Canon AT-1

I have a current Canon EOS Digital camera and a few Canon EOS film cameras (EOS 5,  EOS 50, EOS 650) but they are all a bit too modern and plasticky for my taste. I have been on the look-out for one of the Canon FD mount cameras for a few years but they are either too expensive or have not aged well. When this camera came along, I was not sure what it was – I had never heard of the AT-1. It turns out that it is a Canon AE-1 without the automatic exposure system. As I do not like automatic exposure, this made the camera ideal for me.

  • lens: Tefnon by Kobori
  • focal length: 35-200 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 1.7 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: Canon FD breech-lock bayonet mount
  • shutter: cloth focal plane
  • speeds: 2 seconds to 1/1000
  • flash: hot shoe plus PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

 This camera was advertised on that auction site for parts or spares. The seller stated that the camera was completely untested. The camera also came with a lens so if the camera was completely U/S I would still have a FD mount lens and could then take a punt on one of the many FD mount cameras around with no lens. Well, the camera is in excellent condition and works just fine. The only fault is that the foam light seals have expired and need replacing. As the camera is forty three years old, I had taken this as read! I also have the original manual which is a rare bonus.

P1010783At first glance, this is a very standard Japanese SLR. It is a similar size and shape to the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic series and slightly bigger than the (then) current Pentax ME Super or Olympus OM1n. The general lines of the camera are significantly cleaner than either the Spotmatic, ME Super or OM1 models. I like uncluttered so this appeals to me.


The top plate feels like metalised plastic. On the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This is anodised metal with a black plastic end. The lever is on a ratchet so the film can be advanced by a series of short movements. When not in use, the film advance lever sits over the top plate out of the way but when using the camera, the lever sits proud by 30º. The lever moves through 120º to advance the film one frame. This is both easy and fast.

Under the film advance lever is the shutter speed dial. This runs from two seconds to 1/1000 seconds plus B. 1/60 seconds is marked with a lightning flash to indicate that it is the flash synchronising speed. Beneath the shutter speed dial is the film speed dial. The is accessed by slightly lifting the shutter speed dial and turning. This is a bit awkward but doable with my large fingers. Film speeds are in ASA (which is effectively the same as ISO speeds)  and run from 25 ASA to 3200 ASA. This was a normal speed range in the mid 1970s and reflected the speeds of films in normal use. It is also a very usable range today.

To the left of the film advance lever is the shutter release button. According to the manual, this is a magnetic release so there is no mechanical link to the shutter mechanism (which is entirely electronic) so there should be less camera shake compared to those cameras with mechanically linked buttons. This button is a fairly large, black, metal button which is threaded for a standard cable release. This is showing some signs of wear as at times it does not work and sometimes it needs a very definite press. It has slightly improved with me dry-firing the shutter over the last few days.

P1010768Around the shutter release button is a three-position switch. In the A position, the camera is in its standard mode. In the L position, the shutter release button is locked so you cannot accidentally trip the shutter (this is more useful than you might think). There is also an S position. In the S position, the delay timer is activated. A red LED is exposed. When the shutter release button is pressed while in the S position, the red LED flashes for ten seconds before the shutter fires.

Behind this switch is the window for the frame counter. This counter resets to zero when the camera back is opened. It starts as S and when you have wound on the fogged part of the new film it will be at zero which is in red – all other numbers (just even numbers are displayed) are white apart from 20 and 36 which are also red. These (20 and 36) were the most common film sizes in the 1970s.

As is usual, the centre of the top plate is dominated by the pentaprism hump. On top of this is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe with an ISO standard central contact plus a single auxiliary contract specific to Canon’s range of speed light flashguns.

On the back of the pentaprism hump is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is rectangular, 16 by 10 mm, and has a grove on the outside which can accept an eyecup or auxiliary lenses for glasses wearers. Inside the viewfinder is the matt focus screen. In the centre is a ring of micro-prisms to aid focusing. In the middle of the micro-prisms is a split-image spot. These work by splitting vertical lines in the image. The more out of focus the image, the further apart the parts of the split image. As you focus, the parts come together and when the two parts are fully aligned the image is in focus. If there are no strong vertical lines in the image, that is when you use the micro-prisms.

On the right hand edge of the focus screen is the light meter readout. This is coupled to both shutter speed and aperture. The meter needle is a straight line and there is also  another needle which has a ring on top. To use the meter, you adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture until the meter needle is in the centre of the ring. There is no indication in the viewfinder of either shutter speed nor aperture.

Left of the pentaprism hump is the film rewind crank. This is a standard small folding crank. Around the rewind crank is the on/off switch. This has three positions – on, off and C. The first two are self-explanatory  – C is the battery check position. In this position, the meter needle in the viewfinder should be right at the top of its travel. If it is not, you need to replace the battery. The shutter is electronic so will not work without battery power.

mouthIn the middle of the front of the camera is the lens mount. This lens mount is the Canon FD mount. This is a three flange bayonet mount. It is unusual in that the flanges are outside the mount throat. The only other mount that I have seen like this is the Ihagee Exakta mount which has both internal and external flanges. The big advantage of external flanges is that it allows larger apertures for a given throat diameter. At the time that this camera was made, the FD mount was a breech-lock mount. What this means is that you place the lens in the mount and turn a locking ring to fix the lens in place. With most lens mounts, you turn the lens to lock it, rather than just a locking ring. Not turning the lens means that there is less (or no) wear on the linkages. Later on, Canon changed the mount so that there was no longer a locking ring and the lens turned instead as on other cameras.

P1010789The lens mount has to transmit information from the lens to the camera – and actions from the camera to the lens. At this age, the information is transmitted by levers and pins. What follows here comes from the AT-1 manual.

  1. there is a screw which does nothing but is reserved for use in future developments.
  2. a lever on the lens which transmits the set aperture to the light meter – this is mechanically connected to the lens aperture ring.
  3. a pin on the lens which transmits the lens’ maximum aperture to the light meter.
  4. a lever on the lens that closes the aperture when the shutter is fired. This is matched by a lever on the camera side of the mount which doubles as a depth of field preview.

The camera lever in 4 above can also be used with older lenses (FL series lenses which also fit this camera) or with close-up bellows or lens reversal rings. For these the meter cannot be used as intended  and using this sliding lever enables you to use stop-down metering.

Also on the right of the lens mount is a PC socket for flash. This enables you to use off-camera flash if you want to. On the left of the lens mount is the battery compartment. Opening this requires you to press a very small button recessed on the left of the battery compartment cover. This is quite awkward to do which is a fault on the good side. On either side of the camera, on the top plate, are strap lugs.

P1010771The rear of the camera has the opening back. The catch for this is released by pulling up the rewind crank. In the centre of the back, on the outside, is a holder for the end of the film carton so you can remember which type of film is in the camera. I do not understand why all film cameras did not do this. Also on the base is the button to allow the film to be rewound. This only needs to be pressed in as you start to rewind – there is no need to keep pressing it in. Also here is the tripod socket – 1/4 inch – either Whitworth or UNC, I am not sure of which was current in 1977.


The lens.

This camera did not came with the original Canon kit lens. Instead, the previous owner had replaced the kit lens with a zoom lens. This lens is marked as being a Tefnon lens. This is one of the brand names used by the lens maker Kobori. They are a mature Japanese company, founded in 1923 and still going in 2020. They have made lenses for Minolta, Sanyo, Nikon and Vivitar – that is, made the lenses for those companies, not lenses to fit their cameras. If the likes of Nikon are happy for Kobori to make Nikon brand lenses, they must be a good manufacturer.

The use of Tefnon as a lens brand dates from 1982 and, although Kobori are still making SLR camera lenses, the name Tefnon is now redundant. The serial number of my lens is 100785.

P1010784This lens is 35 to 200 mm zoom. with a maximum aperture at 35 mm of ƒ/3.5 and at 200 mm of ƒ/4.8. The minimum aperture if ƒ/22. The iris diaphragm has six blades giving a hexagonal aperture. The is a small button at the end of the aperture scale – pressing this allows you to turn the aperture ring a bit further to engage the auto-exposure setting. On a Canon AE-1 camera, this setting will allow the camera to select the aperture rather than just stop down to the user set aperture. As the AT-1 does not have any auto-exposure ability, it is not possible to set this lens to the automatic aperture setting.

P1010789The lens is multicoated and has a ‘macro’ ability. This ‘macro’ ability offers a 1:5 reproduction ratio so an object that is 25 mm across will for an image that is 5 mm across. This is far from real macro – purists would expect a 1:1 reproduction ratio – but the lens does focus down to around 600 mm.

P1010785At the moment, the camera is not useable as I need to replace the foam light seals (not a hard job) but when I have have done so, I shall be testing this camera and lens and reporting the results here.

First Film Test.

Above, I stated that the foam light seals need replacing. In an ideal world, I would have replaced these before testing the camera with film. I got impatient and tried the camera with the old, sticky, foam seals in place. On some cameras this does work well, but not on this one. There are rampant light leaks and on a roll of 24 exposures, only three were any good. I am displaying a selection of these below. It would seem that the main light leak comes from the hinge of the back – the foam here has degenerated to virtually nothing. The evidence for this is that the light flare on the film extends vertically from one edge of the film to the other. If the light was leaking from the top or bottom edges of the back, the light flare would be horizontal.

What I can say at this point is that the lens works well, the light meter is at least reasonably accurate, the shutter moves smoothly with no sticking or juddering and, in general, all seems to be well apart from the light seals. My next job is to actually replace the seals with the foam I have on hand (it is readily available on the auction site and probably elsewhere) and test the camera again.

I have now replaced the light seals and run a second film through the camera. Everything is now working well. Here are a few of the test pictures with good light seals.


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.


Carl Zeiss Werra mat

This is a compact but heavy camera from Carl Zeiss. Zeiss is a well known name in optics – Carl Zeiss lenses and Zeiss Ikon cameras. I want to start with a little digression about the Zeiss companies.

  • lens: Tessar
  • focal length: 50 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prestor RVS
  • speeds: 1 second to 1/750 seconds
  • flash: PC connector
  • film size: 35mm

_1010537They start with Carl Zeiss in Jena, Germany, who made lenses for microscopes and telescopes. He had the good sense to employ Ernst Abbé who designed lenses for him. Abbé not only made break throughs in lens design, he made good use of the new glasses produced by the Schott glass works. When Carl Zeiss died, Abbé set up a foundation called the Carl Zeiss Stiftung which now owned the lens business (Carl Zeiss) and the glass maker (Schott).

In time, a local camera maker – Palmos – was having difficulties so the foundation took them over to form Carl Zeiss Palmos Ag – the first cameras to bear the Zeiss name. In due course, more camera makers experienced difficulties and the Carl Zeiss Foundation encouraged them to merge with Carl Zeiss Palmos to form ICA (Internationale Camera A.G). After World War I, the German economy had major problems and most of the German camera makers merged to form Zeiss Ikon AG.

After World War II, Germany was split into two countries and the Carl Zeiss Stiftung had companies and factories in both Germanies. In West Germany a new Carl Zeiss Stiftung was set up together with a new Carl Zeiss lens makers and half the Zeiss Ikon factories while in East Germany the original Carl Zeiss Stiftung carried on with the original Carl Zeiss lens maker and the other half of the Zeiss Ikon factories.

In East Germany, Carl Zeiss lenses decided to start making cameras in competition with East German Zeiss Ikon. This Werra mat camera was made by the East German Carl Zeiss – now known as Carl Zeiss Jena to distinguish it from West German Carl Zeiss Oberkochen.

This is not the most basic model – that was the Werra – as it has a coupled light meter. They also produced a version with a coupled rangefinder. This camera cost, in 1965, £26-17-8 (that is old British money, £27.88 in modern British money). This equates to £900 pounds in 2020 values – an expensive camera.

Time for a description. When not in use, the camera is almost devoid of controls. The entire shutter/lens assembly is covered with a screw-on cover, the top plate has the shutter release button and the base has the rewind crank.

_1010548So, the camera measures 115 by 80 by 83 mm and weighs 592 g. The first thing before you use this camera is to unscrew the shutter/lens cover (more on this later). Now the camera is ready to use. The top plate is, as far as I can tell, matt stainless steel. On the top, at the right, is a rectangle of translucent glass. This provides the illumination for the light meter display in the viewfinder. Just to the left of this , towards the front of the top plate, is the shutter release button. This is basically flush with the the top plate and measures 13 mm diameter. In the centre of the shutter release button is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. What is completely missing here is a film advance lever – more later.

_1010543On the rear of the top plate, on the left, is the eyepiece for the viewfinder. This is surrounded by a milled ring which is bad news for spectacle wearers – scratches are almost inevitable. But only almost as turning the miles ring adjusts the focus of the eyepiece so the user does not need to wear their spectacles. This milled ring is 18 mm diameter and the glass lens is 10 mm diameter.

_1010547Inside the viewfinder are dark lines to define the picture area – most cameras have bright lines but not here. Below the dark lines is the light meter display. To use this, you adjust the aperture and shutter speed until a black line is central in the display. To aid this, the bottom right of the viewfinder has a prism to allow you to see both the aperture and shutter speed that has been set.

The front of the top plate are two windows. On the left (looking at the front of the camera) is the light meter sensor. This is  a selenium sensor so no batteries are required. At the other end of the front of the top plate is the viewfinder window, This is 13 by 17 mm. Below the viewfinder window is the camera name – WERRA mat.

_1010541The front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens assembly . At the date this camera was made, the rift between east and west Carl Zeiss Stiftungs was complete. The main shutter makers – Compur and Prontor – were owned by the western Carl Zeiss Stiftung and they were no longer willing to sell to the eastern Carl Zeiss Stiftung. So, this camera has an East German copy of a Prontor shutter  – called a Prestor RVS shutter.

Shutter speeds run from one second to 1/750 seconds (which is faster than either a Compur or Prontor shutter). Apertures are from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22. Shutter and aperture together allow for any exposure that a photographer might want apart from specialist usage – which this camera is not intended for.

_1010544The shutter speed ring is turned by holding two small black tabs. This is not as easy as it could be. The selector ring has click stops at each speed. The aperture ring is easier to turn – it also has two small black tabs. There are no click stops here so intermediate aperture values can be set if required.

Focus is via the outermost ring and is firm and smooth. There entire lens assemble moves when focusing, not just the front element. An aside: when refitting the shutter/lens cover, make sure the lens is focused on infinity or the cover will not fit. The focus scale is in metres and there is a secondary scale in red for distances in feet. The shutter/lens cover has a 35 mm diameter end which can be unscrewed. This cover can then be reversed and screwed onto the end of the focus ring to provide a lens hood.

_1010539The lens is a Carl Zeiss Tessar with a serial number of 6159930 which means that the lens was made in 1961 to 1964. Its focal length is 50 mm.

A big idiosyncrasy is the film advance. As mentioned earlier, there is no film advance lever. Before the advent of electronic cameras in the 1980s just about all 35mm cameras had a film advance lever (or advance knob on older cameras). Film advance here is achieved by turning a leatherette covered ring where the shutter/lens housing joins the camera body. Turning this advances the film one frame and cocks the shutter. As I lack a manual for this camera, I have to learn functions by fiddling with things and its took me a good while to fathom this out.

Another anomaly is the position of both the shutter speed and aperture scales. These are offset to the left which makes reading them slightly awkward. The reason for this, as mentioned earlier, is to allow both scales to be readable from the viewfinder.

Also on the aperture setting ring, on the right, is a film speed setting lever. The scale for this is in both DIN and ASA. The range in 9 DIN to 27 Din (or 6 ASA to 400 ASA). In the early 1960s, 27 DIN/400 ASA film was about as fast as you would find and 18 DIN/50 ASA the usual speed of film that most photographers would use.

_1010545As the top plate is very uncluttered, the base plate is more cluttered than is usual. In the middle is a tripod socket. This is the 3/8 inch UNC thread rather than the more usual 1/4 inch UNC thread on miniature cameras. Around this socket is a milled ring. Rotating this ring 180º anti-clockwise unlocks the back of the camera. The back and baser come away as one piece. In front of the tripod socket are the three letters X, M and V and in front of these is a small lever. X and M are flash synchronising settings (X=electronic and M=flash bulbs) and V is the delayed action setting (V=vorlaufwerk). Using this V setting will give a delay of around ten seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing.

On one end of the base plate is the folding rewind crack. To rewind the film, you first need to press the small chrome button at the other end of the base plate. It is necessary to keep this button depressed until the film is fully rewound. At the other end of the base plate is the frame counter. This has to be manually set to zero when loading a new film. It will count up to 38 but if you manage to load a very long film the counter will quite happily follow 38 with 0, 1, 2 etc.

On either end of the top plate are strap lugs. These double as the screws keeping the top plate in place. On the right hand side of the camera is a PC connector for flash. This camera has no accessory shoe so in order to use flash, you will require a flash bracket to screw into the tripod socket.

Nikon F601

This is my second Nikon - I already have a Nikon F301. This camera is one model on Nikon's road to automation. The main elements of modern DSLR controls are in place but not quite as we would expect them today. This is my second Nikon - I already have a Nikon F301. This camera is one model on Nikon's road to automation. The main elements of modern DSLR controls are in place but not quite as we would expect them today.

nikon 8
  • lens: not supplied
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Nikon F mount
  • shutter: metal vertical focal plane
  • speeds: 30 seconds to 1/2000 seconds
  • flash: pop-up fast plus ISO hot shoe
  • film size: 35mm

The first thing you notice with this camera is the weight. The chassis is metal but the fascias etc are plastic. The camera measures 155 by 100 by 66 mm (including the grip but only 54 mm to the lens mount flange). It weighs xg.

NikonAs this is an automatic camera, there is no film advance lever. The far right of the top plate has a strap lug. Just to the left of this is a large (20 mm diameter) selector dial. This dial is horizontal and very slightly protrudes behind the back of the topple to give a grip for the user’s thumb. To the left of this selector dial is a LCD screen. This contains a whole host of information which I shall discuss shortly.

In front of the screen are three items. On the right is the on/off slider. To the left is an exposure compensation button which is used in conjunction with the selector dial. This can add up to 5 stops compensation – either plus or minus. To the far left is a ‘shift’ button for use in conjunction with other buttons. On its own, it acts as a flash exposure compensation button.

nikon 6

There is a grip on the right hand front of the body which houses the shutter release button. This is 12 mm diameter and is nearly flush with the top the grip. It is threaded for a standard cable release. On the back of the top plate is a slider which can be used to lock either the auto-exposure system or both the auto-exposure and auto-focus systems. This slider is easily moved by the user’s thumb while pressing the shutter release button with their fore-finger.

Almost centrally on the top plate is the pentaprism hump. This incorporates a pop-up flash so is much larger than with earlier SLR cameras. The flash is activated by pressing two small buttons on either side of the front of the pentaprism hump and lifting the flash. On top of the hump is the accessory shoe. This is an ISO hot shoe with a large central contact. There are also three subsidiary contacts which are not a part of the ISO standard (ISO 518:2006 if you are interested) and are dedicated for Nikon flash guns.

nikon 3Behind the hump is the viewfinder eye piece. This measures 16 by 12 mm.This has engraved upon it two circles. The larger circle is the area used for centre weighted metering and the smaller circle is the area used for spot metering. Inside the smaller circle are two square brackets – these eliminate the area used by the autofocus system – just the one area, right in the middle of the image.

Below the focus screen in the viewfinder is a small LCD screen with some basic information. On the left are two arrows with a spot between. These are the focus indicators – the area behind the focus brackets is in focus when the spot is lit. If focus tracking is set, both arrows and spot are lit when the subject is in focus and the shutter cannot be fired if they are not lit – this will not apply if the camera is set to manual focus.

Next along is the shooting mode – PSA or M. As I do not have an AI-P lens, only A and M are available (AI-P lenses have a processor in the lens which gives the camera information about the lens settings). Next is the shutter speed which can be from 30 seconds to 1/2000 seconds. In P art A modes, the camera can set the shutter speed anywhere in this range but in S and M modes shutter speeds can only be set in 1EV steps.

Next is aperture. Because my lens has no processor in it, apertures are not reported electronically and this display shows ‘F–‘. This is not a problem because I can see the aperture scale on the lens. On the right is a digital exposure meter display for use in M mode.

This LCD display can also display warnings; if the shutter speed flashes you might need to use a tripod; if ‘HI’ flashes, your picture will be overexposed; if ‘LO’ flashes, your picture will be underexposed; and if ‘FEE’ flashes, the lens is not set correctly for the auto-exposure system (the lens must be set to its smallest aperture).

To the right of this small LCD screen is a red ‘flash ready’ icon which comes on when the flash is ready (!).

What is missing in the viewfinder are any of the usual focus aids – no micro prisms, no split image. Already, Nikon were assuming that no sensible photographer would be manually focusing.

nikon 4

Left of the pentaprism hump are control buttons. There are six of these and each has two functions. To determine which of the two functions is used, you need to press (or not) the shift button on the right of the pentaprism hump. Fortunately, these buttons are used to set uptake camera and so are infrequently used.

There are four large buttons – Mode, ISO, DRIVE and BKT (bracket) – and two small buttons – meter mode and self timer. With the shift button pressed, these become Balanced fill flash (Mode), DX or Manual ISO (ISO), Auto focus lock (DRIVE). With Shift, the meter mode button sets slow flash and other self-timer button sets rear curtain flash.

nikon 7Moving to the front of the camera, the body, as usual, is dominated by the lens mount. This is the Nikon F mount as introduced in 1959 and which is still in use with Nikon digital cameras. It has three modifications over the original F mount. The first is the presence of an AI ring around the lens mount (AI=Aperture Indexed) – this allows the lens to communicate the set aperture to the camera body. Old, non-AI lenses can be used but only with manual exposure. The second modification is the presence of seven electrical contacts inside the throat of the lens mount at the top. Originally, there were no contacts, then five were added, this camera has seven and modern digital Nikons have ten contacts. The third modification is the presence of a ‘screwdriver’ autofocus link. The F mount standard is far from being standard!

As my one and only Nikon lens is an AI-S lens with no electronics the electrical contacts do nothing, and as my lens is strictly manual focus only the autofocus ‘screwdriver’ remains retracted into the lens mount while the camera is set to manual focus. There is one more feature of the mount and that is a lever on the left inside the throat that a engages with a lug on the lens. This lever movers down as the mirror moves up and, in so doing, closes the iris diaphragm in the lens.

On the lower right of the lens mount is a three-way switch. This sets the autofocus mode. The options are M (manual), S (single shot) or CF (continuous focus). For most purposes, you would use S but for moving subjects – sports or wildlife, for example – you would use CF. If, like me, you only have a manual focus lens you will use M.

nikon 2The base of the camera has little on it. In line with the lens is an ISO tripod socket (1/4 inch UNC thread). In the base of the grip is the battery compartment. This takes a CR-P2 battery which are not common but are still available – I found a shop in Lincoln that sells them. Also on the base is the rewind switch. Rewind is motorised and requires two actions to start it. First, slide the slider to the right and while holding it there, press the chrome button. Once rewind starts, you do not need to hold these two in place. My only gripe with this system is that the film is completely rewound into the film cassette which make retrieval for development harder.

nikon 5Loading the film is easy – you merely pull the film leader across the film gate to the orange square, close the back and press the shutter release button until the camera has loaded the film. There are electrical contacts in the cassette recess which read the DX code on the cassette and automatically set the film speed.

In use.

I have not been able to fully test this camera as my only Nikon lens is not compatible with all the camera’s functions. The parts I have tested work well. The camera is light-tight (not a given for old Japanese cameras) and the meter works well. The first picture where shows how the meter deals with a high dynamic range conditions – it copes rather well.

Nikon F601-8
high dynamic range

This second picture was taken with manual exposure but using the built-in exposure meter – again, works well.

Nikon F601-1
manual exposure

The rest of the pictures have a range of lighting conditions all of which were dealt with by the camera competently.

Nikon F601-12
Nikon F601-15
Nikon F601-22

Vivitar 35EE

This is a sturdy, well-made camera from Vivitar. It was not made by Vivitar but is  a rebadged Cosina 35 and was available under several other camera marques as well – Cosina, GAF, Argus, Prinz, to name a few. It dates from the 1970s and some Interweb sites suggest 1976 – I cannot date it anymore accurately that that.

P1010382The camera measures 115 by 78 by 33 mm body with the lens included it is 115 by 78 by 53 mm. It weighs a hefty 410 g. The body is all black – mainly covered with black leatherette with the top and bottom plates painted black gloss. The main body is cast aluminium alloy, the top and bottom plates are brass and the back is steel.

On the far right of the top plate is the frame counter window. This resets to ‘S’ when the back is opened – effectively to -2. The numbers are in white – just the even numbers are displayed – with 12, 20, 24, and 36 displayed in red as these were the usual 35 mm film lengths. After frame 36, the counter no longer advances.

P1010393 copyJust to the left of this window is the film advance lever. This is metal with a plastic tip and is fixed on the top of the top plate. In use, this lever sits just proud of the top plate allowing the user’s thumb a good grip. When not in use, the lever will park out of the way over the top of the plate. The shutter release button is forward of and slightly to the left of the film advance lever. This button is chrome plated and threaded for a standard cable release. The film advance and shutter release are linked together so that film cannot be advanced without firing the shutter and the shutter cannot be fired without advancing the film.

To the left of these, the top plate is slightly raised to accommodate the rangefinder mechanism. On top of this raised part is the accessory shoe. This is X synchronised for electronic flash – signified by a red ‘X‘. On the left hand edge of the top plate is the film rewind crank. This is the usual small folding crank and doubles as the catch for the back – it opens the back by being lifted.

P1010385The back of the top plate has the viewfinder window. This measures 10 by 6.7mm which is plenty for ease of use. Inside the viewfinder, the screen is larger than the image – the image is delineated by bright lines. In the top left of the viewfinder image are secondary bright lines to account for parallax with close-up photographs.

In the centre of the viewfinder image is a yellowish-green square. This is the rangefinder patch. Any part of the image within this patch that is not in focus will be split into two images. To focus the camera, you turn the focus ring on the lens until the part you want to be in focus consists of just one image. There will be more about this a bit later.

On the right hand side of the viewfinder image is the light meter readout. There are two vertical scales – the left hand one is the shutter speed and the right hand one is the aperture. There is a needle which swings up or down to the selected shutter speed/aperture pair. The slowest shutter speed is 1/30 seconds which is always coupled with ƒ/2.8 as is 1/60 seconds. 1/125 is at ƒ/4, 1/250 is between ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/8 and 1/650 is always at ƒ/14. For a given light level, the user gets no say in either shutter speed nor aperture. The reason that the shutter speed and aperture are so firmly linked is that the shutter blades double as the aperture blades – opening the shutter further takes longer and gives a wider aperture.  The scales have a red portion at top and bottom to indicate that light levels are outwith the camera’s capabilities.

The front of the top plate has two windows. The larger, 13 by 10 mm, is the viewfinder window. The other window has two functions. Mostly, it is covered with a translucent grey material. this provides the illumination for both the bright lines and the light meter display. In the middle of the translucent material is a transparent square. This is the rangefinder window which provides the yellowish-green patch mentioned earlier. The colour of the patch is the result of using gold to make the interior mirrors rather than silver.

The accuracy of a rangefinder depends mostly on how far apart the centre of the rangefinder window is from the centre of the viewfinder window. On this camera, the spacing is 25 mm which is rather close (for reference, my Zorki 4 has 40 mm, my FED 2 has 68 mm, and my Yashica Minister-D has 35 mm). This closeness means that this rangefinder will not be very accurate – but will still be better than most people guessing distances.

P1010388In the centre of the front is the shutter/lens assembly. The diameter of the assembly is 51 mm. There is no indication as to who made the shutter (but I have a suspicion that it was Copal). There are two control rings on the assembly. The inner most ring has an auto setting and five flash guide numbers. In normal use, this has to be set to ‘auto’ for the exposure system to work – there can be no manual operation of this camera. The outer ring is the focus ring. Normally, you would use this while looking through the viewfinder and using the rangefinder but you can set the subject distance directly on the scale on the ring.

P1010396 copyThe bezel of the lens has two important items on it. Just above the lenses the window to the light meter sensor. This is a CdS sensor and so needs a power source to work. This is provided by a mercury battery giving 1.35 volts. Unfortunately (or fortunately as far as the environment is concerned) mercury batteries have been banned world-wide and the modern alternatives give 1.5 volts. This is going to cause the camera to get the exposure wrong. I always find that the ‘wrong’ exposure is within the exposure latitude of film and so I just use an alkaline battery. People who are fussier than I am can adjust the film speed to compensate. This light meter sensor is within the filter thread so if a coloured filter is used, the meter automatically compensates.

To get the light meter to work correctly, it is necessary to set the film speed. The film speed window is in the bezel below the lens and displays the film speed in DIN (red) and ASA (white). This can be set from 16 DIN/32 ASA to 27 DIN/400 ASA. To change the set film speed there is a knurled ring around the lens. Also on the lens bezel is the information that the camera uses 46 mm filters, the lens has a focal length of 38 mm (slightly wide of ‘normal‘) and has a max aperture of 1:2.8 (which is ƒ/8). On the b bottom of the shutter/lens assembly is a small chrome tab. This presses in to free the inner ring to allow the user to change from Auto to a flash guide number. There is a good orange index line for the auto position and an orange ‘lightening flash’ plus dot for the guide numbers.

To the left of the shutter/lens assembly is the delay action lever. To set this you turn it anticlockwise and to activate it you press the shutter release  button. This provides a delay of exactly ten seconds.

The base plate of the camera is brass painted black. In the middle is a standard 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket. Beside this is the battery compartment. This should contain a mercury cell as already mentioned but this camera came with a silver cell in place and I shall leave it there. Also on the base plate is the button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

The leatherette on the back of the camera has a Guide Number chart. This just seems to be distances with no reference to actual guide numbers. Below this is the camera serial number – 048305795 – and the legend “Japan’ to indicate that the camera had been imported.

P1010394 copyOpening the camera (by pulling up on the rewind crank), the back hinges well away from the body. This is a Japanese camera so there are foam light seals to keep the back light tight. This camera is over 40 years old and these foam light seals are well on their way to turning into sticky goo. They will need replacing before this camera can be used in anger. There is a groove top and bottom of the body which contains the thin strips of foam – the top groove has a small button in it at the right which resets the frame counter as the back is opened. There is also a strip of foam by the hinge and a large, thick piece of foam by the catch. This last not only provided light tightness but also keeps the film cassette in place and stops it wobbling about as the camera is used.

The film cassette goes on the left. In order to insert a new cassette or remove a used one, it is necessary to pull up the rewind crank. The film gate is nicely finished and smooth. There is a sprocket shaft just to the right of the film gate. The sprockets allow the camera to move exactly the right amount of film for each new frame. Next along is the take-up spool. This is wide so it will not tightly curl the film. There are four fixing slots around the take-up spool. The only other thing I can see inside the back of the camera is a small screw above the film gate, right on the left. This is a blanking screw. Removing it reveals a small hole which gives onto another, smaller, screw. This smaller screw is used to adjust the rangefinder for infinity focus.

Test film.

I now have the camera loaded with Agfa Vista colour film to see how the camera works. I have not replaced the light seals even though they are clearly deteriorated. For the first 19 shots I forgot to set the ASA on the film speed selector and shot at 320 ASA. The photographs are all in Lincoln and the film was developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln.

So, looking at the test film results, the camera is overexposing when the meter is set to 200 ASA. I am using a 1.5 v battery instead of the 1.35 v battery that is intended for this camera. This is at least partially responsible for the over-exposure but there might be meter issues as well (and dirt on the sensor and sensor window). Fortuitously, setting the meter for 320 ASA seems to be about right – the pictures with this setting are well exposed with a good dynamic range.

The images here have had the exposure compensated for when scanning, and I am unable to actually show you the negatives over the Interweb. The first image is with the meter set to 200 ASA and the rest with the meter set to 320 ASA.

Looking at the images closely, the lens is not brilliant giving slightly soft images but at the size I am displaying them here that is not an issue. It is always worth remembering how they camera was intended to be used. This Vivitar is an amateur camera and the photographs will have never  (or rarely) been printed much above 6 by 4 inches (15 by 10 cm). More positively, there is no evidence of flare in any of the images, and surprisingly no evidence of light leaks – I have not bothered renewing the light seals.


Iloca Quick B

Iloca were a German company producing cameras in the period after WWII. They were reasonably successful producing a variety of models over a number of years. They did not, of course, survive the advent of the Japanese camera makers.

This model is a fixed lens 35mm rangefinder camera. It has no light meter but this was usual in the 1950s (and beyond). The camera is solidly made from metal – I am unable to find any plastic anywhere in this camera. According to the Hove Blue Book and also to McKeown’s, this camera was made in 1954. Both only mention the one year.

Iloca Quick B
  • lens: Ilitar
  • focal length: 50 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.9 to ƒ/22 (2.9 is not a typo!)
  • focus range: 3 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor SVS
  • speeds: 1 to 1/300 and B
  • flash: PC connector
  • film size: 35mm

The camera measures 124 by 80 by 70 mm and weighs 585 g. The body is covered with black leatherette with the exposed metal painted matt black. The top plate is satin plated brass and there is a satin plated brass fascia on the front.

The top plate is pretty much standard for a 1950s 35 mm camera. On the far right is the film advance knob – no lever yet, although later Quick models did have a lever. This knob turns clockwise and incorporates the frame counter. This counter counts up from zero and needs to be reset to zero when loading new film. It will count up to 39. This film advance also cocks the shutter which was a fairly recent development in the early 1950s and still not universal in 1954. There is a double exposure prevention system.

Quick B top plate

Forward, and to the left, of the film advance knob is the shutter release button. This is a simple chrome plated cylinder. It is threaded for a standard cable release. Left of the shutter release button is a raised portion of the top  plate. This houses the viewfinder and has the camera model name engraved on its top. The eye-piece is 4 mm in diameter which is small by today’s standards but quite normal when this camera was designed. The eye-piece has a circular surround which is very likely to scratch modern plastic glasses. The front window of the viewfinder is 19 by 13 mm.

Next to the raised portion is the accessory shoe. As this camera has a built-in rangefinder, this accessory shoe will only have been used for a flash gun. It is a cold shoe – i.e. no electrical contacts. Left of the accessory shoe is the film rewind knob. This pulls up to facilitate the insertion and removal of the film cassettes. The rewind knob incorporates a film type mnemonic. This offers the options of: color negative, colour positive, 24 DIN (200 ASA), 21 DIN (100 ASA), 17 DIN (50 ASA, and 14 DIN (25 ASA). Being an unremittingly German maker, Iloca have given precedence to the German DIN system, the ASA figures being in a much smaller font.

On the front of the top plate are two rectangular windows. One is the viewfinder window already mentioned. The other is the rangefinder window. This is smaller than the viewfinder window as it is only producing the central spot in the viewfinder image. This central spot is rectangular and has a yellow tint. This tint is achieved by using gold instead of silver in ‘silvering’ the internal mirrors of the rangefinder and helps the central spot to stand out visually.  The rangefinder would seem to be, at least, adequately accurate. Between these two windows is the maker’s name in Italic script.

On the front of the camera is a plated brass fascia. This fascia is a regular trapezium with a narrow wing on either side at the top. On my camera there is a groove running all the way around the fascia about 1.5mm from the edge. The shutter/lens housing is in the middle of this fascia. The shutter is a Gauthier Prontor SVS. All the Interweb sources and Mckeown’s say the this camera has a Prontor SV shutter, but mine is definitely a Prontor SVS. This camera has unit focusing which means the the entire lens moves to and fro for focusing rather than just the front element. This means that the focus ring is next to the body. The focus index mark and the depth of field scale are on a fixed ring around the shutter housing. The movable focus ring is next. This has two large lugs to facilitate focusing (and to facilitate finding the focus ring with the camera at your eye). The focus ring rotates through about 75º to go from three feet to infinity. – the scale is in feet as this is an export model intended for the UK market.

Quick B shutter and lens

The next control, moving away from the camera body, is the aperture setting ring. This is plain apart from a single black index mark. This ring is moved by a lug on the underside. Available apertures are from ƒ/2.9 to ƒ/22. The actual aperture scale is on a fixed black ring which also has a PC connector for flash and a flash synch selector with the options of M (yellow), X (red) and V (green). M is for flash bulbs (M=magnesium), X is for electronic flash (X=Xenon) and V is for self timer (V=vorlaufwerk). In these blog articles, I always offer the standard advice that you should not attempt to use the V – delayed action – setting on old cameras as the mechanism is prone to failure and the shutter will then be unusable. I then proceed to describe how well the self timer works. In this case, the self-timer setting does not work and by trying it I have wrecked the shutter which no longer works at all although the shutter worked fine until I tried the self-timer. I should have heeded my own advice!

The lens is an Ilitar which I suspect Iloca bought in and put their own name on. It has a focal length of 50mm and a maximum aperture ƒ/2.9. The lens is coated – indicated by a red C on the lens bezel.

The bottom of the camera has a large button on the right – pressing this frees the film advance mechanism to allow the rewinding of the film. This button carries the legend “MADE IN GERMANY”. Next to this large button is the tripod socket with the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth thread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpening the back of the camera is far from obvious – unless you have the manual, I suppose. To do this, you have to pull up the rewind knob and turn it anti-clockwise about 1/4 of a turn – this is against a fairly strong spring. Doing this causes the side of the camera to pop out, releasing the back in the process. The back comes away completely – there is no hinge.

Quick B film gate

The film cassette goes on the left; the rewind knob needs to be pushed down again to secure the cassette. The film gate is in the middle. There is not too much metal on either side of the film gate which might have implications for film flatness. Above the film gate is a toothed wheel which will be to count the sprocket holes to ensure the correct frame spacing. Below the film gate is the camera serial number. The take-up spool is metal with a single slot to take the film leader.

Replacing the camera back is simple. You line up a red dot in the top left corner on the back with a similar red dot on the top left corner of the camera. Pushing both edges of the back snaps it into place.

OPL FocaSport

This FocaSport (or Foca Sport) is a French camera made by OPL (Optiques et Précision de Levallois SA). As occasionally happens, the camera came with its original printed instruction manual – available as a download here.

  • lens: Foca-Neoplar
  • focal length: 45mm
  • apertures: ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/16
  • focus range: 0.75 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Atos leaf shutter
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/300 s
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

This is a simple camera – no light meter or rangefinder and, of course, manual focus. But it is not a cheap camera. It is well designed and well made. Looking at the Interweb, it would appear that this camera was made in either 1954, 55 or 56 – so over 60 years old. The size is basically normal for a 35 mm camera from the 1950s. It measures 130 mm wide, 64 mm deep (including the lens) and 75 mm tall. It weighs 500g. This is not a pocket camera but it does fit in the pockets of my overcoat. It follows the standard pattern of having the body covered with leatherette and the top and bottom plates bright plated metal. I suspect that this is nickel plating – partly from the colour of the metal (it has a blueish tinge) and partly because there is a slight trace of what appears to be blue/green corrosion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1954 is about the cusp of movement from knobs to levers. The film advance and film rewind are both knobs. The next iteration of the FocaSport had an advance lever. The film advance knob is on the right of the top plate. This is a combination knob. As it is, it is the film advance knob. If you pull the knob up to its first detent (12 mm), the adjusting ring for the frame counter is exposed. This counter counts down so it is necessary to initially set it to the film length. Frames 38 and 22 are represented by a red dot. The idea is that you set the counter to one of these dots when loading a new film – depending on film length – and then, once you have wound on two frames of the new film to get past the fogged film leader, the counter will be at the required number. Pulling the film advance up to its second detent (21 mm) releases the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound. The film advance knob rotates clockwise which means that the film is wound onto the take-up spool emulsion side outermost.


To the left and forward of the film advance knob is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated, cylindrical and threaded for a standard cable release.

In the middle of the top plate is a raised portion to house the viewfinder. The viewfinder is a reverse Galilean finder (which means it produces a smaller than life size image like a telescope used backwards does). The eye-piece would have been normal in its day but it is very small and hard to use  by today’s standards. I cannot use it while wearing my glasses.

The eye-piece lens is 5 mm in diameter in a circular metal surround. The front viewfinder window measures 10 by 7 mm in a window of 15 by 10 mm.  On top of this raised portion of the top plate is the accessory shoe. In 1954, this is a cold shoe and probably used for a rangefinder rather than a flash gun. On this accessory shoe is the legend “FRANCE” indicating a camera exported from France (unless OPL inscribed all their cameras “FRANCE” whether they were exported or not) and the camera serial number – 026.369.S.


On the left of the top plate is the film rewind knob. This knob has no other functions but does have a film type memo on top. The options here are ASA from 6 to 100 or DIN 10 to 22, colour – sorry, couleur – daylight or tungsten.

The front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens housing. Two shutters were used on FocaSport cameras – Atos or Crouzet – the shutter on my camera is the Atos. I can tell this by looking at the shutter speed scale. On my camera B is on the right and 1/300 is on the left. The Crouzet shutter has these the other way around.

The shutter housing is bright chrome plated and is very reminiscent of a Prontor shutter from Germany. There are three rotatable rings on the housing. The ring nearest to the camera body is the aperture setting ring. This has value ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/16. ƒ/3.5, ƒ/4 and ƒ/5.6 are in black and ƒ/8, ƒ/11 and ƒ/16 are in red. The manual for this camera encourages the user to use the red values when possible. There are no detents here but the ring is firm enough not to move by accident.

The next ring is the shutter speed setting ring. This has values from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B. In 1954, this range of shutter speeds was usual and entirely adequate with cameras with leaf shutters. 1/25 seconds is in red as this is the synch speed for flash bulbs. Electronic flash can be used at any shutter speed. The reason for the distinction between bulb and electronic flash is the time taken for the flash to produce its maximum brightness. Electronic flash guns produce their maximum brightness almost instantly the electrical contact is made. This electrical contact is made as the shutter blades complete their opening movement, so the electronic flash will flash while the shutter blades are still open regardless of the shutter speed. Flash bulbs, on the other hand, need about 25 milliseconds to burn to their maximum brightness so the shutter blades need to remain fully open for at least this time. This restricts available shutter speeds to 1/25 seconds or slower.

The third rotatable ring is the focus ring. The focus scale runs from 0.75 m to infinity but will turn significantly below 0.75 m and my guess is that it will focus down to closer than 0.5 m. The focus scale has three Happy Snapper settings. Infinity is in blue and is underlined in blue. If the aperture is set to ƒ/8, and the focus is set to infinity then the depth of field (i.e. the range of distances in focus) is 5 m to infinity. 4m is in red and with the aperture set to ƒ/8 this will give a depth of field of 2.27 m to 18.15 m  (I am getting these numbers from the printed manual). 1.5 m is in green and is underlined in green. With focus set to this value and the aperture to ƒ/8, the depth of field is 1.17 m to 2.09 m. These Happy Snapper settings are designed for Landscapes (infinity), groups (4 m) and portraits (1.5 m).

The lens is a Foca-Neoplar. Given the name of the camera maker, I would think that this is their own design and manufacture. The focal length is 45 mm which is normal for 35 mm photography (but described on the lens bezel as 4.5 cm which was how focal lengths were expressed prior to WWII but rather old fashioned by 1954. The maximum aperture is ƒ/3.5. This lens is a triplet (made from three glass elements) and is front cell focusing (which means that the front glass element moves to focus the lens, the other two glass elements staying still). Next to the shutter/lens housing is a single PC socket for attaching a flash gun.

To get inside the camera, the back and base come away in one piece. There is a slide on the base marked O (for Ouvert) and F (for Fermé). Sliding this to cover F and reveal O causes the back/base to drop away – it will literally drop off the camera if you are not careful.

Inside is mostly what you would expect from a 35 mm camera. The film cassette goes on the left, the film gate is in the centre followed by the sprocket shaft (tambour denté) and then the take-up spool. This take-up spool is very thin and will put a decided curl on the film if left in the camera for a long time. What is not expected (and I have never seen before) is a security bar (Barrette de sécurité in the French manual) to keep the film sprocket holes securely located on the sprockets on the sprocket shaft.

The makers have followed the German fashion by having large flanges on the back fitting into deep grooves on the camera body to keep the joint between the back and body light tight – no foam seals to go gooey or to be replaced!

Test Film

I have finally finished my test film and got the scans back from Snappy Snaps in Lincoln. The shutter was almost silent in operation – to the point where I was never sure it had fired – but works well and the timings are at least usably close to declared values.

The lens is a disappointment. It is very prone to flare, even if there is only a small amount of bright highlight in the frame. Most of the 24 frames of my test film had some flare. The lens is clearly coated as both the front and rear of the lens have a blue tint – but it cannot be working very well.

Foca -sport-5
Foca -sport-24
Foca -sport-14
Foca -sport-11
Foca -sport-7
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