Ricoh TLS 401

So, yet another 1960s 35mm SLR camera. There were many of these, and most were much of a muchness. The 35mm SLR cameras that I add to my collection either have historical interest or an interesting quirk. This Ricoh has a definite idiosyncrasy and is also a descendant of the Nikkorex F. The Nikkorex F was designed and made for Nikon by Mamyia and Mamyia subsequently sold the design to Ricoh who called the design the Ricoh Singlex. This Ricoh Singlex was refined to the Singlex TLS and then to this TLS 401. The Nikon F mount is now an M42/Pentax/Universal mount but the ground breaking Copal Square shutter is retained.

This is not my only Ricoh camera. I also have the Ricoh 35 Flex and the Ricoh SLX 500.

The camera body is made from die-cast aluminium. The top and bottom plates seem to be made from pressed aluminium alloy – at least, the metal is white and softer than my steel penknife. The body and hinged back are covered with black leatherette. The top and bottom plates are bright metal.

I am going to use my usual technique of describing the camera – starting at the right hand end of the top plate. The layout of the top plate is mostly ‘standard’ for a 60s or 70s 35mm SLR camera. On the right is the film advance lever. This is angled cut metal with a plastic slab along one side. There is no ratchet so the film must be advanced with one motion. The lever moves through about 130/140º. When the camera is not in use, the lever sits over the edge of the top plate but in use there is a stand-off position which makes it easier on then user’s thumb when feeling for the lever.

In front of the film advance lever is a window on to the frame counter. This counter is reset b y opening the camera’s back. Reset is to a red S which is actually -3. The even frames are represented by numbers in white and the odd numbers by white dots. Frames 20 and 36 are in red – 20 exposures used to be the standard length of film when this camera was made (1970).

At the front of the top plate, to the left of the frame counter window, is the shutter release button. This is chromed metal – almost certainly brass – and is threaded for a standard cable release. There is a chrome plated collar around the shutter release but this has no functional purpose.

Next along is the pentaprism hump. This is one of the idiosyncrasies of this camera. In the main, this is a standard SLR pentaprism hump. Inside, though, is not a pentaprism (so I shouldn’t really call it a pentaprism hump, I suppose) but a pentamirror _ an arrangement of mirrors which has the same effect as a pentaprism. This usually has the effect of reducing the brightness of the image in the viewfinder – Canon use this system in their modern cheaper DSLRs – and this camera is no exception, the viewfinder image is noticeably dimmer than I would expect.

The focus screen is basically plain ground glass. In the centre is a disc of micro-prisms to aid focusing. With the dimness of the viewfinder image, I do not find these micro-prisms very useful. A split image rangefinder spot would have been much more useful but these require a minimum level of illumination to work and this focus screen might have been just too dim for the split image rangefinder to work. Around the micro-prisms is a barely visible ring – this is the area where the light meter measures the light when in spot meter mode (more later).

On the right hand side of the focus screen, near the bottom, is the light meter display. This consists of two angled lines and a moving needle. Exposure will be good when the needle is centred between the two lines.

On the left of the focus screen, again near the bottom, are the two letters ‘S’ and ‘A’ together with a green pointer. ‘S’ stands for spot and if the green pointer points at ‘S’, the meter measures the light within that central ring mentioned earlier. ‘A’ stands for average and if the green pointer points at ‘A’, the light meter measures the light over the whole image. Selecting between ‘S’ and ‘A’ is done by a slider on the rear of the camera.

On the rear of the ‘pentaprism’ hump is the viewfinder eyepiece. This gives a slightly reduced view of the image. On the top of the ‘pentaprism’ hump, there is a standard Barnack accessory shoe – no contacts here so a cold shoe. In front of the Barnack shoe is the idiosyncrasy mentioned earlier. This is a ‘waist-level’ viewfinder. I put ‘waist-level’ in quotes because you cannot use it at waist level as the image is just too small and the amount of the image you can see reduces the further your eye is from the ‘waist-level’ finder. To use this finder, you need to bend over the camera with your eye right against the finder, looking down. The instruction manual has a photograph showing this. In addition to being awkward ti use, the image is seriously cropped compared to the other , eye-level, finder. The only (slight) advantage over other waist-level finders that I have (Exakta, Exa, Ikoflex) the image is entirely the right way around.

To select between the two viewfinders, there is a knob on the right hand side of the ‘pentaprism’ hump. This requirement to switch between the two finders is why Ricoh went for a pentamirror rather than the more usual solid pentaprism.

Left of the ‘pentaprism’ hump is the usual folding rewind crank. As was usual in the 1960s and 1970s, the rewind crank doubles as the catch for the camera back – pulling up the crank opens the back. Around the crank is a film type reminder. The options are colour, B & W, or Empty. That last is useful for those of us with many cameras that only get used occasionally – it is not unheard of for me to open a camera to load it with film only to discover a (now fogged) film in place.

The front of the camera is, as always, dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 threaded mount (also known as the Pentax, Praktica, or Universal mount). Looking inside the mount, at the bottom, is a bar which comes forward when the shutter release is pressed. This bar presses on a pin on the lens and closes the iris diaphragm to its preset aperture value. Above this bar is the reflex mirror. This is coloured a reddish brown which I have never seen before. I assume that the light meter photocells are behind the glass of the mirror and impart this colour.

To the left of the lens mount (while looking at the front of the camera) are two items. Towards the bottom of the camera is a rotating lever. This is the self-timer lever. If you rotate this 180º anti-clockwise and then press the shutter release there is an eight second delay before the shutter fires. As well as using this for the intended function of allowing the photographer to include themselves in the picture, you c an also use this to lock-up the mirror eight seconds before the shutter fires to reduce camera vibration in critical applications.

Above the self-timer is the combined shutter speed/film speed selector dial. This is usually on the top plate with SLR cameras and this is the only time I have seen one here. The film speed is adjusted by lifting the dial and turning it until the required ASA value is visible in the window. This is in ASA only but there is a conversion chart in the instruction manual to convert ASA to DIN “if you are using German films”. Note: ISO had not been invented yet in 1970 but it is functionally the same as ASA and DIN. The available film speeds range from 10 ASA to 800 ASA which is pretty much the range of amateur film speeds around in 1970. Shutter speeds are selected by rotating the dial without lifting the dial. Shutter speeds are from one second to 1/1000 second plus B. Speeds from 1 s to 1/125 s are in red and speeds from 1/250 s to 1/1000 s are in white. B is in green.

The rear of the camera has the viewfinder eyepiece just left of centre. On the rear of the top plate to the right of the eyepiece is a selector slider. When slid to the left, the letters ‘Sp’ are exposed. This sets the light meter to spot metering. When the slider is slid to the right the letters ‘Av’ are exposed. this sets the light meter to average metering. This setting is repeated in the viewfinder. 

On the left hand end of the top plate are two PC sockets – one marked ‘X’ and one marked ‘M’. The X socket is for electronic flash or fast flash bulbs and the M socket is for all other flash bulbs. For electronic flash and most flash bulbs, the shutter speed must be between 1/30 and 1/125 seconds. For some flash bulbs, 1/30 to 1/60 seconds is required. this is academic now as the flash bulbs concerned are no longer made.

The base of the camera has a 1/4 inch Whitworth (or UNC, I am not sure of the date of the change over) tripod socket in line with the lens mount.There is also a battery compartment which takes an EPX 625 battery. This was a mercury cell which is now banned but an alkaline version, EPX625G, is available. The battery powers the light meter – the rest of the camera is entirely is entirely manual. Also on the base is the button to disengage the sprocket shaft to allow the film to be rewound. Once pressed, there is no need to hold the button pressed in.

On pulling up on the rewind crank, the back is released and opens on a right hand hinge – none of this back and base coming away in one piece malarky. On the inside of the back is the usual pressure plate to keep the film flat against the film gate. There is also a sprung steel strip to keep the film cassette snug in its chamber.

The inside of the body is dominated by the film gate. The surrounds are nice and large which helps to keep the film flat. The actual film gate – the hole the light comes through – measures 34 by 23 mm which is a bit smaller than the standard 36 by 24 mm. The surround measures 35 by 80 mm. Left of the film gate is the chamber for the film cassette. This is just a plain space – no DX electric contacts for another 13 years.

On the other side of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. This rotates as the film is advanced and counts the holes in the film – eight holes equals one frame. To the right of the sprocket shaft is the take-up spool.

