Iloca Quick

So, Iloca cameras. These are not the best known brand of cameras but Iloca were quite prolific for some years. The Iloca cameras are clearly designed to a price but are quite well made given the price restriction. The 1954 British journal Photographic Almanac has this camera advertised as costing £15-3-6 plus £4-18-8 purchase tax giving a retail price of £20-2-2 – not a cheap camera.

  • lens: Ilitar
  • focal length: 45 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 3 ft to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor-S
  • speeds: 1 sec to 1/300 sec
  • flash: PC connector
  • film size: 35 mm

This is my second Iloca. My other Iloca is also an Iloca Quick but, in that case, the Iloca Quick B with a built-in rangefinder. There were other Quick models – the Quick A springs to mind. This camera is entirely made from metal – the only plastic that I can find is the take-up spool.

The camera measures 123 by 76 by 63 mm and weighs 455 g. The body is made from an aluminium ally and is covered with a plasticky ‘leatherette’. The front is further decorated with five strips of aluminium – four at the top and one at the bottom.

The top plate is made from burnished aluminium. On the right of the top plate is the film advance knob. This camera was made at the point that advance knobs were being replaced with advance levers but not yet at the bottom end of the market. The top of this film advance knob has the frame counter. This counts up from zero to 39 and needs to be set to zero by hand when loading a new film. The counter on my camera does not work without film in the camera.

The centre portion of the top plate is raised in two steps. The first step houses a Barnack type accessory shoe – no flash contacts at this date. In front of the accessory shoe is the shutter release button. This is made from plated brass and is threaded for a standard cable release. Left of the accessory shoe, on the higher raised portion of the top plate, is the legend “Jloca QUICK” stamped in the metal. The “J” in the name is really a German capital “I” rather than an English “J”. Inside this higher raised portion of the top plate is the viewfinder. This is small as was usual in the first half of the 1950s. The eyepiece measures 5 mm diameter and the window on the front is 11 by 7 mm. This size is usable but not easy to use, particularly if you wear glasses. This is a reverse Galilean finder which means that the image in the viewfinder is smaller than direct vision. As this is essentially a miniature telescope, there is no focus screen and there is no information in the viewfinder.

Left of the viewfinder, the top plate is again lower. This lower portion has the rewind knob. Again, at this age, it is just a knob and not the ubiquitous folding crank that came in during the late 1950s. In the centre of the rewind knob is a memo for the type of film in use. There are three options here: colour positive, colour negative or film speed. Film speeds are predominantly in the German DIN system with American ASA speeds as an addition in smaller type. Speeds are from 14/10º DIN to 24/10º DIN or 25 ASA to 200 ASA. In the early 1950s, 24 DIN/200 ASA was an unusually fast film – Ilford’s FP4 at 125 ASA was marketed as a fast film (for our younger readers, ASA is functionally the same as ISO speeds).

The only thing on the front of the camera is the shutter/lens assembly. This is a Gauthier Prontor S shutter – the S signifying that the shutter is synchronised for flash. Given the date of the camera and the price point, I would assume that this shutter is synchronised for flash bulbs rather than electronic flash – but see later. Shutter speeds are the older sequence of 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/300 seconds. Moving from one speed to the next sometimes gives a full stop change in exposure and sometimes doesn’t. There is also the B setting. Gauthier made several versions of the Prontor S. This version is cocked internally by the film advance mechanism (some Prontor S shutters needed manual cocking). What is different to any other Prontor S shutters that I have seen is that when the shutter is cocked, a red flag is raised at the top of the shutter housing. This is actually quite useful if you only use the camera occasionally.

Shutter speeds are set by a serrated ring at the front of the shutter housing. There is an aperture setting behind the shutter speed ring. Available apertures are from ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22 which is a good, useable range for a non-hobbyist photographer. These are set by a sliding pointer on the top of the shutter housing. Also on the top of the shutter housing is a PC connector for flash. The “-S” in the name Prontor-S indicates that the shutter is synchronised for flash. No indication is given on the camera as to whether this is for bulbs or electronic flash. It could be for both, flash bulbs requiring a slow shutter speed to allow the bulb to burn to maximum brightness while the shutter is still open, electronic flash being useable at all shutter speeds (this is the big advantage of leaf shutters over focal plane shutters).

At the bottom of the shutter housing there is a red lever. Even though this is a Prontor-S shutter and not a Prontor-SV, there is a self-timer function (V = vorlaufwerk which is German for self-timer). The standard advice is to never use these self-timers as they are the weakest part of the mechanism and when they fail, the shutter will be rendered useless. With this camera, the self-timer is close to non-functional and needed to be helped on its way with my finger.

The lens is marked as being an Iloca Ilitar. The font used uses the long form capital “I” which looks for all the world like a capital “J”. I have been unable to find out anything about this lens. I would assume that Iloca bought in a lens from one of the many German lens makers and gave it their own name – this was quite usual in the camera industry. At this price point, I am certain that it will be a triplet. The lens bezel has a red V to denote that the lens is coated. In the early 1950s on a cheap ens, this is probably just coated on the one exterior surface. The lens is front cell focusing – the rear element of the lens clearly does not move with the focus ring. The focus range is from about 2.5 feet to infinity (this is an export camera and uses the British Imperial unit of distance). The closest marked distance on the focus scale is three feet but the lens moves significantly beyond this. The focal length of the lens is 45 mm which is “normal” for 35mm photography.

The base has two items on it. Towards the right hand end is a tripod boss. This is well off-centre which is not ideal but I doubt many users of this camera ever used a tripod. At this age, this will be a 1/4 inch Whitworth thread – the modern ISO tripod thread of 1/4 inch UNC was still 20 years in the future. Between the tripod boss and the end of the camera is a large (15 mm diameter) chrome button. This is the release to allow the film to be rewound – it needs to be pressed in the entire time that the film is being rewound.

