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