The camera came with Ricoh’s standard 50mm lens which they call the Auto Rikenon. The Auto part merely means that the camera closes the iris diaphragm just before the shutter opens. There is a slider near to the mount end of the lens whjich allows you to select between ‘A’ (Auto) and ‘M’ (Manual). If you select M, the iris diaphragm closes or opens as you adjust the aperture ring. Switching to M allows you to preview the depth of field that your aperture setting will produce. It will also allow the lens to be used with a camera without the auto bar in the lens mount (such as the Soviet Zenit E). Normally, you would keep the lens set to A as this gives you the brightest possible image in the viewfinder.

The lens is quite a fast lens which means it has a large maximum aperture (which is the smallest number) which is ƒ/1.7. The minimum aperture (largest number) is ƒ/16. The aperture ring has click stops so you cannot accidentally change aperture.

The focus ring has two distance scales – metres in green and feet in white. The lens will focus down to 0.5 m which is fairly close for a standard lens. To move from 0.5 m to infinity (or the other way) needs the focus ring to move through around 250º which means that fine control of focus is easy.

Collection Appareils suggests that the lens has six glass elements arranged in five groups. It would appear that all glass surfaces are coated.


Wirgin Edixa 2MTL

A Japanese camera rebadged for the German firm Edixa.

Wirgin were a German camera maker from the mid 20th century. Wirgin was formed in 1920 and ceased manufacture in 1971 (as far as I can tell). They made both viewfinder cameras and SLR cameras (and others). The SLR cameras were aimed at the cheaper end of the serious photography market. There was nothing wrong with them – see Edixa-Mat Reflex mod B – but they were clearly built to a price. The manual for this camera can be viewed and downloaded here.

Wirgin Edixa 2MTL

This particular Wirgin camera – Edixa 2MTL – is solid and well made but was not made buy Wirgin. It is, in fact, a rebadged Cosina Hi-Lite DLR. Cosina have consistently made top-quality cameras for other camera names – they were good enough for Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Zeiss Ikon (to name four) to sell rebadged Cosina cameras as their own. My  Wallace Heaton Blue Book from 1971 has a Zodal 2MTL which is clearly the same camera (Zodal was the name used by Wallace Heaton for their own brand kit. This sold for £89.75 with a Cosinon 50 mm lens.

The camera is metal and is heavy. It measures 145 by 95 by 50 mm and weighs 733 g with no lens. The top plate is pressed brass painted matt black – much of the paint has worn away revealing the underlying metal – clearly a much loved and well used camera: a big positive aspect for me. The base plate is aluminium, again painted matt black. The main body is cast aluminium. There is some plastic, but not very much.

This camera offers TTL metering. This is a CdS meter powered by a button battery. Strangely, the instructions for the camera tell you how to fit the battery but offer no details as to which battery you should be using. The instructions for Cosina’s own version of this camera say that the battery should be a 675 type mercury button cell which are now universally banned. Fortunately, this meter works by centring the needle. When the needle is centred, there is no current flowing through the meter so it does not matter what voltage is producing the zero current. So, any button cell that will fit in the battery compartment will be fine (this really means 1.5v with modern cells). This type of circuit where an unknown resistance (the CdS cell) is balanced by three known resistances is known as a bridge circuit.

Meter switch

The meter is activated by depressing a button on the left side of the lens mount (this also doubles as a depth of field preview button as it stops down the diaphragm). The meter needle is visible on the right side of the focus screen in the viewfinder. It is usual to use these as a shutter priority system – set the required shutter speed and then adjust the aperture until the meter needle is centred. 

So – time for a description. the top plate is uncluttered. On the right is the film advance lever. This is metal with a black plastic pad on the end for comfort. This lever moves through around 200° to advance the film one frame. this is not on a ratchet so it must be moved in one go. In front of the advance lever is a window to the frame counter. This counts up from one and is reset when the back is opened. Only the even-numbered frames are numbered with the odd-numbered frames represented by a dot.

Top plate

Left of the frame counter window is the shutter release button. This is bright chrome plated and is threaded for a standard cable release. Next to this is the shutter speed selector. This is pretty standard and runs from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B. The shutter is a Copal Square shutter with metal blades and runs vertically. The speed selector will only turn between 1 and 1/1000. to go from 1 to 1/1000 (or 1/1000 to 1) you need to go almost a complete turn around the speeds. 1/125 is marked with a red X and is the synch speed for electronic flash. For flash bulbs, any shutter speed can be used.

This shutter speed selector also doubles as the film speed selector. To select film speeds, you need to lift the selector before turning it. Available film speeds are from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA or DIN 15° to DIN 33°. On my camera, this scale is spotlessly clean apart from 25 ASA which suggests that the user was using Kodachrome 25 almost exclusively (I can think of no other 25 ASA film in the 1970s and 80s that would account for it).

The pentaprism hump is of the size you would expect at this date – this is from just before Olympus rewrote the book with their OM series of cameras. On the left of the pentaprism hump is a pair of PC connectors for flash. One is marked X for electronic flash and must be used at 1/125 seconds or slower – this is marked on the shutter speed selector. The other PC connector is marked with a white M and is for flash bulbs – bulbs can be used at any shutter speed.

PC connectors

On the front of the top plate is a pair of strap lugs. One of these is completely worn through so I can no longer attach a strap to the camera.

As always, the front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is the M42 mount introduced by East German Zeiss Ikon in 1949. It is also known as the Praktica mount and Pentax mount as these two companies made the use of the M42 mount very common. I cannot comment on the lens as none was supplied. The manual (downloadable here) says that it was a Cosina brand Cosinon 50 mm lens. When focusing the lens (any M42 lens will fit) the only focus aid is a disc of micro-prisms in the centre which acts as a whole series off split-image centres – the first time I have seen this effect. It works very well.

Window frame out of focus
Window frame in focus

On the right of the lens mount is a self-timer lever. This is activated by turning the lever anticlockwise. When you press the shutter release, the mirror is raised immediately and the shutter fires after 11 seconds. I expect that this delay would have been 8 seconds when new as this is the usual delay. If you do not turn the setting lever as far as it can go, you get proportionally shorter delays.

The baseplate of the camera has four times on it. Starting on the left is the lever to open the back. This is recessed and meeds to be turned through about 45° in the direction of the marked arrow. Next to this is the battery compartment which is designed to take one 675 type button cell. Just behind the lens is the tripod boss. This is, as you would expect, a 1/4 inch UNC thread.Towards the other end of the base plate is the button to allow the film to be rewound. This is well designed and does not need to be held in while rewinding which makes life much easier than with other cameras.

Inside, this camera is entirely standard. Being Japanese, the camera needs foam light seals around the back and these are seriously perished. I doubt the designers expected the camera to still be used after nearly 50 years after manufacture so this is not really a criticism.

The following is an advert for this camera from the 1971/2 Wallace Heaton catalogue. The model advertised is the Zodel 2MTL but it is the same camera – Cosina made these cameras for many resellers as well as Edixa and Zodal.

2MTL 1972012.jpg

Praktica Nova (no name version)

This camera has no name on it anywhere – in fact, no writing on it at all. The only clue to its identity is the Ernemann Tower embossed in the leatherette on the back. Ernemann was one of the four camera makers that merged in 1926 to form Zeiss Ikon. With the partition of Germany after WWII, East German Zeiss Ikon (Zeiss Ikon also got partitioned along with the country) used the distinctive Ernemann Tower as a logo. With the morphing of East German Zeiss Ikon into Pentacon and the establishment of VEB Pentacon as a merger of the East German camera makers (Exakta, KW, Balda, Zeiss Ikon and others) the Ernemann Tower was used as a logo on all of them.

P1040580So this is a Pentacon camera. There are clues to the marque in the design. The shutter release is angled on the front right of the camera. This narrows it down to Contax or Praktica (a dangerous statement as I do not know all East German camera models!). There are two PC connectors on the top of the front left of the camera. Looking at imagers of Contax and Praktica cameras on Google, only one camera looks like this one – an early Praktica Nova. As a check, I went to and they have details of a model that was issued with no printing – the Praktica Nova No-Name. I already have a Pentaflex SL which is a cut-down Praktica Nova and this camera is very similar although the Pentaflex SL dates from the year that the Praktica Nova No-Name was discontinued.

