set the aperture first and then adjust the shutter speed while looking through the viewfinder.  It is just about possible to do this but it is very awkward to do.  I am finding myself moving the camera down to adjust the shutter speed which makes the whole operation slower and less fluid.  The meter is powered by a 1.33V button battery.  Originally, this would have been a mercury cell which is now not available.  I am using a same sized silver button of 1.5V which will cause a slight mis-reading of the meter but of less than a stop so this will not be a problem with negative film.  With reversal (slide) film this might be a problem.

Focusing this camera is a delight.  The focusing screen carries the usual plain ground glass screen with a micro-prism circle and a split-image centre.  However, the split-image part on this camera is diagonal. With a standard horizontal split-image centre, it is necessary to find a strong vertical to focus on.  With this camera either a strong vertical or a strong horizontal will work as will a strong diagonal.  When I was using this camera to photograph a bush earlier today, there were no verticals, horizontals or diagonals I could focus on. I used the micro-prism circle which also worked well.  For those who have never used a micro-prism focusing screen, what you do is focus until the micro-prisms disappear.  The further from focus you are, the more prominent the micro-prisms are.  Once you can not make out the micro-prisms (or until they are as indistinct as you can make them) the image is in focus.

Below the shutter release there is a self-timer (Vorlaufwerk in German) which works by turning the small lever through 180 degrees and then pressing the centre button to actuate the shutter instead on using the shutter release button.  This does work on my camera but not well.  It is very hesitant and stops for significant times but the mechanism is clockwork and has probably not been used for the thirty years since the camera was new.
The left side of the camera is bare apart from the rewind crank.  This is the normal small folding crank  that became usual during the 1960s.  It is released by pressing a button on the base of the camera.
The other external features are a frame counter beside the film advance lever which is reset by opening the back of the camera.  This counts up from one.  I prefer the Voigtlander system from the 1950s where the frame counter counted down to tell you how many frames are left but this did not become the industry standard.  There is also an accessory shoe which is a hot shoe in flash terms.  There is no PC connector (these had become passé by the time this camera was made) so flash must by on-camera flash or the photographer must buy a third-party flash attachment to allow studio flash.  The tripod boss is not on the base plate but moved forward onto the underneath of the lens mount.  This will give better balance when using longer lenses and is something I have not seen on more upmarket cameras although it makes a lot of sense.
The outside of the camera is ‘silver’ plastic top and bottom plate and a padded leatherette which is very nice to hold.  This is a big improvement on the standard leatherette on my Praktica TL3.
Inside is mostly standard film SLR layout.  The shutter is a metal vertical focal plane shutter.  Superficially, this is the same as on my Canon SLRs with several horizontal metal strips.  However, the fixing does not look as sophisticated as the Canon’s shutter.  It does, however, work well and offers shutter speeds up to 1/1000 and flash synchronisation at 1/125.
This camera has automatic film loading.  You pull the film leader out to the green mark on the right and wind on.  One of two metal loops will then pull the film onto the sprockets and around the spool.  This works very well although the manual mentions that with particularly curly film it might be necessary to manually move the metal loop over the film.
Light seals are foam by the hinge of the back and black ‘string’ along the top and bottom of the recess the back fits into.  These pieces of string look rather amateurish but have the advantage that they will not deteriorate like foam always does.  On this camera the string light seals as as good as new while the foam light seal by the hinge is reduced to a sticky mess and needs to be replaced.

Sample pictures.

These pictures are taken on Agfa Vista + colour film from Poundland (£1.00 per cassette!) and developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln.  I am quite pleased with these.  I have also tried out the Vivitar 2x teleconverter to see how it performs.  I quite pleased with the results – a teleconverter is never going to be as good as using a designed lens – and I think the teleconverter is usable for non-critical work.
Praktica MTL5B
carving on Lincoln’s Stonebow – 50 mm lens


Praktica MTL5B
carving on Lincoln’s Stonebow – 50 mm + 2x teleconverter


Praktica MTL5B
Piano busker, Lincoln


Praktica MTL5B
Lincolnshire Wolds


Praktica MTL5B
Thimbleby main street, Lincolnshire

Exa 500

This is my fourth Ihagee camera and my third Exa.  The original Exa was a cut-down low-cost version of the Exakta and then the Exa line developed in its own right.
Exa 500
Exa 500 – front view
The Exa 500 is the end of the line for Exa cameras  and was developed after Ihagee was subsumed into VEB Pentacon, the state camera manufacturer.  The lineage from the Exakta is apparent in the shape.  This camera still has the rhomboidal shape introduced with the original 127 format Exakta in 1933.  It also still has the shutter release on the left, although the film advance is now on the right.  Another change is the fixed pentaprism viewfinder, so I cannot use the delightful waist level finder with this camera.
The immediate predecessor of this camera was the Exa II.  The body of the Exa IIa and this Exa 500 are identical although there are some internal differences.
Exa 500
Exa 500 – top view showing rhomboidal shape
The Exa 500 has a vertical cloth focal plane shutter which travels from bottom to top.  This shutter provides speeds from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds plus B.  This means it is twice as fast as the Exa II.  There are two flash settings: 1/60 for electronic flash and 1/15 for flash bulbs. This camera follows the Exa standard and flash synch is achieved by aligning a dot on the speed dial with either a zigzag icon or a bulb icon.  On the front of the body is a single PC connector.
This camera also has a shutter lock beside the viewfinder – cover the red dot to shoot, uncover to store the camera.  The only other real change between the Exa II and the Exa 500 is that the Exa 500 has an instant return mirror so the viewfinder does not go blank when you fire a shot.
Like other Exakta/Exa cameras, the film take-up spool is removable and can be replaced with an empty film cassette.  Doing this obviates the need to rewind the film but it does cost you one frame of film.  There is no internal knife to cut the film like the Exaktas have so this must be done after opening the back.  The only real advantage of this is the possibility of developing half a roll of film but I cannot imaging that many people have ever bothered.
The film advance is on the right as is normal in non-Ihagee cameras.  It has quite a short stroke of just over 90 degrees (compared to the Exakta Varex II where the advance travels about 300 degrees).
The back of these cameras come away from the camera body in one piece with the base.  This is supposed to make it easier to load film but I find this method harder.
Exa 500
Exa 500 – inside and the separated back  and take-up spool
Exa cameras were supplied with a variety of lenses depending on how much the customer wanted to pay.  This camera has a Meyer-Optik Domiplan. This is a triplet design so not as good as the Tessar option, but the Domiplan performs well enough when stopped down.  The lens is a semi-automatic lens – the diaphragm closes when the shutter release is pressed but stays open for composition and focussing.
The Domiplan achieves this automation by a hinged lug that protrudes over the shutter release – the photographer presses this lug which in turn presses the shutter release.
This mechanism in the Domiplan lens has a weak link that is prone to seizing but this particular lens performs OK.  My other Domiplan lens needed the mechanism cleaning with naphtha before it would work satisfactorily.
This camera would also work with my Exa fit Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (we need to specify Carl Zeiss Jena in contradiction to Carl Zeiss Opton, the new (at the time) Carl Zeiss operation in West Germany.  East German Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are generally better than Carl Zeiss Opton lenses).
In use, this camera is much as you would expect.  The shutter speed selector is rather loose and I was not sure I was actually selecting any speed, but I tried exposures at various shutter speeds and they have all come out well exposed so the shutter speed selector must be doing its job.
There is a red flag in the viewfinder to tell you that you need to advance the film before taking the next shot.  In previous Exa cameras this was not necessary as the mirror would only return to the viewing position when you had wound on.  In this model, the mirror is an instant return mirror and it would seem that the makers thought users might get confused with such sophistication, hence the red flag.
The camera is light-proof (not a given with old cameras) and the shutter is moving smoothly.
Here are some sample photographs from my test film:
Exa 500
Exa 500
Exa 500
Exa 500

Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb

This is one of Ihagee’s ‘serious’ cameras.  It is very similar to the two Exas I already own but has more facilities and is built to a higher standard.  It is the usual Exakta/Exa rhomboidal shape.  On my two Exa cameras, the back and base come away as one to allow film loading.  The Varex IIb is more traditional with a hinged back.  This back, however, is also removable if you want. I have two other Exakta cameras (apart from my three Exa models). They are the Exakta TL500 and the Exakta RTL1000 – neither are ‘really’ Exakta cameras.

lens: none
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: Exakta double bayonet
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 12 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash: three PC connectors, no accessory shoe
film size:  35mm

Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Exakta Varex IIb with lens and viewfinder added
The camera is heavy, weighing 581g without lens or viewfinder.  It is left-handed.  The film advance is on the left as is the shutter release and one of the two (yes, two) shutter speed selectors. The cost of this camera in 1965 was between £68-11-8 and £105-0-0 depending on the lens supplied. This range is in old British money – in new British money that would be between £68.57 and £105.00 and equates to £2,214 to £3391 in 2020 values – a very respectable price!
This camera came without a lens and has both (yes, both) the Exakta bayonet mounts so this camera will take any Exakta fit lens.  Strictly, this is a Varex IIa type bayonet as it has slots at the inner bayonet flanges (not sure why).
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Exakta Varex IIb as I bought it
The reason for having two bayonet mounts on one camera is that the original mount restricted the width of attached lenses.  When Ihagee developed telephoto lenses, there was too much vignetting of the image to be usable. The new bayonet mount has a wider diameter and so allows wider lenses to be fitted.  (note: I am using the word ‘wider’ in a mechanical sense, not in its other, optical, sense.)
The shutter release is beside the lens mount to allow the use of automatic lenses.  In the Exakta system, the lens has a secondary shutter release which fits over the camera’s shutter release.  When you press the lens’ secondary release, the lens diaphragm closes and the primary release is pressed, actuating the shutter.
The shutter is a horizontal cloth focal plane shutter.  On this particular specimen, the shutter is faulty.  The mechanism sounds dry (there is a faint but clear squeal when the shutter actuates), the second curtain is significantly wrinkled and, at the slower speeds, the second curtain doesn’t quite close.  At 1/1000, it works fine.
 This is the only camera I have seen that has two speed selectors.  On the left is a small conventional selector that covers speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000 plus B and T.  This works in a fairly conventional manner – lift, turn to the required speed and release.
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
slow speed selector
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
fast speed selector
On the right of the camera is another speed selector which covers speeds from 1/8 to 12 seconds.  These figures are in black.  This selector also provides a delay of up to six seconds (using the figures in red).  When using the delay, you also get mirror lock up so reduced vibration can be achieved when using the macro attachment – a facility that no other of my SLRs has until my Canon EOS of 1995.  In the centre of the slow speed selector there is a film speed reminder dial.  As this camera is totally manual, this dial does nothing except remind you what film you have loaded into the camera.
Another quirky thing about Exakta cameras is the film advance lever.  This moves through over 300 degrees which is more than you can do in one motion.  I am actually finding this ok but I start the motion with my left thumb for the first half of the travel and then my left index finger takes over.  Around the film advance lever there is a frame counter.  This counts up from zero – so tells you how many frames you have shot.  It is also quirky as the frame count changes when you press the shutter release rather than when you advance the film.
Exakta cameras have exchangeable viewfinders.  When I bought this camera, there was no viewfinder with it, just a rectangular hole in the top plate.  I have two viewfinders for my Exa cameras and these fit this camera so I have a choice of an eye-level finder and a waist level finder.
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Hole in the top plate for fitting the viewfinder
Moving to the front of the camera, there is little to note.  As I have mentioned, there is a double bayonet mount and a shutter release.  There are also three (yes, three) PC connectors for a flash gun.  Ihagee seem to have tried to be as idiosyncratic as possible with their cameras.  Rather than go down the route used by Prontor and Compur (hence PC) and have a switch to select between bulb and electronic flash, Ihagee have provided separate connectors , one for electronic flash and two for flash bulbs.
In fact, the three PC connectors can be used in various ways to allow different shutter speeds.  Using the X connector and a shutter speed of 1/60 allows use of electronic flash.  Using the FP (Focal Plane) connector allows shutter speeds up to 1/1000 seconds which is an incredibly fast shutter speed for flash.  The manual gives guide numbers for different bulbs and shutter speeds – the fast speeds being achieved because the flashbulbs suitable for the FP connector have a flash duration of around 1/40 second and so are burning throughout the expossure.  The F (Fast) connector allows small fast flashbulbs to be used with a shutter speed of 1/30.  The X (Electronic) connector can also be used with a shutter speed of 1/8 with any flashbulb.  I am not sure how much advantage is given to the photographer with the above choices, but I almost never use flash and have never used flashbulbs, so I am likely to be missing the point.
Underneath the camera are four knobs.  The smallest of these unscrews to allow the use of an internal knife to cut the film when an empty cassette is used in place of the take-up spool.  Next to this is the rewind knob with a small folding crank.  At the other end of the camera is a knob which is pulled away from the camera to release the catch on the back.  Between these two knobs is the tripod boss which is the standard 1/4 Whitworth tread.
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Base of camera
The outside of the back has two small chrome rectangles and one large chrome rectangle.  These are the fitting for internal components, the small rectangles help to keep the film flat and the large rectangle is part of the fitting of the pressure plate.
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Rear of camera

The camera in use:

I am trying out this camera (despite having a faulty shutter) with a roll of out-of-date and no longer made film – Kodak Plus X.  I have never used this film before but it had a very good reputation.  This film is monochrome and is rated at 125 ASA/22 DIN.  I don’t know why but it seemed appropriate to try this camera with a vintage monochrome film.

The camera set-up I am using is the Varex IIb body, Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (50mm and f2.8) and a waist-level viewfinder with a plain focussing screen.  [This lens should not be confused with a Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar from West Germany.  The Carl Zeiss Jena lens is the real thing.]

There are many options available for this camera for both lens and finder.  I have the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar and two Meyer-Optik Domiplan lenses available and the waist-level finder and a pentaprism eye-level finder.  I am enjoying the waist-level finder but must admit to struggling a bit with the reverse action when I move the camera.

First aspect of the waist-level finder is the fact that the image is reversed left-to-right.  If you want to move the image to the right, you need to move the camera to the left.

It is also easy to get verticals at an angle.  Again, you have to move the camera the ‘wrong’ way to correct this.

This finder has a plain focussing screen which makes focussing a bit harder.  For me, this is not a significant problem as I usually use hyperfocal focussing.  On the rare occasions when I rely on critical focussing, there is a hinged magnifier available which is more than I shall ever need.  If not, other focussing screens are available with micro-prisms and split-image centres.

I have been carrying this camera around for about an hour this afternoon and I can confirm that this is a heavy camera.  There are strap lugs with split rings available to connect a strap.  A nice touch is the presence of triangular leather patches behind the split rings to stop the rings and strap ends from scratching the camera body.  While I have a number of straps available, I have not fitted one to this camera.

Contrary to my usual practice, I am using a shutter-priority exposure system, adjusting the aperture to vary the exposure.  The reason I am doing this is because this (‘faulty’) shutter seems to perform best at 1/125 seconds so I am keeping it set at this speed.

What I am finding, which delights me, is that I am seeing the image in the wauist-level finder as a picture rather than as a view.  This is making composition not so much easier (see my comments about image reversal) but clearer and more precise.  So far I much prefer it.

I am also finding the left-hand operation surprisingly easy.  I am no longer pressing the slow speed selector hoping to fire the shutter.  The film advance with its 300 degree travel is also surprisingly easy to use left handed.

As I have already said, I usually use hyperfocal focussing but if I did not I think I would find right-handed focussing cumbersome.

My first film being completed, I need to develop the film and scan it.  Then I shall post some sample pictures here.

Film is now developed and scanned.  Here are some example pictures, clearly showing the problem with the shutter is one of them.  The rest are not too bad (if you ignore my poor scanning ability!).

Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb
Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb

Legacy lens adapters

In the course of collecting these old camera, I have also collected a number of old lenses, some of which are very good.
My Olympus OM10 camera has a Zuiko 50mm, f1.8 lens which six elements in five groups and a Vivitar zoom lens (75-205mm) which has a very good reputation.  I also have another Vivitar zoom lens (20-200mm) which doesn’t have quite the same reputation as the other Vivitar but performs very well nonetheless.
My Zenit E came with the famous Helios-44 which is a superb copy of the Carl Zeiss Biotar (six elements in four groups) and my Praktica LT3 came with a Meyer Optiks Domiplan which is a triplet – so not in the Zuiko or Helios-44 league but a good performer when stopped down.
When thinking about a 50mm prime lens for my Canon DSLR, it occurred to me that I already had several good  50mm prime lenses and was there any point in buying another?
With this thought in mind, I looked into buying an adapter so I could use one of my old prime lenses (it would seem that these  have morphed into legacy lenses while i wasn’t looking).
First, I looked into buying an adapter for my Olympus OM lenses.   There are a number of these available and they are quite cheap.  These range from simple metal rings with an OM female bayonet on one side and an EF male bayonet on the other – these cost £2 to £3 each – to more complex adapters with electrical contacts and a chip.  this is then one I bought and it cost me £12.99 including postage.
The adapter ring is very well made out of brass which has been chrome plated.  The EF bayonet fits smoothly into the Canon digital camera and, similarly, the Olympus lenses fit smoothly into the female side of the adapter.
When the lens, adapter and camera are all fitted together, the result is snug and secure.  There is no significant play, even with the heavy and long Vivitar zoom.    The electrical contacts make contact and the camera recognises the adapter.
The point of the contacts and chip is so that the focal length and aperture of the lens can be stored in the Exif data of the resulting digital file.  th achieve this it is necessary to programme the chip on the adapter.  t5rhis is actually quite easy – but not simple as it involves quite a few steps. Once the adapter is programmed for a particular lens, it is necessary to manually set the aperture on the lens and then separately set the aperture on the camera – this aperture is then stored in the Exif data.
If accurate Exif data is important to you, this process will be worthwhile (and will be necessary to repeat for each lens you use with the adapter) but I routinely ignore Exif data so I do not bother with the process.  If, like me, you want to be simple, you just focus the lens, set the aperture (you need the camera to be in Av mode) and let the camera select the shutter speed.
The adapter works well so long as you remember the lens is entirely manual – you need to focus and set the aperture for each shot.  Given that I use fully manual cameras a lot of the time, this should be second nature, but as soon as I pick up my digital DSLR I forget to worry about focus and exposure.
My next adapter is for M42 lenses (also known as Pentax fit, although developed by Zeiss Ikon in Dresden in the 1940s).
I had two M42 lenses when I bought this adapter – the Helios-44 Biotar copy and the Meyer-Optik Domiplan.  Both screwed nicely into the adapter but there is a problem with the Domiplan lens in that it is an automatic lens – there is a pin on the lens that must be depressed by the camera just before the shutter is released in order to close the diaphragm. The adapter leaves this pin alone so the Domiplan can only be used wide open.  
Actually, while trying to get this lens to work with the adapter, I noticed that the lens has a significant fungal growth on one of the inner glass surfaces.  This lens is now in the dustbin!
The Helios-44 lens worked well.  This adapter is a simple aluminium disc with no contacts or chip sop there is no need to set anything up.  The same working method as with the OM adapter is required – focus with the lens diaphragm wide open, stop down the lens to the required aperture and let the camera sort out the shutter speed.  As there are no contacts, no lens details are stored in the Exif data.
Both adapters are easy to use and work well.  Not being interested in the Exif data, I would have been better off buying a cheaper and simpler OM adapter, but the one I did buy was certainly cheap enough.
Theoretically, as the camera is metering the light through the lens it should give the right exposure regardless of the lens used.  It has been suggested to me that TTL meters do not cope well at low light levels so will give poor exposure at small apertures.  I have not found that.  Initially, using the OM adapter with the Zuiko 50mm lens, the camera consistently overexposed at all apertures with the highlights clipping in all photographs.  The cause of this is that I was not setting the aperture on the camera as well as on the lens so the metering system assumed – incorrectly – that the lens would shut down when I pressed the shutter release.
Repeating my OM test exposures with the camera set to f1.8, the exposures were fine with the histograms coming up well to the left with no clipping.  This setting of the aperture on the camera as well as on the lens is only a problem with chipped adapters – or you can do as I now will and keep the camera set to its smallest aperture.
When using the Helios-44 with its simple adapter, the exposure histograms were well to the left and without any clipping so giving usable photographs.  This is regardless of the aperture set on the lens.  With this adapter, it is not possible to set an aperture on the camera as the absence of contacts makes the camera default to f00
Test pictures:  first, the same scene at different apertures (after these, a focal plane test).
OM adapter with a Zuiko 50mm, f1.8 lens.

aperture f16
aperture f5.6

aperture f1.8

M42 adapter with Helios-44 58mm, f2 lens.

aperture f16

aperture f56.
aperture f2

Focal plane test:  in order to focus on infinity, it is necessary that the focal node of the lens is the right distance from the film/sensor.  For a 50mm lens, this distance is 50mm (in some designs, the node might be in front of the physical lens).  This distance is split in two.  The first part is the film/sensor to mount distance (obviously, this never changes) and the second part is the mount to node distance.  This second part is susceptible to being changed by the adapter.  If the mount is too thin, the lens will still focus on infinity but its near focus point will be further away than intended.  If the mount is too thick, the lens will focus on nearer objects ok but will not be able to focus on infinity.  It is this last that I want to check.  I am not too bothered if I cannot focus on an object two feet away but I am very bothered about not being able to focus on infinity.  To be clear, I had better define ‘infinity’ – for this purpose, it is anything over 50metres away.

First the OM adapter.  The first picture is a standard scene in Lincoln.  The second picture is an enlarged crop from the centre to critically check the focus.

detail from the centre

Now the M42 adapter.

detail from the centre

You can see by comparing the two details that the Zuiko is performing better at a distance.  I think I can safely say that this lens adapter is correctly placing the lens in the mount.  The detail from the Helios-44 photograph is a lot less clear – but I cannot say if it is down to the adapter or the lens performance.  It is certainly good enough to use.

Praktica TL3

Praktica TL3
Praktica TL3, front view

lens: Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f2.8 to f22
focus range: 0.75m to infinity
lens fitting: 42 mm thread
shutter: metal vertical focal plane
speeds: to 1/1000
flash: bulb or electronic
film size: 35 mm

This is a standard looking camera from between 1984 and 1986.  It is a fairly heavy (very heavy by modern standards) and large enough to hold in two hands.  The ergonomics – the layout of the controls – is, again, normal for the time.  It is my second Praktica, the other being an MTL5B.
This camera takes 42mm thread lenses (also known as Pentax thread) which means that lenses are readily available.  It is specifically designed to work with automatic lenses (those with a pin to stop down the lens) – when the shutter is fired, a cam presses the pin and closes the aperture.  This is not essential, though, and the camera works fine with fully manual lenses.  I have shot half my test film with my Soviet Helios-44 lens from my Zenit E.  So long as you remember to manually stop the lens down for both metering and picture taking there is no problem.
This is a fully mechanical camera and no battery is required for its operation.  It does, however, use a battery for the metering system.  This should be a mercury battery giving 1.3 volts but these are no longer available.  I am using an alkaline 1.5 volt alternative which ‘should’ cause the camera to underexpose but I have checked the results of the built-in meter with my Ikophot meter and they are in complete agreement.
This is an SLR camera and so both metering and focussing are conducted through the lens (known as TTL, for the uninitiated).  With an automatic lens fitted, metering is done by selecting either the shutter speed or aperture, holding down the metering lever beside the shutter release and the adjusting either the aperture or the shutter speed until the needle in the viewfinder is as close to the circle as possible (i.e. it is a match-needle meter).  With the supplied lens, this is within 1/2 stop of ‘perfect’, with the Helios-44 it is to the nearest whole stop.
The meter can be set to a range of film speeds from 12 ASA/12 DIN to 1600 ASA/33 DIN.  It is settable in 1 DIN stages which equates to 1/3 stop.
Praktica TL3
top and rear view

The shutter is a vertical metal focal plane shutter.  It has a good range of speeds – up to 1/1000 seconds which is plenty fast enough for my photography.  There are two flash synchronisation speeds: 1/30 for bulbs and a separate position on the speed selector dial for electronic flash, which the manual says is ‘about 1/125.  Both bulbs and electronic flash can synchronise at slower speeds.

Electronic flash can synchronise at 1/125 seconds (quite a high sync speed for the time) because this camera has a vertical shutter with three metal blades.  In the manual, Praktica tout this as a modern invention but Zeiss Ikon used a vertical metal shutter in the Contax I in 1932
The shutter release is not my favourite part of this camera.  It is placed on the front of the camera rather than on the top plate which I always find awkward.  Secondly, the shutter release has to be pressed flush with the housing.  This might be just my camera but a little less travel would be good.
The film winder is a lever which travels through 180 degrees but the first 20 or so degrees do nothing.

On top of the prism is an accessory shoe which has ‘hot’ contacts for a flash gun.  This is the only way of connecting a flash gun as there is no PC connector.  The only other control on the top plate is the film rewind crank.  As was normal for the time, this is an annoyingly small folding crank.  In the early 1960s several manufacturers introduced a large rewind crank on the base plate and it is a pity this did not become the standard.

Pressing the shutter release, you experience a significant resistance and then there is a loud and tactile ‘clunk’.  I had thought my Zenit E had a heavy action but this is much worse.  I am hoping that most of this is the mirror slapping up and not the shutter.

The supplied lens is a Meyer Optik Domiplan f2.8 50mm lens.  This is a triplet lens and a cheap option.  I have yet to see the results of this lens but I have a 50mm Domiplan on my Exa IIa and that lens is fine.  Available apertures are from f2.8 to f22 in 1/2 stop clicks.

Focussing is from 0.75m to infinity and the focussing scale is in feet as well as metres.  The action is fairly stiff and changing the focus from near to far will result in the lens unscrewing rather than focussing.  Hopefully, this is lack of use and will sort itself out with use rather than being down to physical damage.