The back of the camera is plain apart from the remains of a transfer indicating that the camera was originally sold by Wallace Heaton of London. The two ends of the camera are similarly unadorned. This poses the question of how to get inside the camera. There is no visible catch on either end not the base. The Japanese trick of pulling up the rewind knob does nothing. In the absence of the printed manual, this is a real conundrum. However, I have a technique for solving problems with old cameras and that is to continuously fiddle with every part of the camera until it finally does what I want.

It turns out that the rewind knob has three positions – normal, rewind and open. This does not work in the same way as Japanese cameras by merely pulling up on the rewind knob but when the knob is pulled up to its fullest extent, a slight clockwise turn against a fairly strong spring will cause the left hand edge of the back to spring open. The right hand edge is also held in place by a sprung edge and just needs to be pulled out. The back comes away in one piece – no hinge – and is small enough to fit into a pocket while manipulating the film. The top left corner of the back has a small red dot which matches a red dot on the camera body to indicate the correct orientation.of the back when refitting it. Refitting the back is easy. Loosely put the back in position, with the two red dots together, and press firmly. Both ends of the back will snap into the sprung ends of the camera body.

The removable back is made from die cast aluminium alloy with significant flanges around the sides to keep the joins light-tight – no cheap, messy, Japanese foam light seals here. In the middle of the back is a respectably sized pressure plate to keep the film flat over the film gate.

Inside the camera is much like many other German viewfinder cameras. There is a chamber on the left for the film cassette – no electrical contacts here as DX coding is still over 20 years in the future. The film gate is central with just enough metal around the gate to support the film. Above the film gate is a sprocket wheel – it takes the place of the more usual sprocket shaft and counts the number of sprocket holes in the film that pass as the film is advanced – eight sprocket holes equals one frame of film.

Below the film gate is a sprung pin. It took me a while to work out what this pin does. It has no function as far as using the camera is concerned. What it in fact does is push the back out when the left hand end is released. Next to this pin is the camera’s serial number. On the right is the take-up spool. This is nice and large which means that it will not impart much curl to the film. The take-up spool has one solitary slot to take the film leader. This is a very tight fit and I found it difficult to get the film leader into the slot. On the far right, the end is sprung the same as the left hand end.

I have eventually finished my test film – Agfa Vista plus 200 ISO – and had the film developed (by Ag Photography in Birmingham). The results are not brilliant but with care useable. The lens is susceptible to flare and none of the images are particularly sharp.

The first image is the sharpest but not spectacularly so. This is probably the best image from my test film.

This image of Lincoln cathedral chapter house shows what happens if the sky is too bright. With this camera, it really is necessary to obey my father’s dictum to always keep the sun behind you.

No sun in this next picture so no flare. Again, none of the picture is particularly sharp but for a holiday snapshot probably acceptable.

A bright image but with the sun well to one side so no flare. The lens is producing good contrast but still not very sharp.


Voigtländer Vitoret DR

This is a late 1960s rangefinder camera from the German firm of Voigtländer – who were owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung. This camera very much resembles my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE although it has fewer features.

The camera itself has the name Voigtländer on it in a couple of places but the instruction sheet (a large, single piece of folded paper and in no way a booklet) is clearly titled Zeiss Ikon Voigtländer. Although the Carl Zeiss Stiftung had a controlling interest in Voigtländer since the 1950s, it was only in the late 1960s that Carl Zeiss amalgamated Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer into one manufacturer.

  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 3 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor 300
  • speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/300
  • flash: PC socket, X synch
  • film size: 35 mm

The name of this camera – Vitoret – indicates that it is a derivative of the folding Vito camera of the late 1940s. The Vito range developed over 20 years or so into a range of quite sophisticated cameras – Vito B, and Vitomatic in the 1950s, Vito C, CLR and Vito Automatic in the 1960s. The D part of the name indicates a light meter – I do not know what the D stands for as the German for a light meter is Belichtungsmesser or Lichtmeter. The R indicates a built-in rangefinder.

The body is made from die-cat aluminium alloy and the top and bottom plates appear to be made from aluminium sheet. The body is covered with black leatherette and the edge of the camera are painted gloss black. The opening back is made from pressed steel and is also covered with black leatherette. The camera measures 125 by 88 by 70 mm. It weighs 538 g. This is the late model Vitoret DR with square corners – there was an earlier model with a more rounded look. The Vitoret range was introduced in about 1963 with the Vitoret D. The version with square corners was introduced in 1966 and seems to have been continued up until Zeiss Ikon ceased production in 1972. The general appearance is very similar to the Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE.

The top plate is sparse – at least compared to most SLR cameras. On the far right is a knob for controlling the light meter. This is not a coupled meter and you need to manually transfer the setting to the shutter and aperture. This meter is a selenium meter so it has no need of a battery – there is a disadvantage to selenium meters in old cameras as the selenium sensor can deteriorate over time if left exposed to light but if the camera is stored in its case or a dark cupboard that is unlikely to be a problem. On my camera, the meter is completely dead, which is likely to be a problem with the electronics rather than the selenium sensor.

To use the meter, you first need to set the film speed using the inner perspex disc. This can be set between 12 DIN/12 ASA and 36 DIN/3200 ASA. Having set the film speed, you now turn the outer ring to move the red pointer in the light meter window until it is superimposed on the meter’s white needle. You then read off the aperture (black numbers) and shutter speed (white numbers) combination that suits you. The meter was made for Voigtländer by Bewi who made meters for a number of German camera makers as well as for theirselves.