Ernemann Tower embossed in the leatherette

This is an early part of the Praktica Nova series. It dates from 1964 to 1967. It lacks a meter and has a top shutter speed of 1/500 seconds. The shutter speed selector is old school for the time with separate low and high speed rangers. The slow speed range is in red and offers 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 seconds. The high speed range is in white and offers 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500. Also in the high speed range is the flash synch speed (denoted by a lightning flash) and B. The flash synch speed is between 1/30 and 1/60 seconds and I am guessing 1/40 based on other Praktica cameras of the time.

P1040582Although B is in white and so a part of the high speed range, it can be used with the selector set at red. Switching between low and high speed ranges is done by a ring on top of the speed selector dial. Actual shutter speeds are selected by lifting the outer ring of the selector snd turning. The selected speed is indicated by a red dot. This works both before and after advancing the film.

This camera is a big step forward from my Praktica F.X2 which lacks a pentaprism. The shutter release button, as mentioned, sits on the front right the camera and is angled for ease of use. This is an improvement over the F.X2 where the shutter release is at right angles to the camera body. The button is threaded for a standards cable release. The edges of the button are milled and the button can be turned clockwise to lock it – a feature that will save me many blank frames.

P1040581The lens mount is M42 (42 mm diameter and 1 mm pitch) and not to be confused with M43 digital mount. It is the automatic version. This means that a bar comes forward when you press the shutter release button which presses on a pin on the rear of the lens to close the aperture. If you are using a non-automatic lens which would foul this bar – or if you just don’t want to use it – there is a red rivet just behind the bar which can be moved to one side to disable the auto feature.

The viewfinder eyepiece has a sort of bayonet fitting which I assume was for fitting a rubber eye cup or correction lenses so the user can discard their spectacles while using the camera.

The focus screen is a Fresnel lens which gives uniform brightness over the focus screen. In the centre is a plain ground glass circle (I initially thought that this was a micro prism ring but it is plain ground glass). Inside this circle is a split-image disc. This has a horizontal division. To use this, you find a strong vertical near the centre of the image and superimpose the split-image part over it. While the image is out of focus, the image in the part will be disrupted. You adjust the focus until the disrupted image comes together again.

P1040583There are a few other features worth noting. Under the rewind crank on the left of the top plate is a film reminder. This has two components: film length and film speed. To use this, you rotate the film speed ring until the required film speed is against the film length. Available film lengths are 12, 20 and 36. Film speeds are in either DIN (German system) or ASA (American system). Din speeds range from 9 to 33 and the ASA speeds from 6 to 1600. The back of the camera, as well as having the Ernemann Tower embossed in it, also has a triangle with a ‘1’ in it embossed below the Ernemann Tower. This indicates that the camera is of the first quality. There is a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket on the base which is otherwise plain.

Also, there are two PC connectors on the top, front left of the camera. One is marked ‘F’ and is for using flash bulbs and the other is marked ‘X’ and is for electronic flash. The ‘F’ connector will fire the flash slightly before the shutter is fully open to give the flash bulb time to burn to maximum brightness while the ‘X’ connector will fire the flash as soon as the shutter is fully open. The frame counter is below the film advance lever and it counts up from zero. Opening the back to change films automatically resets the counter to -1.

The film advance lever has lost its black plastic tip – there is a rivet still in place that used to hold the tip in place – but it works fine as it is. The camera has studs on the front corners for attaching a neck strap. This is the form of the early Praktica Novas during the three year production run of the model. Later in the production run these were changed for eyelets.

Pentacon F (Contax F)

This is a ground breaking camera. This was the first modern 35 mm SLR camera (in the S version). SLR cameras have been around for a very long time and there were many SLR cameras that used glass plates rather than film. There were also earlier 35 mm SLR cameras – the Kine Exakta is generally accepted as being the first – but these earlier designs did not lead on to the ubiquitous 35 mm SLR of the 1950s and beyond.

Pentacon F

lens: n/a
focal length: n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/1/1000
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

The name ‘Pentacon’ was only used for cameras sold in Western Europe and North America. Elsewhere, it was the Contax F. This other name tells us a great deal about the design of this camera. It is a development of the pre WWII Zeiss Ikon Contax rangefinder. The main changes made are that the brass shutter is replaced with a cloth one, the shutter moves side to side rather than up and down and the rangefinder is replaced with a mirror and pentaprism. This last give rise to the name Pentacon which is a contraction of PENTAprism CONtax. There are also other changes – the Contax bayonet lens mount is replaced by the M42 thread lens mount. It was necessary to change the lens mount to increase the film to lens flange distance – the mirror needs the additional room to move – the diameter of the M42 lens mount (at 42 mm!) is also significantly larger than the diameter of the Contax bayonet mount (35 mm) allowing longer focal lengths to be used.

Pentacon F rear

The camera measures 145 by 80 by 50 mm and weighs 850 g. It is an all metal construction and the exposed metal is chrome plated with a matt finish. The rest of the body is covered with a fine grained black leatherette. The controls are bright chrome plated.

Pentacon F top plate

The top plate is not what later became ‘standard’, but is not far off. On the right is the film advance. This is still a knob at this age. This knob rotates clockwise which in turn turns the take-up spool clockwise so that the film is wound with the emulsion side outward. To the left of the film advance is the shutter speed selector. This is v very different to the speed selectors that became normal in the 1950s and 1960s. The selector wheel turns clockwise and must be depressed teen-age the mechanism beneath. In front of the speed selector wheel is a window. This gives onto a disc with two speed scales – one black and one red. The black scale is the fast speeds and offers speeds of 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, 1/500 and 11/1000. The red scale is the slow speeds and offers 1, 1/2, 1/5, and 1/20 and B. To choose which scale to use, there is a slide on the back of the top plate. When this is slid to the left a red arrow appears on the left of the selector window and the red range is selected. Moving the slide to the right changes the red arrow to a black arrow on the right and the black range is selected.

The idea is that you only select a red speed while the red arrow is present and only select a black speed while the black arrow is present. However, there is nothing to stop you choosing a black speed with the red range selected – and vice versa. If you do this, the shutter fires just fine but there is no telling as to which shutter speed you will actually get. Shutter speeds can be changed either before or after the film is advanced. Before the film is advanced, the selector knob will only turn anti-clockwise (actually, it will turn both ways but will not select a new shutter speed if turned clockwise) but after advancing the film it will turn in either direction.

When you press the shutter release button, the disc in the selector window will rotate clockwise – part of one revolution while the release is depressed and the remainder of the revolution once the release button is raised again.

Left of centre is the pentaprism hump. This is a normal pentaprism and there is not a lot I can say about it. It turns the image on the focus screen so that it is the right way around in the viewfinder. The eye-piece is nice and large and the focus screen is plain ground glass – no focus aids here.

Film reminder – B&W at 100 ASA

Left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind knob. On this camera, the rewind knob does not double as a catch for the back – that is a slide on the right-hand end of the camera – nor does it pull up to ease the insertion of film cassettes. Beneath the rewind knob is a film memo. This consists of a ring with three icons on it. One icon is a black circle next to a white circle – this represents black and white film. The second icon is a sun and this represents colour film balanced for daylight. The third icon is a light bulb and represents colour film balanced for artificial (specifically tungsten bulb) light. To remind yourself as to what film is loaded, you rotate this ring anticlockwise until your chosen icon is against the film speed (which is ASA only. I assume that cameras intended for the home German market will have had this film speed reminder scale in DIN).

Between the pentaprism hump and the rewind knob is a PC connector for flash. There is no accessory shoe on this camera so the flash gun would need to be fitted to a bracket or separate stand. There is no indication given on the shutter speed disc as to what speed is required for flash but the manual states that it is 1/10 seconds.

The shutter release button is on the front of the camera to the right of the lens mount. Its is angled and falls nicely to my fore-finger when holding the camera. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. Below the release b button is a delay action lever. To use this, you move the lever anti-clockwise as far as it will go. To set it off, you give a slight turn to the knurled knob holding the lever in place. This takes eight seconds (on my camera) to fire the shutter. It is not possible to move the lever part way to give a shorter delay. If you try this, the shutter will not fire.