30 April 2013:

I now have the results of my test film.  It is not good.  There is a large light leak from the hinge end of the back.   I have just removed the remains of the foam light seal and replaced it with a new piece of foam.  Two frames out of the thirty six on the roll came out with no light damage.  So, light damage apart, I am quite impressed – the Domiplan lens works fine even though it is only a triplet

Praktica TL3
Lincoln Cornhill
Praktica TL3
Waterside North, Lincoln
Praktica TL3
Triton Road, Lincoln


Canon EOS 650

Canon EOS 650
Canon EOS 650 front view

This is Canon’s first EOS camera (and not to be confused with the digital EOS 650D!) and came out in 1987. The numbering is misleading.  On subsequent models they used three digits for amateur cameras, two digits for serious amateur/professional cameras and one digit for professional cameras.  You could be misled into thinking this is a thoroughly amateur camera  –  my almost new digital camera is an EOS 650D (in this case definitely an amateur camera).  In fact, it is aimed at very serious amateur and professional photographers.  While Canon make good use of plastic, the camera chassis is metal – evidenced by its weight.  I also have EOS 5 (A2) and EOS 50e cameras

As a modern electrical camera, it will not work without a battery.  It takes a six volt 2CR5 battery.  The camera takes all EF lenses (but not EF-S as they are solely for crop-sensor digital cameras) and I am trying out the camera with Canon’s EF35-80 mm lens  This is an old lens and I suspect from very early on in the history of EF lenses.  It has an optically flat element sealing the rear of the lens so that the zoom mechanism cannot act as an air pump and pump air onto the film.  It is a pity that Canon abandoned this practise.
Canon EOS 650
Canon EOS 650 top view
There are few controls compared to a more modern camera.  No knob to select mode – in fact only five modes available (P, Tv, Av, M, and Depth).  In P mode the camera sets both shutter speed and aperture.  In other cameras (including this camera’s sister the EOS 620) the shutter speed/aperture combination can be altered by setting wheel, but not with this camera.  Tv, Av and M are as you would expect on a modern EOS camera with the camera setting the value you do not.  Depth mode effectively forces the camera to focus on the hyperfocal distance to maximise the depth of field.  There is also a full auto mode (designated by a green square).  This full auto mode is selected by the on/off knob while P, Tv, Av, M, and Depth are selected by the mode button and the setting wheel.  The only other control on the left of this camera is an exposure compensation button used in conjunction with the setting wheel.
The right of the viewfinder is dominated by the LCD display.  In front of this is they setting wheel and shutter release button.  Behind the LCD display is a button to alter the method of light metering.  Normally, this camera uses evaluative metering where it uses all of the field in the viewfinder.  Pressing this button restricts the metering to a central circle so that it almost becomes spot metering.
At first sight this is all the controls – absolutely miserly by modern standards – but there are further controls hidden behind a door below then hinged back.  These are not intended to be used very often so they are hidden away for safety.
The controls are: film rewind button for when you want to rewind the film before the end (it is automatic at the end of the roll), AF to change between the focussing method (one shot or servo), S-C to change between single shot and continuous shooting (at three frames per second).  This button also sets the ten second shutter delay.  The fourth button is to check the state of the battery.  If the second and third buttons are pressed simultaneously you can over-ride the DX ISO setting – useful for either pushing film or using Adox film which is not DX coded.
Canon EOS 650
EOS 650 – rear view
The viewfinder contains one autofocus point.  As this is intended to be an autofocus camera, the focus screen is plain – no microprisms, no split image circle in the centre.  Other focus screens were available as extras but not as standard.
Shutter speed and aperture are repeated in the viewfinder together with a focus lock indicator (a green circle).  The viewfinder also reminds you if you are in manual exposure mode or Depth mode.
Underneath the lens in the front are two more buttons.  Canon seem to have been keen to spread them around the camera.  These buttons are depth of field preview (which stops the aperture down) and a manual aperture button.  This last is used in manual mode in conjunction with the setting wheel to change the aperture.  It has no effect in other modes.

This is all the controls.  They are certainly sufficient – I, for one, do not miss the plethora of buttons that appeared later.  What I do miss is the ability to attach either a cable release or an electric version.  The EOS 650’s sister the EOS 620 has a jack socket for a remote release in the grip/battery cover.  As the 650 has contacts inside this grip/battery cover I suspect the 620’s grip could be used here.  There also seems to be no facility to use a remote release.  However, this was Canon’s very first EOS camera and Canon learnt to add both electric and remote releases to future models.

Loading film is easy, as it is with all modern film cameras.  Open the back, insert the film cassette in the left chamber, pull the film across the shutter to the orange mark and close the back.  When you turn the camera on – if it isn’t already – the camera automatically pulls the film leader onto the take-up spool and the camera is ready for frame 1.

The back is replaceable, Canon offering at least two alternative backs.  One simply printed the date and time on each negative.  The other back has an on-board computer that will record the date, time, frame number aperture and shutter speed in its memory.  These details can then be downloaded to a computer (I suspect you would need a 1980s computer to get the necessary interface).  The only evidence for these other backs with the standard back fitted is a row of  electrical contacts by the hinge.

I now have sample pictures available for this camera.  The one problem I have had is with the auto-focus.  I do not know if this was the lens (Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II) or the camera but the combination would not focus in sub-zero conditions – see the last picture.  It was fine above zero.  I have not used this lens in the cold before (we don’t get a lot freezing weather in Lincoln) so I don’t know how it would behave with another body.

Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650

Exa IIa

Exa IIa
lens: Meyer Domiplan
focal length:  50mm
apertures: 2.8 to 22 in 1/2 stops
focus range: 0.75m to infinity
lens fitting: Exakta bayonet
shutter: vertical cloth focal plane
speeds: 2, 4, 8, 30, 60, 125, 250
flash: bulb or electronic
film size: 35 mm
Externally, this is very like the Exa Ia and exactly like the Exa 500; it has the usual Exakta trapezoidal shape.  The layout on the front fascia is the same – shutter release on the left at the top, PC connector on the right at the top.  The lens fitting is the standard Exakta double bayonet (an internal bayonet for short focal length lenses and a larger external bayonet for longer focal length lenses).
A PDF manual is available on my Google Drive
There are differences, however.  The IIa has a fixed pentaprism and eye-level viewfinder with a Fresnal focussing screen with a split-image centre.  The shutter is now a vertically running cloth focal plane shutter rather than the strange mirror shutter of the Ia.  Along with the more standard shutter comes a larger range of shutter speeds  – eight speeds with the fastest  now being 1/250 seconds.
The removable back/base is exactly the same as is the shutter lock on the left of the viewfinder.   Another change is that the rewind knob is now a fold-out crank.
Exa IIa
With a vertical focal plane shutter, it should have been possible to increase the flash synchronisation  speeds but they are rather slow – 1/15 for bulbs or 1/30 for electronic flash.  The fact that bulb flash needs a slowest synch speed suggests that the only synch available is as the first shutter curtain ends its travel, bulb synch relying on the shutter being still fully open when the flash bulb reaches full intensity.
The Exa IIa came with a Meyer Domiplan lens rather than the Carl Zeiss Tessar that was standard with the Exa Ia.  I have yet to see the results from this lens but it has the reputation of delivering good results when stopped down.
This lens, like the Tessar, automatically stops down the aperture when the shutter release is pressed.  Exa lenses manage this by means of a lug on the lens barrel that covers the shutter release on the camera body.  The shutter is activated by pressing this lug which in turn presses the shutter release.
On the Domiplan lens, this lug is hinged and so presses the shutter release through an arc.  Because the release is not pressed straight in it can cause internal damage to the release mechanism.  This is made worse if the lug does not exactly line up with the shutter release so that it presses on one side of the release button.
Exa IIa
There is a further fault with the Domiplan.  As mentioned above, the release lug is hinged and this hinge dries out with time.  When the lubricant has dried out, the lug will not always return to its rest position after a photograph is taken.  This means that the aperture does not re-open to f2.8, leaving the viewfinder dark.  In use, this is easily remedied by flicking the lug with the shooting finger but it is annoying, nonetheless.  I have applied clock oil to this hinge and it is showing signs of freeing itself up.

4 February 2013:

Having run a test film through this camera, it is difficult to assess the camera’s performance.  All the pictures ended up bright green.  This could not have  been down to the camera – it is an SLR and I would have seen the green through the viewfinder.
There are three possible causes for this green – defective development, defective film or defective scanning.  The staff in the lab assure me that mine is the only film to have come out green and so they do not think it was their development.
Defective scanning is a possibility but I would think it to be an automated process and if they have not changed any settings then the scanning process should not produce any colour cast.
The third possibility is a defective film.  The film I used was Agfaphoto Vista + 200 ISO, made under contract in Japan by Fuji-film.  Reputable makes of film should be reliable but in any factory process it is possible for the occasional item to escape the quality assurance system.
I am thinking that the reason for the green cast in my test film is the middle one – a defective scan – looking at the negatives, there is evidence of all three colours on the perforated rebate of the film (these are the frame numbers in magenta (the negative of green) and test lines in red and green (the negatives of cyan and yellow)) so it looks like at least part of the film has the requisite colour layers in the emulsion and the development has developed these correctly.  When I have time, I will scan the film myself to check the scan quality.
In addition to the green colour there are other problems which are definitely down to the camera.  At the bottom of each picture is a very over-exposed strip – this equates to the top of the film in the camera.  As the shutter travels vertically from bottom to top, this is most likely caused by the second shutter curtain hesitating slightly at the end of its travel.  This might cure itself with use which is quite common with ‘stiff’ mechanisms in old cameras.  I also need to be aware that I used this camera in sub-zero temperatures.  The lubricant in the shutter will be thicker at these temperatures and the shutter might well work better in warmer weather.
In general, looking at the negatives, the film has been exposed appropriately with good, but not excessive image density.
Some of the negatives are blank but this is down to operator error.  The shutter release is in the ‘wrong’ place.  Years of practise have taught me to be careful with the placing of my right hand when holding the camera.  With Exa cameras I need to be careful with the placing of my left hand instead.  I also need to learn to use the shutter lock when not actually shooting.
This is my second Exa camera and my third roll of film on Exas.  That is enough to know that I like using Exa cameras with their various idiosyncrasies.  See further down for well exposed pictures from my second roll of film.
Exa IIa
Witham by market Square
Exa IIa
Lindum Terrace, Lincoln
Exa IIa
Steep Hill, Lincoln
 I now have a test film with correct colours.  Nothing to complain about there.
Exa IIa
Exa IIaExa IIa

Ihagee Exa 1a

Ihagee Exa 1a

Exa 1a, front view

This is a German SLR camera made by Ihagee of Dresden, Germany.  Ihagee (short for Industrie- und Handelsgesellschaft) was started in 1912 by a Dutchman in Germany.  Until the mid-1930s, Ihagee made more or less standard folding film cameras.  In 1933 they introduced the first Exakta, an SLR which used 127 film (the roll film equivalent of 35mm).  Using 127 film enabled them to make very small cameras.  In 1936 they introduced the Kine Exakta, an SLR which used motion picture (35mm) film (hence Kine).  The Exa range was a smaller and simpler version of the Exakta.

lens: Carl Zeiss Tessar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: 2.8 to 22
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Exakta bayonet
shutter: Exakta mirror shutter
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/175
flash: PC connector, bulb or electronic synch
film size:  35 mm

The Exa 1a was introduced in 1964 and was produced until 1977.  In some markets it was called Elbaflex 175, Exakta 100 or VX 100. The Exa II range were made concurrently with the EXA I range.  The camera can be dated by the origin engraved on the top plate.  This ranged from ‘Ihagee Dresden’ to ‘aus Dresden’, the Pentacon tower, to ‘Dresden’ to no engraving.  Mine has ‘aus Dresden’.  The back of the camera has ‘MADE IN GDR’ stamped in the leatherette as well as ‘1’ in a triangle.  The ‘1’ in a triangle is a quality mark indicating the finished product is of the first quality.   (There were briefly two Ihagees – the original Dresden Ihagee in East Germany and a new Ihagee formed by the pre-war owner in West Germany – this camera was made in East Germany.). This camera cost, in 1965, £22-12-4 ( in old British money, or £22.62 in modern British money) which equates to £731 in 2020 values.

This is an idiosyncratic  camera in some ways.  The camera is rather wide front to back (150 mm) in the middle and narrows at each end with the typical Exakta trapezoidal shape.  The shutter release is on the left side on the front and presses in rather than down.  The shutter release continues through a lug on the lens which shuts down the iris diaphragm just before the shutter is released.  The shutter itself is idiosyncratic  – it is neither an leaf shutter in the lens nor a focal plane shutter next to the film.  Rather, the mirror acts as the shutter in a way that I do not quite understand – but see here for details (link no longer works).  The viewfinder and pentaprism are removable, the focussing screen replaceable and the whole thing can be replaced with a waist-level finder.

Ihagee did not make lenses so the Exa 1a was supplied with various lenses. My Exa 1a has a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (as opposed to a Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar from West Germany) dating from 1970.  It is a f2.8 50mm lens with an Ihagee bayonet fitting.  Any Exakta or Exa lens should fit although I am told that long lenses (i.e. 100 mm) will cause vignetting.  There is an idiosyncratic aspect to the Ihagee bayonet – it is, in fact, two bayonets – one inside the mouth (for most lenses) and one outside the mouth for larger lenses.  The lens focusses from 0.5 m to infinity and has apertures from f2.8 to f22 available in 1/2 stop click positions.  As mentioned above, the shutter release acts through a lug on the lens and stops the lens down as it releases the shutter.

Shutter speeds are 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/175 (+ B).  Because of the way the mirror is used as the shutter, faster shutter speeds are not possible.  On the shutter speed dial there is a red dot for synchronising the shutter  for flash.  For electronic flash this is 1/60 seconds and for bulb flash it is 1/30 seconds but the actual setting is against a lightning icon for electronic flash and against a bulb icon for bulb flash.  There is a lever to the left of the viewfinder that will lock the shutter to prevent accidental exposures – a feature I wish more cameras would have.

There is no accessory shoe for a flash gun but grooves around the viewfinder eyepiece suggest that an optional shoe might have been available.  This does not matter to me – I never use flash – except I usually put a film type reminder in the accessory shoe to remind me that there is a film loaded and which type it is.

Exa 1a, top view

The film advance lever is rather small but moves the film on with one movement.  In the centre of the film advance is the frame counter   A wheel under the the film advance sets a reminder for the type of film in use – DIN, ASA, negative or reversal.

The viewfinder gives a 1:1 view of the scene and with the focussing screen supplied is clear and bright.  As is usual with a new old camera, near the end of my test film I am beginning to use the camera automatically.  I also have a waist-level viewfinder for this camera.

Waist-level finder, closed

The viewfinders snap out of position fairly easily when you want to change them (but are firmly held in place normally going on) and both the finder and the focussing screen can be replaced.  Both my focussing screens are plain ground glass.

Waist-level finder, open

It is fairly easy to use from waist level but critical focussing is difficult from that distance.  Using zone focussing, this viewfinder is certainly ok for composing the shot and is much more discrete than holding the camera to your eye.  For critical focussing, there is a built-in magnifier but to use this, you need to raise the camera to face level and you then lose the advantage of having a waist-level finder – but still better than changing finders mid session, I would think.

Waist-level finder with magnifier

I think this camera will be a user if there are no shutter problems or light leaks.


I have just bought a 2X teleconverter for this camera.  It cost me £7.00 including postage.  It was described on Ebay as a Pentax teleconverter and only attracted one bid – mine!  I could easily see it was an Exakta fit converter by the offset shutter release on the lens body – a feature that I have only ever seen on an Exakta (or Exa) camera lens.  It is excellent condition – there are no moving parts to go wrong – and just needed a good clean.

2X teleconverter, Exakta fit

Unfortunately, I cleaned it with ROR lens cleaner and sprayed directly onto the glass instead of on to a tissue and I now have condensation between the lens elements.  I am thinking that if the moisture got in that easily, it will dry out again fairly easily. When it has dried out, I will try it and post the results here.

2X teleconverter, top view


I now have my test film developed so here are some of the test pictures.  They disclose a slight fault as many of the pictures have a dark wedged shaped line at the top of the picture.  It is present on the negatives so is not down to the scanning.  I suspect the shutter is slightly out of line.  Bearing in mind that this camera has lain unused for many years before I bought it, I am hoping that the fault will rectify itself with the camera being used.

Lincoln High Street through the Stonebow
Lincoln Corn Exchange
River Idle at Gringley Carr
Lincoln High Street


I now have finished my second film on this camera and the shutter is working fine.  Those black wedges have gone from the tops of the frames entirely.  Many old cameras that are a bit ‘hesitant’ just need to be used for a couple of films to be alright.
The Trent, viewed from the Nottingham-Lincoln train
Canal in Nottingham
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