Friday, 28 June 2013

Ikonta 520

This is a medium format camera (i.e. takes 120 film) from Zeiss Ikon.  It is a half-frame camera - 6 x 4.5 cm negative - which is half of a standard 120 frame of 6 x 9 cm. The body serial  number tells me it was made in 1932.

Ikonta 520, front view
lens: Novar
focal length:  75mm
apertures: f/6.3 to f/32
focus range: 4'6" to infinity (that is the scale, actually about 4 feet)
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Derval
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: n/a
film size: 120

The body is made from cast aluminium.  This body casting is shared between the Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515. It is quite hard to understand why Zeiss Ikon shared the body between three different camera lines instead of calling them all Ikonta (the oldest name) seeing as Bob, Ikonta and Nettar all come with a range of lenses and shutters and can be considered to be one range in effect if not in name.

So, this Ikonta.  It is an Ikonta 520 - more specifically, a 520E. The other variants are
520IT with a f4.5 Novar and a Telma shutter,
520F with a F3.5 Novar and a Compur Rapid shutter and
520L with a f3.5 Tessar and Compur Rapid shutter.

The lens is a Novar which is a triplet and performs surprisingly well once stopped down to f/8 or smaller.  Ikontas were also available with Tessars at a higher price and wider aperture Novars.  The Novar on this camera is quite a slow lens with a maximum aperture of f/6.3.  The focussing is front cell only, rather than the whole lens moving (giving not quite so good image quality) and the focussing scale is in feet indicating that the camera is an official import into the UK.

The shutter is an everset Derval (everset means it does not need cocking before firing as a Klio or Compur would).  This is a fairly crude (and so cheap) shutter with two blades only and only offers three speeds: 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100.  With a slow lens like this camera has, faster shutter speeds would have been superfluous, particularly with the slow, by modern standards, films available in the 1930s.

Detail of rim-set shutter adjuster on Derval shutter
The shutter is a dial set shutter which means that the speed adjustment is by a dial set above the shutter housing.  More modern shutters have a rim set adjuster which is a ring around the shutter housing.  This shutter does not have a V (=Vorlaufwerk) setting for delayed action and as is usual with cameras made before the late 1940s, there is no flash connection or synchronisation.

Ikonta 520, side view
As I mentioned, the maximum aperture is rather small at f/6.3 but the minimum aperture is surprisingly small - f/32 - so the range of exposures possible is still respectably large.

A standard photograph with this camera (as with the Bob 510 and Nettar 515) is in portrait format and in this orientation the shutter release is underneath the camera and is uncomfortable to use.  To take landscape pictures, the camera must be used on its side and the shutter release is on the side and easy to use.

The viewfinder is the cheap two frame style of viewfinder - a Newtonian finder.

This was an expensive camera in its day - according to Tubbs (Zeiss Ikon Cameras 1926 -39, published by Hove Camera Foto Books), it cost £4/10/0 new in the early 1930s and advertised by Zeiss Ikon in the British Journal Almanac for 1936 at £4/17/6.  That is £4.50 in new money but a week's wages for a working man would have been around £1/10/0 or £1.50. So this camera cost around a months income for a working man which is around £1,000 in today's money.

19/07/20123:  I have now finished my test film for this camera and the results are not good.  The lens is susceptible to flare (as I would expect on a lens from 1930 - coating of lenses had not been invented yet) and some of the flare is very strange, suggesting something other than ordinary flare - a glass defect, perhaps.

Blues festival in Lincoln Arboretum

One of our many buskers in Lincoln - very young but quite accomplished

Lincoln Corn Exchange in the Cornhill

Comparison between Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515:

These three cameras from Zeiss Ikon share the same aluminium casting for their bodies.  This makes them very similar cameras.  They all take 120 film and they all produce half-frame negatives of 6 x 4.5 cm.  The details, however, are different.  I shall give the differences between them one model at a time, starting with the oldest.

Ikonta 520
This camera was produced from 1931 and is using the old fashioned dial set shutter - the disc at the top with the word 'Derval' on it..  The adjuster for the aperture is at the bottom of the shutter housing and requires the user to turn the camera around so that the scale can be seen.  The lens is a Novar triplet lens.  There is also a leather hand strap on this camera and the catch to close the back is solid.

