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.
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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 http://www.retrophotosupplies.com/ 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

Olympus PEN EE (half frame)

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

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

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

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

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

Pen 1972 016.jpg


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

These pictures were taken in Bamburgh in Northumbria.

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

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE

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

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

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

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

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE

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

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

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

18 September 2012:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample pictures:

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Spurn ex-lighthouse now water tower


Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE
Staithes harbour

Olympus Trip 35

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

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

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

Trip 1972 015.jpg

Trip AF 50

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

Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip AF 50

Dacora Digna

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