Central on the top plate is a Barnack accessory shoe – no electrical contacts so a cold shoe. Just to the right of this accessory shoe, near the rear of the top plate, is a small (3mm diameter) chromed button. This is the release button to allow the film to be rewound. It is necessary to keep this button depressed the whole time that you are rewinding the film.

Left of the accessory shoe is the maker’s and model name embossed in the metal. On the far left of the top plate is the rewind crank – this is the ubiquitous small folding crank. As well as rewinding the film, this crank lifts up to facilitate inserting and removing the film cassettes.

On the back of the top plate, towards the left, is the viewfinder eyepiece. This measures 20 by 14 mm and incorporates the rangefinder eyepiece. There are bright lines, 14 by 9 mm, bounding the image area. As this is not an SLR, there is no focus screen. The image is tinted pink. In the centre of the image is a pale green diamond – this is the rangefinder spot. The pink image and green spot makes the rangefinder easy to use. Just below the the top plate, on the right, is the film advance lever. This moves through 225º to advance the film by one frame but this can also be achieved with several short movements.

On the front of the top plate is a rectangular chrome bezel which measures 83 by 20 mm. On the right of this bezel is the viewfinder window. This measures 25 by 15 mm. Centrally, there is a black rectangle with a clear diamond. This is the rangefinder window. The centre of this diamond window is 30 mm from the centre of the viewfinder window. The larger this distance, the more sensitive the rangefinder will be. 30 mm is quite respectable. On the far left of the chrome bezel is the knobbly light meter sensor window.

Below the top plate on the front is the shutter/lens assembly. The shutter is a Prontor 300. This has a restricted range of shutter speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/300 plus B. This range, restricted as it is, will be fine for the photographers attracted to this camera. Apertures are from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22 which is a very usable range. There are five blades in the iris diaphragm giving a pentagonal aperture – the effect of this on the bokeh will be seen with the test film.

The lens is a Color-Lanthar which appears to be a triplet. Its focal length is 50 mm which is usual for this type of 35mm camera. The ‘Color’ part indicates that the lens is designed for colour photography. This might be taken for granted today but the vast majority of photography in the 1960s and earlier was black and white. The ‘Lanthar’ part indicates that the lens uses glasses containing Lanthanum – a rare earth metal that gives the glass a high refractive index allowing for ‘stronger’ elements to the lens. Lanthanum glass also has low dispersion which means that the different colours of light behave the same as they pass through the lens resulting in less chromatic aberration. The use of Lanthanum improves the quality of the lens but this lens is a triplet – only three glass elements – which reduces the quality of the lens. Other triplet lenses I have used have been quite good when stopped down to ƒ/8 and I expect this lens to be the same. The test film will show for sure.

Focal range is from just short of 3.5 feet (I suspect that it is actually one metre but this is an export camera and the scale is in feet) to infinity. There are distances marked by a red dot (close to 4.5 feet), a red triangle (between 9 and 12 feet) and a red circle (short of 60 feet. These are Happy Snapper settings for portraits, groups and landscapes respectively. These are intended to be used with an aperture of ƒ/8. I can tell this aperture by setting the red circle to the focus index and looking at which aperture is against infinity on the depth of field scale – it is ƒ/8.

This depth of field scale sits between the shutter speed scale and the focus scale. It consists of two aperture scales, one either side of the focus index, with the widest aperture nearest to the index. To establish the depth of filed for your settings, you look at the focus distance against each of the aperture values that you have set. An example: you have set your aperture to ƒ/11 and you are focused at 8 feet. The two distances against ƒ/11 are 6 feet and twelve feet so everything between six and twelve feet will be in focus.

To the left of the lens is the shutter release. This is a vertical slider rather than a button. These became common in the 1960s but I have never liked them as they require a different grip on the camera. In order to attach a standard cable release there is a threaded hole on the bottom of the slider. Below the shutter release slider is a chrome PC socket for flash connection.

The base of the camera has a standard tripod socket – 1/4 inch Whitworth I would think at this age. This socket is in line with the centre of the lens. Just in front of the tripod socket is the camera serial number – 843072. All my other Voigtländer cameras lack a serial number, their place being taken by the lens serial number. This camera’s serial number is shorter than Voigtländer’s lens serial number.

Also on the base plate is the frame counter. Unlike earlier Voigtländer cameras, this frame counter counts up. Every third frame has a number, the intermediate frames being dots. The counter counts up to 36. The counter is automatically reset to -2 by opening the back.

To get inside the camera, there is a catch on the left-hand edge of the camera. To open the back, you must squeeze the top and bottom of the catch and the back will pop open. The back itself has a rather small pressure plate and a small chrome roller to keep the film against the sprocket shaft.

The film cassette goes on the left – the rewind crank holds the cassette in place and needs to be lifted to either insert or remove the cassette. The film gate is no larger than necessary and smaller than in most 35mm cameras. To the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. The rôle of this is to count the sprocket holes in the film as it passes the film gate to ensure that exactly one frame is advanced each time – eight holes to one frame. The take-up spool is nice and wide – this means that the film is not curled too tightly on the take-up spool. With some cameras, a thin take-up spool means that the film will not lie flat for printing or scanning. There are four slots on take-up spool which are nice and wide and make it easy to fit a new film.

I have eventually finished my test film – Agfa Vista plus, 200 ISO – and have had the film developed by AG Photography in Birmingham. The results are quite good for a 50+ year old camera – everything is working as it should. The shutter is clearly within spec as the negatives are nicely exposed – I cannot show this on the Interweb as the scanning process compensates for poorly exposed negative but I can examine the actual negatives and they have the image density I would like them to have. The same goes for the aperture.

My first two images are test of the rangefinder. In the first image, I have focused using the rangefinder on the nearest silver knob with the aperture wide open. That is in focus and the rest of the image is not. The silver knob was close to the closest focus distance for this lens (3.5 feet).

This next picture is using the rangefinder to focus on something a bit further away. Again, the subject is in focus and the rest is not, which is good.

This next image is the Strait in Lincoln a dull day. Image contrast is good as is focus.

The chapter house at Lincoln cathedral, covered in scaffolding for repairs. This is looking west and has caused a small amount of flare. Otherwise, I am pleased with this image.

While enjoying a cup of coffee with Bestbeloved in Caffè Nero in Lincoln, I tried this camera hand-held indoors. To get a good exposure, I used a fairly long shutter speed. I was able to hold then camera steady enough for there to be no visible camera shake, but I doubt I could enlarge the picture much above what it is here.

The last image is of Bestbeloved looking at gulls through her binoculars (which is what she can usually be found to be doing). This is in Scarborough and was taken in light rain. The lens has good micro-contrast and good colour rendition in quite poor light.

Overall, I am impressed with this camera. The lens is a triplet but performs well enough. It was made by one of the foremost camera makers of the 20th century so it should be good but its was towards the end of German hegemony in this industry and the Germans were finding out that they could not compete with the Japanese. Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer started making down to a price rather than up to a standard. The Japanese, of course, managed to build down to a price whilst also building up to a standard.


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

Foth Folder

My criterion for buying my old cameras is that they must interest me. I prefer them to be in working condition but it is not essential. In good cosmetic condition is nice but so is ‘well loved’. In this case, ‘Interesting’ is the maker – Foth. Previously, I knew of Foth from the Foth Derby camera which has a very high reputation (yet I do not own one!). This Foth folder dates from the very early 1930s as far as I can ascertain. In many ways it is the same as many folding cameras made by many makers around the world.My criterion for buying my old cameras is that they must interest me. I prefer them to be in working condition but it is not essential. In good cosmetic condition is nice but so is ‘well loved’. In this case, ‘Interesting’ is the maker – Foth. Previously, I knew of Foth from the Foth Derby camera which has a very high reputation (yet I do not own one!). This Foth folder dates from the very early 1930s as far as I can ascertain. In many ways it is the same as many folding cameras made by many makers around the world.

P1050094Dating is hard as there are no serial numbers anywhere. Many features – iconometer for viewfinder, presence of a Brilliant finder, dial-set shutter, slide focusing rather than helical focusing – point to pre-1930 (although pre-1930 can extend into the mid-1930s). Even with those features, the detail of the iconometer suggest earlier rather than later – the eye-piece is a pointer rather than a frame. Yet, the Interweb tells me that having two knobs to extend the bellows means post-1930 on Foth cameras and the presence of the iconometer means post 1931. So, if I am to believe the Interweb, Foth were selling a very old-fashioned camera in the 1930s. I have no evidence on the camera to be able to form my own opinion here.


lens: Foth Doppel

focal length:  105 mm

apertures: f/4.5 to f/36 (Stoize scale)

focus range: 1.5 m to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Foth everset

speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T

flash: No!

film size: 120

The maximum aperture of f/4.5 also suggests a later date but the aperture scale – 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18, 25, 36 – suggests an earlier date. I am not sure when the scale used here finally disappeared but my other cameras of this sort of date seem to have changed over to the modern scale around 1930 – the actual dates vary from maker to maker (Zeiss early 1900s, Voigtlander at the very end of the 1930s, Leitz in the early 1940s). All in all, I think I can safely say that this camera was made before 1940 and probably 1931 to 1935.

P1050100The name ‘Foth’ only appears once on the camera. It is embedded in the leatherette on the baseboard/lens door. There is no model name or reference number anywhere. I assume this means that Foth only made the one folding camera model. The rear of the camera has the initials ‘H.E.F.’ stencilled in white on a scroll background – this will be either the retailer or the owner. I tend to think it is the initials of the owner as retailers usually rely on stickers on the inside.

P1050086The camera measures 163 by 80 by 34 mm when closed and by 135 mm when open. It weighs 578 g. While the camera is closed, there are few controls apparent. On one long edge are the film advance key at one end, the viewfinder eyepiece/pointer in the middle and the baseboard/lens door release button near the other end. On the other long edge, at the end, is the tripod socket which is the 3/8 inch version. Near the middle is a sliding button to release the back for film loading. This part is very like a Braun Paxette – the back, the base and part of the front on both sides come away in one piece.

P1050087On the back is only the red window for advancing the film. On the front of the camera is the hinged baseboard/lens door. While closed, this has a folding foot to enable the camera to sit upright on a level surface. Near the hinge is a second tripod socket. Again, this is a 3/8 inch thread.

P1050085P1050084The whole camera os covered with a thick, cardboard based, leatherette. This has been very damp at some point and the cardboard backing has seriously buckled. The leatherette on the hinged baseboard has the legend ‘Foth’ embossed on it.


P1050092Pressing the stud on long side causes the baseboard to spring open. The spring is strong enough to open this all the way without any help. All that is required of the user is to click the baseboard down to finally locate the struts securely.  As an older design camera, the shutter/lens assembly does not move and needs to be pulled out by hand – two chromed studs are provided as a hand-hold. Pulling the shutter/lens out to the stop position will leave the lens focused at infinity. To focus nearer, there is a metal slide on the front right-hand side of the baseboard. This has an ivorine scale which extends from infinity to 1.5 metres. Fine focus is not possible but this will not have mattered as the user will only have had contact prints made and focus defects would not have been visible.

