Canon EOS 650

Canon EOS 650
Canon EOS 650 front view

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650


Canon EOS 650

Braun Paxette IIM

Braun Paxette IIM
Braun Paxette II M

lens: Steinheil Munchen Cassarit
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: 2.8 to 16
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: 39 mm (non-Leica)
shutter: Prontor SVS
speeds: 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 300
flash: m, x, v  PC connector
film size: 35 mm

Braun made collecting their camera tedious.  They didn’t bother putting model names on their cameras.  OK, this says “Paxette” but that is a range of cameras not a specific Braun camera.  My other Braun camera also says ‘Paxette’ and they are clearly different models.
The basic body of the design is the same but this current model has no extinction meter (no great loss) but does have a rangefinder (no great gain) and an exchangeable lens.
The film advance is a lever advance but it really is just a lever stuck on a knob winder.  It requires two full strokes to advance the film one frame – a bit awkward and not really any better than a simple knob would be.  I suspect the main advantage of adding the lever was a marketing one rather than a practical one.  The second travel of the film advance cocks the shutter and reduces the film counter by one (this camera counts down from the length of the film to zero).
Film rewind is still a knob and I prefer this to the small cranks that became popular through the 1960-s, 70s and 80s.  If a maker fits a rewind crank then it should be a sizeable one as on a Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE.
This camera does not have the extinction meter that my other Paxette has.  In its place is an uncoupled rangefinder.  This is adjusted by a small vertical wheel which works well enough but is a bit on the small side for my fingers.  As the rangefinder is uncoupled it is necessary to read the distance from a small window by the adjustment wheel and then transfer this reading to the focussing ring on the lens.  Guessing the distance is easier with a bit of practice and just as accurate with the lens stopped down to f8 or so.  The rangefinder and focus ring are both marked in meters which is unusual in an official import from Germany – the back of the camera is clearly marked “Made in Germany” so it is an official import.  My other Paxette has the focus ring marked in feet, so it is not a case of Braun not having the resources to produce market dependant versions.
The shutter is a Prontor SVS leaf shutter which was very much the standard shutter with serious cameras at this time. (1953 or so).  Compur shutters have something of a better name but I have never had a Prontor shutter of fifty or sixty years age be anything but excellent.
Shutter speeds seem to be about right.  I have no way of testing them but the manufacturers were happy with +/- 20% of the marked speed.  Half a stop out is not a problem  – half a stop is when the 1/300 speed is actually 1/225 or 1/450 seconds.  Your negative will be well exposed with that much error.
The shutter also has a PC (for Prontor Compur) flash connector with M or X flash synchronisation and V (V= Vorlaufwerk) for delayed exposure settings.  It is general wisdom not to try the V setting on old cameras as this can fail and prevent the shutter working at all.  Sure enough, when I tried ‘V’ it failed.  It took a bit of coaxing to get the shutter to fire.  In fact, I had to manually move the shutter blades (something else you should never do) while depressing the shutter release.  Not recommended and in future I shall heed accepted wisdom and leave the ‘V’ setting alone.
The iris diaphragm has (I think) twelve blades giving what is very close to a circular aperture – good for those concerned with bokeh.  The lens itself is a Cassarit 45 mm lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8  The Cassarit lens has three elements.  I can see no evidence of any coating (usually visible as a blueish sheen) but coatings were normal by 1953 and I suspect the lens has at least some coating.
The shutter release is the same as on my other Paxette – a bit of a hair trigger – but is rendered safer by being stationed between two of the stanchions which hold the shutter housing in place on the front of the camera.
Braun Paxette IIM
Camera with back/base removed
Loading the camera is simple.  You release the back by turning the wheel around the tripod boss on the base (it takes quite a few turns).  The back and base come off as one piece making access to then inside easy.  There is a hinged bracket which must be moved to one side to put the new cassette in place – one the bracket is returned to its place, the cassette is held securely.  The pressure plate is attached to the camera body, not the back, and this must be raise to put the film between the guide rails (see picture).  If you forget, your film will not be exposed!  The leader of the film goes into a slot on the take-up spool – there is nothing to hold the film in place but it works well enough.
Braun Paxette IIM
Bracket holding cassette moved to open position
Braun Paxette IIM
Pressure plate in raised position
There is an accessory shoe on the top plate (cold shoe in flash terms) in front of which is the frame counter.  The frame counter is set by a toothed wheel behind the accessory shoe.  You need to set this to the length of the film when loading a new roll as the counter counts down to zero at the end of the film.
Rewinding the film is quite awkward.  With your right hand you have to press a small button on the top plate while with your left hand you need to partially raise the rewind knob and then turn it to wind the film into the cassette.  With such a small camera it is difficult to do this two handed.  I found the rewind knob kept putting itself back in the rest position – in this position, the knob will rotate freely and the film is not rewound.  Also, it was not clear when the film had been rewound so I found it necessary to keep winding long after I thought the film must be rewound in case I opened the back and fogged a length of exposed film.  Normally, there is a significant resistance from the film when rewinding and when the film leaves the take-up spool, this resistance is significantly reduced.  With the Paxette IIM, the awkwardness of rewinding masks this change in resistance.
I now have some sample pictures available from this camera.  These were taken on Agfa Vista+ negative film (made by Fuji, if you are interested).  They show up the susceptibility of this lens for flare and there is significant vignetting in the first picture but once you avoid light sources, the lens is quite sharp and gives good contrast.
Braun Paxette IIM
Braun Paxette IIM
Braun Paxette IIM
Braun Paxette IIM

Exa IIa

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

4 February 2013:

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

CMF Comet S

CMF Comet S
CMF Comet S
This is a cheap Italian camera which uses 127 film.  The makers is Bencini which is an Italian firm.  At the time this particular camera was made, the firm was called CMF Bencini.  They were made in Milan.
focus range: 3 feet – infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: simple
speeds: 1/50
flash: PC connector, M synch
film size: 127
The camera is small and light.  it is made from an aluminium alloy which is nicely polished.  It is small, measuring 10.5 x 7 x  6.5 cm.  It is a very simple camera with only two controls.  You can focus the camera – the range is from 3 feet (circa one metre) to infinity – and you can set the shutter to 1/50 seconds or B.
It is a half frame camera using 127 film.  The negative size is 3 x 4 cm which is approximately twice the size of 35mm.  You get 16 negatives on a roll of 127 film.
CMF Comet S
Lens barrel detail
The speed selector is unusual in that it is a tab that is pulled out from the lens barrel; see photograph.  The speed selector is on the right of the picture – also visible is the PC connector for flash.  This is synchronised for bulbs only so not too much now.
The viewfinder is very small – the eye piece only measures three millimetres across.  It is the smallest viewfinder I have ever seen.  However, it is still usable once I take my spectacles off.
CMF Comet S
Comet S – rear view
As a roll film camera, it is necessary to look at the red window on the back when winding on to set the next number in the red window.  As this is a half-frame camera, each number is used twice – there are two red windows – first in the left hand window and then in the right hand one.  the picture shows the two red windows, one either side of the maker’s name.
Again as is always the case with roll film  (120 and 127 size) you do not need to rewind the film.  At the end of the roll, you wind the film on until all the backing paper is on the take-up spool and remove the film and spool together and stick the end of the film down with the sticky tab provided.  The spool the film came on is then used as the new take-up spool.
CMF Comet S
127 film spool
As 127 film is now quite expensive and not too easy to get hold off, I doubt I will ever use this camera.  So, no test pictures from this camera, I’m afraid, but samples can be seen here.


Six-20 Brownie D


Kodak SIX-20 brownie D

This must be the simplest camera that I have.  It is a box camera from Kodak made between 1953 and 1957 in London.  It was also made in the USA.  It comes with two controls besides the shutter release.  First control is a choice between “I” (instantaneous) and “B” (bulb).  I would guess that Instantaneous is about 1/30 seconds – bulb is for as long as you hold the shutter release in.  The second control is a close up lens which allows focussing between three feet and six feet.

Side view showing both control options

The camera has two viewfinders, both ‘brilliant’ finders, one on the top for portraits and one on the side for landscapes.  Given that the close-up lens allows focussing up to six feet, it is fair to assume that normal focussing range is six feet to infinity.

This camera takes 620 film which is no longer available.  However, it is the same as 120 film but on a different spool – so if I wanted to use this camera, I could re-spool some 120 film onto one of my 620 spools.  I shall not be bothering.

To load the film, the back is opened, the winder knob pulled out, and the insides of the camera come away in one piece.   The film is wound onto the inset and the inset replaced into the camera and the back closed.  Now the film needs to be wound on until the number “1” appears in the red window.  Negative size is 6 x 9 cm so this camera will take eight photographs on one roll of film.

I can date this camera to within five years by the plastic winder knob and plastic shutter release.  These were introduced on the Six-20 Brownie D in 1953 and production ceased in 1957.  Kodak also offer flash contacts on the Six-20 Brownie D but these are not present on my specimen.  I can refine the date a bit by the fact that the catch for the back was also changed – from a more-or-less rectangular shape to a triangular shape.  My specimen still has the rectangular catch so will date from nearer to 1953 than to 1957.

As tiis is such a simple camera, there is not really any thing I can add other than to say that the camera still works well – the shutter mechanism (which is very simple) is as free as the day it was made.  For sixty years old that is more than I can say for myself.

Balda Baldessa F-LK

This is a nicely designed and made  cheaper camera from 1965.  This camera has a number of idiosyncrasies that would quickly became second nature with use.  It measures 120mm by 87mm by 70mm and weighs 441g.  This is my second Balda camera, the other being a Baldina from 1935.

Balda Baldessa F-LK
Balda Baldessa F-LK
lens: Color-Isconor f2.8 45mm
shutter: Prontor 250 LK
aperture range: 2.8 to 22
speed range: 1/30 to 1/250
focus range: 1m to infinity
ASA/DIN: 11/12 to 800/30
The shutter is the lower spec. shutter Gauthier produced for coupled light meters – top speed is 1/250, the higher spec version went to 1/500.  Only four speeds are available (1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250) but this is enough if you stick to 100 to 200 ASA(ISO) film
Balda Baldessa F-LK
With built-in flash gun extended
The lens is a Color-Isconar made by Isco Gottingen and is a triplet.  These lenses have a very good reputation (they certainly sell for a high price on Ebay).  The blueish tint says that they are coated as was normal by 1965.  The focussing range is normal for a viewfinder camera – one metre to infinity – with the focussing scale in both metres and feet.  Superimposed on the focussing scale  are three zone focussing icons – portrait, group and landscape.
The diaphragm will produce apertures from f2.8 to f22 which, coupled with the range of shutter speeds, gives a very useful range of possible exposures.  This camera has a built-in coupled light meter.  This is the match-needle type  and is not TTL – again, usual for this level of camera at this time.  On my camera the light meter does not respond to light.  Even when decrepit, there is usually some response so I suspect a mechanical fault – perhaps a broken wire.
The shutter release is on the right-hand front  of the camera which I do not particularly like but it works well enough.
The film advance is on the underside on the left which is very unusual.  The film loads back to front from normal cameras – the cassette goes on the right and the take-up spool is on the left.  Unusually (I said this camera has a number of idiosyncrasies) the advance is neither a knob nor a lever.  It is a key that needs to be turned exactly half a turn to advance the film one frame.  Again, this will soon become second nature even though it feels very awkward to me.
The film rewind is also on the underside and is the same as on a Zeiss Ikon Contessa.   Sliding the rewind release causes the rewind lever to pop out and rewinding is easy as the lever is much larger than is possible when placed on the top plate.
This camera has a built-in flash.  It uses flash bulbs so is M synchronised.  A lever on the back releases a spring-loaded flash reflector and a red lever on the side ejects the used bulbs.  The built-in flash is powered by a 15 volt battery.
There is also a PC connector for an independent flash gun.  As there is no synchronisation lever and bulb flash is built-in I assume that this PC connector is X synchronised for electronic flash.
The base also has a tripod bush.  The basic bush is 3/8 Whitworth and has a removable 1/4 Whitworth slug in it to suit the more usual tripod spec.
The only part I do not like on this camera is the back.This is made from a softish plastic.  Actually, it fits well and seems to seal properly, but it still feels cheaper than necessary.

King Regula Ip

King Regula Ip
King Regula Ip

 This is a quite well designed and cheap 35 mm camera from the 1950s. On looking at the Interweb to research this camera, it seems never to have been made.  This highlights a problem with the Interweb articles – they all rely on the same sources and then repeat the mistakes they find.  I have an actual example of a King Regula Ip in front of me and I am quite sure that they made the configuration of this camera.  Therefore, the Interweb articles that exclude this particular configuration are wrong.

The inside of the camera is engraved Regula Ip (not I-p), the shutter is a Prontor SV (not a Prontor S), the lens is a Cassar f2.8, 50mm, and the film advance is a knob (not a lever).

The shutter is still a manual cocking shutter made at a time when Voigtlander’s cameras were self-cocking – I assume that Gauthier were still offering both options.  Similarly, the shutter release  is a lever on the shutter housing with an indirect linkage to a shutter release on the top plate.  Again, Voigtlander cameras from this time  have a direct  internal linkage between the shutter release on the top plate and the shutter mechanism.

The SV designation tells us that the shutter is synchronized for flash (s) and has a delay mechanism (V for Vorlaufwerk).  In the SV version there are separate levers for flash synchronisation (either M or X) and for delay.  In this particular camera, the delay is marked on the shutter bezel as ‘M’ rather than ‘V’.

There are eight shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/300 seconds  and apertures from f2.8 to f16. The lens is a triplet and appears to be coated ( there is a blueish sheen to the lens).

Prontor shutters, although the poor relation of Compur shutters, are very good pieces of kit – witness the fact they are still working after (in the case of my oldest camera) 75 years with no attention or servicing.   All other parts of this camera are clearly cheap – or at least built down to a price.  The general feel of the camera is tinny especially when compared to a Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander  equivalent.

The top plate contains the film advance knob, rewind knob, frame counter and accessory shoe.  It also has the King logo embossed in the metal just in front of the accessory shoe.  There is also a fairly crude serrated lever to free the mechanism for rewinding the film.

Inside, the take-up spool  is permanently attached and there is a toothed wheel  which engages with the film sprocket holes to advance the frame counter and free the double exposure mechanism which has no effect on the shutter itself but prevents the secondary button on the top plate from being  depressed.

The base plate is completely clear apart form the tripod boss which is the 1/4 inch Whitworth thread.  The camera back is hinged and fits without light seals which is always a plus on an old camera.

Ihagee Exa 1a

Ihagee Exa 1a

Exa 1a, front view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exa 1a, top view

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

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

Waist-level finder, closed

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

Waist-level finder, open

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

Waist-level finder with magnifier

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


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

2X teleconverter, Exakta fit

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

2X teleconverter, top view


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

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


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

Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)

Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Minolta Uniomat
This is my first Minolta (ignoring my Minolta Dimage digital camera). The Uniomat is a semi-automatic exposure rangefinder camera. It takes 35 mm film. It is not a particularly large camera for a rangefinder but it is heavy. It measures 230 mm wide by 170 mm deep and 185 mm high. This makes it too large to be considered a pocket camera – quite apart from the weight (745 g with a short test film loaded).
The maker is stamped on the base-plate “Chiyoda Kogaku” and the camera was made in Japan. Chiyoda Kogaku made Minolta cameras from the mid 1930s but only changed their company name to Minolta in 1962. In North America, Minolta cameras were known as Ansco through a trading agreement with the USA company of that name , and the Minolta Uniomat was sold as the Ansco Anscoset.
My particular camera can be dated to 1960/61 by the black plastic surround to the light cell and the black plastic surround to the viewfinder. In the Uniomat II this was chrome around the light cell and white plastic around the viewfinder.
Being a rangefinder, there are two images in the centre of the viewfinder image which the user has to align using the focussing ring on the front of the lens. This focussing patch in the centre of the viewfinder is reasonably clear – particularly bearing in mind that this camera is now fifty years old. I, personally, have a slight problem in that my natural method of holding the camera means that my left hand obliterates the rangefinder window as it is well to the left of the camera. However, this is not lethal as I can easily move my left index finger slightly when focussing.
  1. Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Top view

Setting the exposure is simplicity itself. First you need to set the ASA rating of your film (no DIN option) by lifting the inner ring on the lens and moving the red dot on the inner right of the lens to the correct ASA number (there are FOUR red dots on this ring for different purposes but it is fairly clear which one you need to use at a given moment). You then move the inner ring on the lens until the needles in the exposure window are superimposed. That is it. This sets both shutter speed and aperture – you have no control over either. There is a scale on the lens of standard EV numbers and a red dot indicating which one is in use, but you cannot influence the setting other than to move to a different EV if you want to increase or decrease the exposure. 


Wallace Koopmans has produced a chart to show the aperture and shutter speed you get for each EV value.  You can see the original and read Wallace’s comments on the Uniomat at Wallace Koopmans Artlog.  My thanks to Wallace for his permission to use his chart.

Copyright Wallace Koopmans

Once the exposure is set, there is another red dot on the right of the lens which indicates which shutter speed has been selected. These go from 1/8 to 1/1,000 seconds. That last, 1/1,000 seconds, is very fast for a leaf shutter. It is worth mentioning how Citizen (the manufacturer of the shutter) have achieved this. In most cameras, there are separate diaphragm and shutter blades.  You set the diaphragm to the required aperture and when the film is exposed, the shutter blades open to the maximum aperture (which on this camera is f2.8). This means that for smaller apertures, the shutter is spending time moving beyond the diaphragm blades and achieving nothing. In this Citizen shutter, there is only one set of blades in the lens (five blades in all) and the shutter blades double as diaphragm blades. So, at f2.8, the shutter blades open fully and offer a maximum speed of 1/60 seconds. At f5.4, the shutter blades do not open so far and the speed is 1/270 seconds. At the smallest aperture, f16, the shutter blades do not have to move very far at all and the shutter speed is an amazing 1/1,000 seconds.

Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Front view

There are other controls on the lens that are not obvious. First is the depth of field scale.  It is always nice to have one of these but this one is different. Because you cannot set the aperture, the depth of field scale does not use f numbers but EV numbers. In use it is much the same but slightly confusing to start with. Maximum depth of field is at EV18 and the depth of filed scale goes down to EV9. Below EV9, the aperture is always f2.8.  The are two scales to make using flash easy – one for electronic flash (x) and one for flash bulbs (M).  to use these, you line up the distance to the subject (taken from the focussing ring) against one of five letters (A, B, C, D and E).  This sets an appropriate EV and thus both shutter speed and aperture.  There is also a red dot that will tell you if you are too far away to use flash.

Other controls on the lens barrel are a flash selector – X (electronic) or M (bulb).  The difference between these (as on all cameras) is the timing of the flash and shutter.  With X, the flash fires as soon as the shutter is completely open and will synchronise at a speed somewhere between 1/250 and 1/500 seconds which is quite fast; faster than you will get with a focal plane shutter.  With M, the flash fires just before the shutter opens to allow the bulb to reach maximum intensity as the shutter is fully open.  In this case the flash will synchronise at 1/1,000 seconds which is extremely fast.  The last control here is the delayed action lever marked V (Vorlaufwerk, the German for ‘delay’).

The lens is a Rokkor 1:2.8 45mm lens about which I know nothing as yet – I will share when I do.


Just got the test film back from the lab.  Fairly impressed with the results.  Only downside is that I managed to get flare on a very overcast day.  Some examples:

Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Busker, Lincoln city centre


Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Path in Lincoln’s Arboretum
Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)
Pottergate, Lincoln

Kodak Brownie Vecta

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak had a long series of Brownie cameras.  These were the cheap and cheerful range and varied greatly over time.
This article is about the Brownie Vecta which was made in the UK and presumably only available here.  I was given one of these for a birthday present when I was was eleven or twelve years old when it was a strikingly modern looking camera.  It was designed for Kodak by the British industrial designer Kenneth Grange and its ‘natural’ format is portrait as that is what Kenneth Grange assumed it would mostly be used for. The price in 1965 was £1-9-1 in old British money or £1.46 in modern British money which equates to £47 in 2020 prices.
The Vecta was only in production for three years (from 1963 to 1966).  It is basically a grey plastic cuboid with a central lens and a viewfinder in one corner.  The shutter release is a white bar underneath the lens.  It takes 127 film which is hard to find nowadays but is still available (see Ag-photographic for supplies).
The lens is a simple meniscus lens with no focussing.  I have not been able to find out what the focal length of this lens is but it is significantly wide-angle for 127 film. It works by having a very small aperture – f14 – which gives a large depth of field. The big downside of this is that the camera has to have a slow shutter speed to compensate.  Kodak colour film produced at the time that this cameras was current had a speed of ASA 64 so we probably looking at a shutter speed of around 1/30 second.  My test film for this camera shows reasonable image quality at a print size of 4″ by 6″ (100mm by 150 mm) which is as large as they would have been printed in 1963.  In fact, the surviving pictures that I have from August 1968 were printed at 21/2 by 4 inches at which resolution the quality is fine.
Kodak also produced a ‘supplementary’ lens that fitted over the fixed lens that allowed close-ups to be taken.  I had one of these which had to be used with the printed instructions to get acceptable focussing distances.  This did not work too well as distances became critical and the viewfinder produced parallax errors so I never had a real idea of what I was actually photographing.  I gave up on using the close-up lens fairly quickly.

This camera was easy for a child to use – I certainly do not remember any problems in using it at age eleven or twelve.  There are indentations in the cube to facilitate holding the camera steady – and with a shutter speed of 1/30(ish) a steady hand is essential. I really enjoyed this camera as a child and still found it nice to use. The position of the shutter release and the fact that it is a bar rather than a button takes a bit of getting used to but nothing untoward. It was probably easier for me at age eleven as I had not then become used to using more sophisticated cameras and a bottom shutter release was all that I knew.

Test pictures from this camera:

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Baggholm Road, Lincoln
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln
 At this size they look OK but when enlarged (to beyond the size that was anticipated by the designers) the defects show up.  When putting the first roll of film through a “new” old camera, it is usual for the film to attract dirt from the recesses of the camera.  This shows up as black specs on the final print.  These pictures have instead white specs and very pronounced grain which suggests a film or processing fault.  I cannot tell which, but I am sure it is not the camera.
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln – enlarged to show marks
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