Bob 510
Next is the Bob 510 (sold in the UK as a Nettar 510).  This is a slightly later camera first produced in 1934 and has a more modern rim set shutter - the dial is now replaced with a ring around the shutter housing.  Shutter speeds and apertures are the same, but the aperture adjuster is now on top of the shutter housing, behind the speed selector.  This means that the user can adjust the aperture with the camera pointing at the subject.  Perhaps not a major advance  but will have been less frustrating to use.  The lens is now a Nettar rather than the Novar - still a triplet but a different design.  There is no hand strap on this camera and the catch for the back is less secure than on the Ikonta

Nettar 515
Last is the Nettar 515.  This is later again, 1937, and also has the rim set shutter.  The shutter is now a Klio (on non-Zeiss Ikon cameras known as Prontor) with more shutter speeds (up to 1/175 and a few slow speeds).  The aperture adjuster is still on top, behind the speed adjuster, and there is now a delay setting lever below the shutter housing.  As with the Ikonta, the lens is a Novar triplet.  This shutter requires cocking before use  and there is an ancillary shutter release button on the camera body.  There is also provision to fit an optional brilliant finder on this camera although mine does not have this.  This model also has no hand strap and it has the same catch as the Bob 510

All three together, oldest on the left, newest on the right.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Exa 500

This is my fourth Ihagee camera and my third Exa.  The original Exa was a cut-down low-cost version of the Exakta and then the Exa line developed in its own right.

Exa 500 - front view

The Exa 500 is the end of the line for Exa cameras  and was developed after Ihagee was subsumed into VEB Pentacon, the state camera manufacturer.  The lineage from the Exakta is apparent in the shape.  This camera still has the rhomboidal shape introduced with the original 127 format Exakta in 1933.  It also still has the shutter release on the left, although the film advance is now on the right.  Another change is the fixed pentaprism viewfinder, so I cannot use the delightful waist level finder with this camera.

The immediate predecessor of this camera was the Exa II.  The body of the Exa IIa and this Exa 500 are identical although there are some internal differences.

Exa 500 - top view showing rhomboidal shape
The Exa 500 has a vertical cloth focal plane shutter which travels from bottom to top.  This shutter provides speeds from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds plus B.  This means it is twice as fast as the Exa II.  There are two flash settings: 1/60 for electronic flash and 1/15 for flash bulbs. This camera follows the Exa standard and flash synch is achieved by aligning a dot on the speed dial with either a zigzag icon or a bulb icon.  On the front of the body is a single PC connector.

This camera also has a shutter lock beside the viewfinder - cover the red dot to shoot, uncover to store the camera.  The only other real change between the Exa II and the Exa 500 is that the Exa 500 has an instant return mirror so the viewfinder does not go blank when you fire a shot.

Like other Exakta/Exa cameras, the film take-up spool is removable and can be replaced with an empty film cassette.  Doing this obviates the need to rewind the film but it does cost you one frame of film.  There is no internal knife to cut the film like the Exaktas have so this must be done after opening the back.  The only real advantage of this is the possibility of developing half a roll of film but I cannot imaging that many people have ever bothered.

The film advance is on the right as is normal in non-Ihagee cameras.  It has quite a short stroke of just over 90 degrees (compared to the Exakta Varex II where the advance travels about 300 degrees).

The back of these cameras come away from the camera body in one piece with the base.  This is supposed to make it easier to load film but I find this method harder.
Exa 500 - inside and the separated back  and take-up spool

Exa cameras were supplied with a variety of lenses depending on how much the customer wanted to pay.  This camera has a Meyer-Optik Domiplan. This is a triplet design so not as good as the Tessar option, but the Domiplan performs well enough when stopped down.  The lens is a semi-automatic lens - the diaphragm closes when the shutter release is pressed but stays open for composition and focussing.

The Domiplan achieves this automation by a hinged lug that protrudes over the shutter release - the photographer presses this lug which in turn presses the shutter release.

This mechanism in the Domiplan lens has a weak link that is prone to seizing but this particular lens performs OK.  My other Domiplan lens needed the mechanism cleaning with naphtha before it would work satisfactorily.

This camera would also work with my Exa fit Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (we need to specify Carl Zeiss Jena in contradiction to Carl Zeiss Opton, the new (at the time) Carl Zeiss operation in West Germany.  East German Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are generally better than Carl Zeiss Opton lenses).

In use, this camera is much as you would expect.  The shutter speed selector is rather loose and I was not sure I was actually selecting any speed, but I tried exposures at various shutter speeds and they have all come out well exposed so the shutter speed selector must be doing its job.

There is a red flag in the viewfinder to tell you that you need to advance the film before taking the next shot.  In previous Exa cameras this was not necessary as the mirror would only return to the viewing position when you had wound on.  In this model, the mirror is an instant return mirror and it would seem that the makers thought users might get confused with such sophistication, hence the red flag.

The camera is light-proof (not a given with old cameras) and the shutter is moving smoothly.

Here are some sample photographs from my test film:

Monday, 10 June 2013

Ihagee Exakta Varex IIb

This is one of Ihagee's 'serious' cameras.  It is very similar to the two Exas I already own but has more facilities and is built to a higher standard.  It is the usual Exakta/Exa rhomboidal shape.  On my two Exa cameras, the back and base come away as one to allow film loading.  The Varex IIb is more traditional with a hinged back.  This back, however, is also removable if you want.

lens: none
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: Exakta double bayonet
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 12 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash: three PC connectors, no accessory shoe
film size:  35mm
Exakta Varex IIb with lens and viewfinder added

The camera is heavy, weighing 581g without lens or viewfinder.  It is left-handed.  The film advance is on the left as is the shutter release and one of the two (yes, two) shutter speed selectors.

This camera came without a lens and has both (yes, both) the Exakta bayonet mounts so this camera will take any Exakta fit lens.  Strictly, this is a Varex IIa type bayonet as it has slots at the inner bayonet flanges (not sure why).
Exakta Varex IIb as I bought it

The reason for having two bayonet mounts on one camera is that the original mount restricted the width of attached lenses.  When Ihagee developed telephoto lenses, there was too much vignetting of the image to be usable. The new bayonet mount has a wider diameter and so allows wider lenses to be fitted.  (note: I am using the word 'wider' in a mechanical sense, not in its other, optical, sense.)

The shutter release is beside the lens mount to allow the use of automatic lenses.  In the Exakta system, the lens has a secondary shutter release which fits over the camera's shutter release.  When you press the lens' secondary release, the lens diaphragm closes and the primary release is pressed, actuating the shutter.

The shutter is a horizontal cloth focal plane shutter.  On this particular specimen, the shutter is faulty.  The mechanism sounds dry (there is a faint but clear squeal when the shutter actuates), the second curtain is significantly wrinkled and, at the slower speeds, the second curtain doesn't quite close.  At 1/1000, it works fine.

This is the only camera I have seen that has two speed selectors.  On the left is a small conventional selector that covers speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000 plus B and T.  This works in a fairly conventional manner - lift, turn to the required speed and release.

slow speed selector
fast speed selector
On the right of the camera is another speed selector which covers speeds from 1/8 to 12 seconds.  These figures are in black.  This selector also provides a delay of up to six seconds (using the figures in red).  When using the delay, you also get mirror lock up so reduced vibration can be achieved when using the macro attachment - a facility that no other of my SLRs has until my Canon EOS of 1995.  In the centre of the slow speed selector there is a film speed reminder dial.  As this camera is totally manual, this dial does nothing except remind you what film you have loaded into the camera.

Another quirky thing about Exakta cameras is the film advance lever.  This moves through over 300 degrees which is more than you can do in one motion.  I am actually finding this ok but I start the motion with my left thumb for the first half of the travel and then my left index finger takes over.  Around the film advance lever there is a frame counter.  This counts up from zero - so tells you how many frames you have shot.  It is also quirky as the frame count changes when you press the shutter release rather than when you advance the film.

Exakta cameras have exchangeable viewfinders.  When I bought this camera, there was no viewfinder with it, just a rectangular hole in the top plate.  I have two viewfinders for my Exa cameras and these fit this camera so I have a choice of an eye-level finder and a waist level finder.

Hole in the top plate for fitting the viewfinder
Moving to the front of the camera, there is little to note.  As I have mentioned, there is a double bayonet mount and a shutter release.  There are also three (yes, three) PC connectors for a flash gun.  Ihagee seem to have tried to be as idiosyncratic as possible with their cameras.  Rather than go down the route used by Prontor and Compur (hence PC) and have a switch to select between bulb and electronic flash, Ihagee have provided separate connectors , one for electronic flash and two for flash bulbs.

In fact, the three PC connectors can be used in various ways to allow different shutter speeds.  Using the X connector and a shutter speed of 1/60 allows use of electronic flash.  Using the FP (Focal Plane) connector allows shutter speeds up to 1/1000 seconds which is an incredibly fast shutter speed for flash.  The manual gives guide numbers for different bulbs and shutter speeds - the fast speeds being achieved because the flashbulbs suitable for the FP connector have a flash duration of around 1/40 second and so are burning throughout the expossure.  The F (Fast) connector allows small fast flashbulbs to be used with a shutter speed of 1/30.  The X (Electronic) connector can also be used with a shutter speed of 1/8 with any flashbulb.  I am not sure how much advantage is given to the photographer with the above choices, but I almost never use flash and have never used flashbulbs, so I am likely to be missing the point.

Underneath the camera are four knobs.  The smallest of these unscrews to allow the use of an internal knife to cut the film when an empty cassette is used in place of the take-up spool.  Next to this is the rewind knob with a small folding crank.  At the other end of the camera is a knob which is pulled away from the camera to release the catch on the back.  Between these two knobs is the tripod boss which is the standard 1/4 Whitworth tread.
Base of camera

The outside of the back has two small chrome rectangles and one large chrome rectangle.  These are the fitting for internal components, the small rectangles help to keep the film flat and the large rectangle is part of the fitting of the pressure plate.

Rear of camera

The camera in use:

I am trying out this camera (despite having a faulty shutter) with a roll of out-of-date and no longer made film - Kodak Plus X.  I have never used this film before but it had a very good reputation.  This film is monochrome and is rated at 125 ASA/22 DIN.  I don't know why but it seemed appropriate to try this camera with a vintage monochrome film.

The camera set-up I am using is the Varex IIb body, Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (50mm and f2.8) and a waist-level viewfinder with a plain focussing screen.  [This lens should not be confused with a Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar from West Germany.  The Carl Zeiss Jena lens is the real thing.]

There are many options available for this camera for both lens and finder.  I have the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar and two Meyer-Optik Domiplan lenses available and the waist-level finder and a pentaprism eye-level finder.  I am enjoying the waist-level finder but must admit to struggling a bit with the reverse action when I move the camera.

First aspect of the waist-level finder is the fact that the image is reversed left-to-right.  If you want to move the image to the right, you need to move the camera to the left.

It is also easy to get verticals at an angle.  Again, you have to move the camera the 'wrong' way to correct this.

This finder has a plain focussing screen which makes focussing a bit harder.  For me, this is not a significant problem as I usually use hyperfocal focussing.  On the rare occasions when I rely on critical focussing, there is a hinged magnifier available which is more than I shall ever need.  If not, other focussing screens are available with micro-prisms and split-image centres.

I have been carrying this camera around for about an hour this afternoon and I can confirm that this is a heavy camera.  There are strap lugs with split rings available to connect a strap.  A nice touch is the presence of triangular leather patches behind the split rings to stop the rings and strap ends from scratching the camera body.  While I have a number of straps available, I have not fitted one to this camera.

Contrary to my usual practice, I am using a shutter-priority exposure system, adjusting the aperture to vary the exposure.  The reason I am doing this is because this ('faulty') shutter seems to perform best at 1/125 seconds so I am keeping it set at this speed.

What I am finding, which delights me, is that I am seeing the image in the wauist-level finder as a picture rather than as a view.  This is making composition not so much easier (see my comments about image reversal) but clearer and more precise.  So far I much prefer it.

I am also finding the left-hand operation surprisingly easy.  I am no longer pressing the slow speed selector hoping to fire the shutter.  The film advance with its 300 degree travel is also surprisingly easy to use left handed.

As I have already said, I usually use hyperfocal focussing but if I did not I think I would find right-handed focussing cumbersome.

My first film being completed, I need to develop the film and scan it.  Then I shall post some sample pictures here.

Film is now developed and scanned.  Here are some example pictures, clearly showing the problem with the shutter is one of them.  The rest are not too bad (if you ignore my poor scanning ability!).