Logo is FCFC

The shutter is an everset shutter made by Foth. It bears the logo ‘FCFC’ for ‘F.C. Foth Company’. This offers speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 seconds plus B and T (B keeps the Sutter open for as long as you keep your finger on the shutter release. T opens the shutter which will stay open until you press the shutter release a second time). The lens is a Doppel which is German for double and indicates a two element lens. This will be better than the single meniscus lens used on very cheap cameras but nowhere as good as a triplet as used on cheaper decent cameras or an upmarket Tessar with its four elements. There is a socket for a standard cable release just below the shutter release lever. There is no delay action lever on this camera.


There are two viewfinders provided. The first is a small brilliant finder which will only work in good but not bright light. When the camera is folded up this brilliant finder collapses to fit into the tight space available for it in the camera body. I find these finders just about impossible to use. This one is in good condition – usually they are made from steel that has had chromium plated directly onto the steel which is usually too rusted after 50 to 100 years to be usable. The second finder is an iconometer (I think the name ‘Iconometer’ might have been a registered trademark of Zeiss Ikon but I am still going to use it). This consists of a large wire frame attached to the side of the shutter housing. In use, it hinges out to the left. This wire frame measures 60 mm by 90 mm which is the size of the negative. On the camera body is a folding pointer which the user has to centre in the frame. This is not going to be precise but will have been more than good enough for holiday landscapes and beach portraits.

To open the camera to fit film or remove a finished film, there is a sliding knob in the

‘Z” for closed is just visible in the bottom of the slot

centre of one long side. Sliding this as far as it will go, you can pull the two long edges apart, revealing the innards. There are the letters Z and A to indicate open and closed in German (Z = closed, A = open) but these are barely visible. The camera body and the camera back are made of aluminium which is a rather soft metal. Over the years there has been some distortion of both body and back which makes opening the camera fairly hard. I would think that when new, this would have been easy. The two spools (new film and the empty take-up


spool) are held

in place by a black painted brass strip. This does not hold the spools very securely and I find it necessary to keep a finger on each spool as I refit the back. Might get easier with practice.


Voigtlander Vitomatic IICS

Another derivation of the Vito B from Voigtlander – the last of the Vito B line.

I already have a Voigtlander Vitomatic II which in turn is based on the Voigtlander Vito B camera. This camera is from the same stable. I now have four Vito B derivatives as the Vito BL is a precursor of the Vitomatic cameras. This first photograph shows my four Vito B derived cameras. They are very similar – they share the same basic body casting – but vary in many details. The Vito B was the first old camera I bought and is still a very special camera to me.P1030956


lens:  Color-Skopar
focal length:  50 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 3.5 feet
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor 500 SLK-V
speeds: 1 second to 1/500 second
flash: hot shoe plus PC connector
film size: 35 mm


This CS model has a more modern looking bezel around the viewfinder, rangefinder and meter sensor than the earlier Vito B range but is otherwise much the same as the earlier cameras.


I will give a simple description concentrating on the differences introduced with this model.

The top of the camera has a translucent dome on the right-hand end which has two functions. Its primary function is as a battery holder for the light meter which his clearly a CdS meter rather than a selenium meter in the earlier Vitomatic II. The battery is a PX 625 button battery which is a banned mercury battery. Modern alternatives are available but will affect the light meter as the voltage will be slightly too high. The secondary purpose is the translucence which provides light to enable the user to see the meter needle in the viewfinder.


At the other end of the top is the rewind crank. The earlier Vitomatics (and Vito B, Vito BL) had a rewind knob – this has been replaced with a fold-out crank as has become usual. This has an idiosyncrasity in that in order to fold-out the crank, it is necessary to flick a serrated lever on the end of the camera below the rewind crank. In the older Vito series, this caused the rewind knob to pop up. Now it causes the crank to pop up – the user still needs to unfold it.

In the centre of the top is the accessory shoe. This now has electrical contacts for a flash gun so is a hot shoe. This camera also retains the ability to use off-camera flash with a PC connector on the left-hand end above the serrated lever for the rewind crank. The viewfinder eyepiece on the back of the camera is nice and large and has clear bright-lines for framing the picture. These have secondary lines to allow for parallax in close-focus photographs.

In the centre of the viewfinder image is the rangefinder spot. This is decidedly orange (achieved by using gold-plated mirrors instead of silvered mirrors) and quite easy to see but is a bit on the small side. The split-image rangefinder spot has high contrast making it easy to align the images (Note:  while writing this article, the rangefinder has stopped working. The linkage between the focus ring on the lens  and the rangefinder mechanism in the top plate has become de-linked in some way. I shall not attempt a repair as the camera is otherwise excellent).


At the bottom of the viewfinder image is the light meter display. This has a green area on the left, a red area on the right and a larger white area in the centre. At the moment, I do not have a suitable battery for this so the meter is not working. When the batteries arrive (ordered from The Small Battery Company) I will find out if the meter is functional and if so, how to use it. I will then update this article.


In the bottom right of the viewfinder is a prism which allows the user to see both the aperture and shutter speed which have been set. The visible shutter speeds are limited to 1/60 to 1/500 which are printed in silver on the shutter barrel. To achieve this, the shutter speeds are offset to the left with the highest speed – 1/500 – being at the top of the shutter housing. Slower speeds are available down to 1 second which speeds are printed in bronze. These speeds are not visible in the viewfinder but that is not going to be a major problem as then user will not be using these slower speeds hand-held so they will stile visible.

In common with the other cameras in the Vito B range, the film advance lever advances the film but does not cock the shutter. The shutter is cocked by the moving film rotating a sprocket wheel above the film gate. This means that the shutter will not get cocked if there is no film in the camera leading people to falsely think that the shutter is broken.


The lens is the Voigtlander Color-Skopar which is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Tessar four element lens. It is a very good lens. Its serial number – 7004871 – tells me the camera was made in 1967 so this is an early version of the Vitomatic II CS.

The shutter on this camera is a Prontor 500 SLK-V. The V indicates that the shutter is a special version to Voigtlander’s specification (FYI – S=syncronised for flash, L=coupled light meter, K=coupled rangefinder). I assume that a this refers to the internal linkages to the rest of the camera as outwardly the shutter is the same as non-V Prontor 500 SLK shutters. The 500 tells us the top shutter speed – there were 125 and 250 versions of the shutter made. This shutter is both light meter and rangefinder coupled so there is no need to manually transfer either exposure details or distance to the shutter once they have been read.

The shutter has a delay action lever – re on then underside of the shutter housing. Standard advice is to never use these with old cameras as they are liable to failure and can wreck an otherwise good shutter mechanism. On this camera, the delay action works well and smoothly giving a delay of about eight seconds before the shutter fires.

The shutter barrel also has a film speed setting. This is in both DIN (on the right, 15 to 30) and ASA (on the left, 25 to 800).The focus ring has three Happy Snapper settings. the first, denoted by a red dot, is for head-and-shoulder portraits and gives a focus range of nearly four feet to five feet. The second, denoted by a red triangle, is for group shots and gives a focus range of eight feet to sixteen feet. The third Happy Snapper setting is denoted by a red circle and is for landscapes with a focus range of fifteen feet to infinity (my apologies to non-British and younger readers, this camera does not do metres!). All these assume an aperture setting of f/8 which is printed in bronze on the aperture scale. If you use f/22 and the red triangle, this will give an aperture range of five and a half feet to infinity and shows an hyper-focal distance of eleven feet. Ideal for landscapes in good weather!


The shutter release has moved from the top plate to the front of the camera and is now a slider rather than a button. At first glance, there is no provision for a cable release, but the socket for this is on the underside of the shutter release slider.


The rest of the camera is basically the same as the rest of the Vito B series – the strange way of opening the back, for instance, by undoing a small part of the base and then the back hinges out as you might expect – see the next two photographs.


I currently have several cameras with filom in them so I shall be delaying testing this one for a short while. When I have run the test film, I shall post the results here. I have high expectations – no Voigtlander camera has let me down yet. The big advantage of German cameras over the Japanese cameras is that the Germans never used foam light seals so light leaks are rare.

Mike Eckman has devised a system of scoring cameras for his reviews. With his permission, I am going to copy that system for my own blog. Details of how this works can be found here.

My Final WordThe Vitomatic IICS is a very well designed and made camera. It was designed and made towards the end of German photographic industry. It is visually pleasing and easy to use but the Japanese were already doing it better.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesViewfinderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
Final Score30

Balda Baldi

This is a small (very small) folder from Balda. It measures 100 mm by 80 mm by 35 mm (closed) or by 85 mm (open). This is slightly smaller (by 20 mm) than the 35 mm Balda Baldina of the same date. It takes 127 film – no longer made and very difficult to get hold of: it is currently (29-5-2015) available from with whom I have never had any dealing – and is a half-frame camera. That is, it takes two pictures on one standard frame which is 40 mm by 60 mm. That gives us an image measuring 30 mm by 40 mm. In 1939, this camera was advertised by the importer at £7-12-6. The cheapest version cost £4-7-6 and the top of the range version cost £10-17-6.


The camera is made out of pressed steel. This is shown where the paint has worn and the steel has started to rust. The body of the camera is covered with leatherette – this is now threadbare and very thin. The leatherette has also shrunk in places and has come away from the metal around raised parts leaving significant air bubbles between the leatherette and the metal. The edges of the camera are bright plated – I suspect with nickel – and the rust is showing through this plating in places. When new, the leatherette was embossed with writing – presumably the maker and model – but only small parts of the writing are left, far too little to read. The only sign of the maker now is the word ‘Balda’ on the fascia of the shutter. There is also the legend ‘Made in Germany’ embossed on the leather handle.

Outwardly, it looks much like a 1930s Balda Baldina or Jubilette and I suspect that the later 35 mm cameras are based on this camera. The top plate  has only two items – the film advance and the viewfinder.


Text and pictures (C) John Margetts, 2015


The film advance is different to all other roll-film advances I have come across. Firstly, it is on a ratchet which can be clearly heard when turning the advance the wrong way. When you do this, the take-up spool inside does not turn.

Balda Baldi, side view

Secondly, there is a mechanical stop which prevents the advance knob from turning more than one complete turn in either direction. This means that after advancing the film, it is necessary to turn the knob the wrong way before you can turn it the correct way to advance the film I suspect that this is a way of automatically advancing the film without looking at the red windows. Once I source some film I shall find out for sure. The top of the advance knob is marked ‘DRGM’ which stands for Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster – it signifies copyright protection rather than a patent and was much cheaper to obtain than a patent, lasting just three years.

Right next to the film advance knob is a small nickel plated button. This is the lens (not shutter) release button. Pressing this causes the door in the front of the camera to spring open. This is designed to fully open by itself – the springs are quite strong – but my particular camera needs a bit of initial help. It is 80 years old so perhaps this is to be expected.

The viewfinder is exactly the same as on the Balda Baldina  except that the image is in portrait format – a consequence of this being a half-frame camera. The nice touch is the provision of an anti-parallax device. This is in the form of a wheel with a distance scale under the rear of the viewfinder. If you turn this wheel to the focus distance, the viewfinder is tilted so that it points at the subject rather than always pointing at the horizon. This should mean that portraits avoid having the tops of their heads missing.

The base plate is entirely clear except for a central tripod boss. This is the original 3/8 inch Whitworth thread with a 1/4 inch Whitworth slug in it so it will fit modern tripods.

Balda Baldi, closed, front view

When opened, the lens is held rigidly in place. The lens itself is a Meyer Gorlitz Trioplan – clearly a triplet and seems to be of the Crooke’s Triplet design. It has a 5 cm focal length (focal lengths were usually quoted in cm up to 1940 and usually in mm after 1945). Its maximum aperture is f/3.5 and the minimum is f/16 – actually a very usable range, my own photography is usually between f/5.6 and f/11.

The shutter is a Compur offering speeds up to 1/300 seconds. There is no flash synch or self-timer. As is usual with old leaf shutters, the slow speeds are way off – 1 second is very close to 3 seconds. Mind you, that is only 1.5 stops and so is well within the exposure latitude of film. The shutter also offers B and T. B is where the shutter remains open while the shutter release button is depressed and T opens the shutter when the release button is pressed once and closes the shutter when the release button is pressed a second time. On this camera neither B nor T works at all but there is a possibility they will free up when the shutter has been fired a few dozen times.

Being an old camera, the shutter needs cocking before it can be fired. The cocking lever is on the right side of the shutter housing when the camera is in use. As it is a Compur shutter, it needs to be raised to cock the shutter – moved clockwise while looking at the lens. Prontor shutters have the cocking lever move anti-clockwise while looking at the lens.

Balda Baldi, rear view

Lens focusing is by turning the front element only. This degrades the image slightly but the degradation is theoretical rather than meaningful. The focus range is marked from 5 feet to infinity but it will focus a bit closer than 5 feet. The fact that the lens is calibrated in feet shows us that the camera was an official import into either the British Empire or the USA.

The shutter release is on the top of the lens door and is strictly left-handed. This seems to have been fairly common once a body release was fitted and has the advantage of allowing the right hand to have a firm and steady hold on the camera.

The rear of the camera has the red windows to allow then user to see the frame numbers on the film backing paper while advancing the film. As this is a half-frame camera, there are two red windows and each frame number is used first in the left-hand window and then in the right-hand window. The windows are provided with a sliding shutter to prevent panchromatic film being fogged by light coming in through the red windows.

One last thing to note on the outside of the camera is the usual plated folding leg on the lens door which allows the camera to be used while placed on a table or similar. Used with a standard cable release (for which the shutter is threaded) this allows the slower shutter speeds to be used.

Balda Baldi, inside

Inside the camera is nicely designed with no surprises. On the inside of the hinged back is the pressure plate which keeps the film flat. It is significantly larger than the film gate – it measures 50 mm by 50 mm – so should keep the film nice and flat. The film gate itself measures 30 mm by 40 mm – this is significantly larger than a 35 mm frame. The spool holders are on swivels which makes loading the film much easier. The left-hand spool holder (for the new film) has a hinged base which drops away as the spool holder is swivelled out and then moves back up to place to hold the film securely once the spool holder is pushed back in place.

The right-hand spool holder is held in place by the film advance knob which needs to be pulled up before the spool holder can be swivelled out to receive the empty take-up spool.  There is a plated roller either side of the film gate to ensure the film is not scratched when winding-on.

The following is an advert from the 1939 Wallace Heaton Minitography and Cinematography catalogue (‘minitography was their term for miniature photography using 127 and 35 mm film):

Baldi 1939 007

Test film.

127 film is not so easy to get hold of. I bought a roll of Rera Pan 100 film which is new to me so this is a test of both the camera and the film.

The film was quite easy to load and the camera as easy to use as any camera of this date is.  The camera is a half-frame camera so I got 16 shots on a roll of film. – each frame is slightly bigger than a 35 mm film frame is.

 The film has ended up well exposed – a visual inspection of the negatives shows the light areas are nice and dark, the dark areas are nice and light and there is a good range of tones between.  I was not sure of the development time so I guessed on 18 minutes with ID11 diluted 1+3 – I based that on the development times for Fomapan for want of a better idea. My guess was clearly close to ideal.

The film was scanned for me by Snappy Snaps and the scans also have a good tonal range.  Alas, there are significant scanning artefacts (mostly dust and fibres) but nothing a session with Gimp will not cure.

The pictures here are much larger than the users of this camera would have expected in the 1930s and so the defects are much more visible. This particularly impinges on sharpness.


Ica Icarette 1 (A)

This is an Icarette camera made by Ica in Dresden, Germany. It is a model 1 which was introduced in 1912 but I cannot tell if it is a type 495 (the original, model A in the USA) or type 496 (later version that can also take glass plates, model B in the USA).

Ica was a camera manufacturer based in Dresden and owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung.  Ica is an acronym for Internationale Camera Aktien Gesellschaft (the Aktien Gesellschaft part is the German equivalent of the British ‘PLC’ or USian ‘Inc’).  Ica is one of the companies that merged to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926.  After 1926, Zeiss Ikon continued to make Icarette cameras but this one is clearly marked ‘ICA Akl Ges’ (the usual abbreviation is AG rather than Akl Ges). This means it was made prior to 1926. I can date it more accurately (but not very accurately) by the Body Number (E42012). In 1926 when the merger to form Zeiss Ikon occurred, Ica were up to the letter ‘L’. For each letter, Ica made 100,000 cameras so the seven letter difference indicates 700,000 cameras.  After the merger into Zeiss Ikon, production by the much larger business only used two letters of the alphabet each year. The smaller Ica, which was also trading during a much tougher time, is unlikely to have used more than one letter each year which pushes the date of this camera back to 1919 at a best guess. I can also date the lens which was made in 1918. Lenses were made in batches and one batch could last serveral months and it is not unusual for manufacturers to use a lens in the year following the manufacture. The Icarette model was introduced in 1912 so a date of early 1919 (or perhaps late 1918) is more than reasonable.

Further research leads me to believe that the ‘E’ serial number is likely to be 1915 rather than 1919. My dating for the lens was based on my assumption that a Novar  lens with a serial number would have been made by Carl Zeiss and so that I could date this lens by the serial number. I no longer think that this is so. Other owners of Ica cameras have better dating due to their cameras having Tessar lenses and equating the Tessar serial number with well established dates with the Ica body number gives me a much earlier date for this camera. 2022: my most recent opinion on dating this camera is that it was made during WWI and probably nearer to 1918 than 1914.

I also have a later Icarette made in about 1930 by Zeiss Ikon.

Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Ica Icarette A (or B?)

lens: Novar
focal length:  75mm
apertures: f/6.8 – f/36
focus range: ? to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Derval(?)
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: No facility
film size: 117

My particular camera has been ‘well loved’. Although it has the signs of having been used well, it is in quite good condition for a camera that is 100-odd years old. The main defects are: someone has attempted to remove the rear element of the lens. The metal of the securing ring has gouge marks and there are significant scratches to the matt black paint in the area around the lens. The front two elements of the lens are also loose-ish – loose enough to remove by hand. The inside of the back has been repainted in places by hand and someone has added a home-made catch for the lens board.

Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Left-hand side view.
Wear and tear includes the leather (not leatherette) covering starting to peel and fray at the edges in places. The steel parts have some surface rusting. Someone has removed the wire frame from the viewfinder. The only other significant defect I can find is the locating pin for the lens standard. On opening the camera, it is necessary to pull the lens forward by squeezing the two plated lugs below the lens. The lens then pulls forward on plated rails until it locates on the pin mentioned above. This pin is visibly worn and no longer locates the lens standard properly.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Rear view of the inside.
I shall now give a general description of the camera.
It measures 125 mm by 80 mm by 30 mm when closed (by 90 mm when open). It weighs 370g. The lens board is central on the front and opens downwards. The outside of the camera is very plain. It is entirely covered in black leather which is minimally decorated with straight line tooling.
Blog (c) John Margetts
The top of the camera has the film advance knob on the left. While the back is on the camera, this is securely held in place. Once the back is removed, the advance knob pulls upwards to release the take-up spool. On my camera, the advance knob becomes completely detached but I am not sure this is as it should be. The knob locates with two pins – one short and one long (6 mm and 33 mm, respectively). The long pin has a flattened part half way along. Inside the camera, besides where the spool goes, is a small hole that aligns with the flattened part of the long pin. I suspect that this hole once contained a screw that allowed the long pin to move the length of the flattened part and no further – about 5 mm. The knob itself contains a ratchet so that the knob cannot turn the wrong way and loosen the film on the spool.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Front and right-hand view.
The back of the camera has a red window placed centrally. The camera takes 6 x 6 cm photographs and so uses the middle row of numbers on the film’s backing paper.  The film size is 117 (now obsolete) which is the same size film as 120 but on a smaller spool – a bit like 620 film. 117 has essentially the same size spool as 620 but uses the 120 size key-hole on the end of the spool, rather than the smaller 620 key-hole. I could (but won’t) rewind some 120 film onto the spool that came with this camera and use it. As this camera has a focussing issue, I shall not bother.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Camera closed
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
ready for winding on.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Ready to use.

Using the rear viewfinder window. When the viewfinder window is all the way down (in the closed position) it covers the red window and prevents any light getting into the camera and fogging the film.  To wind-on the film, you raise the viewfinder part-way to expose the red window.  When taking a photograph, you raise the viewfinder all the way, covering the red window again.  Ingenious!

In order to load the camera with film, the back must be completely removed. This is done by depressing two plated studs on the right-hand end of the camera.

The front of the camera opens downwards and fits into place with a definite click. In the face of the lens board is a tripod boss.  As I mentioned, the lens must be pulled forwards until it locates on a pin to keep it in the correct position. The lens is attached to the body with leatherette bellows. These seem to be in good condition with no visible holes or splits. Focussing is achieved by moving a lever on the lens board which moves the shutter/lens forwards and backwards. Focussing with this camera is not critical – the distance on the scale between infinity and one metre is about one cm.

The lens is a 75 mm Novar lens (inscribed as being 7.5 cm, as was the fashion pre-WWII). It has a maximum aperture of f/6.8 and a minimum aperture of f/36.  The sequence of apertures is not the modern one. It goes: 6.8, 9, 12.5, 18, 25, 36. These numbers are very hard to read as they are behind the mount for the Iconometer viewfinder.

The shutter has no name or other identifying marks but it is either a Gauthier Derval shutter or an Ica Automat X shutter I think it is probably an Ica Automat X Shutter. It has two blades only and offers 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 speeds as well as B and Z. Z (marked as T on export models) opens the shutter which then stays open until the release lever is pressed a second time. There is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

On the left side of the shutter housing is a Brilliant viewfinder. It was normal at this time to offer two finders – a brilliant and a frame finder. This Brilliant finder is in remarkable condition. the mirror in brilliant finders seem to be plated straight onto steel and in old cameras is usually corroded enough to make using the finder very hard to use. This one is quite usable.

The top of the shutter housing is supposed to mount the wire frame part of the other viewfinder (called an Iconometer by Ica). The mounting is still there but the frame is missing.

The shutter is made with a sideways movement of 8 mm either side of central – a total movement of 16 mm. I think that this is for when you use the camera in portrait format to photograph buildings. The vertical shifts of lenses reduces/removes perspective problems in architectural photography.

Braun Paxette IIM

Braun Paxette IIM
Braun Paxette II M

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

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

Balda Baldessa F-LK

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

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

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
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