Minolta Riva 90

Bestbeloved bought this camera new somewhere around 2000 – she cannot remember exactly when but the printed instructions are dated 1999 so not before then and she was using the camera in 2001. She remembers one problem, though – the long delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter actually firing. When Bestbeloved gave me the camera this morning, there was a new spare battery in a bubble card. When I inserted this battery into the camera all I got was a low charge warning. The BBE date on the battery was 2011 – and it was already flat by 2020!

This is a compact camera suitable for either a pocket or handbag, the camera weighs 225g. The construction is entirely plastic – it appears that this includes the lens. The camera is almost entirely automatic – you still have to compose the image and press the shutter release button yourself but the camera does everything else.

The camera measures 120 by 70 by 50 mm when closed and the lens extends to 55mm when open for use – this goes as far as 95 mm with the extreme telephoto setting .

Such controls as there are are on top of the camera. To the right is a chrome shutter release button. This is 10 mm diameter and is a bit too close to the edge of the camera for my comfort but still is eminently useful. Behind this is a rocker switch to adjust the focal length. Pressing the right hand edge of this switch extends the lens for a longer focal length – up to 90mm. Pressing the left hand edge of this switch retracts the lens for a wider angle focal length – down to 38 mm. This does not appear to be continuously variable but rather has five steps. When you first switch on the camera, the lens is set to its widest – 38 mm.

To the left of the shutter release is an LED screen. This measures 18 by 8 mm. This tells you the current state of the camera. There is an indication that there is a film loaded, the frame numbers and the flash setting. Behind this display are two grey buttons. The right hand button sets the delay timer. Setting this gives you a 10 s delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing. The other button sets the flash mode. There are five modes: off, on, auto, fill and night landscape.

To the left of the top are a further two buttons. The larger one is marked on/off and is exactly that. The smaller button is recessed and needs a pen nib or such to press. This button forces the camera to rewind the film mid-roll. Rewind is usually automatic at the end of the roll.

The front of the camera has the lens. While the camera is switched off, the lens is retracted to be flush with its surround and is covered by a guillotine cover. When the camera is switched on, the guillotine cover retracts and the lens comes forward to the 38 mm position, ready for use. The lens itself is moulded plastic and has a green tint. Above the lens are a number of windows – six, to be precise.

On the left, looking at the front of the camera, is a red-eye reduction lamp. This works by shining a red light into the subject’s eyes causing their irises to contract. This allows less flash light to enter their eyes and then reflect off their retinas and out again. Above this is the light meter window. The meter is a CdS meter – there is no readout for the meter as the camera ‘s exposure is fully automatic. To the right is one of a pair of autofocus windows. Next is the viewfinder followed by the second autofocus window. Finally, on the right, is the flash gun.

The viewfinder is rather good. It is not the largest – it measures 20 by 15 mm. Inside are bright lines that delineate the image area with a bright circle in the centre which indicates the area to be focused. As you use the zoom control to alter the focal lengthy of the lens, the focal length of the viewfinder changes to match so you see the final image.

The back of the camera has little on it. At the top, in the centre, is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is not the largest – 6 by 4 mm – but is adequate. Beside the viewfinder eyepiece is a green LED. This flashes while the flash gun is charging and remains steady when the flash gun is charged. It is not possible to take a photograph while this LED is flashing.

Below the eyepiece is the hinged back. This is opened by a small catch on the left edge of the camera. On the right hand end of the back is a small clear window which allows you to see the film cassette in case you forget what type of film is in there.

Inside, the film cassette sits on the right which is unusual but certainly not unknown. To load the film, you insert the cassette on the right and pull the film leader to the left edge of the inside. When the back is closed, the film is automatically fitted to the take-up spool.

The chamber for the cassette has two DX contacts. The DX system allows the camera to determine the film speed, film length and exposure latitude. To read the DX barcode on the film cassette requires six electrical contacts. This camera only has two contacts and so can only partially read the film speeds – the camera can detect 100, 200 or 400 ISO film film speeds. This means that 100, 125 or 160 ISO films will all be seen as 100 ISO; 200, 250, 320 or 3200 ISO films will be seen as 200 ISO films and 400, 500 or 640 ISO films will be seen as 400 ISO films. This does not really matter in practice as most of these film speeds are not made. If 125 ISO film is used, it will be very slightly over-exposed but still within the latitude of the film. The only possible problem would be using 3200 ISO film which is made but is very unlikely to be used by an owner of this camera – if used, 3200 ISO film will be exposed as 200 ISO film which will not work.

The right hand edge of the camera has the battery compartment. This takes a single CR123 battery which are still readily available. The base of the camera has the serial number and a 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket.


OrionWerk plate camera – Rio 8C?

A folding plate camera from Hannover, Germany.

Orion Werk were a small camera maker from Hannover (German spelling) that folded in 1933. They produced quite a large range of cameras – both plate and roll film – in their short life, 1921 to 1933. For some reason, they did not put any sort of model name on their cameras so identifying the model is problematical. In fact, I got my tentative model name (Rio 8C) by looking through illustrated catalogues from Orion until I found one that looked the same as mine and had the same specification.

My starting point is that the camera takes 9 x 12 cm plates – this rules out everything except the ‘C’ models. Next, there is no vertical shift screw on the lens standard which rules out most of the ‘C’ models. Next is the detail of the U frame (i.e. lens standard) that holds the shutter assembly. This took me to the Rio 8C. The shutter (Vario) and lens (Corygon) confirm the ID of Rio 8C but, as always, I am happy to be corrected.

The body of the camera is made from wood which gives it a very square profile – none of the curves at the ends that you get with a metal roll-film camera. Not much of the wood is visible but from what I can see it would appear to be a species of pine. The wood is covered with black leatherette which is embossed with a rectangular pattern. Normally, the leatherette has the maker’s name, logo, model name embossed in the leatherette but not here.

The back of the wooden box has a steel plate holder (holder of glass photographic plates, that is) attached to it. The box measures 157 by 110 by 38 mm. The film gate (should that be plate gate?) in the plate holder measures 115 by 82 mm. The actual glass plates would be held in a light tight frame measuring about 135 by 112 mm and the glass plates would seem to have been 9 by 12 cm. Above and below the fillm gate are velvet light traps – red at the top and black at the bottom. At the top of the plate holder is a small, swivelling, catch to keep the plates in place.

On one long side and on one short side of the camera is a tripod socket. These are 3/8 inch Whitworth threads. On the other long side is a leather carrying strap and on the other short end is a small button beneath the leatherette. Pressing this releases the lens door which folds down to give portrait format. This lens door is held at right angles to the body by a chromed metal strut on either side.

On the top surface of the lens door are two bright metal rails. These are to position the shutter/lens assembly when it is brought forward for use. Between these rails is the only admission as to who made this camera. Here, stamped into the metal of the lens door and picked out in white, is the legend “ORIONWERK Akt. Ges. HANNOVER”. Being German, they have spelt ‘Hannover’ in the correct German way rather than the British ‘Hanover’. On the left of the rails (as when using the camera) is a sprung focus scale. When the lens standard is pulled forward there is a plate that moves over, and pushed down, this focus plate. There is a stop on the focus plate which stops the lens standard moving any further forward – this is the infinity focus position. To focus closer, it is necessary to push the focus scale down and pull the lens standard further forward. The focus scale runs from 2 to infinity. The units here are missing but are going to be metres.

The lens standard is a U shaped bracket made from aalaauminium alloy painted black. This lens standard has two knurled knobs for the user to hold while pulling the lens standard forward. There is a groove on the inside of the lens standard which holds a steel plate. In turn, this steel plate holds the shutter/lens assembly. This plate can slide up and down in this groove, giving a crude rising front to the camera. Usually, on small cameras with a rising front, this sliding is achieved by way of a screw on the right-hand arm of the lens standard – not here though. The sliding plate has a home position which is located by a sprung indent. To rise the lens, it is just a matter of pulling up on the shutter/lens assembly. The effect of the rising front will be judged by looking at the ground glass focus screen. I assume that the rather cheap lens produced a large enough image circle to make the rising front useful.

The shutter is a Vario from Gauthier. The Vario shutter is a simple shutter offering three speeds – 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 as well as B and T. It is an everset shutter which means that a there is no need to cock the shutter before use. This is a dial-set shutter which means that a the shutter speed is set by a dial above the shutter housing. Around 1930, these dial-set shutters were superseded by rim-set shutters which had a setting ring around the shutter rather than a dial.

The shutter release lever is on the top right of the shutter housing. Just beneath this is a socket for a standard cable release. At the bottom of the shutter housing is the aperture scale and setting lever. This uses the older aperture scale of 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18, 25 and 36. This works the same as the modern scale in as much as each step halves (or doubles) the area of the aperture. The iris diaphragm has nine blades giving a fairly circular aperture. Above the shutter speed dial is the viewfinder. This is a brilliant finder and is reasonably large and clear – I still do not like brilliant finders but this is one of the better ones I have comes across. The finder is on a swivel so that it can be used in both portrait and landscape orientations. There is also the option to compose the image using the ground glass screen before inserting the photographic plate.

The lens is a Corygon triplet made by C. Friedrich of Munich. It has a focal length of 13.5 cm (cm were more usual than mm before about 1940). The downside here, particularly if I wanted to use this camera, is that someone has clearly removed the lens at some point. The retaining rings were only hand tight and, on the inside of the camera, the ring retaining the rear element has scuffing to the black paint.

The shutter/lens assembly is attached to the body by leatherette bellows. These are in very good condition and still light tight.

This is all I can say about the camera – apart from noting that the camera is missing the ground glass focus screen – but this camera also came with a strange attachment.

Many plate camera makers offered a roll-film attachment which allowed the user to save money and have an easier life by using cheap roll-film instead of glass plates at the cost of lower image quality. I have never seen a price for one of these attachments but I do not suppose that they were particularly cheap. A previous owner of this camera has got around this by making his own roll-film attachment .

What this owner has done is take an existing 120 format roll-film camera, remove the shutter/lens and the bellows and replace them with a glass plate holder. This attached plate holder slides into the grooves on the back of the plate camera. In some ways, this has been nicely done but the details of the work are crude. The two parts of the partial camera and the plate holder are held together by bent steel plates which have been soldered in place. These steel plates were then covered with black adhesive tape.

This adaptation works as intended on a mechanical level but has one large defect. The position of the roll-film in this adapter is 35mm further away from the lens than a glass plate would have been. This extra distance will have meant that a infinity focus will be impossible. I can only assume that they relied on depth of field/ small apertures and contact prints rather than enlargements. Or, perhaps, they did not understand the optics involved and found that their roll-film adapter was useless once they tried it out. We will never know.

As to the roll-film camera sacrificed to make this adapter, there is no indication of make or model apart from a crown logo on the back.

Ensign All Distance model No. 1

This is a simple folding camera from Houghton-Butcher in London. It is certainly small enough to fit in a pocket but is fairly heavy at 500g. It was available in a number of colours but mine is the black version. The body is painted with a crinkle finish paint – no leatherette here. Beneath the paint is steel, rather rusty steel which made my hands and clothes rather dirty when I first unpacked the camera. While I cannot accurately date this camera, it was made around 1930 which was 70 years ago. I doubt that the paint job was intended to last quite that long.

  • lens: meniscus
  • focal length: not known
  • apertures: Waterhouse stops: small, medium and large
  • focus range: portrait or view
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Synchro A
  • speeds: I, B or T
  • flash: No!
  • film size: 120

The 1930 Ensign catalogue from Houghton-Butcher had this camera for sale at £1-17-6 (which is £1.87 in modern money). This camera was also available in three bright colours “for ladies in particular” for £2-0-0 which included a leather case to match. For comparison, a simple black box camera cost 8/6 and the Ensign folding No. 2 cost £2-2-0 and their most expensive camera cost £24-15-0. For context, the average factory wage in 1930 was around £2-0-0 per week and average income was £200 per year so in 2020 values this camera was around £250 – a meaningful price but available to most families if they were keen enough.

When folded, this camera measures 6.25 by 3 by 1.25 inches (I am using Imperial units because this is a British camera). When opened for use, the 1.25 inches extends to 5.1 inches. The camera weighs 1lb 1.5oz (500g). When closed, there is very little to see. On one of the long edges is a black painted brass knob. This is to advance the film. As this camera uses 120 medium format film, there is no need for a rewind knob. On the other long edge is a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. The front of the camera has the hinged lens door. This is held closed by a hinged, nickel plated catch. This door also has a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. In the middle of the door is an oval cartouche with the legend “ENSIGN” in orange. On the back of the camera is the usual red window so that you can see the frame numbers on the film when you are advancing the film.

When you uncatch the lens door it pulls down and latches in place at 90º to the body. The lens door is held in place by a chrome strut on either side. The nickel plated catch also doubles as a leg enabling the camera to be stood on a table. The inside of the lens door has two bright plated rails to allow the lens standard to be pulled forward to the operating position. These are made from quite soft brass and on my camera had been twisted at the end, preventing the lens standard from being puled forward. Thankfully, it was a simple task to untwist them with a pair of pliers. On the left of the lens door, near the front, is the focus scale. When the lens is pulled forward, a sprung plate fits into one of two slots on the focus scale. The first slot is marked ‘Views’ and the second slot is marked ‘Portraits’. There is no more to focusing than choosing the right slot.

The shutter/lens assembly needs to be pulled forward by hand. The makers have provided a nickel plated post for the user to hold while doing this. The shutter/lens assembly is connected to the camera body by leather bellows. The inside surface of the leather is coated with a linen fabric.

The shutter is Houghton-Butcher’s own “Synchro A” shutter. This is a very simple shutter with two sprung leaves. There is one shutter speed – instantaneous – plus B and T. It is an everset shutter which means that there is no need to cock the shutter before use. The shutter is fired by a lever on the right hand side of the shutter housing. Below this shutter release lever is a socket for a standard cable release. On the front of the shutter housing, at the top, is a plate with the maker’s name – “Made by HBM Co Ltd London” – beneath which is the legend “Synchro A shutter”. At the bottom of the front of the shutter housing is another plate. At one end of this lower plate are the shutter speeds: I, B and T. Next to these is a small nickel plated wheel with a pointer to select the shutter speeds. In the middle of this lower plate is the aperture scale. This consists of three values: small, medium and large. beneath the plate is a moving pointer to select the required aperture. internally, the aperture is selected by a rotating disc with three different Waterhouse stops – no iris diaphragm here.

On the left of the shutter housing is a wire frame viewfinder – basically an iconometer with the rather strange omission of any eye-piece. This means that the view in the viewfinder will change drastically with small changes in eye position. I suppose users would get used to this after a few wasted films. On the top left of the shutter housing is a brilliant finder . Unusually (at least in my experience) the top of the brilliant finder is ground glass rather than a second clear lens. This actiually works better than any other brilliant finder that I have come across. This brilliant finder if hinged so that it can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation.

The lens is a simple meniscus lens. There is no indiction as to focal length but it will be around 100 mm given the film format. I haven’t tried this camera with film but the use of a single element lens suggests that vignetting is likely to be a problem.

Below the shutter/lens assembly is a steel plate connecting the assembly to the rails on the lens door. On this steel plate is the model name of this camera: “All Distance Pocket Ensign Model No. 1 Made in England”.

The camera back is removed by a sliding catch at one end. The back comes away in one piece. The inside of the back has a stamped version of the legends on the front. There is also an orange coloured label encouraging the user to use “2 1/4 B Ensign Speedy film”. What is missing here is any pressure plate to keep the film flat across the film gate.

Inside, most of the space is taken up with the film gate. This measures 2 1/8 by 3 1/4 inches (54 by 82 mm). On either end of this is a chrome roller. At the ends are the spool chambers. These have Houghton-Butcher’s patented hinged pegs. These easer the fitting of the spools. At the take-up end, it is necessary to pull out the film advance knob to allow the take-up spool to be fitted (or removed). Not being a Japanese camera, there are no foam light seals between the back and the body, light tightness being achieved by significant flanges.


An excellent 35mm fixed lens rangefinder camera from East Germany.

This is a smallish fixed lens rangefinder camera from East Germany. Initially, the Belmira was designed and made by Belca (who used to be Balda) and latterly by Welta. German camera makers are rather complex as a result of many mergers through the 20th century and particularly after WWII in East Germany. Zeiss Ikon was split in two with the West German and East German parts operating independently. Other makers – such as Ihagee and Balda – were entirely in the new East Germany but the prewar owners started new companies in West Germany using the original name. So, there were East German Ihagee and West German Ihagee and West German Balda and East German Balda. To avoid the confusion generated, East German Balda changed its name to Belca and there were further name changes. The East German camera makers were merged into a series of VEBs (Volkseigener Betrieb or Publicly Owned Enterprise) ending with VEB Pentacon (the name ‘Pentacon originated as a trading name of East German Zeiss Ikon to avoid legal conflicts in Western Europe and North America). My camera was made in the middle of these mergers, in between April and August 1956, going by the lens serial number.

  • lens: Tessar
  • focal length: 50mm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/16
  • focus range: 2.5 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Vebur leaf shutter
  • speeds: 1 second to 1/250 seconds
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The only indication of maker is the Ernemann Tower logo on the shutter fascia which indicates either East German Zeiss Ikon or VEB Pentacon (depending on date). The lens is marked 'Carl Zeiss Jena' so this is before the end of the legal wrangles between East and West Zeiss Ikon companies.The only indication of maker is the Ernemann Tower logo on the shutter fascia which indicates either East German Zeiss Ikon or VEB Pentacon (depending on date). The lens is marked ‘Carl Zeiss Jena’ so this is before the end of the legal wrangles between East and West Zeiss Ikon companies.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Also on the shutter fasciae is a 1 in a triangle. This indicates first quality and was reserved for export items.Also on the shutter fasciae is a 1 in a triangle. This indicates first quality and was reserved for export items.

There is another logo on the lens fascia which I suspect indicates first quality but I have never seen this particular logo before.

So, a description of this neat camera. The camera body is fairly plain. It measures 126 by 78 by 658 mm and it weighs 580 g. The top plate has a raised portion the right which houses the viewfinder. On the rear of the top plate is the viewfinder eye-piece which is circular and measures 7mm diameter. On the front is the viewfinder window. This measures 20 by 14 mm and is tinted quite a heavy green. I think that this is to provide contrast with the rangefinder spot which is uncoloured – at least, I can think of no other reason for the tint.

To the left of this raised portion is the frame counter. This consists of a knurled knob and a curved window. The knurled knob is to reset the counter to zero on loading a new film. The counter has every fifth number in white – the intervening numbers are represented by dots. The counter counts up to 35 and then continues from zero. The window is covered by a yellow plastic film. I am not sure if the colour is intentional or a result of ageing (or both, perhaps). Next is the accessory shoe, this is a standard Barnack shoe with no flash contacts.

On the left of the top plate is the rewind knob. This is a very sloppy fit on my camera which does not match the build quality of the rest of the camera. The centre of the rewind knob is a mnemonic for the type of film in use. The options are Schwarz-Weiß or Color and for each, Neg (negative) or Umk (Umk is short for Umkehrfilm which means reversal film or slide film in German). Each of these has a number of film speeds – these are in DIN only. Of course, these have no effect on the operation of the camera.

The back of the top plate, as well as the viewfinder, has the film advance lever. This is unique as far as I am aware. First, it does not rotate – it is a slide. It is also on the opposite end of the camera to the take-up spool and moves in what feels to be the wrong direction. Internally, this is the same (or at least very similar) to the Werra mat with this sliding lever rotating a sleeve around the shutter mechanism. On my camera, this grates quite a bit in use which I am putting down to ageing and dried-up grease. But it does still work.

The front of the top plates well as having the viewfinder window, has the rangefinder window. Mine has a rectangular rangefinder window but other Belmiras had a very thin window with a large diamond section – mine has this internally but the external window is plain rectangular. The shape change was around late 1958 to early 1959 – I am judging the timing by looking at images of Balmira cameras on Google Images and checking the serial numbers on the lenses for each type of rangefinder window. The range of lens serial numbers (Tessar lens only) for the rectangular window was 4467343 to 5208392 and the range of lens serial number for the thin/diamond window was 5180425 to 5309389 showing that the rectangular window was the original one. This also suggest that the rangefinder window change occurred part way through a batch of Tessar lenses or perhaps when Welta took over from Belca in making this model. Between the viewfinder and rangefinder windows is the camera name engraved in the metal in Italic script.

The body of the camera is covered by fine-grain black leatherette. As this is clearly an export camera, I would expect to see the country of origin (either Germany or DDR) embossed on the leatherette somewhere but I cannot find it. In the centre of the front is the shutter/lens assembly. The housing is anodised aluminium. The shutter is a Vebur which started off as an East German Zeiss Ikon shutter based on the West German Zeiss Ikon’s Compur or Prontor shutters. Seeing as they already made a Prestor shutter – the name clearly derived from Prontor – I suspect that the Vebur shutter was based on the Compur but apart from the name I have no reason for saying that.

Working outwards from the camera body, the base of the shutter housing has a depth of field scale with pointers to the focus scale. This focus scale is the first ring out from the camera body. The focus ring turns through about 120º in order to focus from about 2.5 feet to infinity. The lower part of this ring has coarse knurled cut-outs to provide a tactile grip for focusing with the camera at eye-level. This ring is coupled to the rangefinder so focusing is easy and accurate with the camera at eye-level. When focusing, the entire shutter/lens housing moves (so this is unit focusing, rather than front-cell focusing).

In front of the focus ring is the aperture ring. This runs from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/16 which is a very useable range. This rings turns easily and smoothly – no indents here so the user can set intermediate aperture values if they want to. The aperture index is a large red triangle infant of the aperture ring. The iris diaphragm has nine leaves giving a very smooth aperture which will bode well for those concerned with bokeh.

The shutter speed setting ring is on the front of the assembly, around the lens. This is not as easy to use as a ring around the shutter housing would be and I find I need both hands to turn the ring – not because it is too stiff (although it is rather stiff) but purely because of the ergonomics of the ring’s position. Shutter speeds are from one second to 1/250 seconds plus B.

The lens is a Carl Zeiss Tessar – a four element lens with the elements in three groups. People can be a bit snotty about East German Carl Zeiss for purely political reasons but their lenses were as good with as high manufacturing standards as they had before the partition of Germany. The lens will accept filters – either 32m push-on filters or 30.5mm screw-in filters.

Beside the shutter/lens on the right (as you are using the camera) is the shutter release button. This is fairly low down and angled – it is very much like the shutter release buttons on my Pentacon F or on Praktica cameras starting with the Nova. This button is threaded for a standard cable release. There is no delay action facility here, for some reason. On the left hand edge of the body is a PC socket for flash. There is no indication as to synchronisation speed but as this is a leaf shutter it will not be too important.

The base of the camera has a central tripod socket – 1/4 inch UNC – and next to this is a small sliding button. Sliding this away from the tripod socket releases the back/base of the camera. There is also a fairly large button to release the internal mechanisms to allow the film to be rewound. When the back/base is released, they come away from the camera body in one piece to allow for inserting new film.

The film cassette goes on the left and the film pulls across the film gate to the right. Here is a novelty I have not seen before. There is a cover over the sprocket shaft which must be lowered before the film can be loaded. The task-up spool is on the right. This spool is loose which might help some people to attach the new film but I just find this to be an added nuisance, particularly in the field where I am likely to lose the spool and have to resort to hands and knees to find it again. The back/base fit nicely and, being a German camera, there are no foam light seals to go bad

Beauty LightOmatic III

This LightOmatic III camera is an addition to my collection of 35mm rangefinder cameras. It is a fixed lens camera from Japan and is firmly from the same stable as the Yashicas (Minister III and Minister D), Petri 7s, Taron Auto EE, Mamiya EE, Minolta Uniomat. There is a consistent feel about these Japanese rangefinders which makes them distinct from, say, the German fixed lens rangefinders from the likes of Voigtländer.

Beauty started off as Taiyodo in Tokyo after WWII. Taiyodo became Beauty in 1957 and seems to have ceased trading around 1963. In that bare twenty years, they made around thirty five models of camera.

Beauty LightOmatic III
  • lens: Biokar-S
  • focal length: 45 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/1.9 to ƒ/16
  • focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Copal-SV
  • speeds: 1 sec to 1/500 sec
  • flash: PC connector, X or M sync
  • film size: 35 mm

This Beauty LightOmatic started as the LightOmatic in 1959 – it was also sold as the LM in some markets. In 1960, the LightOmatic II was introduced with some small improvements. My camera, the LightOmatic III, was introduced in 1961. The biggest change here is the light meter sensor is enlarged and moved to a ring around the lens together with a meter read-out in the viewfinder. This version was also sold as the Lightmatic III and the Lite III.

The camera measures 142 by 85 by 72 mm and weighs 693 g.

Top Plate

The top plate is fairly standard for a Japanese rangefinder. On the right is the film advance lever. This is cut from metal and appears to be aluminium, it moves through about 120º to advance the film one frame. This lever is not on a ratchet and must move in one throw. This film advance lever also doubles as a shutter lock. With the lever in its rest position, in line with the top plate, the shutter cannot be fired. To use the camera, you must first pull out the lever slightly. When you advance the film, the lever will return to the lock position which could become annoying.

Just to the right of the film advance lever, right on the edge of the top plate, is the window for the frame counter. The numbers are in yellow – only the even numbers are displayed – with 20 and 36 in red as these were the standard film lengths available in the 1960s. This counts up from 1 – the numbers are reset to S (or minus 2) by opening the back of the camera to fit a new film. To the left of the film advance lever is the shutter release button. This is chromed metal and is threaded for a standard cable release (50 threads per inch on a taper – this would seem to be the European standard and there is a straight threaded release in America).

The rest of the top plate is slightly raised – only by a couple of millimetres. Very nearly centrally is the light meter window. This is rectangular with a black mark on the left and a moving needle on the right. Setting the exposure is a matter of adjusting the aperture and shutter speed until the needle is against the black mark.

To the left of the meter window is the accessory shoe. This is a standard design first introduced by Oskar Barnack in 1913 for the first Leica prototype. The only change in over a hundred years is the addition of electrical contacts for flash – but not on this camera, this is the original Barnack cold shoe. In front of the accessory shoe is the camera name: LightOmatic III stamped in the metal and painted black. Also by the accessory shoe is the camera serial number: V38496. On the far left of the top plate, as is usual for 35mm cameras, is the rewind crank. This is the usual small folding crank. When the crank is not being used to rewind the film it locks in place. This has the effect that it does not rotate as the film is advanced. I always use the rotating of the rewind crank as an indicator that the film is advancing properly. Not on this camera.

Back View

The back of the top plate has the viewfinder eyepiece – it measures 8 by 5 mm which is larger than had been usual in the 1950s. This eyepiece also doubles as the rangefinder eyepiece. The rangefinder spot is square and orange – the orange colour is due to gold being used to ‘silver’ the internal mirror in the rangefinder. The contrast between the rangefinder spot and the rest of the image is good and very usable. Also in the viewfinder are bright lines for composition. These are parallax corrected – as you focus nearer, the bright lines move both down and to the right. Also in the viewfinder is a second light meter window. This sits at the top right just above the bright lines. When wearing glasses, it is a bit too high for comfort but is still quite usable.

The front of the top plate has a long window divided into three. On the right is the viewfinder window which measures 18 by 12 mm. On the left is the rangefinder window which measures 5 by 6 mm. It is 40 mm from the centre of the viewfinder window. This distance affects the accuracy of the rangefinder – the further apart the better. My Voigtländer CLR only has 28 mm, my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE has 25 mm, my Yashica Minister D has 35 mm and my Minolta Uniomat has 24 mm so the rangefinder on this Beauty is quite good (but not as good as my Soviet Fed 2 with 66 mm). In between these two is a grey translucent window. This provides the illumination for the bright lines.

The front of the camera has the shutter/lens assembly, as always. The shutter is a Copal-SV which is coupled to both the light meter and the rangefinder. Both the focus ring and the aperture ring have large plastic tabs on them to make adjusting them easy while the camera is at eye-level.

The focus range is from 0.8 m (2.7 feet) to infinity. The ring is quite stiff to turn. This is partly due to age but more because the whole lens moves to focus plus there is a linkage to the viewfinder to move the bright lines and a further linkage to the rangefinder.

The aperture ring is much easier to move – it has a lot less to do. Apertures are from ƒ/1.9 to ƒ/16. There are no indents here so intermediate values can be set. In front of the aperture ring, on the left, is a lever to select between X and M flash synchronising. At the bottom of the ring is a lever to set the self delay timer. This gives an eight second delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing, according to the manual. I am not going to try this as on old shutters the timer can wreck the shutter.

Next out is the shutter speed ring. This does have indents so can only be set to the specified speeds. The speeds are from 1 second to 1/500 seconds in the usual sequence plus B. By the 1/15 speed is a small window showing the set film speed. This is in ASA and runs from 10 ASA to 1600 ASA. 100 ASA is in red (why?), all the others are in green. The film speed is adjusted by a very thin ring in front of the shutter speed ring, with a serrated portion at the bottom for grip.

 In the front of the housing is the lens. this is a Biokor-S lens. This was made by Nitto. Nitto are not a well known company – at least not in the UK – but they are still an active optical company in Japan. According to Collections Appareils, the lens has six elements but with no mention of the arrangement of the elements. The focal length of the lens is 45 mm which is ‘normal‘ for 35 mm film cameras. The lens bezel states ‘F.C.’ which I am interpreting as ‘Fully Coated’.

In a ring around the lens is the selenium sensor for the light meter. As it is a selenium sensor, no battery is required. This sensor is inside the filter thread so if a filter is fitted, the light meter automatically compensates for the light loss through the filter. Not quite TTL metering but getting close.

On the base of the camera, in line with the lens, is a standard (1/4 inch UNC thread) tripod socket. Also on the base is the button enable film rewind. This is better than with most cameras as there is no need to hold the button in once it is depressed which makes rewinding film much easier.

Most of the body of the camera is covered with a coarse leatherette. Both the top and base plate are satin plated brass. On the front of the camera there is the legend ‘Beauty’ in gold near the top and beneath is a PC socket for flash. At the top of the body, just below the the top plate, on the corners are two strap lugs.

The back of the camera is opened by a sliding catch on the left hand end of the camera. The inside of the back has a central sprung pressure plate to keep the film flat over the film gate. Near the catch is a chromed leaf spring which keeps the film cassette secure. At the other end of the back is a chrome roller which helps to keep the film taut.

Puma Special

This is an innovative English camera – I nearly said British but it is clearly labelled ‘Made in England’. It has several features I have never seen before on another camera and do not expect to see again. The camera is called a Purma – there is no indication as to who made it. McKeown’s and the Hove Blue Book both say that this camera was made by R.F. Hunter in London but information on the Interweb suggests that Hunter’s only sold the camera. Camera-Wiki on the Interweb says that this camera was made by Purma Cameras Ltd. In 1939, R.H. Hunter were offering this Purma Special for 50/’ (that is 50 shillings in the old notation!).

Camera with lens cap.

The body of the camera, and the removable back, are made from Bakelite which was an early plastic. The insides are made from matt-black steel. The Bakelite is an amazing, sturdy, if brittle, plastic. In this case, the Bakelite is very nearly black (actually, very dark brown) even though my photographs show it looking decidedly blue. The Bakelite was dull and not very interesting when I got the camera but five minutes with a can of aerosol polish and this camera looks impressive and almost new.

Camera with lens extended.

The only beef that I have with the exterior is that a it was not designed by a photographer. While it all works, nothing is where a photographer would want it to be – I think engineering needs were more important.The only beef that I have with the exterior is that a it was not designed by a photographer. While it all works, nothing is where a photographer would want it to be – I think engineering needs were more important.

The cross-section is rhomboid with two very curved ends. Its maximum dimensions are 6.75 by 2.75 by 2.25 inches (it is an English camera so I am using English units; sorry,  metric people), not including the lens. The lens protrudes 3/8 inches when closed and one inch when open for use. The camera weighs 12 ounces. The camera uses type 127 film which is no longer made but it can still be found for sale on the Interweb. The resulting negatives are 1.25 inches square (31 mm).

Top of camera.

Such controls as there are (three of them) are on the top of the camera. All are made of Bakelite. On the right is the film advance knob. This has a milled edge and can easily be turned with your thumb. Near the middle, at the front, is the lever for cocking the shutter. This lever is pear-shaped. The lever needs to be pushed to the left to cock the shutter. On the top at the left is a pear-shaped recess. In the deepest part of the recess is the shutter release button. Ergonomically, this is not a good position. This button is also Bakelite.

On the front, beside the shutter cocking lever, is the viewfinder window. This is 1/4 inch square (approximately 6 mm). In 1936, this was a normal size for most cameras. It is certainly usable and more than adequate for snap shots of families and holidays which is the intended market for this camera. Below the viewfinder window is the legend “PURMA SPECIAL” In the centre of the front is the lens. There is no shutter housing as this camera has a focal plane shutter. When not in use, there is a screw-in lens cap. Not only does this protect the lens but it also pushes the lens into the body, making the camera more pocketable and also acts as a shutter lock to prevent unwanted photographs. When the screw-on cap is removed, the lens pops out for use.

The lens is made by Beck. They are no longer a well known name in consumer optics but are still in business as Beck Optronic Solutions Ltd. Beck were a major player in camera lenses back in the day. When I was a boy in the 1950s, my father’s microscope was a Beck. The lens has a focal length of 2.25 inches which is about 60 mm – it is a three element lens. A ‘normal‘ lens for this camera would be 42 mm so this lens is significantly long for the film format. The minimum aperture is ƒ/6.3. Actually, this is not the minimum aperture, it is the aperture as the aperture is not adjustable. The lens is also fixed focus, so I would imagine  that the lens is pre-focused at the hyperfocal distance. Usually, cameras with a fixed focus lens have a lens that has a shorter focal length than ‘normal’ focal length to give a larger depth of field, so using a longer focal length is a bit strange.

As this camera takes 127 film which is very hard to get hold of, I shall not be trying this camera out.

Kodak Retinette 1B (type 037)

I spent years resisting adding Kodaks to my collection for the simple reason that Kodak produced far too many cameras. Well, I bought one (Retina 1a (type 015)) and now I have four. This latest Kodak is a derivation of that Retina 1a and my Retinette (type 017) but is now a rigid camera rather than a folder.

  • lens: Rodenstock Reomar
  • focal length: 45 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Pronto LK
  • speeds: 1/15 to 1/500 + B
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35mm

So, this Retinette 1B, or Type 037, is a nicely made viewfinder camera made in Germany by Kodak AG, the company that Kodak bought from Dr Nagel in 1931. The camera was made between 1960 and 1963. It has a couple of features that I have never seen on a camera before – more later. In 1963, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) had these for sale for £31-10-8.

The camera measures 125 by 90 by 85 mm and weighs 530g. The top plate is made from bright plated brass. On the far right is the frame counter. This is a German camera and the counter counts down. It is reset manually by a toothed wheel below the counter. Every fifth number is displayed in white, the resting white dots. To the left of the frame counter and at the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is also plated metal and is threaded for a standard cable release.

_1010659The middle of the top plate has the camera name in Italic script – Retinette IB. Left of this is the accessory shoe. – a cold shoe. On the far left is the rewind knob. This pulls up to enable the insertion or removal of film cassettes. This rewind knob doubles as a film type reminder. The options are: colour daylight, colour artificial light and monochrome. This is just a memo and has no effect on the operation of the camera.

On the back of the top plate is the viewfinder eyepiece which is nearly central. The eyepiece is contained in an 8 mm circle and measures 8 by 6 mm. Small by modern standards but significantly larger than was usual in the early 1950s. Inside the viewfinder is the image screen. This has bright lines to indicate the image area with parallax indicators for close-ups. At the bottom of the bright lines is the light meter readout. This works by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture to centre the needle.

The front of the top plate has three windows. On the left (looking at the front of the camera) is the light meter sensor window. This is a selenium sensor and so does not need a battery. The selenium sensor is covered with the usual knobbly glass lens. Looking through this at the sensor, you can read the legend “GOSSEN” indicating that the light meter assembly was made by the renown German meter maker, Gossen (who are still in business in 2020).

The middle window of the three is the viewfinder window which is almost (but not quite) central  over the lens. The right hand window is opaque except for a transparent line around the edge – this provides the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder.

At the front of the camera, below the top plate, is the shutter/lens assembly. This is mounted on a curved fascia. The shutter is a Pronto LK (and not a Prontor LK as the Interweb will have it) made by Gautier in Calmbach, Germany. the ‘LK’ indicates that the shutter is coupled to a light meter. The LK is short for the German Lichtgekoppelt which means light coupled.

The shutter offers speeds from 1/15 to 1/500 seconds plus B. These are set using the outermost milled ring on the assembly. Apertures are from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22 which is a good range. The iris diaphragm gives a pentagonal aperture. The aperture is adjusted using a black plastic tab on the left side of the shutter barrel. There actual aperture scale is quite a way around on the right side of the shutter barrel, inconveniently for ease of use.

_1010662Also on the shutter assembly is the film speed setting for the light meter. There are two scales for this. The first, on the right of the shutter barrel, offers film speeds from 10 to 800 ASA (broadly the same as ISO speeds). The second scale is very unusual. It has the British Standard scale – marked BS – which is the first time I have ever seen this on a light meter. The principle of the BS film speed is the same as for ASA (partial gradients of the log exposure/intensity curve) but the numbers are expressed on a logarithm scale. So the values here are 22 BS to 40 BS. An increase of 3 doubles the speed. So, 200 ASA is 34 BS and 400 ASA is 37 BS. This is very similar to the German DIN speeds with 10 added (24 DIN = 34 BS). To adjust these settings, you need to pass a small metal tab beside the 500 shutter speed and turn the speed setting ring.

The lens is a Rodenstock Reomar with a focal length of 45 mm and a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8. All the Retinette cameras seem to have been fitted with Reomar lenses but most of them were made by Schneider-Kreuznach rather than Rodenstock.  Obviously, by 1960, the lens is coated and almost certainly on all surfaces. The Reomar lens is a triplet.

Focusing is the second thing I have never seen before. The lens appears to front cell focusing (only the front piece of glass moves to focus the lens, the other two pieces staying still). The strange thing is that the focus helical does not move smoothly. There are indents at just over six feet, ten feet and about thirty feet. These are coupled with distances in black (the other distances are in red). So, when you focus to the first indent at six feet, there are two black pointers pointing at 5.3 and 8 feet – this is the depth of field at this distance and ƒ/4 (I got the aperture value from the instruction manual). Moving the focus to the second indent at ten feet, the two pointers point to eight and fifteen feet. Moving to the last indent, thirtyish feet, the pointers point to fifteen feet and infinity – this is the hyperfocal distance at ƒ/4.

_1010664The base of the camera has three items. On the far left is a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth (possible UNC) thread. Having this at the far end of the camera is not ideal for stability. At the far right is, surprisingly, the film advance lever. At this time (1960ish) there was a bit of a fashion for film advance levers on the base. Initially, this is rather awkward to use but quickly becomes easier with practise. This film advance lever is black plastic as is the tripod socket. Nestling in the crook of the lever is a chrome button. this is the film rewind button. Pressing this in frees the internal mechanism which in turn allows the sprocket shaft to rotate backwards. Once  this button is pressed in there is no need to hold it in, unlike the majority of other cameras.

Right by the tripod socket is a small chrome button. Pressing this releases the catch for the back. Inside is pretty much standard for a 35mm viewfinder camera. Inside the door is a red sticker stating that the camera was serviced by Kodak in 1964. As this is a German camera, not Japanese, there are no foam light seals to wear out. Light tightness is achieved by overlapping flanges on the door and body.

Taron Marquis

This is another fixed lens rangefinder from Japan. It is my second Taron – the first is a Taron Auto EE . To be honest, Japanese rangefinders became much of a muchness during the 1960s and this camera is no exception.

  • lens: Taronar
  • focal length: 45
  • apertures: ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/16
  • focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Citizen-MVL
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/500 s
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

This camera measures 137 by 87 by 71 mm and weighs 781 g. The top plate is sparse. The film advance lever is on the right. It has no ratchet so must be moved in one move. It moves through 135º so that is not too hard to do for most of us. The threaded shutter release button is in front of the film advance, the accessory shoe is just left of centre and the folding rewind crank is on the left.

_1010641The rear of the top plate has the viewfinder eyepiece at the left. This is 8 by 7 mm which is large enough for easy use even if not large by modern standards. On the right of the rear of the top plate is the battery compartment. This camera is designed to use a 1.3v mercury battery cell which is no longer available. Between the viewfinder eyepiece and the battery compartment are two screws. Removing these gives access to two adjusters for the rangefinder.

The front of the top plate is mostly taken up by a rectangular fascia. On the far left of this is the maker’s name TARON. Next along is the CdS cell for the light meter. This is followed by a light grey area. This has two functions. First, there is a hard-to-see window for the rangefinder. Secondly, the rest of the grey area provides illumination for the bright lines and the meter readout in the viewfinder. On the far right of the fascia is the viewfinder window.

_1010633As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens assembly. The shutter is a Citizen -MVL shutter. This provides shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 seconds. Unfortunately, this shutter does not work. As the shutter is linked to the light meter, the problem might be the meter, the connection or the shutter itself. I do not have any red-out from the meter in the viewfinder so it is possibly the meter.

The aperture ring has apertures from ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/16. The ring is milled to make it easier to turn. The shutter speed ring is smooth and painted back, making it hard to turn. The aperture and shutter speed rings are linked so turn ing one turns the other. I gather the idea is to set the shutter speed and then adjust the aperture until the meter readout is neither red nor yellow. On the underside of the shutter speed ring is the film speed setting. This is in ASA only and runs from 10 ASA to 800 ASA.

The Shutter is flash synchronised and offers either M or X synch. There is also a self-timer lever. This offers 1 13 second delay but I expect that when new the delay will have been between 8 and 10 seconds.

The lens is a Taronar of 45 mm focal length. I aim fairly sure that this is a triplet – going by the number of internal reflections of a specular light source. Its is coated.

_1010634The focus ring is coupled to the rangefinder. The rangefinder appears to be well adjusted. The focus scale for this lens is on the body rather than on the focus ring. The focus range is from 0.8 m to infinity (2.5 feet to infinity).

The base has a standard tripod socket – 1/4 inch UNC (perhaps Whitworth at this age). This socket is quite  a way from the centre of the base which does not bode well for levelness and stability when on a tripod. At the other end of the base is there rewind button. This is nice and large and easy to get at. This needs to be pressed in the entire time you are rewinding.

The back is opened by a sliding catch on the left. Inside is pretty standard. In the centre of the back is the pressure plate. By the catch is a leaf spring to keep the film cassette in place. On the hinge end of the back is a chrome rod to help keep the film flat over the film gate. The film gate has a nice large surround which helps to keep the film flat.

Leidolf Lordox 24×36

Leidolf from Wetzlar were a camera maker that have long intrigued me. When I have seen their cameras for sale they have either been too expensive or not working. This week I came across this Lordox in working condition for a reasonable amount. The early Leidolf cameras used 127 film and this camera was the first Lordox to use 35 mm film – hence the 24×36 in the name. The camera was introduced in 1952 and does not seem to have been in production for very long.

  • lens: Triplon
  • focal length: 5 cm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/12
  • focus range: 3 ft to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor S
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/300 s
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

The body is made from die-cast aluminium alloy and the top and bottom plates seem to be satin finished stainless steel. As is usual, the body is covered with black leatherette. The camera has clearly seen significant use, including on a tripod, but it is still in good condition. It is also clear that someone has taken the camera apart at some time as the lens fascia is skewiff and a few other parts are not back together quite as they should be. That a said, the camera is working well. The only cosmetic defects are slight scuffing on the base (tripod use), a couple of very small tears in the leatherette where the camera has been held and some polishing of the anodising of the shutter housing. For a camera that is 68 years old, that is quite good (and better than my 67 year old body!).

The camera body is rather square – there is minimal curving of the corners and the front and back of the body are absolutely flat. There is no plastic anywhere – to be expected in 1952 – every part that a is visible is either aluminium or stainless steel. The camera measures 121 by 73 by 85 mm and weighs 402 g.

_1010619The top plate looks fairly cluttered but that is because the camera is rather small. On the right of the top plate is the film advance knob. This is made from aluminium and turns anti-clockwise. In front of the film advance knob, and partially under it, is a small lever. Pushing this towards the engraved ‘R’ allow the film to be rewound. To the left of these is a raised portion. On this is the shutter release button. This is not threaded for a standard cable release. Rather, there is a dimple on top of the button and a screw thread around the base of the button to allow a non-standard cable release to be fitted. Behind the shutter release button is the embossed legend ‘LORDOX 24×36’.

In the middle of the top plate is a further raised portion which houses the viewfinder. This is a reverse Galilean finder (reverse means the image is smaller than life). On top of this is the logo in the shape of a cemented lens (similar to Zeiss Ikon ) containing the words ‘LEIDOLF’ and ‘WETZLAR’. Behind this is the accessory shoe. In 1952, this was necessarily a Barnack ‘cold’ shoe with no electrical contacts.

To the left of the viewfinder, the top plate is again slightly lower. This portion contains the frame counter. This consists of a stainless steel disc with the numbers from 10 to 40 engraved on it – only the decades are as numbers, the intermediate values are dots. This is a count-down counter. You need to set the counter to the film length when loading a film and then the counter counts down to zero as the film is used.

To the left of this the top plate lowers again. Here is the rewind knob. This is also machined aluminium and turns clockwise.


The rear of the top plate contains the viewfinder eye-piece. This is circular and measures 3 mm diameter. This is very small by today’s standards but quite usual for the early 1950s. The front of the top plate has the viewfinder window. This measures 10 by 6 mm. There are no bright lines or parallax adjustment but, again, this was quite usual for the time.

In the middle of the front of the camera is the shutter/lens assembly. There is an 18mm anodised aluminium tube on which is mounted a Prontor S shutter. This is the flash synchronised version of the Prontor II shutter from before WWII. (This was followed by the Prontor SV and Prontor SVS later in the 1950s.) So, this Prontor S shutter is synchronised for flash but there is no selection between M and X synch. The shutter needs to be manually cocked before use using the lever at the top of then housing. This camera was made about the time that internal connections for shutters were being introduced but not yet for Leidolf.

As well as the shutter release on the top, there is also an external shutter release lever on the right side of the housing which is linked to the shutter release button on the top plate. There are eight shutter speeds from 1s to 1/300s. This is the old sequence which includes 1/50, 1/100, 1/300. This was soon to be replaced by the modern sequence with 1/60, 1/125/ 1/250. The shutter also has a self-timer which is activated by a red lever on the lower left side of the shutter housing. When this is moved beneath the housing it adds an eight second delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing (actually, on my camera, the delay is nine seconds which is surprisingly close).

There is a surprisingly small range of apertures. The largest is ƒ/2.8 which is about about as large as a triplet lens will go. The smallest aperture is ƒ/12 which is surprisingly large – I would expect ƒ/16 if not ƒ/22. The lens is a Triplon which was either made by Leidolf or for them to their design. I have seen a suggestion on the Interweb that the lenses were made by Enna Optik of Munich. The last thing to note about the shutter/lens assembly is the presence of a PC socket for flash near two the top of the housing.

_1010620Opening the back of the camera without the benefit of a manual required some imagination.  There are no visible catches, slides, levers, buttons to move to release the back. What is actually required is to turn each of the two strap lugs through 90º whereupon the back and base come away in one piece. Inside, in the centre, is the film gate. At each end of this is a chrome roller, both of which still turn freely. Above the film gate, towards the right, a toothed wheel protrudes through the casting. These teeth protrude into the sprocket holes in the film and allow the camera to measure the amount of film moved when winding the film – 7 holes per frame.

_1010621_1010622In use:

I shall be shooting a test film tomorrow and I will post the results here once the film is developed.

5-3-2020: I now have the test from back from Snappy Snaps – and it is not really very good. Exposure is fine, indicating that both shutter and iris diaphragm are fairly close to the nominal settings. But every picture is seriously out of focus. Either this was always a very poor lens, or something has happened to it over the last 68 years. All these pictures were focused on infinity. Some of them have detail both at a significant distance and also within a few metres of the camera and I would expect something to be in focus in that range. I have a suspicion that a previous owner has meddled with the lens without knowing what they are doing. There are certainly indications that some parts of the camera have been taken apart by a non-professional.

Here is a selection of the pictures:

Lordox 24x36 4
Lordox 24x36 10
Lordox 24x36 12
Lordox 24x36 7
Lordox 24x36 3
Lordox 24x36 15
Lordox 24x36 2

Beier Beirette – 12/0705

This is a simple compact camera from the old East Germany (technically, the German Democratic Republic or DDR). Outwardly, it is very similar to a Braun Paxette. My overall impression of this camera is of a nicely designed and made cheap camera.

  • lens: Meyer-Optik Trioplan
  • focal length: 45 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 1 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Junior II from Gebruder Werner
  • speeds: 1/30, 1/60 1/125, B
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm 

The camera measures 115 by 72 by 67 mm and weighs 360 g. This camera is not as heavy as you might expect. This is because the camera is made from what looks like Bakelite with a metal fascia. The top plate is either satin stainless steel or anodise aluminium. Scratching the surface does not reveal the usual brass and the metal is resistant to a steel knife so I am going to say that it is stainless steel (unless someone wishes to correct me).

Beirette-5On the right of the top plate is the film advance. Early 35 mm cameras had a knob to advance the film and later 35 mm cameras had a lever. This camera has both – another respect in which it resembles a Braun Paxette. If you wish, you can advance the film using the knob. Or you can use the lever. The lever is not directly attached to the knob – rotating the knob does not move the lever. But the lever is attached to the knob via a ratchet. To advance the film one frame requires the lever to move through 270º but the presence of the ratchet allows several short movements of the lever (but not of the knob!).

This film advance merely moves the film – it does not cock the shutter or interlock the shutter release button. On top of the advance knob is a film type memo. This offers a choice of film speeds (strictly in DIN) of 13, 17, 21, and 25. These are repeated for colour film. There are also a further two options – sunlight or artificial light. This is strictly a memo and it has no effect on the operation of the camera.

In the centre of the top plate is a raised portion that houses the viewfinder. This is very small by modern standards but is close in size to other 35 mm cameras from the 1950s. The eyepiece measures 5 by 2 mm and includes a parallax adjustment. The eyepiece can slide up and down a small amount. For near photographs (i.e. portraits) you slide the eyepiece up to the ‘N’ position (N = nah) and for far photographs (i.e. landscapes) you slide the eyepiece down to the ∞ position (∞ = infinity). This is something that Balda did from the 1930s but was never usual, most camera either not bothering or relying on bright-lines. On top of the viewfinder is a standard accessory shoe (which has no electrical contacts and so is a cold shoe).

To the left of the raised portion of the top plate is the rewind knob – there is no attached lever or crank. To rewind the film, there is a sliding switch below the film advance knob/lever which needs to be moved from T to R (these are the initial letters of German words, which words I do not know). While holding the slide at R, you need to pull up the film advance knob – this frees the internal mechanism to rotate backwards. The rewind knob can be pulled up to ease rewinding and then pulled up further to ease removal of the film cassette. When you pull up the rewind knob, you can see two pillars which rotate to reset the frame counter. The frame counter window is on the back of the top plate, below the rewind knob.

The front of the top plate sports the viewfinder window. This measures 16 by 10 mm. It is slightly offset from the middle of the top plate so there is some lateral parallax but this will not be serious, even for portraits. Next to the viewfinder window is the legend “Beirette” embossed in Italic script.

Beirette-6The front of the camera has a square bright metal mount measuring 60 by 50 by 10 mm. On the top of this, on the right, is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated and is threaded for a standard cable release. In the centre of the mount is the shutter/lens assembly.

The shutter is a Junior II which is a simple everset shutter made by Gebruder Werner. The shutter bezel carries a logo of GW in a cartouche. Also on the shutter bezel is a triangle containing a 1 – this indicates first quality and appears on East German goods intended for export. Three shutter speeds are offered: 1/30, 1/60 and 1/125 together with B. Three speeds is about all you will get with an everset type shutter.

The iris diaphragm has ten blades which give a nicely circular aperture. Apertures from ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22 are offered. F/8 has a red dot by it which is a Happy Snapper setting. This is used in conjunction with the distance scale which has two red dots on it. The first red dot is at 5 m. With the aperture set at ƒ/8 and the distance at 5 m, everything from 2.5 m and infinity will be in focus. The second red dot is just shy of 2 m. At this distance – the aperture still at ƒ/8 – everything from 1.4 m to 3 m will be in focus. The first, at 5 m, is intended for easy group portraits and the second, at 2 m, is intended for easy individual portraits.

The lens focuses from just short of one metre to infinity. This is front cell focusing where only the front piece of glass moves to focus the image. While this is not ideal, it will be fine for the uses that this camera was intended for. The lens is a Meyer-Optik Trioplan. As the name suggests, this is a triplet lens and has a focal length of 45 mm. 45 mm is ‘normal‘ for 35 mm photography. The serial number is 2630098. The lens bezel also carries the 1 in a triangle mark indicating that it also is of export quality.

Also on the shutter housing is a PC flash connector. There are no synchronising options but the manual says that it is X synch. As this is a leaf shutter, the flash can synch at all shutter speeds (all three of them!).

The base of the camera only has the tripod socket on it. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. The rear of the camera is also featureless,

Beirette-2On the left hand edge of the camera is the catch for the back. It took me a while to work out how this operates. It refuses to slide or compress or press. In fact, it pivots around its centre. The back comes away completely from the camera body – no hinges here. In the middle of the back is a curved strap spring. In use, this presses on the pressure plate to keep the film flat.

The layout of the inside is also very reminiscent of the Braun Paxette. You are unable to see the film gate or lens as there is a hinged pressure plate in the way. This hinges at the top. Above the film gate is a toothed wheel. This takes the place of the sprocket shaft in most 35 mm cameras. The teeth protrude through the sprocket holes in the film and as the film is advanced, the moving film turns this toothed wheel  and ensures that the right amount of film is advanced. This wheel has eight teeth on it.

Apart from the pressure plate, all the exposed surfaces – including the take-up spool – are made from the Bakelite material. Being a German camera, there are no foam light seats to deteriorate, light tightness being achieved with deep flanges.

The back of the camera is covered with black leatherette (as is most of the body) and this leatherette is embossed at each end of the back. At one end is the 1 in a triangle quality mark Beneath this is the product number – 12/0705. At the other end of the back is the legend “Made in Germany”.

In Use:

I have now run a film through the camera. I used Poundland’s Power Geek film which cost me £2.00 for ten exposures – rather expensive per shot but ten shots is all I need to test a camera. Snappy Snaps in Lincoln have processed the test film. I ended up with only four shots out of the ten as I opened the back of the camera before the film was fully rewound – four good shots and two not so good, the other four being totally fogged.

There is a lot of vignetting evident on all the shots and some flare. Overall, I am fairly happy with the results from what was a cheap camera. The thumb in the lower right of the first frame was entirely me and the lack of focus in the last two is also entirely me. The other faults are down to the camera.

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