Thursday, 20 October 2016

Kiev 4 (Киев 4)

My most recent acquisition is this Soviet Kiev 4. It is a straight copy of the Zeiss Ikon Contax III (with only very slight changes).

Kiev 4 - front view

At the end of WWII, the Soviet army had Zeiss Ikon rebuild their production line for the Contax and then, once the line was working properly, they shipped the production line to Kiev in Ukraine. They also renamed the camera Kiev. This camera is a Kiev 4 and is a copy of the Contax III - there was also a Kiev 4a which was a copy of the Contax II. The difference between the 4 and 4a is the presence of a light meter in the Kiev 4.

The Soviet Union produced cameras both for the home market and for export. Those intended for home consumption had their logos and indicators in Cyrillic while those for export used the Latin alphabet. My camera has the logo in both Cyrillic and Latin but other writing is all in Cyrillic, indicating that the camera was not intended for export (сделано в CCCP = Made in USSR ) 

The camera has a very Zeiss Ikon look about it and the body is broadly similar to the Pentacon F and Contaflex - both German derivatives of the Contax, the Pentacon F being East German and the Contaflex being West German (younger readers should consult their history books!).

The camera is heavy - 768g with the standard Jupiter 8 lens - and the controls reveal the camera's design date (1936). the film advance is a knob (usual in the 1930s, very old fashioned in 1969 when my camera was made) as is the film rewind. The viewfinder is very small, hard to use while wearing glasses and (because it is bare metal) likely to scratch modern plastic spectacle lenses. The last anochronistic item is the tripod boss which is 3/8 inch Whitworth. Standard for consumer cameras had been 1/4 inch for some tine (currently 1/4" UNC rather than 1/4" Whitworth but the two are close enough to be interchangeable).

The knob on the right hand end of the top plate has three functions

  1.  in the centre is the shutter release, threaded for a standard cable release.
  2. around the shutter release is a knurled ring to wind on the film and reset the shutter.
  3. The shutter speed selector - operated by lifting and turning the film advance ring.

The manual says that the shutter speed can be selected either before or advancing the the film but that it is better done after advancing then film.

Kiev 4 - top plate
Next to the right hand knob is a window showing the frame numbers. This is nice and large and shows 12 numbers with a red dot indicating the current frame. This counts up from zero and goes to 36. It is reset manually by a toothed wheel on the back edge of the top plate.

Being a rangefinder camera, there is no pentaprism hump but where you might expect to see one there is a light meter. This has a selenium sensor and so has no need for a battery. One drawback of selenium meters is that they can lose sensitivity with continued exposure to light. To prevent this from happening, there is a cover to the meter window on the front of the camera. thesis opened by pushing the cover slightly to the right when it will spring open.

On the top of the meter is the meter window. This has a central lozenge and -2 and -4 marks. The meter is used by turning the control knob on the left until the meter needle is centred on the central lozenge. The -2 and -4 marks are used in low light conditions - they are each one stop away from the central position. If there is insufficient light to get the meter needle to the lozenge, you line it up with the -2 or -4 and then multiply the indicated exposure by either one stop or two stops.

Also on the top of the meter is the accessory shoe. There are no electrical contacts here so this is a cold shoe. It was intended that this accessory shoe would hold an auxiliary viewfinder when longer focal length lenses were used. In the centre of the accessory shoe is the legend сделано в CCCP (made in USSR) and the serial number 6968008 which indicates that the camera was made in 1969 (the first two digits of the serial number being the year of manufacture).

Kiev 4 - accessory shoe
On the left end of the top plate is another multi-function knob. 

  1. The outer knurled ring adjusts the light meter.
  2. The inner ring which is adjusted by two studs to set the film speed.
  3. The centre is a pull up knob for rewinding the film.

The film speeds are indicated in гост which translates as GOST. This is basically the same as ASA (or ISO). The Gost scale is awkward as it does not have the usual ASA numbers. There is 65, 130, 250 and 500. Using 'western' film, ASA 100, 200 or 400 film requires guessing the position of the film speed selector. If this scale was in DIN, it would be 20 DIN (65 Gost), 23 DIN (125 Gost), 26 DIN (225 Gost), 29 DIN (500 Gost) which is probably the reason for the choices - the camera having been designed in Germany where DIN is usual.

The front of the camera is dominated (as always) by the lens mount. This is the Contax bayonet mount (not to be confused with the Contax/Yashica mount of SLR cameras). There are actually two bayonet mounts here. The 50mm Jupiter 8 lens fits into the mount and latches onto three lugs inside the mount. There is a second, larger, bayonet mount around the distance scale which is for longer focal length lenses.
Kiev 4 - lens mount

This lens mount is connected to the rangefinder and either rotates to focus the lens when the rangefinder wheel is turned (more later) or turns the rangefinder mechanism when the lens is turned. When the lens is focused on infinity it locks inlace. When locked, the lens cannot be focused. It can be unlocked in two ways.

  1. there is a small pointed stud near the upper left of the lens mount which can be moved away from the lens to unlock it.
  2. there is a lever by the rangefinder wheel which you depress as you turn the wheel.

On the right of the lens mount (right as in when using the camera) is a delay action lever. This rotates through just over 90 degrees to wind-up the action. It is activated by sliding a small button which is usually hidden beneath the lever. On the other side of the lens, just below the viewfinder window, is a PC socket for connecting a flash gun.

The rangefinder shares the same eyepiece as the viewfinder. To give as much accuracy as possible to the rangefinder , the two windows on the front are kept as far apart as possible (9 cm centre to centre). This is much further apart than on the Leica which was the main competitor when this camera was designed in 1936 and also than the FED and Zorki copies of the Leica.

Kiev 4 - rangefinder wheel
Just to the right of the light meter and slightly below it is the rangefinder wheel mentioned above. I find this very hard to use as when my index finger is on the wheel ready to turn it, my middle finger naturally falls over the rangefinder window, rendering it inoperable. For me, it is much easier to focus by turning the lens. The rangefinder spot is easy to see and is slightly yellow for maximum contrast. This yellowing is achieved by 'silvering' the internals of the rangefinder with gold.

For those who do not know, a rangefinder works by producing two different images in the viewfinder.
As you change focus, one of the images moves. To achieve accurate focus, you make sure your subject is in the centre of the viewfinder and turn the rangefinder wheel or lens until the two images are superimposed on each other. With practice, this is quick, easy and accurate.

Kiev 4 - rear view
To open the camera, it is necessary to remove the back and base as one unit. At home, working on a table, this is slightly easier than a hinged back. In the field, it is a nightmare. You need to find somewhere to put the back/base while manipulating the film. To make matters worse, the take-up spool is loose and liable to fall out.

The reason for the loose take-up spool is that it can be replaced with an empty cassette, removing the need to rewind the film when finished. This gives a faster reload time - good for studio work but not good elsewhere. I think, in general, this camera was designed with the studio in mind.

Kiev 4 - back/base removed
To release the back/base there are two folding lugs to turn half a turn. Inside the camera is as you would expect a 35 mm camera to be. Until, that is, you look at the shutter. Instead of the rubberised cloth usual until the 1980s, it consists of brass slats which move vertically and are held on cloth ribbons. this works the same as a cloth shutter as distinct from the modern metal shutters. Speeds provided are impressive - up to 1/1250 seconds and down to 1/2 second. The speed range is the modern one of 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 etc.

Kiev 4 - detail of brass shutter

The lens supplied is the Jupiter-8M. This is a Soviet copy of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens. This lens has six elements in three groups. How well it performs remains to be seen. Someone has attempted to dismantle my lens (never a good sign) evidenced by the aperture adjustment ring being out of kilter. Hopefully, that is as far as they got - none of the internal black paint is scratched which his a good sign. Ro-orienting the aperture ring was simply done.
Jupiter-8M lens - front bezel

The aperture has nine blades which gives a good shape to the aperture. What is curiose is that the aperture blades are curved (see photo) producing a clearly less than circular disc. I will try to produce some booked shots with my test film to see if this makes much difference. 

detail of lens showing curved aperture blades

The Jupiter 8 M is a 50 mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/2 and a minimum aperture of f/22 - quite a useable range. f/22 is about  the limit in 35 mm photography before diffraction softening starts to be a nuisance. The aperture ring has click stops but can still be set between these values  The finish on this lens is shiny chrome with a black lens bezel. - contrasting with the matt chrome on the camera body.

Test film will follow very soon.

 (сделано в CCCP = Made in USSR ) ,  

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Praktica BC1 electronic

This was one of my better buys from Ebay. I have two BC1 bodies, a Prakticar 50mm lens and two straps for £5.00. With one camera, the internal meter agrees with my hand-held Ikophot light meter. The other is six stops or so out. It is quite possible that this is down to dirt on the meter sensor. As the meter is not accessible without removing the top plate and the controls on there, I shall not be having a look.
Praktica BC1 (C) John Margetts

lens: Prakticar 50 mm f/1.8
focal length:  50 mm
apertures: f/1.8 to f/16
focus range: 0.45 metres
lens fitting: BC bayonet fitting
shutter: metal, vertical focal plane shutter
speeds: 1 seconds to 1/1000 plus B (defaults to 1/90 with no battery)
flash: hot shoe + PC socket
film size: 35 mm


I am going to be quite fast with this description. SLR cameras have a pretty much standard layout and there is not a lot to be gained from repeating this is detail for each camera. 

So, right to left on the top of the camera:

Frame counter. this resets to zero when the camera back is opened. The main numbers are in white. The even numbered frames have numbers and the odd numbered frames only have dots. Frames 20 and 36 are in red as these were the standard lengths of films. the frame counter will go to 37 and then stops even though the camera will still advance the film beyond 37 exposures. 

Next is the film advance lever. this moves through around 135 degrees to advance the film one frame. The lever has a parked position where it is flush with the camera body. In use, it sits slightly proud of the body which makes it easier to use. It is black plastic and is quite comfortable to use.

The shutter release button. It is chrome plated and threaded to accept a standard cable release. Around the chrome button is a black collar which can be turned clockwise to lock the release button.

Just left of the shutter release button is the shutter speed selector. This has a green automatic setting which is how the camera is intended to be used. In this position, the camera selects the shutter speed to achieve correct exposure. The camera is not restricted to the standard range of shutter speeds and can select intermediate values to get the exact shutter speed required. There are also manual speeds available. These are the standard sequence up to 1/1000 seconds. The shutter is electronically controlled and in the absence of electric power the shutter works mechanically at 1/90 seconds - which is also the flash synchronisation speed.

The printed disc is missing from the shutter speed selector
Almost centrally is the pentaprism hump.  On top of this is the accessory shoe with 'hot shoe' electrical contacts. This has the standard central contact and a second, smaller, contact for the Praktica computerised flash gun. Connecting the Praktica flash automatically sets the shutter to 1/90 seconds. Cold shoe flash guns will also work as there is a PC socket as well as the hot shoe connector.

Left of the pentaprism hump are two buttons. The first is black with a chrome collar. This has two functions. It is used to test the battery (doesn't seem to work on my camera, even though I know the battery is good). Its second function is to lock exposure if you wish to set the exposure away from your area of composition - such as pointing the camera down to avoid the sky, pressing this button and then raising the camera to take the shot. There is also a small chrome button which is used to release the exposure compensation ring.

On the far left is a multifunction knob. The outside lifts and rotates to set the film speed. This is in both DIN and ASA and runs from 12 to 36 DIN or 12 to 3200 ASA. Above this is the exposure compensation ring. This runs from +2 to -2 stops and will only turn if the chrome button is depressed. In the centre is the rewind crank. This is of the folding varietal that was now normal at the time this camera was made. This crank lifts to unlock the camera back and release the film cassette.

The back of the camera has two items. At the top is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is nice and large and is surrounded by a rectangle of hard black plastic - which is why my glasses get horribly scratched. The view in the viewfinder is plenty large enough and good and bright. The main focusing screen is a Fresnel lens  - which is why it is bright - and in the centre is a ring of plain ground glass. Inside this ring is a second ring of micro-prisms as a focusing aid and in the very centre is a 'triple wedge' which is a very nice variation on a split-image focusing device. This works very well.  Down the left side of the focus screen is a list of shutter speeds. With the shutter speed selector set to 'automatic' a red LED will light beside the selected shutter speed. If you set the shutter speed selector to a shutter speed, the set speed will have a flashing LED beside it and the suggested speed a steady LED. At the bottom of the viewfinder  is the selected aperture - this is reflected from the lens through a small window on the front of the pentaprism hump.
shutter speeds in the viewfinder

Below the viewfinder eyepiece there is a holder for the end of the film carton to act as a reminder of the film in use.

On the front of the camera are various items. Towards the top on either end are lugs for attaching a neck strap. More or less centrally, is the lens mount. This is a three bayonet mount with three electric contacts for reading the aperture setting (I assume this is in Octal giving a range of eight possible f/stops).

Add cap
To the right of the lens mount is the lens release button. This is black with a prominent red dot. To fit a lens, the red dot on the lens is aligned with this red dot and the lens inserted into the mount and turned clockwise. To remove the lens, this button is depressed and the lens turned anti-clockwise for removal. Above the lens release button is a slider that moves vertically. Pushing this lever up closes the lens diaphragm so the photographer can see the depth of field of his selected aperture. This lever works by engaging with a lever on the lens which is used by the camera to stop down the lens when taking a picture. Right by the lens mount is a second lever. This one turns rather than slides and rotates anti-clockwise to set the self-timer. The timer to actuated by pressing the small black button on the middle of the lever. This gives a delay of 6 seconds on my camera. On the left side of the lens mount is the PC socket for a 'cold shoe' flash gun.

There are also several items on the base plate. Almost centrally, is the ubiquitous tripod boss - 1/4 inch Whitworth/UNC. In front of this is the battery compartment. This takes a A544 6v battery - still readily available. On the right-hand end of the camera is a connector for a motor-drive. This consists of a mechanical screw connector, two electrodes and a locating hole. As I do not have the motor-drive, I can say no more about this.

The lens that came with the camera is a Pentacon Prakticar lens. Its focal length is 50mm - so 'normal' for 35 mm photography (ie se pretty much the same view as a human eye) and its maximum aperture is f/1.8. Its minimum aperture is f/16. The focal range is from 0.45 metres to infinity.  As was usual with film cameras, there is a DOF scale printed on the lens which, among other things, makes hyperfocal focusing much easier than it is with modern digital lenses. The throw of the focusing helical is somewhere around 300 degrees - ie you need to turn the focus ring through 300 degrees to go from minimum to maximum. This makes it easy to focus accurately but hard to focus quickly. There is also an infra-red marker. If you are using infra-red film, focus is not quite the same as with visible light so you have to focus normally and then move the focus marking to the red dot. For instance, if you are focused on 8 metres move the 8 from the usual red line to the red dot.  Both the line and the dot are visible on the photo below. The lens is multi-coated which is as we would expect from any lens from this period.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Pentaflex SL from Pentacon

This Pentaflex SL is a cut-down version  of the Praktica Nova camera. It is missing the slow shutter speeds - this camera only goes down to 1/340 seconds which is slower than I ever go to so the even slower speeds are no loss. It is also missing the light meter. As the camera is fully manual, this is no loss. It is actually easier to use a dedicated hand-held meter rather than using the whole camera as a hand-held meter. The only non-manual part of this camera is the aperture - you set the required aperture and the diaphragm closes as you take the picture.

Someone has attempted a repair on this camera. There are two screws missing from the top plate and the cover of the pentaprism has been messily glued in place with Uhu glue. Having said that, the camera seems to be functioning as it should - test film might say otherwise, of course.

lens: n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: M42
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500
flash: F and X PC sockets - no shoe
film size: 35 mm

The description:

The camera body measures 150 mm by 48 mm and 95 mm high. It weighs 562 g - not as heavy as some SLR cameras but not up to Olympus OM standards. On the right of the top plate, where we would expect it, is the film advance lever. This is not on a ratchet so has to advance the film in one sweep. The lever moves through about 185 degrees to advance one frame. Around then advance lever is the frame counter. This is reset to -1 when the camera back is opened. It counts up - the highest marked frame number is 36 but the scale moves to an unmarked 40 - above this the film still advances but the counter does not move. In the centre of the rewind lever is a film reminder. This has five options: B&W; colour negative, daylight; colour negative, tungsten; slide film, daylight and slide film, tungsten. In the corner of the advance lever is a small chrome button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

Camera with Soviet lens attached

Between the advance lever and the pentaprism hump is the shutter speed selector. This goes from 1/30 to 1/500 seconds which is a quite adequate range, plus B. As mentioned above, the slower speeds have been removed from this model.
Blog (C) John Margetts

The pentaprism hump is just left of centre. To the left of this is the rewind crank. This is of the small folding variety that was ubiquitous by this time and I find hard to use. Around this is a film speed reminder. As this is a meter-free camera, there is no need to set this but with a memory like mine it is well worth the bother. 

Front of the camera showing the lens mount

The front of the camera is dominated by the lens mount. This is a M42 mount - a 42 mm by 1 mm pitch thread also known as the Pentax thread although it was introduced by Zeiss Ikon with the Contax S. Just inside the mount at the bottom is a lever actuated by the shutter release button which closes down the diaphragm on automatic lenses. If you wish to use older manual lenses which might foul this lever, it can be disabled by lifting the mirror and sliding a red stud to one side. most automatic lenses have a manual/automatic switch which will act like a DOF preview button if required. Also visible inside the mount is a piece of black cloth at the top. I have never seen this before and I am not sure why it is there.
Front and top plate layout

To the right of the lens mount are two PC connectors for flash. the connector nearest the lens is synchronised for F type bulbs and next to that the PC connector is synchronised for electronic flash (marked X).

PC connectors
Left of the lens mount is the shutter release button. I generally prefer the release button to be on the top plate but this is well placed on the front and nicely angled - it works well. The button is threaded for a standard cable release and is knurled - the button can be turned to lock the button to prevent accidental exposures.

The rear of the camera is unadorned. At the top is the viewfinder eyepiece. This looks like it is designed to take an attachment of some sort. The viewing screen is plain ground glass with no focus aids. The ground glass is fine enough and then image bright enough that focusing is quite easy. The image seems to be very close to life size (judging by keeping both eyes open while looking through the viewfinder with a 58 mm lens attached).

The leatherette on the back is embossed with the Ernneman Tower - the logo of Pentacon. There is also Pentacon's quality mark - a triangle with a "1" inside indicating first quality.

The only item on the base is a tripod boss - the standard 11/4 inch UNC (Whitworth on older cameras) thread, This is right over on the left which is a strange place. The ideal position for a tripod is under the node of the lens - this would entail the lens maker fitting the tripod boss here as some do. The next best place is is line with the centre of the lens. The position of this tripod boss puts most of the weight of the camera to one side - not good for level stability and not good for panning on the tripod.

Base of camera
The back is opened by a catch on the right end of the camera. The back has velvet light seals along both the hinge and the catch but not along the length of the back. Light is kept out by the back being sufficiently recessed into the body. This gives the camera a distinct advantage over Japanese cameras of the same age which all require new foam light seals by now. Not this camera!

Judging by the exposed metal around the film gate, the body is made from an aluminium alloy rather than the more usual brass of the time. This will be why the camera is on the light side.

This camera will be tested with film over the next few days and I hope to have the results in place by next weekend.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

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.
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 over come 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

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Kodak Retina Ia (type 015)

Kodak bought Nagel Kamerawerk in 1932 as they wanted the design and manufacturing facilities to produce top quality amateur cameras. The main camera Dr Nagel designed for Kodak was the retina introduced in 1934, together with the now standard 35mm cassette. Several models were produced before Kodak introduced the Retina I in 1936. The camera I have before me is the Retina Ia (type 015) introduced in 1951. This is broadly similar to my earlier Retina from 1936 and my folding Retinette of 1951. See photographs.

lens: Schneider Retina-Xenar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: 3.5 to 16
focus range: 
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Synchro-Compur
speeds: to 1/500
flash: PC socket, synch for X and F
film size: 35mm

The top plate has a film advance lever on the right (this was introduced on this model, earlier models had an advance knob) which incorporates a frame counter which counts down to zero. This moves through about 180 degrees to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet and so cannot advance the film with a number of small strokes (c.f. Wirgin Edixa 1).

To the left of the film advance lever and to the front of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is a small chrome plated button and is threaded for a standard cable release. Behind the shutter release button whose use took me a while to establish. This button allows you to advance the film without tripping the shutter - useful if you are re-loading a partially used cassette of film. This is the only camera I have ever seen this on. left of these is the model name engraved in Italic script.

Centrally, there is the viewfinder in a slightly raised hump. Left of this is the accessory shoe - no flash contacts so a cold shoe - which has the camera's serial number stamped in it - 503555.

On the far left of the top plate is the film rewind knob. This pulls out around one centimetre for rewinding and two centimetres to release the film cassette. this knob has a film selector on it, purely as a reminder as there is no light meter. The film options are all Kodak films, none of which are available now.. They are : Pan X, Plus X, Super X, Kodachrome Daylight, Kodachrome Artificial light and Infrared.

The bottom plate has a tripod boss on the right-hand end and a recessed button to free the mechanism for rewinding the film.  There is also a small button to release the lens door. The back of the film is mostly the hinged back which allows access to the insides to allow the film to be loaded. This is embossed in the leatherette with the legend "Kodak Retina Camera". Above the back is the viewfinder eyepiece which is as small as was usual at this time - it measures 3mm by 5mm.

The lens and shutter are in front, behind a hinged door. This is released by the small button on the base. The door does not snap open as my Zeiss Ikon folders do and needs to be opened fully by hand. The shutter and lens are fitted to a chrome plate which is, in turn, fitted to the bellows. The shutter is a Synchro-Compur. This offers speeds to 1/500 seconds. The shutter is released by the button on the top plate which is linked to the lever on the shutter housing. The shutter is cocked by the film advance lever through a hinged linkage to a gear on the side of the shutter housing. Both shutter release and shutter cocking have to cope with the shutter being folded away and also with the whole shutter housing moving when focusing. The lens is a Schneider Retina-Xenar with a focal length of 50mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.5.

Both the folding mechanism and the shutter itself are faulty on my camera - I suspect the folding mechanism was damaged by a previous owner attempting to repair the shutter; the lens is only hand-tight in its fitting which is indicative that it has been removed recently. If I am not careful, the whole folding mechanism will dis-articulate when closing the camera. The shutter fault is that it will open on its own (and stay open) as the advance lever finishes its travel.

Retina right, Retinette left

Retina Ia left, Retina I right

In use.

I was unaware of any problems with this camera when I started the test film - they became apparent in use. Of the 24 exposures available on the test cassette, 14 had images on them. This indicates that the shutter was working to begin with. However, a further fault is now apparent - there is a humongous light leak in the bellows  which nearly completely obliterates the images

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Wirgin Edixa 1 Viewfinder camera (also known as Edina 1)

This is a West German camera made between 1953 ad 1957. It is a simple viewfinder camera which is clearly built to a price but quite well made within that constraint. This camera has been well used - witness the scuff marks around the tripod boss - and, at least latterly, stored badly - the nickel plating is corroded indicating that storage has been been somewhere damp. The pictures are of the camera as I received it. I shall be doing an intensive clean this week and I shall post a picture of the clean camera for comparison.

Wirgin Edixa 1 (C) John Margetts

lens: Steinheil Cassar triplet
focal length:  40 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 0.9 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Gauthier Vero
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: PC connector
film size: 35 mm

The camera measures 120 mm by 60 mm deep and 75 mm high. It weighs 427 g without a film in
place. Being a viewfinder camera, it has very few controls.

Starting, as always, with the top plate. On the right-hand end is the film advance lever. This moves through around 180 degrees but needs two throws to advance one frame. The lever is on a ratchet and several small movements will have the same effect. This is one area where the camera is clearly built to a price as the lever consists of a bent piece of metal - not the most comfortable of levers in use. To the left of the film advance lever and close to the front edge of the top plate is the shutter release button. This is fairly small, nickel plated, and is threaded for a standard cable release. It is well placed for the right-hand index finger in normal use.

The centre portion of the top plate is raised. At the front of this raised portion is the name 'Edixa' in Art Deco lettering. Behind the lettering is a screw head (7 mm diameter) which is used to reset the frame counter. This needs to be set to the film length as it counts down to zero - i.e. it tells you how many shots are left rather than how many are taken.

Wirgin Edixa 1
On the left-hand edge of the raised portion is an accessory shoe. This has no flash contacts and so is a cold shoe in flash terms. In use, this is just as likely to have had a rangefinder in it as a flash gun.

On the left of the top plate (left of the raised portion) is the rewind knob. There is no fold-out crank here, but the central portion lifts up to provide a fairly ergonomic grip.

The front of the camera has the shutter housing centrally placed. The shutter is a Gauthier Vero shutter which is basically a cut-down Prontor shutter (a further evidence of design to a price). This shutter offers four speeds (1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200) plus B There is no self-timer on a Vero shutter and there is no flash synchronisation setting - flash is provided for with a PC socket on the side of the shutter housing - this is X synch for electronic flash guns.

The iris diaphragm offers apertures from f/3.5 to f/16. The range of shutter speeds together with the range of apertures allows for good exposures with most films available 50 years ago and most light conditions. This might seem a bit meagre by modern digital standards but I have never found it to be limiting in my photography.

The lens is a Steinheil Cassar lens. The Cassar is a triplet and Steinheil seem to have generally supplied to the lower end of the market but I have always found them to be more than acceptable when stopped down to f/8 or f/11. See the test results further down to see how this particular lens performs. The lens has a focal length of 40 mm which is very slightly wide compared to 'normal' for 35mm photography (which is 43mm). The lens fascia bears the legend 'VL' which I take to mean that the lens is coated - it certainly has a slight colour cast to it. Focusing is by moving the front element of the lens (front cell focusing) rather than the whole lens assembly (unit focusing). This is generally considered inferior to focusing by moving the whole lens but any difference is technical rather than practical. The lens serial number is 889580 which should help me to date the camera precisely if/when I can find appropriate information on the Interweb.

The viewfinder sits above the shutter/lens and is much as I would expect for the time - i.e. rather small by modern standards but much bigger than was usual in the 1930s. It measures 8 mm by 12 mm. To the right of the viewfinder, below the shutter release button, is the maker's name - 'Wirgin' - again in Art Deco style.

There are three items on the back of the camera - all on the top plate. Centrally is the viewfinder eyepiece. this is round with a diameter of 5 mm. This has a circular brass surround which is dangerous to wearers of modern spectacles - mine have extensive scratches on the right-hand lens caused by using old cameras. To the right of the viewfinder eyepiece is the frame counter window. This is a meagre 2.5 mm square and is right at the limit of my eyesight. Right of this, under the film advance lever, is a small slide. Moving this to the left allows the film to be rewound.

 Test film

I have now finished the test film and had it developed and scanned by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln. Main negative is the presence of vignetting. Exposure is spot on as is focus (mostly focused at infinity).
Stamp End lock, Witham

View from the office window

Our road

Buildings, Dane Gate, Lincoln

Walkway, St Mark's Square, Lincoln