Braun Paxette

My latest purchase is a Braun Paxette.  I am not entirely sure of the model – it seems to be a variant on the Paxette I – it has a Roeschlein-Kreuznach lens and a lever film winder.  This camera is fairly heavy for its size (that it to say, solid!).  It measures 11.5 cm wide by 6 cm high and 6 cm deep.  The Braun that made this camera is Braun of Nurnberg – there being at least one other Braun company making cameras.  I also have a different Braun Paxette model, the Paxette IIM – details here.

While this camera is not quite of the quality of the Voigtlander Vito B, it is a well made camera and was far from cheap when new.  Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer) was advertising this in 1952 at £24/10/6 (in old money. That equates to £24.52 in new money and is equivalent to around £1,500 at 2013 values).

Braun Paxette
Braun Paxette

lens: Pointar

focal length:  45mm

apertures: f2.8 to f16

focus range: 3 feet to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Prontor SVS

speeds: 1,1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300

flash: PC socket, X and M

film size: 35mm

The back is removed by unscrewing a ring around the tripod boss on the base.  The back, base and half the front then come away as one piece.   The new film cassette is held securely by a swivelling arm which makes this camera much easier to load than the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex cameras which also have the base and back come away in one piece but have nothing to hold the new cassette until the loading is finished and the back/base replaced.  In my camera, the new film is held beneath a plate that must be hinged out of the way before the film is loaded.  This plate then acts as the pressure plate that keeps the film flat – there are a couple of springs in the back that keep this plate snug against the film.  In other Paxette models, there is only a small clip to secure the film while loading.

The shutter is a Gauthier Prontor SVS leaf shutter which offers the usual speeds – 1,1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300 and B – as well as M and X flash synchronisation and V (vorlaufwerk = delay) and has a PC flash connector.  The shutter release is on the side of the shutter housing.  As this shutter is cocked by winding the film, it is very easy to take photographs by mistake.  In use, it is going to be necessary to wind the film on just before taking the next picture.

The lens is a Pointar lens made by Roeschlein- Kreuznach.  This is a 45 mm lens and is coated (at least, the lens bezel has a red “C” on it which I assume means it is coated).  Roeschlein were a small lens designer and manufacturer in Kreuznach set up in the 1940s and sold to Sill Optics in 1962.  Their lenses were mostly designed to order but they made several lenses for the Paxette range of cameras.  This lens does not seem to have a very good reputation but I will judge for myself when I see the results of my test film.

Film advance is by way of a short lever which needs to be turned full travel twice to fully advance the film.  In earlier versions of the Paxette, film advance was with a knob only and I suspect this has merely had a lever attached rather than being redesigned as a lever advance.   The film rewind is a knob on the left side of the top plate.  This needs to be pulled up fully to engage the rewind mechanism.  In the rest position, it is not connected to anything which I originally mistook to mean the film was not attached properly as the rewind knob does not turn as the film is advanced.

The extinction meter is simplicity itself to use.  You look through the right-hand window at a series of numbers.  The faintest number you can see indicates the required exposure – this number is looked up on a chart on the rear of the leather every-ready case to get the aperture/speed combination required.  Downsides:  you need to look at the numbers for a long time (20 seconds is suggested in the manual) to allow your eye to adjust to the available light and you need to have the case with you at all times to access the chart.  This actually works quite well.  I have been comparing the exposure suggested by the extinction meter with the reading from my Zeiss Ikon Ikophot meter and they pretty much agree.

The frame counter is in a slightly sunken recess in the top plate and counts down to zero, so needs to be set with the length of the film loaded.  This recess also doubles as an accessory shoe – a cold shoe in flash terms.

This camera is not the easiest to use. The viewfinder is too small to use while wearing my glasses and the shutter release has a hair trigger. Those are my main complaints in using the camera. To hold, it is very much like the Voigtlander Vito B – the same size, weight and basic shape. I suspect the Braun designers had a Vito B in mind when they were designing the Paxette I. Apart from squinting through the viewfinder, I enjoyed using this camera although I don’t think I will bother with the extinction meter again. It is so much easier and quicker to use my Ikophot or Leningrad handheld meters. Loading film while out and about is easy enough – the hardest part is finding somewhere to put the removed back/base while fiddling with the film.

Some sample pictures from this camera.  These were taken with a colour film that was several years past its best before date and had not been stored properly – hence the colour cast and colour noise.  Also, I exposed according to the built-in extinction meter and they were all rather under exposed.  With old film it is usual to give a stop or so extra exposure but this film got to be under exposed.

The following is an advert for this camera from the British Journal of Photography Almanac of 1953:

1953 005

And this is an advert from the 1952 Wallace Heaton catalogue:
Paxette  1952 006.jpg

Some sample pictures from this camera.  These were taken with a colour film that was several years past its best before date and had not been stored properly – hence the colour cast and colour noise.  Also, I exposed according to the built-in extinction meter and they were all rather under exposed.  With old film it is usual to give a stop or so extra exposure but this film got to be under exposed.

Braun Paxette
Best exposure of the bunch
Braun Paxette
Piano busker
Braun Paxette
Autumn walk
Braun Paxette
Jazz buskers

Adjusted pictures for noise and colour cast:

Braun Paxette
Braun Paxette

Agfa Silette

Agfa Silette
Agfa Silette

Agfa used the name ‘Silette’ for a large range of camera over many years.  Mine is the Silette type 4 from (I think) 1958.

It is a basic 35mm camera which seems to be well made.  It has a Pronto leaf shutter and an Agfa Color-Agnar f2.8 lens.  It has a double viewfinder – the opaque window adds brightness to the frame lines in the clear window.  There is no light meter nor a rangefinder in this model although both were available in other cameras in the Silette range.
As this is a typical basic camera, there is little to say.  The shutter is a Pronto four speed shutter – 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250 seconds plus ‘B’.  It also has a timer delay which works well (even though the general advice is not to try the self timer on old cameras).  On a fifty-plus year old camera, this shutter seems to be at least adequately accurate.
The lens is an Agfa Color-Agnar lens – not a lens I have come across before.   This is a Crooke’s Triplet lens – originally designed in 1893 in England but still in use today.  My camera came with a cassette of film already loaded, so I tried the camera out with that.  The results were decent – especially when I removed the cassette and looked at the inner surface of the lens which was very dirty (but without any trace of fungus).  This lens is clearly coated – there is a blueish/purplish hue to the glass – but the lens is very susceptible to flare.
One fault with this particular specimen is the light seals.  These have obviously failed at some point and have been replaced with black wool.  This is not a technique that works.  I shall shortly replace the wool with black foam.
The viewfinder is clear with bright-lines for framing the picture – including parallax lines for close-ups.  There is a film speed reminder on the rewind knob.  This is not as easy to adjust as it could be – you need to lift the rewind knob (as if rewinding the film) and turn a knurled ring underneath the knob.  A sign of the age of this camera is the range of ASA speeds that are available – 14, 16, 17, 40, 100, 250, 650 – you would be hard pressed to find ASA 16 film now.  Kodachrome slide film was made as ASA 16 in the 1950s – the time of this camera – and Kodacolor print film was ASA 32.  Ilford monochrome film of the time had a speed rating of about ASA 160.
The exposure counter in at the centre of the base showing on the back of the camera.  Alongside this is the serial number – VI 2457 in my case.
The camera is marked as “Made in Germany” (i.e. West Germany).  There is sometimes confusion about Agfa cameras as Agfa sold the rights to the names and designs in North America to Ansco who continued to make “Agfa” cameras for some time separately from Agfa Germany.  This is not an Ansco camera.

Olympus PEN EE (half frame)

Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Olympus PEN EE (Marque 2)

I have been keeping half an eye out for a PEN for some time and this one came up on Ebay.  It is the second marque EE made in March 1966 (the date of manufacture can be found by removing the film pressure plate.  There is a two digit code there.  The first digit is the year, the second digit is the month.  The code on mine is 63 which could be 1966 or 1976 but the EE was only made until 1966 so the manufacture year must be 1966).  This is my third Olympus camera, the others being a Trip and an OM10.

The camera is surprisingly heavy – it has an all-metal construction with the main body being cast from aluminium alloy.  The EE (Electric Eye) can be distinguished from other PEN cameras by the ring of the exposure meter around the lens.  The camera is small – 105 mm by 65 mm and 45 mm thick.  There are two strap lugs and the camera comes with a plastic wrist strap.  It also comes with a leatherette bag which is a very tight fit.  I think mine might have shrunk. The price was £25-5-0 in old British Money or £26.25 in modern British money. This equates to £848 in 2020 values.
Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Rear view
The shutter is a Copal shutter with two speeds – 1/30 and 1/250.  Normally, the camera uses the 1/250 shutter speed, the 1/30 being reserved for flash use.  There is a manual over-ride of sorts in as when you attach a flash gun, you need to set the aperture  according to the guide number of the flash.  This sets the shutter speed to 1/30 and disables the automatic exposure system.  You can use this without the flash for use in poor light.  1/30 for a shutter speed might seem a bit on the slow side for a hand held camera but the focal length of the lens is 28 mm and the recommended slowest shutter speed for 35 mm photographer is the reciprocal of the focal length so the minimum speed here is 1/28 .
The lens is a D. Zuiko 28mm f3.5 lens.  The ‘D’ prefix indicates that there are four elements (pieces of glass) in the lens.  This suggests that this is a Tessar copy.  The standard lens for a camera is taken to be the diagonal of the negative (or sensor for digital cameras).  The negative is 18 mm by 24 mm so the diagonal (using Pythagoras’s Theorem) is 30 mm.  This means that a standard lens for this camera will be 30 mm so the 28 mm lens is very slightly wide angle.  This lens takes two different filter sizes.  The smaller filter size is 22.5 mm and the filter fits over the lens but inside the exposure meter sensor.  My PEN has a UV filter in this place.  The lens also takes larger, 43.5 mm filters which fit over the exposure meter sensor which means that the camera automatically takes account of light adsorption by the filter.
Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Vertical viewfinder
The viewfinder is a bit strange at first use.  It is vertical (portrait format) rather than the more usual horizontal (landscape format) viewfinders on other cameras.  This is because the camera is a half-frame camera – only half a normal frame of film is exposed at one time.  This means that the pictures are vertical in the roll of film.  This doesn’t really matter – it just means you have to turn the camera on to its side for landscapes rather than for portraits.  In use, it really doesn’t matter.

This camera is very easy to use.  It is small enough to use entirely one handed – ideal for street photography – the shutter release and wind-on wheel both falling naturally under the fore-finger and thumb respectively, even with my large hands.  The wrist strap keeps the camera near enough tom the hand that it can be picked up one handed.  Being a one-handed camera, turning the camera for landscape is so easy.  Once the film is loaded, there are no setting to make – or, indeed, possible.  This is strictly a point and shoot camera.

The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue:

Pen 1972 016.jpg


I now have a test film from this camera developed and scanned.  Here are the results.  At this size (4″ by 3″) they look OK.  They do not bear enlarging much above this size.  To be fair to Olympus, the market this camera was aimed at would have been happy with 4×3 prints (this camera dates from the mid-1960s) and relatively small prints is all that was on offer as a matter of course.

These pictures were taken in Bamburgh in Northumbria.

Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Olympus PEN EE (half frame)
Olympus PEN EE (half frame)

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE

This is a fairly simple compact camera along the lines of Zeiss Ikon’s other Ikonta derivatives, the Contina family.  It is small enough to fit comfortably in one hand – 115mm wide by 85mm tall by 35 mm thick (75 mm thick including the lens).  It takes 35 mm film in standard cassettes.  The Contessa range was made from 1960 until 1971 and the Contessa LKE was made from 1963 to 1965.  The name “Contessa” is a look-back to the companies that made up Zeiss Ikon in 1926 – one of which was Contessa Nettel.  This camera owes nothing to that make of camera and nothing to Contessa Nettel’s designer, Dr Nagel. The price of this camera was £53-16-9 in old British money or £53.83 in modern British money. This equates to around £1,738 in 2020 values.

This camera has a coupled light meter and a coupled rangefinder.  Both of these are visible in the viewfinder which makes using the camera easy.  The rangefinder if the usual double image in an orange spot in the middle of the field of view.  Turning the focussing ring on the end of the lens moves one image – focus is achieved when the two images are superimposed.  A nice touch is the addition of two prominent plastic lugs on the side of the focussing ring which makes it easy to find it by feel while looking through the viewfinder.   The light meter in the viewfinder is not so easy to see.  It is at the top of the viewfinder in the middle and if this part of the viewfinder is against a bright sky, it disappears completely.  Originally, I found it much easier to use the other light meter view on the top of the camera but with practice the display in the viewfinder is easier to use.  When setting the exposure, it is possible to set either the shutter speed or the aperture and then adjust the other until the meter needle centres in the window.  It is much easier to preset the shutter speed as this is merely a knurled ring – the aperture ring has two plastic lugs much as the focussing ring has and it is so much easier to find the aperture ring by feel than it is the shutter speed ring.  Both the aperture value and the shutter speed are visible at the bottom of the viewfinder – this time much more clearly than the light meter is.

The lens is about as good as they come – a Carl Zeiss Tessar.  Because of the age of this camera (1960s) it is not a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar but a West German Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar.  Still a very good lens, though.  The serial number of the lens indicates it was made between 1965 and 1969.  As this camera was only in production until 1965, my specimen must be one of the last to be built in 1965.  The focal length is 50mm with a maximum aperture of f2.8 – so this is a vary fast lens – stopped down to f8, it is going to be superb.  The shutter is a Gautier Prontor 500 LK leaf shutter which is a meter-coupled Prontor with a maximum speed of 1/500 (about as fast as any leaf shutter ever will be).  The one thing that I miss on most modern lenses is the depth of field scale that was ubiquitous on lenses of this era and is present here.

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE

The accessory shoe is a hot shoe for flash connection and there is no PC connector for cold shoe flashes (an adapter was available as an added extra to allow cold shoe flashes to be connected).  These is a frame counter around the shutter release and a window that can be moved to indicate the type of film being used.  The options are Black and white, Neg, Flash, Sun, Artificial light.

The viewfinder is central and large enough even for spectacle wearers.  There are bright-lines in the file of view with parallax marks for framing close-ups.  The film advance is a lever of the top right as was now usual for 35mm cameras.  The film rewind, however, is underneath – a lever that pops out when the rewind button is pressed.  There are no strap lugs on this camera which means it is sensible to use the every-ready case but I like to carry cameras in my pocket, so I will end up one day dropping this one.  The only other thing of note is the presence of a tripod bush in the centre of the bottom plate.

After running one roll of film through this camera, I was very pleased with this camera.  It is easy to use, fits in my jacket pocket and is a suitable camera to use as a walk-around camera (i.e. one I take with me when I am not particularly wanting to take photographs but prefer to have a camera to hand just in case).  It is not obtrusive and I have found it to be excellent for street photography.

18 September 2012:  

In the five months that I have owned this camera, this camera has grown on me.  My hands have now learnt where the controls are so I no longer have to look and think.  This probably happens quite quickly if you only use one camera but I have several that I use frequently. 

The exposure indicator is clear in the viewfinder – the arrow for the shutter speed less so.  The exposure indicator is repeated on the top plate but this is not really useful.

I have a tendency to carry cameras in my pocket and that generates two problems with this camera.  Firstly, the shutter release gets accidentally pressed.  This is easily cured by not winding the film on until immediately before pressing the shutter release.  The second problem is that the delayed action lever gets moved which means that it takes a while to take the next picture.  This is made worse by the fact that the delayed action mechanism does not work very well any more.  It grinds its way through the nominal eight seconds with numerous pauses that necessitate manual assistance.   

The rangefinder is reasonably clear in use but as I take mainly landscapes, I keep the camera focussed on the hyper-focal distance (which at f8 is twenty feet).

I really like the recessed rewind lever on the base.  This is a good two centimetres long – much longer than the rewind lever on most 35 mm cameras.  It is easy to use and fairly fast.

The only really awkward part of using this camera is setting the film speed.  As I only set this rarely (I generally use APX100 film so I only reset the film speed when I use a different film) it is not a problem.

Sample pictures:

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Spurn ex-lighthouse now water tower


Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Staithes harbour

Olympus Trip 35

Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip 35
These were extremely popular, simple cameras made between 1967 and 1984.  My particular specimen was made in April 1982. In 1970, Wallace Heaton (a photographic retailer in London) was offering this camera for £34-14-0.
The camera is small – 215mm by 170mm by 160mm – and is quite light by film camera standards.  Controls are minimal.  The user must set the film speed – ASA only, no DIN – and focus the camera.  So, not quite a point-and-shoot camera but very close to.  The ASA settings are from ASA 25 to ASA 400.
There is a light meter around the lens and the camera selects both shutter speed and aperture to suit the light levels.  There are two shutter speeds – 1/40 and 1/200.  1/40 is rather slow with most cameras but the Zuiko lens has a focal length of 40mm 1/40 is about as slow as the camera can go without evidence of camera shake.  This also presupposes that the pictures will not be enlarged much above 5×7.  Of course, there is a tripod socket so in poor light you can always attach the camera to a tripod – the shutter release is threaded for a standard cable release.  If there is insufficient light to take a picture, a red flag comes up inside the viewfinder and the shutter is locked.  This also has the added benefit of preventing you taking a roll of film with the lens cap on (don’t laugh – some of us have done that with other cameras).
Available apertures are f2.8 to f22.  While the camera usually selects these, it is possible to select them manually for when using flash.  If you do, the shutter speed is set to 1/40.  For the flash, there is both a hot-shoe connection and a PC socket.  The actual aperture is square, so this camera is not going to produce particularly attractive bokeh (this is the only negative thing I have to say about this camera).
The viewfinder is quite small and has bright lines to outline the image area.  There are also smaller bright lines to show the image area when taking head-and-shoulders portraits.
The lens is a Zuiko 40mm lens of a Tessar type – four elements in three groups.  Focussing is essentially zone focussing with settings for:
1) head and shoulders
2) small groups
3) large groups
4) landscapes
If this is not accurate enough for you, then under the lens is a dual focussing scale in feet and metres.  This goes from three feet to infinity.
Olympus Trip 35
Inside the Olympus Trip 35
Finally, there are lugs on the sides for a neck strap and the camera comes with a wrist strap – more useful for a camera of this size.

When I bought this camera, the light seals had degenerated to a black sticky mass.  It is extremely easy to replace these with thin self-adhesive foam.

The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue:

Trip 1972 015.jpg

Trip AF 50

In time the excellent Trip 35 was replaced with a cheaper to make and more automatic camera – the Trip AF 50.  This is a plastic camera with a built in flash and auto-focus.  It is a well made camera but not in the same class as the original Trip 35 to which it owes nothing but the name.

Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip AF 50

Olympus OM 10

(I also have an Olympus OM1 camera)

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 front view

Excepting my Canon EOS cameras, this is my newest camera dating from between 1979 and 1987.  Behind the pressure plate inside the camera is a code which tells us exactly when it was made. The first digit is the factory code, the next digit is the year and the third digit is the month of manufacture. My camera has the code S19 so it was made in September 1981. It is an aperture priority automatic exposure camera.  Olympus produced a manual adapter which more of later.  At this age, the camera only offers manual focussing but as I am not a fan of automatic focussing this is no big deal.

lens: Zuiko Auto-s
focal length:  50 mm
apertures:  f/1.8 to f/16
focus range:  0.45 m to infinity
lens fitting:  Olympus bayonet
shutter:  cloth focal plane
speeds:  1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash:  hot shoe – X synch
film size: 35 mm

The camera is very light suggesting it has a plastic construction and so will  not be as durable as a die cast alloy camera.  It measures 136mm wide by 83 mm high and 50mm thick and weighs just under half a kilo (so is half the weight of my trusty Zenit E!).  This camera requires batteries to work.  Luckily they are not mercury cells so will still be available.

In use, one selects the required aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed.  This shutter speed is indicated by way of a red LED in the viewfinder.  As a landscape photographer, this is the way I want to work, so this is ideal.  Available speeds are 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 and 1000  (all fractions of a second).  The one second setting is actually one second or longer, according to the manual.  What I do miss that more modern cameras offer is an exposure lock by half depressing the shutter release.

Available apertures depend on the lens being used.  I would have liked my ‘new’ OM10 to have had an Olympus 50mm lens but it came with a Vivitar 75-205 macro zoom lens.  This lens is very well thought of but its minimum focal length is too long for most work.  I have just replaced it with a Vivitar 28-200 macro zoom which does not have quite the same reputation but seems to be at least ok.

There are three controls on the top plate –

1) B-Auto-Manual
2)Film speed (ASA 25 to 1600)
3) Off-On-Self timer-battery check

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 top plate

1) is normally set to Auto.  B will allow the shutter to remain open while the shutter release is depressed and manual allows the manual adapter to be used.

2) sets the film speed and also allows exposure compensation of either 1, 2 or three stops each of which is available as over or under exposure.

3) is self-explanatory.  in the off position photos can still be taken, correctly exposed, but there will be no visual indication of the shutter speed.

Also on the top plate are the shutter release, film advance lever and rewind knob.  There is also a frame counter and, around the shutter release, a collar that will take the camera out of sleep mode.

The only other control is the rewind switch which is on the front of the camera just below the shutter release.  You need to turn this 1/4 turn to dis-engage the sprockets inside the camera and allow the film to be rewound.

Below the rewind switch is a light/bleeper unit.  This sounds and lights up when the control (3) is set to battery check.  If the battery is flat or missing it neither sounds nor lights up.  It also sounds and th light flashes when the self-timer is selected.  this lasts for about twelve seconds before the shutter is released.

This camera sports a ‘hot shoe’ accessory shoe with three contacts.  The metal sides, centre spot (x synch) and a flash charge/auto check contact.  This last designed for using Olympus’s own flash units but can be used with generic flash guns in Auto mode and the manual adapter set to 1/30 seconds.

Underneath the camera are fittings and contacts for a auto winder.  It would seem that this camera will not accept a motor-drive.

Olympus OM 10
Olympus OM10 underside

The last detail I shall mention is that the shutter release is threaded for  a standard cable release.


The Manual Adapter

Olympus OM 10
manual adapter – front

Contrary to the practice with other manufacturers there is no built in way of over-riding the automatic exposure system.  To do so, you have to buy the optional manual adapter which plugs into a jack socket on then upper left front of the camera.

Olympus OM 10
Manual adapter – side

To use this you need to set the selector (1) to manual.  This over-rides the automatic system and allows you to set the shutter speed yourself, as well as the aperture.

I cannot quite see the point of this as it is much easier to just use the Auto mode and adjust the aperture until the camera selects the shutter speed you require.

Using the Olympus OM10:

While most cameras made since the mid-1950s have very similar controls, it helps to become used to a particular camera.  I am currently on my second roll of film in my OM10 and the camera is becoming easier to use.

One thing I am getting used to is only being able to adjust the aperture, the camera taking care of the shutter speed.  mostly, I use entirely manual cameras and I am just learning not to look for the speed selector with this camera.

I am also getting used to the split-screen focussing circle in the centre of the viewfinder.  I am actually quite happy with just a plain focussing screen but the split-screen is actually faster when I remember it is there.

I am using a Vivitar 28-200mm zoom lens with this camera which is a fairly heavy lens – it completely unbalances the light-weight body of the OM10.  It is my intention to get a Zuiko 50mm lens for this camera at some point – I mostly take pictures at the normal focal length but the camera came with the Vivitar so that is what I am using at the moment.

Apart from the unbalancing effect of the heavy lens, this is a delightful camera to use.  While there is a definite “clunk” when you press the shutter release, I suspect I am sub-consciously comparing this to the whisper of the leaf shutters in the cameras I mostly use.  It is certainly a lighter action than with my Zenit E!


I am getting to really like this camera. The controls, such as they are, are easy to access. I always shoot with aperture priority which is what this camera is designed for. If I ever shot with shutter priority I might change my mind. The simple way to give automatic exposure system shutter priority is to adjust the aperture ring until the required shutter speed appears in the viewfinder display. This is unnecessarily slow. The other way to get shutter priority is to use the manual adapter and set both shutter speed and aperture from a seperate light meter. The only time I have used the manual adapter is on a beach in bright sunlight where I wanted to give more exposure than the camera wanted. It is not a well thought out system, but it does not reallymatter as I use aperture priority and that is well thought out.

The shutter is very gentle – most of the quiet noise is the mirror moving. There is no discernable jarring – more than I can say for my Voigtlander Bessamatic I am also using at the moment. Film advance is a very managable sweep of the lever.

18 April 2013:  update.

I now have a Zuiko 50mm Auto-s lens for this camera.  It is a solidly made lens, weighing slightly more than my new Canon 50mm lens that also has auto-focus machinery in it.  Available apertures are from f/1.8 to f/16 and the lens focusses from 0.45m to infinity – the distance scale is marked in metres and in feet.  The focussing ring has a nice, tactile rubber finish which will make this lens easy to use by feel.

There is a button on the side of the mount that allows you to stop the lens down to see your depth of field.  The lens is entirely mechanical – the aperture settings are fed to the exposure system in the camera by a moving nudger and the diaphragm is closed just prior to exposure by a second nudger.

To be technical, it has six elements in five groups – the previous version of this lens was marked ‘f Zuiko’, the ‘f’ indicating the number of elements (a=1, b=2 etc) but this lens is just marked ‘Zuiko’.  It takes 49mm threaded filters.

I shall upload some test pictures when I have some.

Sample pictures from the Olympus OM10 with a Vivitar 70-205 macro zoom lens:

Olympus OM 10
Whitby Pier
Olympus OM 10
Abbey over Whitby old town

Pictures taken with the Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens:

Some evidence of vignetting, but not too much.

Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk
Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk
Olympus OM 10
Westleton church, Suffolk


Canon EOS 50E

Canon EOS 50E
Canon EOS 50E

This is a serious amateur camera aimed at the top of the amateur (or “consumer” to be modern) market.  It contains a number of features not found on most EOS cameras.  The most significant of these is eye-controlled focussing.  More of this later. As well as this EOS film camera, I have an EOS 650 and an EOS 5(A2).

One of the problems of modern cameras is that they are all much of a muchness and Canon’s EOS range is no exception.  It seems that the desire by designers to produce something that stands out has gone.  The 50E is instantly recognisable as an EOS camera.  The basic shape and design concepts are much as in others of the range.  So, we have the facilities we expect: a choice of three focussing modes, a choice of three metering modes, five pre-sets – portrait, landscape, macro, sport and automatic – and Tv, Av, M, Dep and program.
Focussing lock is accessed by partially depressing the shutter button and exposure lock has its own button on the top right rear of the camera.  It is possible to alter this arrangement using the Custom Functions – see below.  There is a built in flash and a hot shoe for connecting Canon’s Speedlite flashguns.  So far, no surprises.
Canon EOS 50E
EOS 50E rear view


There are six settings that can be set in the software – ISO, usually read from the cassette via the DX system – auto exposure bracketing – red eye reduction – beeper/no beeper – multiple exposures – flash exposure compensation.
In addition to the normal shutter release, there are two forms of remote shutter release.  1) a cable plugged into the jack socket at the right hand side near the bottom & 2) a zapper that can only be used from in front of the camera but will work at a significant distance.  The zapper will allow a two second delay if required.
Lenses – this is an EOS camera and will take all of Canon’s EF lenses.  As this is a 35mm camera and so a full frame camera it will not take the EF-S range of lenses intended for the APS-C format digital cameras.  It is not possible to make any mistake here as the EF-S lenses will not fit into the EF bayonet fitting.
Canon EOS 50E
EOS 50E with flash raised

The only other feature worth mentioning is the ability to rewind a film part way through.  This might be easy on a manual camera but the EOS 50E automatically rewinds the film when the film is finished and there is no rewind crank as there is on the other 35mm cameras I describe in this blog.  I think that it is Canon’s assumption that you will develop the partially used film, but if you want to finish the roll of film you have partially used, you will need to note the frame number of the last shot and take that many shots in manual mode with the lens cap on.

Eye controlled focussing.  Using this, you look at the focussing point you want to use (there are three focussing points) and press the shutter release half way.  The camera then focusses on that focussing point.  Canon take this further and by looking at the top left of the viewfinder image and then half-depressing the shutter release, you can activate the depth of field preview, albeit in a dark (very dark at f22!) image.  Personally, I prefer to have depth of field figures printed on the lens barrel alongside the focussing scale – but neither of those is at all common on modern lenses.    This eye control works better than I expected it to, particularly as I wear spectacles.  As there are only three focussing points with this camera, what eye controlled focussing really means is that you can decide to focus on the left, the right or the centre of the intended image.

Custom Functions:

  1. Automatic film rewind mode (fast and noisy or slow and quite)
  2. Film leader position after rewind leave leader out of the cassette or not)
  3. ISO film setting method (uses DX system or not)
  4. AF and AE operation (AF via shutter release, AE via button; AE via shutter release, AF via button, AF and AE via shutter release button)
  5. Self timer and mirror lock up.
  6. Second curtain synchronisation for flash
  7. AF assist beam on or off
  8. Partial metering and FE lock on centre focussing point or not
  9. Flash sync in Av mode
  10. Focussing point flashing or not
  11. Eye-controlled depth of field preview on or off.



Some sample pictures taken on Agfa Vista plus 200 ISO print film:

Canon EOS 50E
The Witch and Wardrobe pub, Lincoln


Canon EOS 50E
Church reflected in office block, Hull


Canon EOS 50E
Busker, Castle Hill, Lincoln

And on Adox Silvermax film:

Canon EOS 50E
Lincoln cathedral


Canon EOS 50E
Arboretum, Lincoln
Canon EOS 50E
Arboretum, Lincoln


Dacora Digna

Dacora Digna
Dacora Digna
This is a very cheap camera from the mid 1950s.  It takes 120 film (12 negatives to a roll) which was more-or-less standard for amateur photographers at the time.  The Digna came in several versions and my example is, apparently, close to the top of the range.  The camera is fairly small for a medium format camera – 130mm wide, 90 mm tall and 70mm thick when closed – and also relatively light.
The camera has to be opened before use, but not by extending bellows.  You turn the lens very slightly clockwise and the lens pops out on a spring.  The shutter on my example is a Gauthier Vario leaf shutter – 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200 seconds and B.  As I say, this is the upmarket version so I dread to think what the lower end of the range had for a shutter.  The lens is a Subito f4.5 75mm lens – a make I have never heard of before.  As I have no intention of putting a roll of film through this camera, I shall never know how good the lens is (or not).  The lens focusses from 3.5 to infinity (I assume that is in feet as 3.5 meters would not be very usable as a near focus.  There are two Happy Snapper settings both at f10 – nine feet and around thirty feet.  At the nine feet setting, the depth of field is from seven feet to fifteen feet, and and the thirty feet setting the depth of field is fifteen feet to infinity.  Those two happy snapper settings are going to be quite useful.  The snap-shotter can keep the focus at the near Happy Snapper setting continually if he usually takes shots of people and at the far setting if he usually takes shots of landscapes.
To open the camera, the back comes away completely – no expensive hinge on the side away from the catch!  There seems to be very little holding the back in place, but it is quite secure.  The spool carrier for the new film hinges out for ease of loading, and the take-up spool carrier is partially hinged.  For a cheap camera, this is very good and easy to use.  When the back is removed, the mechanism for the pop-out lens is exposed – it is not at all sophisticated or complex so no worries about damaging it.  In fact, I was easily able to apply a few drops of clock oil to the moving parts and thus allowed the mechanism to work as if new
The finish is very poor.  It would seem to be nickel plated mild steel and aluminium. The main body seems to be die-cast aluminium with just the top plate and back being mild steel.  There is rust coming through the nickel plated portions and there is no evidence of anodising on the aluminium and it was rather corroded on my example.  There is the normal red window on the back to view the frame numbers and there is no blanking mechanism so the film could become fogged eventually if the camera is left in the light.
I am unable to say how the camera feels in use as I am not going to actually use it.   However, it fits in the hand very well and is ergonomically designed – the viewfinder and shutter release are both where you would want them to be.  In fact, the basic design is fine, it is just the poor standard of manufacture that lets this camera down.

Voigtlander Vitomatic II


This is an update of the excellent Voigtländer Vito B.  The Vito B spawned several cameras – the Vitomatics I and II and the Vito BL. This is the automatic update as opposed to the more manual Vito BL. The Vitomatic II has a coupled light meter and a coupled rangefinder added and a new shutter mechanism (the Prontor SLK-V made by Gauthier) which is needed to make use of the light meter.

I now have a second Vitomatic – the  Vitomatic II CS  from 1967.

Voigtlander also made independent rangefinders which were less handy in use. The lens is still a Color-Skopar 50mm lens but now it is f2.8 rather than f3.5 (this might just be the items I have – I have no idea as to the options that were available regarding lenses for either the Vito B or the Vitomatic II).


The size of the two cameras (Vito B and Vitomatic II – I am going to be comparing the two throughout this posting) is the same except the height.  I have a version I Vito B with a small viewfinder.  The later version II had a larger viewfinder and is also higher than the version I.  So the Vito B (II) is the same size as the Vitomatic II.  The layout of the top plate differs as the Vitomatic II has an exposure meter window but is otherwise the same. The front of the camera is also different as the Vitomatic II has both an exposure meter and a rangefinder window both of which are missing on the Vito B.
There is one more change that is immediately apparent – the frame counter on the Vito B is a small window above the shutter housing with an adjusting wheel below the shutter housing.  With the Vitomatic II, the frame counter is on the base plate and has a small adjusting wheel beside the counter window.
e70bb-img_0661The presence of both the rangefinder mechanism and the light meter means that the SLK-V shutter/lens housing on the Vitomatic II is significantly larger than the SVS housing on the Vito B. The SLK-V shutter is Voigtlander’s adaptation of the standard SLK shutter – this is a light meter coupled shutter.  (Both Voigtlander and Prontor were subsidiaries of Zeiss Ikon at this time.)  The Vitomatic II is also significantly heavier – something that could not be avoided with the improved specification. So, in use, the Vitomatic II still fits nicely in the hand but is much more tiring to hold for a period of time. Using the ever-ready case and hanging the camera around your neck would obviate this but I like to hold the camera in my hand – it is more discrete and faster to use.
The coupled light meter is simplicity itself to use. It is of the match needle type with the needles in the window on the top plate. This is adjusted by turning the forward most knurled wheel on the shutter housing. When the two needles are superimposed, the camera is set for a correct shutter speed/ aperture combination. This can be varied in one stop steps by turning the rearmost knurled wheel. Moving this wheel alters the speed/aperture settings but keeps them in the correct range for a viable exposure. It is a bit like the P setting on a modern digital camera. The only drawback to this system is that the meter needles are not shown in the viewfinder so you need to lower the camera and look at the top plate while setting the exposure.
The viewfinder is a reverse-Galilean finder with a large (much larger than the Vito B) eye-piece with bright lines including parallax adjustment.  The coupled rangefinder is also simple to use – this time it is accessed through the viewfinder. The rangefinder presents the user with a bright spot in the centre of the viewfinder with two separate images. The user turns the focussing ring (the smaller, forward most knurled ring) until the two images are superimposed – the lens is then correctly focussed for the part of the image in the centre spot. This is made easier by the user choosing a strong vertical to focus on.

The film chamber is accessed the same way as on a Vito B – a small portion of the base-plate is unlocked and lowered and then the back swings open. This is very secure in use and the type of accident I occasionally have with my Vito II where the catch on the back can accidentally open while the camera is in use is not possible.  The one downside is that changing films while standing in the street is cumbersome – but  far from impossible.

I now have a Vitomatic I as well.  This is the same as the Vitomatic II but without the coupled rangefinder.  I do not miss having a rangefinder as I find guessing distances works just fine – at f5.6 and smaller, the depth of field is enough to cover any slight discrepancy in the guess.

There are also “a” and “b” versions of both Vitomatics – I and II.  The “a” versions have the light meter scale mirrored in the viewfinder and the “b” versions have aperture and shutter speed mirrored in the viewfinder.

Vitomatic II in use.

This is a fairly simple camera to use.  The light meter is not TTL so in use it is much the same as a hand-held meter.  The advantage over a hand-held meter is that aligning the match needles in the light meter window sets a usable combination of speed and aperture.  It is then simple to turn the inner ring on the shutter housing to set either a specific aperture or a specific speed according to the photographer’s needs.  The shutter then selects corresponding speed/aperture to maintain correct exposure.  As this is not TTL, you do not need to fumble with the controls at eye level.  If you want to use exposure compensation you merely turn the exposure control as many stops either side of standard as you need.  As this control basically adjusts the aperture, it is possible to over/under expose by a fraction of a stop.  It is worth noting that the aperture is infinitely variable between f2.8 and f22 while the shutter speed is restricted to click-stops – it is not possible to set a speed between1/125 and 1/300, for instance.  If you try, you will get either 1/125 or 1/300 depending on the exact position of the cam inside the shutter mechanism.
This camera inherits scale focussing from the Vito B complete with two Happy Snapper settings of 3.25m and 10m (roughly) at f5.6.  These settings make street photography very easy.  I often keep the camera set to 1/125 and smaller than f5.6 and the focus on the distant (10m) happy snapper setting – giving everything between 4.25m and infinity in focus.
For more critical work, there is the rangefinder.  This uses gold “silvering” of the half-silvered mirrors giving orange images in the centre of the viewfinder which are clearly seperated from the main image.  As with most rangefinders, turning the focussing knob moves one of the images – focus being achieved when the two images are exactly superimposed.
If the lens is nearly focussed, this is quick and easy.  The downside is that focussing from one end of the scale to the other cannot be achieved in one motion but in use I am not finding this a problem.

Last comment – this is a heavy camera – particularly for its compact size – but this aids stability in use.

Sample Pictures:

Waterloo Station, London


Busker, City Square, Lincoln


Lincoln university across Brayford Pool, Lincoln


Folk buskers, Lincoln

Franka Solida III camera

The first Vintage camera that I bought was a Franka Solida II.  The Solida III is basically the same camera, as you would expect, with a different lens and the addition of a non-coupled rangefinder.

Franka Solida III camera

The Solida III takes 120 film and produces a 6 cm by 6 cm negative – twelve frames to a roll of film.

lens: Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar
focal length:  80 mm
apertures: f/2.9 to f/22
focus range: 3 ft to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor S
speeds: 1 second to 1/250 + B
flash:  PC socket, no X/M switch
film size: 120

The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 80 mm, f/2.9 lens.  This is a bit unusual as the aperture sequence usually goes to f/2.8 rather than f/2.9.  The minimum aperture is f/22 which is more than small enough coupled with the 1/250 shutter speed.  It is probably worth noting that the physical size of the aperture at f/22 on a medium format camera is much larger than f/22 on a 35 mm camera and so diffraction effects are negligible and so give sharper images than an equivalent lens/aperture would with 35mm.  With an APS C format digital camera, the difference will be even sharper.  The test film showed this lens to be better than adequate, at the least.

Franka Solida III camera
The shutter is a Prontor S leaf shutter by Gauthier, offering shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/250 plus B.

Happy Snapper settings are indicated in red and are around f/9 and twenty five feet, giving a depth of field from twelve feet to infinity.  There is also a secondary Happy Snapper setting of f/9 and eight feet which gives you a depth of field from six feet to twelve feet – presumably for portraits.

There is the usual delayed action lever giving  a delay of around eight to ten seconds.  A PC socket is provided but no synchronisation lever so the flash synch could be either for bulb or electronic flash. Given the camera’s age, I suspect it is synced for bulbs but whether for M or F bulbs I do not know.

The rangefinder works well and the two images are nice and clear.  There is enough separation between the two rangefinder windows (43 mm) and there is enough movement on the adjusting wheel to make the device effective.  Unfortunately, as a non-coupled rangefinder, it is necessary to read the distance off the rangefinder and set it on the lens focussing scale.  I find guessing the distance and using a smallish aperture to be fine and I don’t think I would use this rangefinder very much.

The other niggle with the rangefinder is that it uses a separate eyepiece to the viewfinder making focussing and composing totally separate activities and further reduces the utility of the rangefinder.

There is a safety interlock between the film winder and the shutter release meaning it is impossible to make a double exposure.  There is a (very) small window beside the film winder which shows red when the film has been wound on.  In fact, it is only necessary to turn the film winder 3/4 of a turn to reset the shutter which is not enough to wind on to the next frame.  Not having a manual for the camera, I had thought the shutter faulty before I finally twigged the purpose of the small window.

The red window on the back which allows you to read the frame numbers has a sliding cover to prevent the fogging of panchromatic film.  Loading is easy.  Both the film spool and the take up spool are contained in hinged housings which hold the film securely until the back is closed.

The pressure plate is significantly larger than the frame size (80 mm wide) which means that the film is kept nicely flat – not always the case with medium format cameras.  The lens standard pops out nicely when the button on the base is pressed – this camera is fully self-erecting.

In use, this is not anywhere as easy as the Franka Solida II.  That camera opens vertically with the baseboard at the bottom under the lens. This Solida III opens sideways so that the baseboard is to the right of the lens when you are using the camera.  This leaves very little camera for the right hand to hold on to which is rather awkward. With the fingers of the right hand curled, it is quite usable and the forefinger drops quite nicely onto the shutter release.

Small items – there is an accessory shoe – cold shoe in flash terms – and a single tripod socket on the base which is to UK/USA standard.  Lastly, the film winder has a film speed reminder on its top, with DIN/ASA numbers from DIN 12/ASA 12 to DIN 24/ASA 200.  On a camera of this age, it is worth noting that the ASA numbers are the “new” ASA scale

Franka Solida III camera
Medieval troubadours, Stonebow, Lincoln
Franka Solida III camera
Medieval guildhall, Lincoln
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