The lens mount is an M42 (42 mm by 1 mm thread) mount and so will take a very large number of lenses from many makers. This is the automatic version of the M42 mount which means that just inside the mount at the bottom is a plate that a moves forward as the shutter release button is pressed. This plate presses on a pin on the back of the lens and closes the diaphragm to the set aperture. Just beneath the lens mount there is a folding foot. Folding this out will allow the camera to stand level on a suitable surface to let you take selfies in conjunction with the delay action lever.

back and half base removed

As mentioned above, the back is opened by a slide catch. The Contax that this camera was based on and all West German Contax derivatives have the back and base come away from the body in one piece. With this camera, the back is hinged but still takes a significant portion of the base with not. This is to facilitate the insertion and removal of the film cassettes. As was common with German cameras, the take-up spool is removable and can be replaced with an empty cassette. This avoids the need to rewind the film at the end and supposedly makes changing films faster and easier. The downside is that it is easy to drop the loose take-up spool when fitting a new film.

back and other half base

As was the German practice, the flanges around the edges of the back are designed to be light tight and so this camera has no foam light seals to go bad. There are two light seals – velvet, not foam – by the hinge and by the slide catch. Apart from these velvet light seals, this camera has no need of seals. A boon for collectors of old cameras!

back inside view

The one weakness of using flanges to keep out light is where the sprocket shaft attaches at the top. This shaft is connected to the film advance mechanism to control the length of film advanced each time. This locally reduces the depth of the flange. To keep the camera light tight, there is a secondary flange at the top of the back just where the sprocket shaft is.

On the base is a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod boss. It looks to me that this has been fitted into a 3/8 inch Whitworth boss. Also on the base is the button to release the advance mechanism for rewinding the film. The only other thing to note is the presence of a strap lug on either front corner.

Praktica F.X2

This is an early Praktica made by KW (Kamera Werkstätten) between 1958 and 1959 i.e. before the merging of East Germany’s camera makers into Pentacon. In many ways, this camera is much like what became the ‘standard’ SLR camera – such as Asahi’s Pentax and Nikon’s F. In other ways it shows its position in the move from rangefinder to SLR. It also, of course, reflects the available technology of the day.

P1040504In the 1940s and 50s, East and West Germany were both at the forefront of redesigning their existing cameras into SLR cameras. East German Zeiss Ikon produced the Contax S from the Contax rangefinder. West German Zeiss Ikon also started with the Contax rangefinder and produced the Contaflex SLR series. The West German attempt was well engineered and over complicated and was a design dead end (but not for Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya and their medium format SLR cameras which used a similar system). The East German attempt lead to modern SLR cameras and not that much has changed to produce our current digital SLRs.

P1040505There are four things that really date this Praktica F.X2 camera. The first is then use of a film advance knob rather than a lever. This was quite usual for the time and the design changes necessary for using clever happened slowly over the 1950s.

The second thing is the shutter speed selector. In common with many cameras with a focal plane shutter, there are two separate mechanisms for fast speeds and slow speeds. There is a single selector knob but this is used in conjunction with a fast/slow selector. Fast speeds are the black range and slow speeds are the red range.

The third item that dates this camera is the viewfinder. Most 35 mm SLR cameras had/have an eye-level pentaprism finder or an interchangeable finder such as on Exakta cameras. This camera has a fixed waist-level finder but did have an optional pentaprism to convert the viewfinder to eye-level – I do not have one of these.

The fourth is the mirror. This does not return automatically after the shutter fires and so the viewfinder in blanked out until the film is advanced. Apart from being surprising, this does not really matter as you cannot use the camera without advancing the film.

top plate

This camera also has innovative features. The camera name, FX, is one of them as the camera provides flash synch for bulbs (F) and also for the newer electronic flash (X). Two PC connectors are provided for this.

The camera also offers automatic aperture closing which allows for composition and focus at the widest aperture and then closes the aperture to the set value without the user worrying about it (or forgetting it!). This is achieved by way of a moving bar just inside the throat of the lens mount – this bar moves forward and presses a pin on the rear of the lens which in turn closes the aperture.  In case this bar fouls the rear of a non-automatic lens, there is a rivet painted red just behind the bar that a can be slid to one side to disable the mechanism. I have never found this to be necessary.

Close-up showing the red rivet

I shall give a very general description: The camera body measures 155 by 90 by 48 mm and weighs 630 g. Film advance is a knob rather than a lever. The top surface of the advance knob is a frame counter. This counts up from zero and needs to be set to zero manually when a new film is loaded. Frames are indicated by marks with frames 0, 10, 20 and 30 having numbers.

The shutter speed selector has two ranges of numbers – one is black and one is red. The red range is the slow speeds and are 1/2, 1/5 and 1/10 seconds. The black range is the fast speeds and are 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and 1/500 seconds. Also in the black range is B. There is also a lightning flash on the black scale for the flash synch speed. The manual suggests that this is 1/40 seconds and will be the fastest shutter speed at which the shutter is fully open (at faster speeds, exposure is by a moving slit).

Shutter speeds are set by lifting the outer ring of the speed selector and turning until the red dot aligns with the required speed. To select between fast and slow ranges, you turn the inner ring so that the red arrow points at either the other red arrow or the black arrow. Shutter speed can be selected either before or after advancing the film (unlike shutters used on the Leica mechanism). If you select a ‘red’ speed while the selector is pointing at the black range then the shutter still fires but who knows at what speed. Same applies if you select a ‘black’ speed while the selector is pointing at the red range.

finder opened for use

The viewfinder initially looks very strange – there is no eye-piece! First, you must open the viewfinder by pressing a small stud on the rear of the top plate. The top of the viewfinder then springs up and forward and a small baffle at the rear springs up. At this point you can use the viewfinder (if it is blank, you need to wind-on the film).

The fact that the image is reversed left to right can make composing the image awkward until you are used to it. Focusing the lens is possible  at this point but critical focus is hard. To make it easier, there is a pull-out magnifier to enlarge the centre of the image. Using this entails holding the camera very close to your eye.

view of waist-level finder

There is a second option of converting the waist-level finder to a ‘sport’ finder. To do this, pull magnifier into place, pull up the front of the viewfinder lid and pull up a small eye-piece at the rear of the finder (see photos for clarity). Looking through this, you line up the edges of the two frames. You are just looking through the frames – no glass or focus screen is involved. You need the lens to be focused on infinity and the aperture small enough so the depth of field obviates the need to focus precisely. The idea is that it makes it easy to track movement such as a sportsman  – the image reversal in the standard viewfinder makes this very difficult.

KW also offered a pentaprism insert for the viewfinder to convert it to the ‘standard’ viewfinder used by nearly every other camera maker.

On the front of the camera, beside the lens, are two PC connectors for a flash gun. The bottom one is for F synch (that is flash bulbs – the flash is fired just before the shutter is fully open) and the top one is for X synch (electronic flash – the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open).

PC connectors

On the other side of the lens, at the top, is the shutter release button. usually with front mounted shutter releases, they are angled for ease of use. This one pushes in at right angles to the front. The button is threaded for a standard cable release.

The catch for the back is a slide on the left hand end of the camera. Sliding this up causes the back to come away completely from the camera – there is no hinge. As this is a German camera, the flanges around the edge of the back are large enough to prevent light leaking in without using the silly foam seals that the Japanese insisted on.

The serial number is stamped inside near the catch in the well the film cassette sits in. Mine is 311540. The take-up spool is firmly fixed in place unlike cameras from Zeiss Ikon and Exakta at this time where the take-up spool was loose.

There is an undocumented feature. On later and more expensive SLR camera, it is possible to move the mirror separately from opening the shutter. This allows any vibration caused by the mirror hitting its stop to dissipate before the film is exposed. On this camera, you can press the shutter release gently and the mirror will flip up and then you can wait a second before pressing the release button further to trip the shutter. This works well with the camera on a tripod and using a cable release.

Other features: there is a tripod boss on the base, significantly left of centre. This is a 3/8 inch Whitworth thread and mine has a more usual 1/4 inch Whitworth slug fitted in it to allow most tripods to be used. This slug is easily removed with a screwdriver if the user wants to use a larger threaded tripod. There is a lug on each front corner for fitting a neck strap.

The name of this camera is F.X2. There were three versions: FX2, F.X2 and FX.2. The position of the dot is significant but I have no idea in which way . The site tells me that the position of the dot signifies a modification of the F synchronisation

I shall be fitting a test film this coming week to try out this camera. I have no reason to suspect the it will be other than excellent but time will tell. I would like to try it with an East German lens but I do not have one. Instead, I shall use a Soviet Helios 44M lens (which is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Jena  Biotar lens – designed in East Germany if not made there).


I have tested this camera using Agfa Vista+ film. As this camera came with no lens, I have used my Soviet Helios 44M lens – this lens is a Jena design even if it was made in Russia, so it is the most appropriate lens I have. Film was developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln as always. Here are a selection of results.

I am quite pleased with the camera. There are no light leaks (it is German so I did not expect any) and the shutter is behaving at least adequately. This is a delightful camera to use and I suspect I will continue to use it. All photos were taken in Lincoln.

Praktica FX2-12
Praktica FX2-7
Praktica FX2-3
Praktica FX2-22
Praktica FX2-14

Soligor TM

A no-nonsense SLR from Miranda

Any first glance, this is a standard design 35mm SLR from the 1970s. It does, however, have a number of idiosyncrasies – I shall mention each in due course. I shall start with a general description.

P1040175lens: not supplied
focal length:  n/a
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  n/a
lens fitting:  M42
shutter:  horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds:  1 second to 1/1000 seconds
flash: 2 x PC sockets
film size: 35 mm

The top plate layout is as you would expect from a Japanese SLR. Film advance lever is on the far right and is made from anodised metal with a black plastic tip. This sits almost flush with the body but is proud enough to allow the user’s thumb to easily move it. The lever moves through just over 180° to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet so the lever has to move through its full arc to advance the film – not an issue for most people but might be for those with limited dexterity in their thumb. As well as advancing the film, this lever switches on the light meter. This means you need to leave the camera without having the film advanced in order to preserve battery life. I would find this awkward but no doubt I would adjust if this was my only camera.

P1040176Just to the left of the film advance lever is the window to the frame counter. This has a magnifying lens over it which I find makes it harder to read the numbers. This counter resets to S when the camera back is opened. The counter displays even numbers with the odd numbers as dots. Frames 20 and 36 are in red as these were the usual film lengths when this camera was made. Once 36 is reached, the frame counter will stop counting but the film can still be advanced.

P1040177At the front of the top plate, left of the frame counter window, is the shutter release button. This sits in a chrome collar and only protrudes a very small amount. The button is threaded for a standard cable release. Behind the shutter release button is the shutter speed/ film speed selector. This, again, is of a standard design. The selector turns to select shutter speeds from one second to 1/1000 seconds. This has the flash sync speed for electronic flash marked on it in red, between 1/30 and 1/60 seconds so around 1/45. To select film speed, the selector is lifted and turned. Film speeds are in ASA only (which is functionally the same as ISO even if not technically) and range from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA.

In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. This is slightly, but definitely, loose. It took me a while to work out how to remove the pentaprism viewfinder. It slides backwards but it is held in place by a catch. This catch is operated by a ring around the rewind crank which will move slightly anti-clockwise when the viewfinder is free to slide out. When the viewfinder is removed, the focus screen is exposed. This screen does not seem to be replaceable – at least not easily. On the top of the pentaprism hump is an accessory shoe. This shoe has no electrical contacts so it is  cold shoe.

P1040179P1040180I assume that other viewfinders were available but being removable meant that I could clean the top of the focus screen which was rather dirty. On the other hand, if the viewfinder was fixed and sealed, the focus screen would have stayed clean.

P1040178To the left of the pentaprism hump is the rewind crank. This is of the small sold-out type and, again as usual, pulls up to release the catch for the back. Around the crank is a film type memo – the options are B &W, colour negative and colour positive.  To help the hard of reading, ‘B&W’ is in black, ‘color’ is in red, ‘neg’ in green and ‘pos’ is in yellow. This has no function other than as a mnemonic. As already mentioned, there is a ring around the rewind crank which only moves slightly anti-clockwise and releases the viewfinder for removal.

The front of the camera is, of course, dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 threaded mount (the thread is 42 mm in diameter with a 1 mm pitch) – the ‘TM’ in the camera name means Threaded Mount as the makers also made bayonet mount cameras. This mount is also known as a Pentax mount (not to be confused with Pentax’s K mount nor with the M43 mount which is the Micro Four Thirds mount) and Praktica mount. This mount was very widely used from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s (and occasionally since) so there are very many lenses available that will fit this camera.

P1040181This is the ‘automatic’ version of the M42 mount which means that a plate moves forward at the bottom of the mount when the shutter release is pressed. This plate pushes a pin on the lens to come the aperture in the lens just before the shutter opens.

To the left of the lens mount (on the right, looking at the lens) is a largish button.Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens which gives you a preview of the depth of field. It is also necessary for the light meter as the meter needs to measure the actual light entering the camera. The button operates on a toggle – pressing once closes the diaphragm; pressing again opens the diaphragm again. This allows you to continue to compose your picture after you have set the exposure. The meter is of the type where you centre the needle in the viewfinder. This suggests that the meter is based around a bridge circuit which, in turn, means that the exact voltage of the battery does not matter so long as it is not nearly flat – no worries about using the right type of battery as any that will fit will work.

The sensor for the meter (a CdS sensor) is behind the mirror and there is a definite half-silvered pattern on the mirror over the sensor. When looking through the viewfinder, this is not visible but if you remove the lens and look into the throat of the lens mount it can be easily seen. The sensor covers most of the middle and lower parts of the image except where the micro-prism focus aids are right in the centre (in the picture above, this sensor can be clearly seen. It is at the top of the mirror as cameras make the image upside down).

To the right of the lens mount (left when looking at the lens) are two PC sockets for flash connection. The top connector is marked FP and is for fast flash bulbs (FP=FocalPlane) and the bottom connector is marked X and is for electronic flash. For FP flash bulbs, any shutter speed can be used as the flash duration is long enough to properly expose all the picture at any shutter speed. For electronic flash, the shutter speed must be at the red marking (1/45th second) or slower. Other flash bulbs can be used but must be at 1/30th second or slower (that is mostly academic as flash bulbs are no longer available new).

P1040182The base plate of the camera has a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth or UNC) threaded tripod socket. This is immediately behind the lens so should balance well. Beside the tripod socket is the battery holder. This takes one SR44 battery – I have no idea if this is what the makers intended but it fits and works. Towards one end is the button to allow film rewind.

Inside, there are no surprises. The shutter is a horizontal focal p[lane shutter with cloth blinds. The blinds look to be in good condition – no wrinkles and no visible holes: the test film will show for sure. The take-up spool has multiple slots to make attaching the film leader easy, but to be honest, I have never had any trouble loading film into any camera. Being a Japanese camera, there are foam light seals in the groove that the back sits in when closed and these have now aged to a sticky goo so need replacing before I can test the camera.

My Final WordThe Soligor TM is a no nonsense SLR from the mid 1970s. It is well designed and well made but has no innovative features. Easy to use, it would be a good work-horse of a camera for a keen amateur.
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
Final Score19

Fujica ST605

This is a 35mm SLR film camera from 1977. It is very reminescent of an Asahi Pentax. Interestingly, Fuji (as Fujifilm) are one of the few companies to still make film cameras – the Fuji Instax.


So, this is an all manual film camera using the standard M42 lens mount thread introduced by eastern Zeiss Ikon in 1949. This is the standard adopted by Asahi for their Pentax cameras and is frequently known as the Pentax thread. You might also hear it called the universal lens thread. Use of this lens mounting thread means that there are thousands of top quality lenses available at low prices. Downside is there are virtually no zoom lenses or very long focal length lenses available.


The camera has a TTL (Through The Lens) lightmeter which is powered by two LR44 batteries. These are alkaline batteries (silver versions are available) and are readily available so this meter stills works as intended with no adjustments needed such as are required with meters designed for the obsolete mercury batteries. This meter is a stop-down meter which means that the viewfinder is rather dark as you are trying to centre the meter needle. The technique for doing this is to set your required shutter speed and adjust the aperture until the meter needle is centred. The background to the needle is stepped, allowing you to set the exposure at either + or – one or two stops if required.

Before using the meter, you need to tell it what speed film you are using. Film speed is measured in ASA (which is effectively, if not technically, the same as ISO speed). There is no DIN speed option. Film speed is set by lifting and rotating the shutter speed dial. Film speeds available are from 25 ASA to 3200 ASA.


The camera is fairly heavy – the camera body is entirely metal – at xxxg with no lens. It measures 132 mm wide by 87 mm high and 50 mm deep. The top plate is entirely like an Asahi Pentax – see photograhs for comparison. The top plate is matt stainless steel. On the right is the film advance lever – metal with a black plastic tip. This is not on a ratchet so the film must be advanced with a full stroke of the lever – just over 180°. On the right of this is the frame counter. This counts up and is reset to ‘S’ (-2) when the back is opened. Only even numbers are shown – white in a black background.


Next along the top plate is the shutter speed selector dial. Again, this is very like the versionon the Pentax. Available speeds are normal with a strange anomaly. The range is from 1.2 second to 1/500 seconds in one stop steps. The anomaly is the fastest shutter speed which is 1/700 seconds – not quite half a stop faster than 1/500 seconds. I am sure Fujica had a good reason for this but it entirely escapes me. 1/60 seconds is printed in red as this is the flash synch speed (i.e. the fastest shutter speed where the shutter is completely open rather than just a travelling slit).

Between, and in front of, the film advance lever and the shutter speed selector is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated in a chrome plated collar. The button is threaded for a standard cable release – this is a tapered thread; the cable release will screw in just far enough to bind the threads. In the centre of the top plate is, as you might expect,  the pentaprism hump. This supports an accessory shoe which carries a standard electrical contact so is a hot shoe. It is marked with a ‘X’ indicating that it is synchronised for electronic flash.

Just to the left of the pentaprism hump is an engraved circle with a line through it – this denotes the position of the film in the camera for critical work. At the left hand end of the top plate is the rewind crank. This also doubles as the catch for the back – you pull it up to release the back.

As always, the front is dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 thread (42 mm by 1 mm pitch) variously known as the Pentax thread, Praktica thread or universal thread – it was introduced by East German Zeiss Ikon in 1949. Just inside the mount, at the bottom is a curved plate that moves forward when the shutter release button is pressed – this closes the lens aperture for the exposure by depressing a pin on the lens.


On the left side of the mount is a PC socket (Prontor Compur, not computer) for off-camera flash. This is synchronised for electronic flash only. On the other side of the lens mount are two items. First, a button which both closes the diaphragm in the lens and also switches on the light meter. This can also be used as a depth of field preview button, if you wish. Below this is the self-delay lever. You rotate this nearly 180° to set it. This also reveals a small chrome button which you press to start the timer. On my camera, the delay for firing the shutter is about 8 seconds. The only other item on the front is a strap-lug on either front corner of the camera.

The rear of the camera has two items on it. First, the viewfinder eye-piece. The view is fairly large and bright – this will vary depending on the maximum aperture of the lens in use, f/2.2 in this case. On the lower right edge of the focus screen is the light meter needle. As mentioned above, this is turned on by depressing the large button by the lens mount. Unfortunately, this closes the aperture of the lens, and at f/16 the screen is rather dark and it is difficult to see the meter needle. The meter is set by adjusting shutter speed and aperture until the needle is centred in the display. Should you want to use exposure compensation, the background to the meter is stepped  – the first step is one stop away from ideal and the second step is two stops away from ideal.

To the left of the viewfinder eye-piece is the battery compartment. On most cameras, this is in the base plate but occasionally you will find them elsewhere. The required batteries are two 1.5v batteries- the camera is currently loaded with two LR44 batteries which are still widely available. The camera works just fine without the batteries but with no meter.

The base of the camera is sparse. There is the standard tripod boss – 1/4 inch UNC thread – and the rewind button – pressing this in uncouples the film advance mechanism allowing you to rewind the film.

The lens that came with the camera is Fuji Photo Film Co’s own Fujinon lens. Focal length is 55 mm and maximum aperture is f/2.2 (minimum aperture is f/16). The lens looks to be well made and the glass is clear with no trace of fungus or dust. Research on the Interweb suggests that this is a four element lens. It focuses up to 0.6 m (two feet in old money).

Wirgin Edixa-Mat Reflex mod B

I now own two Wirgin Edixa cameras. The other one is  simple viewfinder camera, the Edixa 1This is a hefty, solid looking camera with a reputation for not being robust. It was made in Wiesbaden in West Germany between 1960 and 1962. The German heritage is very apparent in the styling – it has a very definite Zeiss Ikon look about it. In terms of facilities offered, it is between technological eras. It has an instant return mirror and automatic lens diaphragm which were very much state of the art in 1960. On the other hand, it has separate fast and slow shutter speed selectors which was becoming rather passé by then. The cost in 1965 was around £44.

Edixa-mat SLR (C) John Margetts
lens: n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42 thread
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1,2,5 and 10 slow speeds, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 and 1/1000  fast speeds
flash: M and X PC connectors
film size: 35 mm
A description of the camera:
On the right hand end of the top plate is the film advance lever. The camera is modern enough to have a lever and not a knob. This lever is not on a ratchet so it is not possible to advance the film with a series of short movements – not a major problem for most people. In the centre of the film advance lever is the frame counter. This is additive and needs to be set to 1 manually when loading film. With this particular camera, this is faulty – one sweep of the lever moves the frame counter either 1, 1.5 or 2 places.
Next to the film advance is the shutter speed selector. This is in two parts. The central part works by lifting and turning the knob to the required speed. This can be turned continually (ie from 1/1000 to B to 1/25) and can be set either before or after advancing the film. Speeds available here are B, 1/25, 1/59, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 and 1/1000. Below this selector is a lever to set the slow speeds. This lever is normally set to a black O to use the fast speeds. To use the slow speeds the fast speed selector must be set to 1/25 and the slow speed selector is then set to either 1/10, 1/5, 1/2 or 1 seconds.
Frame counter and two speed selectors
In the centre of the top plate is the viewfinder. This can be either a waist-level finder or a pentaprism finder. The waist-level finder was supplied as default. My camera has the pentaprism finder. This can be removed by sliding two chrome buttons apart and then lifting the finder off. The finder also has focus screen options – mine is plain ground glass with a split-image centre. My camera also has the optional accessory shoe which fits over the viewfinder eye-piece. It is so loose I suspect it came from another Edixa model (it is stamped ‘Edixa’).
Blog (C) John Margetts 2016
viewfinder detached
viewfinder detached

The front of the camera has the lens close to the centre – it is slightly offset to the left. The lens mount is M42 – also known as the Pentax thread mount and almost ubiquitous in 1960. This camera came without a lens but I have three excellent Soviet Helios-44 lenses that fit – one entirely manual Helios-44 that came with my Zenit E and two Helios-44M lenses that have the automatic diaphragm option. Just inside the lens mount is a small (3mm by 15mm approx) plate that moves forward when the shutter release is pressed. This plate presses on a pin on the rear of the lens to close the aperture to its preset value.

Plate to close the automatic aperture

Just to the right of the lens mount are two PC (Prontor-Compur) sockets for connecting a flash gun. The top socket is for flash bulbs and the lower one for electronic flash guns. The only difference between them is the delay between firing the flash and the shutter opening – the flash bulbs requiring a longer delay to allow the bulb to reach its full intensity.

Above the PC sockets is the shutter release button. I have around 60 mechanical cameras in my collection and this is the only one that is not threaded for a standard cable release. Why?  Instead, the surround to the button is threaded to allow the use of a very non-standard cable release. Beside the shutter release button is a sliding lock to prevent accidental use of the shutter release.

PC sockets and shutter release

On the corners on the top of the front are brass eyelets for attaching a neck strap. One of these is broken on my camera meaning I shall have to carry the camera in my hand – not a good idea for a rather heavy camera.


The base plate has a central tripod boss – the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth thread (1/4 inch UNC on more modern cameras). There is also a nice and large chrome button to release the film advance mechanism to enable rewinding the film. This is much easier to use than the usual minuscule recessed button.

This camera is entirely manual and has no light meter. This means that the controls are sparse and the camera easy to use. This morning I tried the camera using the Sunny 16 rule to gauge the exposure and checked on my accuracy using my trusty Zeiss Ikon Ikophot meter. My guess was f/8 @ 1/200 seconds and the meter said f/8 @ 1/250 seconds – close enough!
focusing screen with the viewfinder removed

Focusing this camera is easy. The viewfinder image is bright and exactly life-size. The split-image spot in the centre is larger than on any other camera I own. The ground glass screen is ground fine enough and the image is bright enough so that focusing is easy without the split-image spot. When the shutter has been released, a small circle appears in the top of the viewfinder image. This is obtrusive enough to make it clear that the film needs to be wound on. The shutter release button falls naturally to my index finger and has a fairly light touch (hence the release lock!). My only quibble here is that the button is at right angles to the front of the body. If it has to be on the front, I would prefer it to be angled like on a Praktica. Best of all would be on the top plate.

camera missing the viewfinder

When I first received the camera, lack of use was very evident. The fast shutter speeds were hesitant and the slow speeds did not work at all. My usual practice here is to repeatedly dry-fire the shutter for an hour or so – drives Bestbeloved nuts but this improved things to the point that fast speeds sounded OK and the slow speeds were hesitant. On reading Simon Hawketts’ Photo Blog about old cameras (Edixa-Mat Reflex mod B article here) he lubricated the slow speed escapement (already beyond my technological limits!) to get the slow speeds to work. On the basis that I couldn’t harm the camera with a bit of oil (experience tells me that, actually, I can) I removed the base plate and put very small amounts of oil around the parts that moved (I wouldn’t know an escapement if it bit me on the leg). A further thirty minutes dry-firing and the slow speeds were sounding pretty good.

Other things to note: There is missing leatherette on the viewfinder. I could get some new and glue it on – it is a very simple job to do, but I doubt I shall bother. The front of the camera has had new leatherette fitted – is has a totally different pattern and is slightly too thick. The leatherette on the back is becoming detached and, again, it would be a simple matter to glue it back in place.

My test film will show how well the shutter is working. Overall  poor exposure will indicate that shutter is not moving at the right speed and uneven exposure will indicate that the two shutter curtains are moving at different speeds. Any bright patches show there are holes in the curtain material – but they look fine.

The other thing that the test film will show up is light leaks. The Germans were not as reliant on light seals as the Japanese were but there are light seals on this camera. They look to be in good condition but we will see when the test film is developed.

Test Film

All is not well. But all is not lost, either. There are no visible light leaks and the shutter curtains seem to be moving smoothly – all the exposures are even. But even is all I can say for them! Most of the roll is massively over-exposed indicating that either both curtains are moving much too slowly, or the slit between them is much too large. However, it is not consistent. Really, I should keep a note of the exposure for each frame but I am too lazy to do that. The first two frames are exposed ok and a couple mid-roll were also exposed ok which suggests that the problem is related to the chosen shutter speed.


Here is a comment I have received from Michael Roth about this exposure problem:

“John, I enjoyed reading your report. I might be able to help you with the overexposure problem. It is quite likely that nothing is wrong with your camera, but the lens you are using may not be quite the right fit. That’s because the Edixa-Mat Reflex has a non-standard M42 mount that requires a longer than usual pin on the lens mount in order for the aperture to stop down beyond F8 or so. Since the standard M42 mount lens pin is too short for the Edixa mount, the aperture is not stopped down further than about F8 in auto mode even if you choose F11 or F16 on your lens. I have an Edixa-Auto-Cassaron lens that perfectly fits my Edixa-Mat Reflex Model D while standard M42 mount lenses have the stop down problem I described. The Edixa-Auto-Cassaron lens does not fit on my earlier Edixa Reflex Model C which appears to have yet another non-standard M42 mount. I have an ISCO Westanar lens with semi-automatic M42 mount which works on both Edixas. So you can either try other early M42 lenses you may have or use your M42 lens in manual mode or don’t stop down more than F5.6 or F8 if you use your lens in auto mode. Good luck!”

I have had a look at the aperture of my Helios-44M lens while the shutter speed is set to B and it is clear that the diaphragm is not closing down at all. This means that those shots with an aperture set at f/2 to f/ 4 are well within the latitude of the film but the rest are over exposed to a varying degree. I can overcome this as Michael suggests by finding a lens that works with the camera or by switching the lens to manual and not using the automatic aperture facility. My following comment is now moot (and greyed out).

It is possible that the 1/100 speed is where the exposure is ok and on other speeds the 1/100 speed slit is being maintained rather than being thinner as it should be. I am open to suggestions if anyone has any.

Here are the pictures: (problems are not as apparent as they could be as I have adjusted the images as well as I can on Gimp. Some are still clearly beyond the latitude of the film)

My usual first subject with a new camera
Exposed OK
First of the over-exposed photos

Asahi Pentax SV

This is the archetypical 35 mm SLR from Asahi – marketed in the Americas as the Honeywell H3v. It wasn’t Asahi’s first 35 mm SLR – that was the Asahiflex – and there were earlier S model Pentax SLRs – but it is the direct ancestor to the famed Spotmatic.
Pentax SV with Super-Takumar lens

Mine is an early SV which is indicated by there being a green R on the rewind crank. Later models had an orange R which indicated that there was room for the 50mm f/1.4 lens which protruded further into the lens mount. It is an entirely mechanical camera: no batteries, no meter, little to go wrong. To look at, it is just about identical to my Spotmatic SP1000 – the photos will show you the differences. The price of this camera in 1965 was £110. This equates to £3,553 in 2020 values.

Pentax SV top – Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 bottom

My particular camera has been very badly treated. It has been stored somewhere very damp causing extensive corrosion of what appears to be nickel-plating on the top plate and fascia. this corrosion is bad enough to leave the surface of the metal very pitted after I have cleaned the verdigris off. This, however, does not affect the workings which are fine (as far as I can tell). Also, someone has repaired this camera and re-assembled it incorrectly. I know this for two reasons. Firstly, there was a black painted thin brass plate hanging down into the mirror cavity. While this did not obstruct the light path, it did foul on the diaphragm pin on the automatic M42 mount lens. I suspect that this plate was some sort of light baffle and should have gone upwards in front of the pentaprism rather than downwards into the mirror box. This plate was so distorted by fitting and removing the lens that it is no longer there – I just hope it was not a critical component.

Secondly, when I removed the fascia (to aid removing the jammed lens) the screws, while not loose, were surprisingly easy to remove for screws that had been in place for over 50 years.
As I said earlier, this camera has a standard Pentax layout. On the far right is the film advance lever. this advances the film one frame with one easy movement. As was usual by the 60s, it also cocks the shutter. There is a frame counter built into the film advance which automatically resets to -2 when you open the back. Next to the film advance lever and slightly forward of it is the shutter release button. this is threaded for a standard cable release. Next to this is the shutter speed selector. This goes from 1 second to 1/1000 seconds plus B. It also has a T setting. With T, you press the shutter once to open the shutter and then a second time to close the shutter again. This was normal on most cameras in the first half of the 20th century but rather unusual in the second half. The T setting has a large groove cut into the dial. This is a locating device for the optional light meter, allowing the meter to ‘read’ the selected shutter speed.
Next to the shutter speed selector is the pentaprism viewfinder. This is good and clear with a bright micro-prism centre spot for accurate focussing. Outside the central spot is a Fresnel lens area to give even illumination of the image.
Left of the viewfinder is the rewind crank. This is a typical fold-out small crank the same as just about every Japanese camera. Below the rewind crank is a film speed reminder. This has two scales – one silver for monochrome films and one green for colour films. The silver one goes from 25 to 1600 ASA and the green scale goes from 12 to 400 ASA (ASA is broadly the same as ISO, but technically different).
Below the ASA reminder is a delay action timer. You set this by turning the knurled ring clockwise. If turned as far as it will go, you get a ten second delay, but you can choose a shorter delay by only turning the knurled ring part way. There is a ‘V’ on the ring (V = Vorlaufwerk which is German for a delay timer and is the reason for the V in the name Pentax SV) and supposedly the shutter will fire when the V reaches the front of the camera. This is another reason I know the camera has been “repaired” as this camera fires when the V is at the back of the camera – it does, though, still work well. The front of the camera has the lens which is almost central. To the right of the lens (as in looking at the lens) are two PC sockets for flash synchronisation. The top one is for fast flash bulbs and the lower one for electronic flash a M flash bulbs. Synchronisation shutter speed is 1/50 seconds marked on the speed selector as a red X.
The base of the camera has little on it – a tripod boss (1/4 inch Whitworth) behind the lens and a button to release the internal mechanisms for rewinding then film.

In use.

The camera is a delight to use as all the controls fall easily to hand. Focusing is easy with the micro-prisms clearly showing when the image is in focus. The camera came without a lens and for my test film I mostly used my Soviet Helios 44M lens.  While testing the camera, I bought a Super-Takumar f/2 55 mm lens. This is not the lens supplied with the SV but was supplied with the sister model S1. I used this Super-Takumar for the last three frames of the test film.

Although it does not seem to be a design feature, the camera almost has mirror lock-up. I initially thought this might be due to wear on my own camera but I have seen it mention elsewhere on the Interweb. If you press the shutter release button half way, the mirror will come up but the shutter will not fire. You can then press the shutter release all the way and the shutter will fire. This allows you to have a second or so delay for vibrations to die away before the shutter opens.

A selection from the test film are below. Indications are good. I can see no real problems with the camera at all. The lack of the lack of the mysterious black plate I mentioned at the start and had to remove does not seem to have caused any problems.

Pentax SV, Helios 44M lens. Southwell Minster
Rowan leaves and berries
A flower
Ragwort flowers
Vetch flowers
Grazing bullock
Messingham gravel pit
Child’s bike – Super-Takumar lens
Busker, Lincoln city centre – Super-Takumar lens

Ihagee West – Exakta TL500

I do not intend to repeat the history of Ihagee here, suffice it to say that during the 1950s, 60s and 70s there were two Ihagee companies – the original Ihagee in Dresden that became absorbed into VEB Pentacon and a newer Ihagee West started by the original owner of the Dresden Ihagee (Johan Steenbergen) after he was unable to return to Dresden.  This camera is from Ihagee West rather than Ihagee Dresden. I say ‘from’ Ihagee West and not ‘by’ Ihagee West as they neither designed nor made this camera which bears their name.
Ihagee West Exakta TL500
I have five other Exakta cameras – all made in Germany by Ihagee. They are the Varex IIb, Exa IIa, Exa Ia, Exa 500 and Exakta RTL1000. This Exakta camera was designed and made by the Japanese company Petri. I am not saying that is a bad thing – Petri made some fine cameras and this camera is a fine camera – but it is not a German camera and does not carry any of the well-loved Exakta design concepts. The legend on the front of the camera says ‘Exakta TL500’ but in fact it is a re-badged Petri FT – the only clue to this is the stamp on the base saying ‘Made in Japan’.

lens: n/a
focal length:  n,/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42 thread
shutter: cloth focal plane
speeds: 1 second to 1/500 seconds
flash: hot shoe plus PC socket
film size: 35 mm (135)

This camera is fairly heavy – it weighs 682 g with no lens – and measures 145 by 95 by 50 mm. This camera was made (or rather, marketed) in 1976 only (I have been unable to find much information about this camera or, indeed, Ihagee West other than neither maker nor camera were very successful). The layout is pretty much standard for the time.

Exakta TL500
Most controls are on the top plate. On the far left is the rewind crank. (the usual Exakta system of film cassette on the right and take-up spool on the left has not been maintained) and is the now usual small fold-out crank. This lifts to release the film cassette inside.
Next to this is the the film speed selector – the main scale is ASA and is printed in white, there is also a DIN scale printed in red. This selector moves in 1/3 stop click-stops – i.e. one degree DIN. The range is from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA (ASA being effectively the same as ISO). In the middle is the bump of the pentaprism with an accessory shoe on top. This has a central contact for flash and so is a hot shoe.
To the right of the pentaprism is the shutter speed selector. This goes from one second to 1/500 seconds in the usual sequence (the maximum speed of 1/500 gives the camera its name – its sister camera, the TL1000, had a top speed of 1/1000). Flash synch is marked with a red cross as 1/60. At the date of this camera, the makers will have assumed electronic flash.
On the right hand end of the top plate is the film advance lever. This is tipped in black plastic and moves through 180 degrees to wind on one frame.  Between the shutter speed selector and the film advance lever is a window for the frame counter. This resets to -2 (indicated by S) when the back is opened. This counter counts up from zero.
Exakta TL500 rear view
The front of the top plate, apart from the name, has nothing but the battery compartment. This holds a PX625A alkaline battery (still readily available). On the end of the top plate, on the left, is a PC connector for off-camera flash. Both the battery compartment and the PC socket are in unusual places. In fact, this is the first time I have seen a battery compartment anywhere but on the base plate. Unusual it might be, there is nothing wrong with it.  On the front of the camera there is nothing apart from the lens. There is no shutter delay lever on this camera. The lens mount has a standard M42 thread – Ihagee abandoned their Exakta bayonet mount right at the time that other camera makers were abandoning M42 threads. On the plus side, there were (and still are) a great many lenses available in M42 mount. Replacing the threaded mounting ring with an Exakta bayonet mounting ring would have been easy and cheap but it may well have cost more to do so while maintaining the correct lens-to-film distance. Regardless, Ihagee West went with Petri’s M42 mount.
At the bottom of the lens mount is the TTL exposure meter switch. This is a stop-down system – pressing the switch stops the iris diaphragm down and switches on the electronics. To use, first you select your shutter speed, then press the meter switch and, while holding down the switch, turn the aperture ring until the meter needle in the viewfinder coincides with the white circle. It is possible to use this meter by setting the aperture and adjusting the shutter speed to match the needle-white ring but this is very awkward to do.  As the aperture stops-down to take the light reading, the viewfinder becomes very dark and it can be difficult to see the meter needle. 
At this point, I should offer a caveat to any new user of an Exakta TL500 (or TL1000). The exposure meter is automatically switched off by taking a picture. If you cannot get the meter to respond, wind-on the film. This is a good system as leaving the camera without winding on the film will prevent the battery from running down.
The base plate is uncluttered, having the rewind button and a 1/4 inch Whitworth (i.e. standard) tripod boss.  The catch for the back is on the left end and is pulled up to release the back.
Inside is as we would expect. On the left is the space for the film cassette, in the middle is the image window (24×36 mm) and on the right is the toothed sprocket that allows the film to be advanced a set number of sprocket holes. Right on the right is the take-up spool. This rotates in the opposite direction to the film advance lever. The lever moves counter-clockwise while the take-up spool rotates clockwise. This means that the film is stored emulsion side outwards..
Exakta TL500 – internal view
The edges of the back have black light-seal foam to prevent stray light getting in the join and fogging the film. This became normal in the 1960s but has the disadvantage that the foam eventually goes gooey and ceases to act as a light seal. I suspect that the designers of this camera would be surprised that their creation was still in use after forty years. I would imagine that cameras of the time had an expected life well within the useful life of the foam. Replacing light seal foam is both easy and cheap. I have a sheet of suitable self-adhesive foam bought on Ebay which only cost two or three pounds. The old foam can be removed with a cotton bud soaked in naptha (aka lighter fuel) and the new foam cut into suitable sized strips with scissors and then stuck in place.
I don’t know what lens this camera came with when new but my TL500 came with an Auto Optomax. This lens is a 28mm lens so it is unlikely to be the original lens. Actually, this lens (which is in very good condition) makes a useful addition to my (small) collection of M42 lenses (this collection consists of a Helios-44 manual lens, Helios-44M auto lens, Vivitar 2x converter and this Optomax lens).

In use:

I had a spare half hour this morning and replaced the gooey light seals with new foam.  The camera should be good to go, so I have loaded it with Agfaphoto Vista + 200 ISO film (£1.00 per cassette from Poundland) and spent the morning taking photos of Lincoln. This camera came with no lens. I have been using my Soviet Helios-44M lens that came with my Asahi Spotmatic SP1000.  Tomorrow I am going to use my Optomax 28mm lens to finish off the roll of film.  Any M42 screw threaded lens will fit.
The first thing I have noticed using this camera is the weight. Over the last few weeks I have been using my Pentax ME Super and Olympus OM 10 – both of which are about as small as a film SLR can get and both are very light.
Not being made by Ihagee, all the controls are in the right place – i.e. both shutter release and film advance are on the right which makes using this camera fairly intuitive to use.
The camera is designed to use automatic lenses – which I am doing – but will still work with manual lenses (by ‘automatic’ I am referring to the diaphragm not the focusing).
To set the exposure, I need to choose a shutter speed, press the meter lever at the right side of teh lens mount base and while doing so rotate the aperture ring until the needle in the viewfinder is in the centre of the ring.  this sounds harder and more complicated than it is. The only problem I am having with this is finding the aperture ring by feel – this is not an issue with the camera, it is just that I am used to the aperture ring being on the outer edge of the lens barrel.
The shutter/mirror action is quite good – not a lot of jar.
All in all, I am quite enjoying using this camera. there is one problem which is to do with the camera/lens combination. Focused on infinity, everything is fine. Focused on 0.6m. everything is fine. But if I focus on the hyperfocal distance (6m @ f11) the mirror will not return after the shot. Nor will the lens unscrew. To return the mirror I am having to re-focus to infinity, wind on the film and fire the shutter.  This has resulted in several wasted frames.  [EDIT: this happened over the first few frames of the first film. At exposure 16 it is no longer happening.]

When the film has been developed, I will post a selection of the test pictures.


Here are a selection of pictures from my test film.  I am quite impressed.  All are exposed well so no problems with the exposure meter.  Exposure is even so the shutter blinds are moving smoothly.

Bridge over the Witham, Lincoln


High Street, Lincoln


Swans on the Witham, Lincoln


Housing estate road, Lincoln
%d bloggers like this: