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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kodak Retinette 1B (type 037)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leidolf Lordox 24×36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

_1010621_1010622In use:

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

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

Here is a selection of the pictures:

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

Beier Beirette – 12/0705

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Use:

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

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


Carl Zeiss Werra mat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeiss Ikon Ikonette 504/12

This is a very small folding camera from 1929. The maker is the renown Zeiss Ikon. This is one of the first cameras to be designed by Zeiss Ikon rather than being inherited from the companies that merged to become Zeiss Ikon in 1926.


The camera is very much a pocket camera – or handbag camera, as according to Zeiss Ikon advertising this was aimed at ladies. Kodak used the name Vest Pocket to describe both their small cameras and the 127 size films used in them (this is the USA usage of ‘vest’, Kodak were not suggesting that you should carry your camera in your underwear). The camera when closed measures 122 by 65 by 25 mm and opens to 122 by 65 by 98 mm and it weighs 290 g.

To open the camera for use, you lift the nickel plated lever/leg in the middle o0f the lens door. The door can then be pulled open – there are no springs involved here. The shutter/lens assembly must then be pulled forward by hand. There is a stop which will leave the lens focused at infinity. The base of the shutter/lens assembly runs between two chrome rails and is pulled by two chrome studs.

P1010355The shutter/lens assembly is connected to the camera body with folding bellows. These are made from black leatherette and, after exactly 90 years, are still flexible and light tight. This is one of the advantages of Zeiss Ikon as Agfa bellows of this age are rarely light tight. The lens board/lens door is held in place by two chrome struts which click easily into place.

The shutter is anonymous, is an everset type and only offers one speed which is labelled I. I suspect this speed is somewhere between 1/25 and 1/60 seconds. As the negatives from this camera are unlikely to have been enlarged – contact printing being usual in 1929 – a small amount of camera shake will not have been important. The shutter also has a B setting where the shutter remains open while the shutter release lever is depressed. The selector for this is on the top of the shutter housing.

The shutter release lever is just below half-way down the right hand side of then shutter housing. About one quarter of the way down is a small, threaded, hole. This is for a standard cable release.


The aperture control is on the left hand side of the shutter housing. Three apertures are provided. These are ƒ/9, ƒ/16 and ƒ/32. As this is a cheap camera, the apertures are provided by Waterhouse Stops which are a series of holes which can be moved behind the lens. Where only three apertures are provided this is much better than can iris diaphragm. On the front of the shutter housing is the Zeiss Ikon logo above the lens and the camera name “Ikonette” below the lens.

The lens is in the centre of the shutter housing. The lens is a Goerz Frontar lens. Goerz was one of the camera makers that combined to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926. According to the Interweb, the Frontar is a cemented doublet – two pieces of curved glass glued together. The name “Frontar” appears on the lens bezel above the lens (no mention of Goerz!). Below the lens on the bezel is the information 1:9 and ƒ=8cm. The first is the maximum aperture – ƒ/9 – and the second is the focal length – 8 cm or 80 mm. Before WWII, it was usual to designate focal lengths in cm rather than mm (or inches in the British Empire and the USA).

The diagonal of the  negative is 75mm so an 80 mm lens is very slightly longer than ‘normal‘.

P1010359To open the camera for loading a film, you must slide a small chrome stud on the base and then pull the top and bottom apart. The base, back and both ends of the camera come away in one piece, leaving the body with the bellows and shutter/lens assembly. The body is made from pressed steel which is painted black. On the base of the camera body is the body serial number in the standard ICA/Zeiss Ikon format. It is R12311. The ‘R’ tells us that the body was made in 1929 (or very early 1930).

P1010361The film plus empty spool fit at either end of the body. There is a hinged flange at the base, with a hole to take the end of the 127 film spool. The film spool fits into a hole at the other end of the spool chamber where there is a chrome spring to stop the spool moving in use. The take-up spool (the empty spool from the last film) needs to rotate to wind the film on so one end locates in the film advance key. this key will only rotate in one direction.

The outside of the camera is covered with black leatherette with the edges of the camera painted black. there is a square pattern embossed in the leatherette. On the front of the camera, near the winding key, the legend “Ikonette” is embossed. On the other end is the catalogue number 504/12. The back of the camera has the Zeiss Ikon logo embossed on one end. The centre of the back has a red window to allow the user to read frame numbers when winding the film on. As this is a full-frame 127 camera, there will be a total of eight frames on each roll of film.

Plaubel folder

This is a dual-format folder from Germany. There is no name on this camera apart from the name “Plaubel A.G. Frankfurt a. M.” on the lens bezel. Plaubel are better known for their range of folding large format cameras – the Plaubel M.

P1050330This camera is a run-of-the-mill medium format camera. The camera has a rim-set Compur shutter with a serial number of 275xxxx which gives a date of 1934 for the shutter. The camera will have been made that year or the next year. The entire serial number is not visible but I know the general date by the fact that it is a rim-set shutter – introduced in 1929 – which means a seven digit number so two million, seven hundred thousand and some.

Research on the Interweb tells me that Plaubel bought in their roll film cameras from Balda and that this particular camera is really a Balda Gloria. The Balda Gloria was made in 1934 which ties in with the shutter date.

Visually, it is very like my ICA and Zeiss Ikon Icarette cameras but the details show this to have been a cheaper model – but still not cheap. The body is made from pressed steel (rather than aluminium alloy) with the bulk of the camera covered with leather (and not leatherette as you might expect on a cheaper camera) and the edges nickel plated. The camera has clearly been kept somewhere damp as there is rust coming through the nickel plating and the nickel itself has significant green verdigris.

It was usual at this time to emboss maker and model names in the leather but, apart from some straight line ornamentation, there is no embossing here. Also missing is the legend “Made in Germany” indicating that this is unlikely to be an export model (it is slightly possible that it was embossed with “Made in Germany” and that the embossing has disappeared but you can usually see such embossing even if it is too faded to read).

When closed, the camera measures 156 by 78 by 39 mm and weighs 612 g. When open for use, the baseboard extends to 130 mm. The top of the camera is plain apart from the folding viewfinder. This is just two hinged frames with no glass. The eye-piece of the finder is a plain steel plate with a 10 by 6 mm hole in it. The other frame has a 30 by 20 mm hole with a 14.5 by 20 mm central portion. If you are using the 6 by 9 cm format, you view the scene through the outer hole and if you are using the optional half-frame insert (6 by 4.5 cm) you view the scene through the inner hole.

P1050332The ‘bottom’ of the camera contains more items. About 1/3 of the way along is a large – 28 mm diameter – disc with a 3/8 inch tripod socket in the centre. At the far end is the film advance knob – also 28 mm. The film advance knob pulls up to facilitate inserting and removing the take-up spool – more later. Just by the film advance knob is a small button which releases the hinged lens door.

P1050331The back of the camera has two red windows. These are for viewing the frame numbers on the film’s backing paper. If you are using the camera full frame (6 by 9 cm negative) then you use the red window near thew the left edge of the camera. If you have inserted the 6 by 4.5 cm mask, then you use both windows – number 1 on the outer window, then number 1 on the inner/right hand window followed by number 2 on the outer/ left hand window followed by number 2 on the inner/right hand window and so on until number 8 has been used on both windows, giving 16 negatives on one roll of 120 film. Both of these red windows have a swivelling brass cover to prevent light coming in through the window and fogging the film.

P1050333The front of the camera opens by the small button already mentioned. The front opens itself on a spring – it does not open all the way but I suspect that it did when new. This is a self-erecting camera – the shutter/lens assembly moves forward to the shooting position on its now – which was a new idea in the early 1093s.

The shutter is a Compur shutter which was the up-market alternative to the prontor shutter (both were owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung, by the way). This shutter offers speeds from 1 second to 1/250 seconds. There are also B and T options. B is where the shutter remains open while the release lever is depressed. T is where the shutter opens when you press the shutter release lever and stays open until you press the shutter release lever a second time.

P1050335This shutter needs to be cocked before it will work. The cocking lever is towards the top of the shutter housing by the shutter speed scale and must be turned clockwise towards the top of the housing. When the shutter is set to 1/250 seconds, the cocking lever requires significantly more effort to move. At the top of the cocking lever’s travel is a small flush button. moving this towards the camera body allows the cocking lever to move 5 mm further. This additional movement sets the delay timer. On my camera this is a delay of 23 seconds but when the camera was new would have been 8 – 10 seconds. This self-delay cannot be set with a shutter speed of 1/250 seconds, not can a shutter speed of 1/250 seconds be set if the self-delay timer has already been set on another shutter speed. When using B and T settings there is no need to cock the shutter as the timing mechanism is not required. If the shutter is already cocked, you cannot set B or T.

P1050334The shutter release is a lever on the lower right of the shutter housing. Above this, and just below the cocking lever, is a threaded hole to take a standard cable release. The serial number for the shutter is between the cocking and release levers. Unfortunately, this number is mostly obscured by the mounting struts but enough is visible (three digits) to date the shutter to 1934.

The apertures are set by a lever below the shutter housing. This offers apertures from ƒ/3.9 to ƒ/25. This is the older, European aperture scale which became obsolete during the first decades of the 20th century. It works in exactly the same way as modern aperture scale as moving to the next higher number halves the diameter of the aperture. The maths from which the scale is derived is also the same: the physical diameter of the aperture is divided into the focal length of the lens. So, ƒ/6 is the lens’ focal length (100 mm divided by the aperture diameter (16.7 mm) giving 100/16.7 = ƒ/6. The scale on this camera is continuous without click stops so intermediate apertures can be set.

The lens is a Plaubel Anticomar. Information on the Interweb leads me to think that this is a Tessar clone – four elements in three groups. The maximum aperture is ƒ/3.9 and the focal length is 10 cm (which, obviously, is 100 mm). The change from declaring focal lengths in cm to mm occurred slowly through the 1940s. Focusing is by way of a helical rather than the older system of sliding the lens. This is front cell focusing – only the front piece of glass moves, rather than the entire lens. The focus range of the lens is from 1.5 m to infinity. This lens has a serial number of 89043.

P1050336On the top of the shutter housing is a viewfinder which is a brilliant finder. This finder swivels to allow the camera to be used in either portrait or landscape orientation. There is also the folding finder mentioned earlier which is much easier to use and also includes framing for the half-frame option.

Then shutter/lens housing is connected to the camera body  by leatherette bellows. These bellows are always a weak point with folding cameras. All my Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer folders from the 1920s and 1930s have bellows in good condition yet Agfa folding cameras are notorious for having bellows with small light leaks. The bellows on this camera have been repaired inside with black fabric tape so I must assume that each piece of tape represents a light leak.

On either side of the bellows are the metal struts that hold the camera lens door and the shutter/lens housing in place. When open, the shutter/lens housing is held rigidly in place with no p-lay – this is important as the lens needs to be exactly parallel to the film. There are three struts on either side, the front and rear struts are chrome plated and the middle strut is painted black.

To close the open camera, you need to press the tops of the struts towards the back of the camera and then lift the camera.

P1050337Inside the back of the camera are two spool carriers, one at either end. The reason for having spool carriers light baffle against any stray light coming in the hinge or the catch. German cameras never used foam light seals.

The spool carrier near the hinge takes the new, unexposed film. The spool carrier swings out on a hinge and, as it does so, one end springs out a few mm to ease the insertion or removal of the roll of film. At this end, the film spool is held o0n two short round pegs.

P1050338The take-up spool for the exposed film goes at the other end. The spool carrier at this end needs to be released before it can be swung out. Releasing the spool carrier is achieved by pulling the film advance knob away from the camera body. The take-up spool fits o0nto a short round peg on the lower end and then, once the spool carrier has been swung back into place, the film advance knob needs to be pushed back into position. The film advance knob locates in the take-up spool with a flattened key which sits in the slot at the end of the spool. The take-up spool is actually the film spool left over from the previous film and must be moved from one end of the camera to the other.

Incidentally, spools from various makers and from various times differ in detail. The empty spool that was in this camera when I bought it only has a slot at one end (it is a metal Kodak spool) and needs to be fitted the right way around. All the plastic spools I can recollect have the slot at both ends.

The film gate sits between the two spool carriers. This has four grooves, top and bottom, to allow for air movement. Oner of the weaknesses of folding cameras is that when you extend the bellows you generate a partial vacuum which can pull the film towards the lens resulting in a curved piece of film in front of the lens. This would cause the image in the centre of the frame to be soft. The grooves allow air to move into the bellows without the film moving.

At either end of the film gate is a chrome roller. These are to prevent film scratches as the film moves across the film gate.

With the front of the camera closed and the back open, you can inspect the rear of the lens. The rear lens element is clean, clear and fungus free. Unfortunately, I can also see the iris diaphragm. One blade of this is out of place and is obscuring the lower part of the aperture. It still moves as the aperture is adjusted but remains in the wrong place.

Iloca Quick B

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

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

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

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

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

Quick B top plate

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

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

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

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

Quick B shutter and lens

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

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

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

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

Quick B film gate

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

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

Voigtlander Vito Automatic R

Voigtlander Vito automatic R – a 35mm film camera based on the Voigtlander Vito C

The Vito range of cameras by Voigtlander morphed into a sizeable range – Vito, Vito II and III were folders to be replaced by the Vito B, BL, BR, Vitomatic I and II. Next came the Vito C range Vito C, CD, CR, CL, CLR, Vito Automatic I and II and this Vito Automatic R. As usual, I have no manual for this camera so I am having to work out how this works.

lens: Lanthar

focal length:  50 mm

apertures: f/2.8 to f/22

focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Prontor-Lux

speeds: 1/30 to 1/500

flash: PC socket

film size: 35 mm

Voigtlander did not use serial numbers for their cameras but did have serial numbers for their lenses. The lens on this camera was made in very late 1962. That does not mean that this camera was made in 1962 as it was normal in Germany to buy lenses (and shutters) in bulk and use them as required. So this camera could be made in 1963 but I would not have thought any later. In 1965, this camera cost £41-17-0 (in old British money, or £41.85 in new British money). Not a cheap camera.

It is an automatic camera with no deliberate manual option. The obvious way to use this camera is to set the camera to ‘AUTO’ and let the camera do its thing. It is also possible to set the aperture manually for use with flash but there is no way of setting the shutter speed. Obviously (!) the shutter has more than one speed – that is, I would expect the ‘AUTO’ setting to produce a usable aperture and shutter speed. When not on ‘AUTO’ the shutter mechanism could produce an appropriate shutter speed for the set aperture or (as this is intended for flash only) the shutter could just fire at the one predetermined shutter speed.

The available apertures for flash are f/2.8 to f/22 – a fairly normal and very usable range. The iris diaphragm has five blades giving a pentagonal aperture. At one end of the aperture scale is B – Bulb for indefinite exposures (the only shutter speed you can set by hand).

The shutter is a development of the Prontor shutter from the 1930s. This version is the Prontor-Lux. The -Lux epithet tells us that the shutter is designed to work with a light meter. Being an automatic camera, there is no meter readout – not in the viewfinder nor elsewhere.

On my camera, the light meter did not appear to work at first but does respond to, at least, extremes of light or dark. I have pointed the camera towards very different light sources and there is no notable change in shutter speed and the aperture remains at close to its maximum size (but not quite – I would guess it is at f/4). Also, in the viewfinder, there is a red spot to indicate low light. Of course, this is not necessarily the light meter – it could be the failure of any part of the automatic exposure system but the light meter probably the weakest link in the system and are notorious for failing in old cameras. As this is a selenium meter, there can be no battery issues.

The camera also has a built-in coupled rangefinder. This will be the reason for the ‘R’ designation in the camera’s name. This rangefinder has a very clear central rangefinder spot. This rangefinder is no longer coupled to the lens focus ring – again, not entirely unexpected on a 55+ year old camera.

But – someone has taken the top off the camera (and replaced one of the original slot-headed stainless steel screws with a JIS slotted black screw). The viewfinder is not seated correctly – it is crooked and slightly loose. I suspect that someone has opened up the camera to attempt a repair and made things worse. I shall have a look myself to see if I can make things better – there is probably no further harm I can do.

So, a brief description. this camera is essentially a Vito C camera. It measures 130 by 90 by 72 mm and weighs 734 g. The top plate is sparse – and made from pressed steel rather than the more usual brass. On the right is a flat translucent dome . This illuminates the red and green flags in the viewfinder. Centrally, there is an accessory shoe – no electrical contacts so a cold shoe. On the left is the rewind knob. This is flush with the top plate and to use it you must move a lever at the back of the topple slightly to the left. The rewind knob will then pop up for use. The knob will also pull up to a second position to allow for the insertion and removal of film cassettes. The top of the rewind knob has a film reminder set into it. The options are blue, yellow or white. Between the accessory shoe and the rewind knob is the camera model: “Voigtlander Vito automatic R”

The back of the top plate has three items. On the right is the film advance lever. This moves through about 225º to advance the film one frame. This is rather a long throw but quite easy to do. For people with restricted mobility in their thumbs, the lever is on a ratchet and the film can be advanced with a number of small movements. Unlike the Vito folders and Vito B range, the film advance lever also cocks the shutter directly – there is no need for film to be in the camera.

Towards the left is the viewfinder eyepiece which measures 18 by 12 mm. This doubles as the rangefinder eyepiece. There are bright lines for composing with secondary lines at the top to compensate for parallax with close-up shots. below the viewfinder eyepiece and slightly to the left is the rewind knob release lever mentioned earlier.

The front of the top plate has a chromed fascia that holds three items. First is the viewfinder window. This measures 26 by 15 mm. Centrally in the fascia is a black square, 15 by 15 mm, which contains a circular window for the rangefinder. The separation between the rangefinder and viewfinder windows is 28 mm – not so large and not comparable with the FED 2 or Kiev 4 – but accurate enough for the use this camera would have been put to (the larger the separation of the two windows the more accurate the rangefinder).

The third item is the light meter window. This is the usual knobbly glass and measures 28 by 20 mm.

Below the top plate. on the front, is the lens/shutter assembly. The shutter is a Prontor-Lux and measures 56 mm diameter externally. The prime setting for this shutter is ‘AUTO’ leaving nothing for the user to decide. It is possible to set the aperture manually – this is intended for use with flash only. The aperture range is f/2.8 to f/22 with a five-sided iris diaphragm.

The lens is a Voigtlander Lanthar lens – the name suggesting that at least one element of the lens uses lanthanum glass (in which case it would be mildly radioactive) with a focal length of 50 mm. This is front cell focusing and has a focus range from 3.5 feet to infinity. Being an export version of camera, the distance scale is only in feet. In good Voigtlander tradition, there are three Happy Snapper settings. I think that these are there as they are standard for the lens rather than being intended for use with this camera. In order to use Happy Snapper settings, it is necessary to set the aperture to the appropriate size which cannot be done on this camera.

There are two film speed scales on the shutter housing – one in ASA and one in DIN. These range from 15 DIN/25 ASA to 27 DIN/400 ASA. 27 DIN/400 ASA is not very fast by today’s standards but in 1963 you would have struggled to find film faster than 27 DIN/400 ASA.

At the bottom of the shutter housing is a small conical foot. This allows the camera to be placed on a level surface for longer exposures. With other cameras in the Vito C range there was a self timer to allow for selfies but not with this shutter.

Beside the lens/shutter housing is the shutter release. This is a vertical slide rather than a button – not my favourite system – which incorporates a hidden cable release socket. This socket is on the underside of the shutter release slide and it takes a standard cable release. Below this shutter release is a PC socket for attaching a flash gun.

The base of the camera has a tripod boss in line with the centre of the lens. This is the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. My camera appears to have an insert suggesting that the camera was made with the older 3/8 inch boss.

Also on the base is a frame counter. In line with Voigtlander’s usual habits, this frame counter counts down to show how many shots are left. This means that when loading a new film it is necessary to set the film length on the frame counter. There is a circle at frame 22 – this is because 35 mm film used to come with a film length of 20 frames rather than the modern 24 (as well as 36 frames). 22 frames allows for the two initial frames that must be wasted when loading a new film. The frame counter is run by the sprocket shaft rather than the film advance system so does not work if there is no film in the camera.

Inside is pretty normal for a 35 mm camera – the cassette goes on the left, film gate is nearly central followed by the sprocket shaft and then the take-up spool. There take-up spool is nice and large – about 20 mm diameter – which means that the film will not be curled too much thus being easier to load onto a developing spiral.

I have now found a manual for another camera that uses the Prontor-Lux shutter. This manual gives details on how shutter speeds are managed. The speeds are linked to the film speed setting – each film speed setting uses only one shutter speed. As the manual I have found has a slightly different range of film speeds to this camera, I am going to assume that the range of shutter speeds are the same. Adjusting the manual’s film speed/shutter speed table, I have come up with the following: ASA 400:1/500, ASA 200:1/250, ASA 100:1/125, ASA 50:1.60 and ASA 25:1/30.


Montanus Rocca

This camera was made by a German maker that I have never heard of before. This is not really any cause for concern as they bought in both the lens and the shutter from established suppliers – the lens from Ennna in Munich and the shutter from Gauthier in Calmbach. The maker is Montanus who were based in Solingen, Düsseldorf, West Germany.

This camera was made with snob appeal as it looks for all the world like it has a built-in light meter. In the 1950s this was unusual  and only found on the more expensive cameras. The light meter on this camera is not actually a light meter. The bobbly light meter window has nothing behind it and the light meter readout and controls on the top plate is actually a Sunny 16 exposure calculator. This camera does, however, have a fully functional coupled rangefinder.

lens:  Enna Ennit
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter:   Prontor SVS (EV version)
speeds:  1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash:  PC connector
film size:  35 mm

The camera is well made from metal. The main casting is aluminium, the top and bottom plates and the shutter fascia are stainless steel and the back is steel..  The body is covered with black leatherette which is in good condition – there is a small amount of lifting around the hinge of the back. The edges of the body and the back, where they are not covered by leatherette, are painted satin finish black. The hinge is chrome plated steel and is rusty.

 In fact, this is a Sunny 16 calculator

Montanus were basically a plastic company and you might expect their products to be made from plastic but the only plastic that I have found is the take-up spool and the Sunny-16 calculator.

Now for the description. The camera is oblong with a slightly curved profile. It measures 124 by 90  by 72 mm.

The top plate is satin finish stainless steel (as far as I can tell). On the far right is the mock exposure meter readout. In fact, this is a Sunny 16 calculator. This consists of two rotatable plastic discs. The bottom disc is clear perspex. Beneath it is a series of shutter speeds and four icons representing different scene types. These are yatch and lighthouse to present a beach, mountains and ski lift to represent snow, houses and trees to represent landscape and finally four trees to represent shaded (woodland) landscape. 

Towards the middle of the bottom disc are printed three numerical series. They are DIN film speed, ASA film speed and apertures. The top disc is made from aluminium. This has two painted pointers to allow you to set your film speed in either DIN or ASA. Behind them are three more icons to represent the weather. They are: cloud with rain, cloud with sun and bright sun.

To use this, you set your film speed, line up the weather icon with the scene icon and read off an exposure couplet from where the aperture scale is against the shutter speed scale.

In the centre of the the top plate is the accessory shoe. This will have been intended for a flash gun. It is a cold shoe as direct connection of flash guns was still in the future. On the far left of the top plate is the rewind knob.This is generously proportioned – 22 mm diameter – and pulls up to release the film cassette and allow the insertion of a new film cassette. This rewind knob has a film type reminder in its top. This has six options – colour negative and colour positive both for sunlight film, colour negative and colour positive both for artificial light film, positive for monochrome film and negative for monochrome film. This is set by gently depressing the centre and turning it.

On the rear of the top plate, on the right, is the film advance lever. this moves through 180 ˚ to advance the film one frame. The lever is made from chrome plated pressed steel. When at rest, the tip stands a few mm proud making it easy for the user’s thumb too get a grip.

In the middle of the rear of the top plate is a name plate announcing “Montanus Solingen” in painted script. To the left of this is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is only very slightly raised (by about one mm) and measures 10 by 7 mm. There are bright lines for composing landscapes but no additional bright lines for close-up work. In the centre is a bright disc – this is the rangefinder spot. With more up-market rangefinders, the internal mirrors were made with gold rather than silver, giving an orange rangefinder spot. The orange colour makes the split-image easier to see. This spot is silver but bright enough to be easy to use.

The front of the camera is dominated – as always – by the shutter lens assembly.

When focusing the lens, you get a double image within this disc. As the lens gets nearer to focus, the two parts of the double image move closer together. When the lens is fully focused, the double image becomes a single image. Rangefinders need calibrating occasionally and this particular rangefinder would seem to be correctly set up.

The front of the top plate has a large chrome fascia taking up most of the available space. Inside this fascia are four items. First, on the left while looking at the front of the camera, is what appears to be a light meter window. There is no light meter fitted to this camera but one was available as an optional extra (and cost over £8.00 which was a lot of money in the 1950s). having the light meter window in place without a light meter b behind it would have given an element of undeserved street cred. It would have also made actually fitting a meter both easier and cheaper.

Next to the dummy light meter window is a small (5 mm diameter) hole which is the rangefinder window. This is 42 mm from the centre of the viewfinder which is a respectable distance (the longer the distance, the more accurate the rangefinder) and compares favourably with the Leica rangefinder of the time.

Next to this is the camera model name is silver script – Rocca. Around the name is a rectangular slit – this slit provides the illumination for the bright lines in the viewfinder. On the right of the fascia is the viewfinder window. This measures 20 by 15 mm and has a distinct orange coating (which is not apparent when  looking through the viewfinder).

The front of the camera is dominated – as always – by the shutter lens assembly. This is surrounded by a curved rectangular fascia of satin chromed metal. The profile of this fascia is typical of the 1950s. As well as the shutter/lens assembly, this facia carries, on the top left (right, when using the camera), the shutter release button. This is chromed metal and is threaded for a standard cable release. This shutter release button is at right anglers to the camera body. On the opposite top corner is a PC connector for flash. This is the only way of attaching a flash gun as the accessory shoe is a cold shoe – no electrical contacts. 

Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk 

The shutter itself is a Prontor SVS from Gauthier. This is the EV version of the SVS shutter. With an EV shutter, the shutter speed and aperture rings are linked together. Turning the shutter speed ring also adjusts the aperture. This is to allow the user to adjust the shutter speed or aperture without worrying about maintaining the set exposure. There are a total of 16 EV settings from 2 to 18. Many light meters of the day offered EV numbers as a part of their read-out. If we assume a nice sunny day and 100 ASA (sorry, ISO) film, the ‘correct’ exposure would be 1/100 seconds at f/16. this is EV 15. Having set this EV value on the shutter, you can rotate the shutter speed to 1/300 and the aperture will set itself to between f/8 and f/11. Or you can set the shutter speed to 1/60 seconds and the aperture will set itself to f/22. The shutter speed can only be set to the marked speeds but the aperture is continuously adjustable between f/2.8 and f/22.

Shutter speeds run from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B. There is a further scale of shutter speeds in green from 4 seconds to 60 seconds. These cannot be set which might appear to be pointless but are there to tell the user the required speed at smaller apertures. An example: the light meter tells you EV 6. This gives you speed aperture options of 1/8 & f/2.8, 1/4 & f/4, 1/2 & f/8 or 1 & f/8. Suppose you want the maximum depth of field so need to use f/22. The speed aperture ring will not turn to f/22 with EV6 set. The furthest it will go is to B. Set at B, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release is depressed. Looking at f/22 on the aperture ring, it is against a green 8 (which is eight seconds). So, with the shutter speed set to B, adjust the EV (as detailed below) so that f/22 is against B (this is EV 8 as it happens but it is not relevant) and then press the shutter release and use your watch to time 8 seconds. Even though you will not achieve critical timing by using a watch, you will be well within a fraction of one stop of the required exposure.

Setting the EV value is done by pressing a pressed metal lug on the left of the aperture ring and turning both the aperture ring snd the shutter speed ring until the required EV is against the red index mark on the right side of the shutter housing. Also on the right of the shutter housing is the flash synch setting lever. This can be set to X for electronic flash or to M for flash bulbs. There is also a V position. V stands for Vorlaufwerk which is German for ‘delay mechanism’ and offers a delay of 8 seconds between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing – or it should; on my particular camera, this ‘V’ setting is very hesitant but does eventually fire the shutter.

The lens is an Ennit from Enna in Munich. Enna are not a big name lens maker but produced a number of innovative lens designs over the years.  This Ennit would seem to be a Tessar clone – four elements in three groups. This should be a good lens – my test roll will tell for sure. The apertures for this lens are f/2.8 to f/22 which is a very respectable range for a general purpose camera. There are five aperture blades with straight edges giving a pentagonal aperture. For lovers of bokeh this is not good news but for the rest of us it will be fine.

The lens has a focal length of 45 mm (which is ‘normal’ for 35mm photography). The lens focuses from about three feet (the actual minimum distance is not marked on the lens but is closer than the shortest marked distance of 3.5 feet. This closest distance is going to be close to one metre.

The lens focuses by moving the front element only – usual for cheaper cameras – which is not ideal but I doubt that any user of this camera will have noticed the slight image degradation. I know that the lens is front cell focusing as the rear element is behind the shutter and visible from inside the back of the camera. When focussing, this rear element clearly does not move. The lens is coated – certainly the front surface of the front element and the rear surface of the rear element. I cannot see the internal surfaces but I would think that they are coated as well. The barrel of the lens, as distinct from the shutter housing, is black painted aluminium with a heavy machined grip at the front.

Insides of the camera.

%d bloggers like this: