Information from the Topica Exakta List
file top01.htm until 2001.04.12

back to the Index to Information from the Topica Exakta List

NB This is information I collected/selected from discussions on the Exakta List. The original input came from many persons. This means that the "I" in the texts is not me but can be many different persons, even under one heading.

Mirror replacement
It has been suggested that Exakta mirrors can be replaced by a (polished) piece of stainless steel.

Stainless steel can be polished to a mirror finish. The very best finish currently available is "supreme 8". It is a directionless mirror finish (no visible grain lines). You can see your face in it without apparent distortion. It is available in sheet form .032", .062" & .125". It is not as bright as regular back silvered glass. The brightest mirrors are front silvered glass. To be sure: stainless steel is not optically flat. To polish it, it must be abraded with polishing compounds. This pumps in a large amount of heat to a thin sheet. It cannot help but cause some waves.

The best glasses are extruded/drawn in molten form across a bed of molten tin; they are called "float glass". The molten tin is held as flat as physically possible by gravity. Its surface radius would be the same as the radius of the Earth! Across a 1" x 1 1/2" mirror it would be almost unmeasurable! The tin facing surface is optically flat. This is the surface that receives the silver coating to make a reflex mirror. Stainless steel sheet just cannot compete

Jean-Pierre Salanick wrote an article in the French magazine l'Exacta in 1995 about "saving" a VP Exakta. He replaced the mirror by a piece of computer hard disk, cutting it with a fretsaw. It was easy to cut the mirror in exactly the right form, because the base material is (he thinks) aluminium.

Great idea, but not unless you can find metal optically flat to at least 1/4 wave. The thickness is also important, in-so-far as the position of the front surface must be maintained.

Also, we should remember that no matter how stiff it is, the metal will flex when installed compared to the glass. I would only consider an Exakta with a replacement metal mirror as a parts camera or one in need of parts. Just buy the mirror, cut it and get a wonderfully bright image, perhaps far brighter than the original silvered mirror would have given.

It would be a hard decision to make, the plus for the aluminum or plastic would be maybe less camera shake as they are lighter than the original mirror. The stainless would be awfully hard to cut without marring it. And as for me the most important thing would be lost, the sound and integrity of a classic camera.

The best solution is to buy mm think mirror stock and cut it to shape with a diamond tipped scriber. I was able to get the mirror from Edmonds-Optical and the scribe from Micro-tools. Haven't tried it yet but it seems uncomplicated. Kine mirrors will have to have the edges chamfered but that can be done with a Dremel and a grinding wheel. Hard disk surfaces while well polished are not as bright as mirrors; neither is steel.

Repairs: Use Romney's Manual or what?
There IS some interesting and worthwhile information in here, but it is scattered and unorganized. There is a good discussion of how the shutter works. Mr. Romney seems to expect that you will intuitively know things and improvise as you go. Don't expect that this text will guide you easily through your first Exakta repairs. I found Jim Upton's Exakta disassembly instructions ( ) to be far superior to the Romney manual's instructions.

The Problem with Romney is that he wants folks to believe that camera repair is as easy as replacing film on a super 8. While almost anyone can get a shutter to cycle, it's the details that make the difference. Exaktas are deceptively simple but getting the right gap on the curtains to start with can be much more of a problem. I massage the second curtain while the contact cement is still wet until the gap is just about right with respect to the already installed and matched second curtain. Hopefully once I've done this both curtains are still parallel. If not I have to start over. The next challenge is to make sure that the first curtain climbs on the second curtain at the right rate. I've always wondered if they meant to do this from the beginning or if the tape on the first curtain just settled and flattened over the years. Whatever the case, every Exakta I've ever seen has the first
curtain climbing on the first as they advance. It seems to work fine and may have been done intentionally to counteract different curtain accelerations on the way down. Let's remember, crude as they are these Exaktas were designed by Germans who loved playing around with teeny-tiny design subtleties.

Assuming both of your curtains are of the correct thickness, the climb is governed by the amount of curtain on the roller and by the thickness of the contact cement layer on the attached portion. Also the length and thickness of the tapes on the first curtain are super important. By varying these parameters I am able to match the position and displacement of both curtains to match the motion of the original ones denoted by light pencil marks I make before removing them. This actually takes quite a while to do right even if you are using factory originals and is much harder if you use new cloth.

Another thing I've noticed is that some of the factory installed original curtains have paper shims on the attached portion in order to get them to advance enough! This indicates that even the factory guys struggled with curtain installation. It also gives a clue as to the old style production difficulties involved in making classic FP cameras and indicates why they were phased out in favour of faster and more accurate metal blade modular shutters. When you think of it, we are crazy to use FP cloth shutters! As for the turns on the springs this also varies a lot with tape and cloth thickness on the other side.

All in all I've found that there is no right way to install curtains on an Exakta, while there are guidelines in terms of starting and ending gap and overall curtain displacement it's really a custom job and every camera comes out slightly different. It's ok as long as the speeds are on the money. It's also tons of fun to do once and again but I'd hate to make a living off it.

Here is a website you might find useful:

How to check a newly arrived Exakta
After getting the camera, I would check the shutter first. The shutter curtains often develop pinholes and need to be replaced after all these years (although the VX curtains seem to hold up better than the VXIIa). Open the back by pulling down on the bottom left knob and turning it anticlockwise. You should see a take-up spool (removable) on the left side, but sometimes this will be missing. Look at the curtains. If they appear "wrinkled" you may be in for trouble. Take off the lens by pushing in the lever on the left side of the lens mount and twisting the lens anticlockwise until the red dot is on top, and then pull it out. In a darkened room, shine a penlight through the camera body to see if light leaks through the curtains. If you see "pinholes" you will be needing a repair. :-( Do this with the shutter wound and after the shutter has been fired (to check both curtains). It is easier to inspect the second curtain (after the shutter is fired), since the mirror stays up until the shutter is cocked again.

Run it through the fast speeds (left side knob), watching the shutter action to see if it seems to drag or hang up. You pull up on this knob and rotate it (either direction works OK) to set the speeds. To try the slow speeds, wind the camera with the wind lever to cock the shutter. Set the speed to B or T, and then wind the knob on the right side until it stops. Set the slow speeds by pulling up on the outer ring of the knob. The black speeds are normal slow speeds, and the red numbers will give you that speed after a delay (self-timer). If wind the shutter, set the speed to a number other than B or T, and then wind the slow speed knob and set it on any red number, you will get the fast speed that you
set after a delay (about 12 seconds).

While you have your penlight out, shine it through the lens. It should be clear, with no haze (a diffuse cloudy appearance) or fungus (fuzzy, web-like stuff). Your lens is preset, so you will have to stop it down manually to your desired aperture before taking a picture, and then open it back up afterwards for viewing and focusing. The Exakta body doesn't have a built in mechanism for stopping the lens down like modern SLR cameras do. Many lenses are available with mechanisms built into the lens to make the diaphragm action "automatic."

You will need a two-pin adapter to attach a modern "PC" flash cord, if you choose to do so. The electronic flash connectors are the ones on the left side of the camera.

When you open the camera to check it out, have a look at the pressure plate, too. Sometimes these will get corrosion, which can scratch your film. The pressure plate is easily replaceable, if you can find a good one. (For that matter, the entire back is easily replaceable.)

Old prism finders don't fit Exa I (+) cameras
The right-angle flange at the base of the old prism viewfinders (which seats on the top plate of the Varex) is just slightly too wide to fit in the slots on either side of the finder housing on the Exa 1a. The waist-level finder on the Exa does not have these flanges, although it fits fine on the Varex.

None of my "Varex" eye level finders with 'right angle flanges' with the semi-circle cutouts will fit on my 1a. The right angle flanges sit up on the corners of the top deck, nothing is "securely home" and I can't focus. There is another (newish for Ihagee) black matte finish eyelevel finder made specifically for the third generation Exas, without the right angle flanges, which fits down into the seating area for the focusing screen (like eBay# 1213690563) on the 1/1a/1b/1c. There are also older Ihagee eye level finders which were made without the right angle flanges (such as prism versions 4 and 5 in Aguila and Rouah pp155/6) which will go on the third generation Exas (1/1a/1b/1c). Sometimes you see the earlier eye level Exakta finders (versions 1 through 3) which have had the right angle flanges ground off. Which is easy to do and I don't see that you lose anything.

The origin of lens coating!?
Legend has it that lens coating was first discovered after some photographers noticed that when they had their old "tarnished" lenses cleaned and polished, that they did not transmit as much light as they did before. Apparently, the atmospheric contaminants that built up on the glass effectively "coated" the lens. After this effect was noticed, research was initiated to improve the coating process and make it more uniform (and faster!).

Vignetting on Exa's?
Regarding the vignetting of the image when using an Exa with the barrel guillotine shutters with lenses greater than 100mm, it is possible for vignetting to occur because the shutter aperture is smaller than the negative size. This is however very unlikely to occur with modern telephoto lenses It could happen with some older long focus lenses which is why Ihagee advised against using lenses longer than 100mm.

Repair selenium exposure meters yourself
I just received an Isco 50mm with a dead meter (Schneider). I had an old Sekonic selenium meter ($2 at a photo show) and thought I would take a chance repairing the meter. The meter is an exceptional piece and very sturdy. It comes cleanly apart with 4 side screws, a small back screw, and the screw holding the film speed dial. The galvanometer is encased so there isn't much chance of destroying it.

Believe it or not, I pried the old selenium cell off and soldered on the cell from the Sekonic meter. The meter fired right up. The new cell is slightly bigger but small enough to fit in the space behind the window. It reads pretty close to my good hand meter. Maybe the size of the window has something to do with only letting in the right amount of light. Perhaps the size of the cell doesn't matter, only the window size.

I assume your referring to the selenium cell attachment that clips on various Schneider meter lenses. The problem with old selenium meters is that the cells themselves deteriorate due to irreversible age related changes in the cell. The good news is that any selenium cell the same size can be used as a replacement. Selenium cells all have similar output per square cm, which means a larger cell can be cut down and fitted in place of the original. I have done this in the past in several selenium cell cameras. The bad news is that was in the day when selenium cells were easily available at your local Radio Shack,-a situation which I believe no longer exists. Edmund Scientific may still have them - I don't know. They usually come in rectangles approx. 1 x 1.5 inches. A small jewellers saw can be used to cut them down to size. Just remember when trimming away the excess, not to cut off the portion with the leads attached! I know it's not the ultimate purist solution, but it will result in a working meter.

Reference: My 2000 Edmund catalogue yields over ten different types of solar cells, not counting size permutations. Pages 34/35. Edmund is and (USA) tel. 800.728.6999 and fax 856.547.3292. None are described as Selenium

If you want to have someone else do the repair instead of doing it yourself, there is a company in the U.S. with a good reputation for repairing old selenium cell meters:

Quality Light Metric Co, 6922 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90028-6117 USA Tel: 213-467-2265

I don't have any personal experience with them, but I have read many good reports about their work, especially in regard to repairing old selenium meters like the Westons.

As for cutting a cell from another meter down to size, I am sure this would work, but it is my understanding that the cells have to be sealed to prevent corrosion from destroying the cell. I seem to recall that the selenium is coated onto an iron plate and protected with a thin layer of gold. I have been led to believe that corrosion, rather than just old age, is what usually causes the old selenium meters to go bad. I use an old Weston Master III that still works perfectly (as far as I can tell), despite being nearly 45 years old. Wouldn't cutting the cell destroy the sealing, leaving a raw edge on the cell? Does anyone know of some method for re-sealing the cell after cutting it?

Which way to turn the short-time setting knob
The curious thing about the purpose of the arrow is, that all factory manuals, VP, Kine and Varex, tell us to set the time by turning the dial in the direction of the arrow. Werner Wurst however, in his book Exakta Kleinbild Fotografie, Exakta Manual in English (12 prints in German, 2 in English) does NOT mention the arrow while talking about setting the time. Only when explaining how to make double exposures, he rightly tells us to turn in the direction of the arrow.

If you have ever opened an Exakta at the left side, you will have seen that there is no technical reason whatsoever to turn the dial in one or the other direction.

Could it be that one person in 1933 got it wrong, and that everybody writing camera manuals later just copied this mistake instead of thinking independently?

Any auto mechanic knows that knobs are designed to be turned in the same direction that the hub threads are tightened. Think about the "knock-off" hubs on vintage sports cars. The knock-off's have clockwise threads on the left side of the car and counter-clockwise threads on the right hand side of the car. This prevents the threaded hubs from loosening while the wheels are in motion. I'm sure most of us have seen older Exakta bodies with a fast shutter speed knob that has a loose screw. It is most likely from the long-term practice of turning the fast speed knob the wrong direction! When the lubrication eventually evaporates, the friction of the internal spring upon the screw head will eventually loosen things up.

From my observations of disassembled Exaktas, the function of the shutter speed knob is only to place a small pin that is attached to the knob in one of a series of holes that correspond the set speeds. When you lift it to set the speeds it is not really attached to any internal parts of the shutter mechanism. It seems to me that it shouldn't really matter which way it is turned. I turned it both ways for several years after getting my first VX, with no problems.

However, my "Exakta Pocket Guide" by Werner Wurst instructs that, when setting the fast speeds knob: "The small setting knob should be lifted slightly before or after tensioning of the shutter and turned in the direction of the arrow." I started turning the knob anticlockwise to set speeds after reading that, but other Exakta books I have read since then (and I think I have almost all of them) mention nothing about following the arrow when setting shutter speeds.

Change shutter curtains yourself
I finally got around to doing something that I'd been putting off for awhile; namely installing new curtains on my dry curtain Exaktas. It's not as difficult as I had imagined. Dropping a new set would have been a no brainer but factory curtains are unobtainable at a decent price. The difficult part of the procedure was removing the old cloth from the rails. Unlike in most other cameras, the rails are double folded on the curtains for extra grip. First I had to separate open up the fold with a pair of gillettes and then separate the second fold without unfolding the first one too far back so as not to crack it. Luckily the curtains are not glued into the rails. I used Fargo's red curtain cloth to remind myself that these cameras were made in a Communist country. I had no choice but to re-use the old shutter tape since there doesn't seem to be anything out there thin enough to do the job. The first curtain had sutures holding the tapes on the curtains. I used 5 minute epoxy instead. It's stronger and super stable over hundreds of years! To make things even more difficult the tape thickness increases when it's peeled off the rollers even if you remove all of the old adhesive with thinner, and It grows faster on the rollers than it did before. I had to cut about 1 1/2 inches off the old tape to get the first curtain to advance the same distance it did before. The second curtain wasn't a problem.

In conclusion, I can say the mod can definitely be done but only once, the rails can't take a second unfolding without cracking at the creases. It was a pain in the ass but it could have been worse. The curtains could have been riveted on like they are in the Contax S, D, F or the Contarexes. But the operation was a success and the cameras look outlandish with red cloth instead of traditional black I doubt the red will cause refection problems and if it should I have blue magic markers!

Are Exakta viewfinders too dark?
I was wondering why Exakta (prism) finders are so dark. Compared to other vintage reflexes (Praktina, Bessamatic, Retina Reflex, etc.), using the same aperture lenses, there seem to be several F-stops difference.

I would guess that the silvering on the prism aint that efficient or may have degraded after 40 years. Some of the older "silvered" mirrors I've seen are noticeably dim as well. The screens are not too bright either. All those put together should account for about 3 F-stops. I compared: my Leica R5 with a similar lens is brighter through the prism than my Exaktas with WLF and thick condenser. Brightness is not everything though. I've heard that some very bright screens are difficult to focus. (Either Interscreen or Brightscreen has focusing problems; I don't remember which) The old Exakta thick screen/condenser on the other hand is a pleasure to use even though it's not as bright. What I can't figure out is why it's brighter than all of their thin screens, glass or plastic!

While it may not be as bright as the more modern SLR's, I've always considered the Exakta prism to be reasonably bright, at least with an f/2.8 or faster lens. In comparison to some other cameras, though, it may suffer because of the simple focusing screen design. While many types of screens were made for the Exakta, virtually all of the Exakta screens I've encountered are either plain ground glass (my favorite) or ground glass with the split-image spot. In order to increase screen brightness, some 1950's and 1960's SLR's (particularly the leaf-shutter models like the Contaflexes) used a bright, non-focusing screen with a central split-image rangefinder, which had a narrow (virtually unusable) groundglass ring around it. I have heard this called a "military-type" viewfinder, but I don't know why it was called that. While these do give a very bright image, focusing is only possible in the center, and depth-of-field is impossible to judge. Everything outside of the central focusing area looks like it is in focus all the time, just like it does with rangefinder cameras. Other cameras use a fresnel-type screen to increase image brightness (especially near the edges). I think most "modern" cameras use some variation on this type. To see what these do, go to: and click on "How It Works."

Fresnel-type screens are (were) available for the Exakta prism, as well. It does give a brighter image, it is also more difficult to focus with. Like the other early fresnel screens, it has visible concentric circles covering the screen area. I prefer the plain ground glass, without any distractions, even if it is a little dimmer.

Oddly, it has always seemed to me that I get a darker view from wide angle lenses than from my normal or tele lenses at the same aperture. My 135/3.5 seems to give a brighter view, for instance, than my 35/2.8.

Ihagee Lumimax enlargers
I did purchase an interesting item on eBay recently that I hope someone can help me with. It is an incomplete version of the Ihagee Lumimax Enlarger. I know that it is missing some parts, but I don't know which ones. I understand that the design required the use of an Ihagee folding plate camera to act as the bellows and lens. Did it have a base or was that up to the user to provide? Does anyone know any more details? Also, did the darn thing work very well? It seems like kind of a jury-rigged device

You've purchased a Ihagee Simplex Lumimax. As you know, it requires a folding plate camera for working. As I've seen at eBay, your enlarger is complete, only the electrical parts are missing (lamp+cable). If it is build for 9x12 cameras, you model is exactly the Ihagee Cat. No. 5220, build 1925 to 1930, known serial no's are 104 719 to 455 504. See a picture from the literature at I've several Ihagee enlargers and they work fine! What you should know too: there are 40 different models of Lumimax enlargers!!

Warning about some sellers
Speaking of bad sellers, has anyone dealt with a Rodney Altes in CA?  He tried to pass a MO from BidPay at a check cashing place after holding onto it for months and never sending the Exakta outfit with tripod, cases, etc.  He never responded to my emails prior to this about the camera equipment. I emailed him warning him I was cancelling the MOs. He never replied. BidPay also notified him of the cancellations. He held these MOs for over six months without sending anything. As of today's mail, I have been notified that he has cashed one of them at a check cashing service. Do you know a
Rodney Altes???? He is no friend of Exaktaphites, much less eBay.

There is a guy "Vavancu" who has lovely photos and high prices and flowery prose. Frequently he lists Exaktas. I caution everyone to steer clear of him. The condition of what Vavancu shipped me was not even close to his description.

I must point out, that I bought two times (maybe more, don't know, bought so much) things from Vavancu and I was pleased with what I got!

Beware of a third purchase. I bought from Vavancu (Filippo) three times. The first two times I paid top dollar and then some, but got something nice. It was the third purchase on which I was done in. The galling aspect of it, however, was that he refused any sort of accommodation or return/refund whatever.

Ownership of the Exakta Camera Company
Dr. Wirgin who owned Edixa, also owned The Exakta Camera Company. The very first Exaktas that they sold in the U.S. were hand carried out of East Germany by Dr. Wirgin in a suitcase. Then, latter on, the first major shipments were held in escrow by a bank. ECC would pick up a few Exaktas at a time from the bank, sell them and then return for more.

Correction and addition, sent by Dov Goldman, grandson of Dr. Max Wirgin, on 2007.06.09.
Dr. Max was my grandfather (my mother's father). He did not in fact own Edixa. Before WWII my grandfather and his brothers Heinrich, Joseph and Wolf manufactured cameras in Wiesbaden under the name Gebr. Wirgin (Wirgin Brothers). Just before the war the German government took ownership of this company from the Wirgins. They left for the United States and pursued other business for a time. After the war Heinrich (or Henry as I knew him) returned to Germany and repurchased the factory. My grandfather operated Exakta Camera Company and Camera Specialty Company from New York and later Yonkers, NY for several decades. He imported some Edixa cameras, but generally focused on the East German Exakta for which he is better known.

My great uncle Henry restarted manufacturing in the Wiesbaden factory, reintroducing a camera design that had been completed before the war. Soon after that he named the line "Edixa" after his wife (my great aunt) Esther, who everyone called Eda. Henry continued operating this business until the late 1960's when he ran into some financial problems. My grandfather invested in Henry's business in an attempt to keep it operating. The entity they ran was called Gebr. Wirgin GmbH, and continued operating until about 1973.

Fungus in/on lenses
When I lived in a different country (which had much warmer & drier Summers than North Germany) and was mainly looking at Japanese lenses, I never, ever, saw a case of lens fungus and knew about it only as a hypothetical defect described in texts. Now it seems that a good percentage of the mostly German lenses I see here are affected by fungus, and the fact that they tend to be around 10-20 years older than the Japanese lenses doesn't seem to be enough to explain the difference by itself. I was wondering which of the following factors is most relevant:

1) Local climate (though the worst case of fungus I ever saw was in a Zeiss Jena Tessar that was sent from Australia).

2) Glass/coating composition. Zeiss Jena and Steinheils seem especially susceptible to fungus while Japanese and Soviet lenses seem to be relatively immune. Also, the later Jenas appear to be the most affected. This brings up another question: What does the fungus actually "eat"? Can an organism really thrive on a diet of pure silicone dioxide?

3) Production area. i.e. were Jena & Munich hotbeds of fungus spores just waiting to jump into newly made lenses, while Japan and Russia / Ukraine don't host such spores?

It appears that fungus exists on many German (and French) lenses. From my experience, the fungus problem in Steinheil and Zeiss lenses is not in the glass or the coatings. It's the flat black paint used to coat the edges of the individual elements - rarely I'll see it in lubricants on the various threads in a barrel. I've cleaned quite a few lenses that have fungus spiders visible in the light path before disassembly. After disassembly, it is clear that large fungus colonies (white and hairy in appearance) have grown on (or in) the paint around the edges of the lens elements. The fungus that is visible before disassembly is a fraction of what is usually growing inside. Manual Angenieux lenses are notorious petri dishes for fungus. I've seen less than a dozen that had absolutely no fungus problems. The later automatic Angenieux's rarely have this problem so I assume the company "fixed" the problem in the late 1950's.

Perhaps comparable Japanese companies added anti-fungal components to their paint as an industry standard - being very close to the ocean, they might have been more aware of the long-term problems of fungus and mould spores? Also, it's possible that there are certain fungus spores in Europe that aren't found elsewhere.

Another item, I haven't seen many cases of fungus in Schneider optics. They used a very different type of paint on their elements - it is a very dark purple colour that appears black - maybe it had iodine in it? ;-)

Another two variables are lubricants and lens cement. The Japanese were famous for using fish-oil based grease in the fifties & sixties. Cement can be organic Canadian Balsam, acrylic cement, UV setting cement, etc., etc. Each will react quite differently to the various moulds.

When buying lenses, it can be very difficult to tell if a lens has permanent damage from etching or a light haze that will clean easily. To me, etched glass appears more opaque than the latter. Guess that's the risk we have with collecting and using older equipment.

I might also add that lens moulds produce acidic waste products, which is the cause of the etching of lens glasses.

History of the Exakta 66 = Pentacon Six (by Hans Roskam)
There are many fairy tales about the Exakta-66. Some were promoted by the manufacturer, not by us. This is, to the best of our knowledge what we know.
Central is this story is Heinrich Mandermann. He represented former GDR cameras like Exakta Varex and Praktica in West Germany and enjoyed sometimes rough interference of West German Trade politics which saw GDR products as inimical. For me he is still a 'hero'. Around 1985 he started to assembly Exakta-66 from parts he bought in Dresden. What's for me still a question is whether the regular production of Pentacon was already stopped in those days. I could check this because I've the serial## of very early E-66 and very late P-6es. Mandermann had ties with Schneider Kreuznach and Rollei (or was already owner, what he certainly was for a while) and with help of an (?Agfa) designer he gave the P-6 a face lift.

What's right: the new Rollei screens were an improvement: the image became brighter and was could be focused more easily, especially the wide angles. A further clever improvement were four ridges and a new plate to make the film more flat during exposure.

A third modification was the ttl-measuring. By a clever design of the signalling system the exposure values could be transferred to shutter and lens. The electronics for measuring were brought to the state of the art in those days. The ttl-system had also severe drawbacks: only lenses designed for this system could adopt it and the ttl-system could not be used with the bulk of the Pentacon system like lenses, bellows, extension rings etc. Furthermore, the adjustment of these very expensive prisms on the body should be done very accurately, otherwise the communication of information will be disturbed. Therefore, I still prefer the old, less vulnerable, Pentacon ttl prism.

Other flaws of the old system like frame overlapping and limitation of the viewer image were NOT solved. The modern Rollei waist lever finder was better than the old one, viewer lenses could be changed etc, but the viewer frame size was not enlarged. This was not necessary also, because the viewer size was approx 90% of the image. The prism viewer size, however, remained identical to the old Pentacon size: about 65% of the image. This was ok with the standard lens and tele's, but a handicap with the wide angles and the (Russian) fish eye. Using wide angles I still recommend to use the WL-finder.

Frame overlaps were feared in the old system AND the new Exakta-66. The peculiar thing is that some users never experience this flaw, and others go mad. The reason is that if the measuring system, and corresponding springs on the camera back are working correctly, the system is ok. If not, overlaps may occur. Another guideline is that the measuring system must be reset when a new film is loaded. If the manual is followed (camera cocked once BY LEVER when film is put in the camera no problems occur. If not, the measuring system is not reset and overlaps may occur). To make a long story short: the measuring system is NOT 'fool-proof'. Asahi-Pentax in its 6x7 camera did a better job. We hoped that Exakta would solve in the same way but alas.

Exakta Mk2 came with the new Rollei screen which enabled a full use of the viewer. At least with the WL-viewer. The prism image remained restricted by the size of the prism. A further 'improvement' regards the flash synchro. The indication of 1/30th was replaced towards the old flash sign position. Actually synchro remained at 1/22th, and 1/30 became actually 1/22. We do not like such fake improvements. Finally the transport lever was enlarged which is ok.

Finally Exakta Mk3. This camera was provided with a mirror lock up which was realized by a cable release. A simple solution which allowed shaking free images at low shutter speeds. I'm a frequent user of this modification.

Exakta 66 is exit now. We must confess that Exakta actually was gone in 1971, when the Varex production stopped. Exakta-66 was basically a rubberized Pentacon. The looks were fine and at some points the Exakta was superior to the Pentacon. But is was a camera designed in 1955 according to standards of those days. What makes us really sad is that Exakta-66 and Praktica BX20 have no follow up. Pentacon decided to go into digital technology and became highly specialized in this field. No mass production anymore. Once upon a time all becomes history.

Finally, a comparison must be made with the Kiev clones. Although the shutter of these cameras is inferior to the refined Pentacon type, the risk of frame overlapping is solved in these cameras and the ttl-system is superior. Kiev-60 really shows 85% of the image, both the waist level and the ttl-finders.

We don't have negative comments on reliability of well kept cameras. For us it's still a serious alternative, especially in combination with Zeiss lenses (Some Arsats are extremely well performing) and Pentacon accessories. However, don't expect miracles of gadgets bought for too low prices.

Repairing pinholes in shutters and bellows
You can brush a product called Plasti Dip on the shutters of your Exaktas and fix those pinholed curtains. Plasti Dip is really ment as a rubber coating foe plier and screw driver handles to give a better grip. It goes on really thin, can also be thinned with turpentine and it works! Have used it on three Exaktas and a Minolta and it seems to have not hurt shutter speeds.
It also works beautifully on old pinned bellows .If put on in thin coats it will not obscure the leather grain. You can pick it up at any Home Depot. Follow directions, put it on thin and let it dry for a day before you cock that shutter or fold that folder.
As one trained in camera repair, I certainly don't think painting some substance on curtains is my idea of a proper repair. All Exaktas should be taken apart, cleaned and relubed periodically. Just what this length of time is depends on usage and storage. Later model Exaktas have rubberized curtains that have a tendancy to crack over time, and have to be replaced. It's a simple task and certainly not an expensive one.

If anyone is looking for original Exakta replacement curtains, please contact me. The price is very reasonable. Roy Bachenheimer

I don't remember anyone ever endorsing a professional repairman in the U.S. who is still doing repairs. There seem to be several list members who do their own repairs, but I don't think they do it as a profession.
I have sent Exaktas to two different repairman, and even taken a camera to a local repairman, and each time I have been rather disappointed with the quality of work done (not to mention service). This is the only reason I have started to attempt my own repairs, as I would otherwise be happy to have it done by a professional.
As for "patching" with flexible paint, it seems to be an interesting idea, but I would be concerned that a curtain repaired in that way would have the potential to develop more pinholes at any time. Or do you paint the entire curtain, instead of just the pinholed area?

Exakta repair general
Here's the URL to Ed Romney's site since this weekends (Sep 2000) topic has been Exakta repair.                
I think we should redefine what we are trying to do here.
We don't really repair, we restore. At least I do. A repairman simply gets the thing working in 10 minutes or so, checks that everything else works and moves on to the next camera, usually a Cannon FTB or something.
A restorer on the other hand, nit picks every detail and attempts to get flawless operation out of the beast, over a [period of hours, days or even months. (years if you are waiting for that right part to materialize)
I waited around quite awhile for parts for my Exakta500 and VX1000. Fortunately Hugo and Klaus had the parts. Tanx again guys! I encourage everyone to undertake the restoration of their own cameras.
A lot of guys are afraid to undertake their own repairs, afraid that they might hopelessly break something. All I can say is start with a junk camera. an SLR, preferably an Exakta and break it as much as you can until you figure it out.
              Think of a repairman as a dependency you have to break!

Red shutter curtains
Several Exaktas have been found with red curtains. They are most probably not original but replacements. Leica also used this material at some time. It has been suggested that, during a shortage of the normal curtain material during and shortly after WWII, red cloth from Kodak was used, or material from parachutes.

Clear viewfinder screens
Modern cameras often advertise with very clear screens. Why don't we Exakta users have them?
You can make one yourself by rubbing a little fat (oil, butter) on a normal GLASS screen. Wipe until the required condition is reached.
A setback might be that the depth-of-field now seems much more than in reality, because a screen prepared this way will approach a fully clear screen that shows no depth-of-field at all.

Brittle curtains
Unfortunately through age the rubberized coating the back of the curtains deteriorates and gets brittle and cracks. There is nothing that you can do but replace the defective curtain. When a curtain starts getting brittle it will destroy the accuracy of the shutter. Never leave your camera in direct sunlight without a lens cap or risk the chance of burning pinholes in the curtains.
There is another problem with curtains. The rubberized coating is light sensitive and will dry out when being exposed to light for a long, long time. So you should, when having your cameras on display, always have the shutter tensioned, to keep as much light as possible away from the shutter curtain. This is the reason, why you can find VX1000 cameras with dried out shutter curtains on the lower edge (instant return mirror) and other cameras, with only one dried out curtain

Lubricating the shutter rollers
After removing the camera mechanism from the "housing" you will see the four rollers on which the curtains are attached. With a needle point oiler, put one drop of oil on the top and bottom of the roller at the point where the inner shaft comes out of the roller. The top part of the shaft is either attached to a gear or to the pin for adjusting the curtain tension. Do not over oil and do not get any oil on the curtain material or they will "curl". Use the correct type of oil. One inexpensive source that used to work very well was "Singer" sewing machine oil, if still available.
Setting speeds on Exaktas was usually a compromise. You tried to get all speeds above 1/150 within range. If you can get 1/1000 within range the others would usually be okay.


Robert G. Pins, 10 John Circle, Norwood, N.J.
Good but also Bad; what arrives is not always what was promised.
Bob Pins is extremely knowledgeable of the Ihagee and Exakta camera systems.

Overrate their equipment and their knowledge. Sometimes slow in sending money back.

Pacific Rim
These fellows are a pleasure to do business with. Fast delivery and easy to contact in case of trouble

All Seasons Camera
Cliff Travis: He doesn't have much of a selection, but the prices are fair.

See dealer list on

Zeiss lenses with double bezels (serial number front rings)
Carl Zeiss was not allowed to use the name Carl Zeiss and all the lens names in West-Germany for many years. So the Company indication was " aus Jena" and the lens names were B, T, Bm and S for Biotar, Tessar, Biometar and Sonnar.
Marc James Small and Charlie Barringer are both compiling lists of these double numbered lenses.
So if you have some, send them the inner outer serial numbers along with the lens type and mount and tell them about any distinguishing features.
Many of the re-ringed Zeiss Jena lenses had the trade mark references on the inner ring defaced before being exported. That's the way it worked in the US at least, and I suppose among some of it's more psychophantic allies. I guess the Europeans may have allowed the inner ring to be covered intact. What bothers me even more is that I can't fit a filter ring over these lenses without removing the top ring and revealing the evil scratches.

Carl vs Karl Meyer lenses
The Astro's mount looks like a Burke & James (from Chicago) mount (some of their mounts have "Karl Meyer" engraved on them, some have "Burke & James" and some have nothing), they were famous for mounting surplus lenses for various cameras before and after the war. I've seen several Astro lenses offered in their old catalogues.
The Carl is with C not a K. Burke & James carried a line of lenses with "Carl Meyer" on them, I'm not sure who made them (probably a few different suppliers) but the mounts appear to be made by B&J. Obviously it was to confuse the buyer with the "Carl" and "Meyer" names into thinking they were German (some were, but not all). I think the name was used for some time later on Binoculars, into the 1970's anyway. I have a few Carl Meyer lenses and the most interesting is a 50mm 3.5 Zeiss Tessar with the name ring removed and replaced with a blank ring and "Carl Meyer 50mm f3.5 No.SC-99" engraved on the OUTSIDE of the front ring. The lens was a "feet" scale lens but this one has had "meters" added later engraved on the front part of the focusing ring.
It seems that B&J would stop at nothing to increase their profit margin, eh? I have a 40"/16 Carl Meyer prismatic lens (looks like a Televar) that I've been wondering about for some time. Perhaps this is one of B&J's creations?

Pop Photo Magazine available on internet???
I think you would be disappointed with the quantity of information of this sort in the old Pop Photo magazines. I have a large number of 1940's and 1950's Pop Photo magazines, and I can tell you that they did not really publish those sorts of tests in "the old days." The infrequent camera reviews they did print were fairly brief and vague, with even less information than you get today from the likes of Outdoor Photographer. A typical article would be one page describing a few features of the camera. I don't think I have seen a real lens test in any of them. I think that the sort of tests that they do now began in the 1970's, well after the Exakta's heyday. The old Modern Photography magazine did print lens tests, with charts of performance at different apertures. I have only a few that contain tests of Exakta lenses, though.
The old Pop Photo seemed to concentrate less on buying new equipment and more on taking photos and darkroom work. While I am generally in favor of that policy, it would be nice to have good reviews and tests of our old cameras and lenses.

Enna Sockel lenses
For those who care, here's a link to a series of tests taken with 4 of the Enna Sockel lenses. Unfortunately, the pics are lacking in contrast and some detail although the prints look just fine. My scanner seems to have a problem with 35mm black & white prints.
The system is nice, but is a minor pain to use. All the lenses I have are in plastic bubbles that have a screw mount for the lenses to fit on. Makes it very slow to use. Having said that, it is rather neat to have a pretty good range of focal lengths in one medium size bag.

Radioactive lenses
While I was working with some radioactive materials in the lab tonight, I remembered a display I saw at the Los Alamos Museum a while back. The display showed how radioactive materials ended up in some consumer products, including "old camera lenses." They had a Geiger counter, which you could hold up to an old lens, "Fiestaware" plates (colored with uranium oxide), etc.

So, on a whim, I got out my Exakta, which has a Steinheil Auto-Quinon 55mm lens on it. I checked it with the Geiger counter, and found a surprising amount of radioactivity (45 counts per minute). The strong reading was from the front element, while the radioactivity was low when I checked at the rear element.

I have an Eastman Aero Ektar that has this kind of radioactivity. Somewhere I read about this and other lenses having radioactive coatings. My Ektar has a conversion mount for Exakta. I'm sure others know about this, too. I believe I was once told that the earlier Japanese lenses had this problem. "Rare earth" might be the culprit.

They contain some Thorium glass which is slightly radioactive. Someone here once reported actually detecting this with a radiation counter. It is not supposed to radiate any significant level. The Thorium glass is also supposed to be a little unstable, yellowing a little with age. This is meaningless in an aerial lens which is typically used with a yellow filter anyway. The Thorium glass had some desirable characteristic for getting the optical performance wanted from these lenses and they were not intended to have a long lifetime. However, there are a lot of Aero Ektars around and they seem to be holding up just fine

Thorium is easily detectable with a 'beta' counter. I work in a nuclear power plant and made the mistake of taking a 'newer' 35 F2.0 Leica Summicron into the power block last winter. Everything coming out of the power block is scanned for radiation and the assumption is if it is radioactive it was dosed in the power block. It almost went to a rad waste dump. However with a lot of work I was able to convince them the radioactivity was fixed and a product of manufacture (some articles from the Leica historical magazine helped).

IMHO (and the people whose job is to protect me from radiation on a daily basis) the level was inconsequentional. Somewhere on the order of less them 1 mr per hour (or 1/1000 of a rem).

I can speak to this business from the astronomy/telescope perspective. Many surplus, big, wide-angle erfle eyepieces from military fire-control telescopes have these thorium glass elements, and they do indeed go "amber" with age. They also have the slight radioactivity you've been discussing. This is enough, however, to flag them as dangerous to use. Why? Because a telescope user will likely spend hours on end with his eyeball about 1/2-inch from the eyepiece; at that distance, this is enough exposure (over time) to help cause CATARACTS! I don't see the same problem with camera optics; the working distances would be closer to 4-5 inches

After seeing the radioactivity from the Steinheil 55mm f/1.9 lens, I decided to test my other lenses. Besides my other 55mm Steinheil, the only other Exakta lens that showed any detectable radioactivity above background level was the Steinheil Auto-Quinar 100mm f/3.5, and that was at a much lower level than the 55mm lenses (2cps vs. 40-45 cps). In fact, the only other "hot" lens I own is my Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, which has an even higher level of radioactivity than the Steinheil.

Lenses from which I couldn't detect any radioactivity included: Steinheil Auto-Quinaron 35/2.8, Auto-Quinar 135/3.5 & 135/2.8, and Cassar 105/4.5, Zeiss Jena Biotar 58/2 and Tessar 50/2.8, Schneider Xenon 50/1.9, and Rodenstock Eurygon 30/2.8.

From what I could find out, the radioactivity in some older lenses is due to "rare earth" glass, which contains rare earth elements such as Lanthanum and/or Thorium. This glass was favoured by some lens designers because it has a higher refractive index and lower chromatic dispersion than normal glass. Old Leica ads used to tout the Lanthanum glass they used in their lenses, while old Minolta ads boasted about "rare earth" glass. I am not sure about Steinheil, since I have never seen an ad or brochure/manual for the 55mm Auto-Quinon. I have read conflicting reports as to whether the Lanthanum used contains radioactive isotopes, but the Thorium definitely does.

As far as safety, I haven't seen anything authoritative on that yet. I am not investing in lead lens caps yet, though. I should point out that the Geiger counter showed nothing over baseline radioactivity when pointed at the back of the lens (or at the viewfinder), so presumably only the front element is "hot" and the radiation is blocked by the other lens elements. I have used the Auto-Quinon as my primary lens for some years, with no cataracts yet.

Shutter testing
Probably the best shutter tester on the market for non-professional use, that's in an affordable price range is the Calumet shutter tester It's catalog # AA8075 and costs $80. It measures 2 1/2 X 4 3/4 X 1 1/2" so you don't need a separate table just to test your shutter. You can use a small speed tester like Calumet's for shutter speeds in combination with a Leica-style drum tester (see
for analog testing your curtain travel speeds. Start at the factory suggested spring loads for your Exakta curtains and test away... Personally, I prefer accurate travel speeds to accurate shutter speeds. You can compensate for inaccurate shutter speeds but it's impossible to compensate for inconsistent exposure across the width of the frame (unless you're an expert dodger/burner in the darkroom).

Here's a shutter speed tester you can make for a few bucks. All you need is a sound card in your computer and Cool-Edit for a program. I've spent some time trying to locate the photo-transistor without success. Perhaps someone who is into electronics can come up with a source

I've built a couple of these testers. They work great. In fact I'm presently writing a tester article for mine and a friend's webpage: Welcome to Favorite Classics. Doing a parallel version and using the Input port of a soundcard one can check curtain speeds. I'll have scans of my testers on the page soon.
As for the phototransistor use a Radio Shack 276-145. It works great.

For some years I had a ZTS tester. Didn't really like it as it was too slow and cumbersome to use. Sold it and bought the Delta SH-T1. After a couple years of using it, I find it does as good as job as the $3000 plus ZTS. The only advantage the ZTS had was the ability to measure across the entire film aperture. As I've reverted to a low volume of repairs, speed isn't all that important.

Exakta Narex
I recently acquired an Exakta camera marked Narex rather than Varex. I was told by Gary Cullen that this was an early attempt to circumvent the trademark problem that prevented the use of the name 'Varex' in the US. I have one such camera serial no. 700006 and Gary has two (figures) nos. 705803 and 706027. Gary feels that the existence of these cameras is not well-known and that after the publication of his book later in the year, these cameras will be in demand and thus fetch premium prices in the marketplace. My concern is if he's right, and I'm sure he is, what is to prevent unscrupulous camera dealers from selling fake Narexes since any crook with an engraving tool can turn a Varex into a Narex. I've seen this all too often with other camera makes, notably Leica and certain Zeiss products such as military Contaxes and I would hate to see this kind of activity enter the Exakta world. With this thought in mind I would like to establish some sort of base range of serial numbers of known 'Narexes' before the flood of "mint" Narexes starts to show up on the market. If you agree with my reasoning, and I sincerely hope you do, and you have an Exakta Narex or know someone who does, please post the serial numbers. You may save a fellow Exakta collector a lot of heartache as well as cash.

The Narex was one of several changes made to remove the Varex name from US imported cameras, usually when caught by customs on personal or gray market imports. Varex was a registered trade mark of a shutter Argus Cameras made and they were pushing to stop the use of the name on US Exaktas. That's why you see Varex on European models and just VX or just V on US ones.
Some cameras had small plates riveted or glued over the Varex name as a simple way of solving the problem. In A&R's book the VXIIa version 4 is another variation of this change. On these cameras the Varex IIa was ground or hammered off then polished or re-chromed. The changes were apparently done in the US by several different engravers. There are many variations, I have about 25 listed with photos in my new book "Exakta Obscurities" that will be available later this year.
Value of these cameras: A good question, few people know about them but they still seem to reach at least double the normal cameras. As they become more well known they may become more valuable.

Perhaps part of the appeal of these cameras is that we collectors that have almost all the Exakta variations made by Ihagee need something new to collect. I personally like these changed cameras for that very reason as well as the fact they are part of the history of Exakta in North America. The fact they are quite rare is also very appealing Alan Jankowski made a point about these cameras a couple of weeks ago about them showing up as fakes in the future. This is a distinct possibility in the case of the Narex and any that have had small plates glued or riveted over the Varex name because it's quite easy to make them. The ones that are ground, polished or re-chromed then re-engraved would be much more difficult to copy. It might be a good idea to compile a list of serial numbers on the ones that are out there now so at least in the future we will know they are not faked. So who out there have any of these cameras with numbers to send in?

NON-Exakta Ihagee cameras
You're invited to visit my new site (English, German and French language), a site for classifying older (non-Exakta) Ihagee cameras. Look at the negative size and the concerning characteristics of your camera and find it at the column at left side.
(or click 'Bestimmungstabelle' on my Ihagee main site

Warning for unreliable persons on eBay
Some time ago I cautioned you all against one Agatak < who was selling f4/300mm "Tair" lenses on eBay and then not delivering them and disappearing. His real name is Smaliak (Smailak?) Yaraslau. City: Minsk. Country: Belarus. I'd like to report the further developments.
I took up the matter with eBay's fraud division and on my own, threatened to lodge a criminal complaint against the man in his own country. (Once upon a time in a previous life I was a lawyer and a Professor of Criminal Law.) I must admit that I was angry, harsh and very determined. This quickly flushed him out. I gave him time until July 15 to repay me. I got my money today. He is no longer a member of eBay - has been banished.

Exakta 66 postwar horizontal model
An Exakta historian once told me about having owned a pre-war styled 66 camera that was manufactured post-war, and had interchangeable finders. Is this a mythical camera? A 66 Varex?

Hummel tells in his book that Ihagee designed an improved model of the horizontal Exakta 66 in 1951 with:
- exchangeable waist level view finder (prism never produced)
- contact for electronic flash
- transport handle working in the other direction
Is was unreliable (as was the prewar model) and only produced as about 350 pilot production copies.

Cold War products of Ihagee???
I've been listening to a radio show on the Cold War and recently saw a television show on the same topic. It got me thinking about Ihagee & its role during the Cold War. Optical and image sensing technologies have always played a very important role in espionage and military applications. I recall meeting one of Kodak's vice-presidents in the early 1980's who informed me that there were large sections of Kodak's operations which he was not authorized to visit or obtain information about as they were restricted by government order. I'm curious about Ihagee and whether its operations played any part in such things. Does anyone know? My friend at Kodak for example claimed that any "film innovations" that consumers ever saw were simply because old government technology that was being cleared for release- in essence there are always vastly superior imaging technologies available, but only for top secret government usage. Does anyone know of any such cameras etc. designed or produced by Ihagee for the east bloc countries?

This is the first I've ever heard of such a possibility. It seems as though Ihagee Post-War was concerned with reviving the business (1954-50), making improvements, (Varex/VX and 66), and increasing their market share and level of productivity. Certainly, the eyelevel pentaprism viewfinder was an optical development, but aside from that, Ihagee relied on Zeiss/Jena, Meyer, Schneider, Enna, etc. You would think that any Post-War developments would have been in the optical and electronics fields, at least until Ihagee became absorbed by Pentacon.
Several years ago, after German unification, a limited number of binoculars made by Zeiss/Jena became available in the U.S. They were constructed for use by the East German and Soviet armies. I never handled or saw a set. However, the experts who handled them said that they were phenomenal; strong, optically excellent, and possibly (it was said) the finest binoculars ever made. I don't know... binoculars are not my thing. I do remember them being rather pricey; $500 or so for a pair of 7x50's.

Rear Window: which lens did James Steward have on his Exakta?
Is anyone SURE what type of lens was used by Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window ?

I discussed this with Norman at Seymour's some years ago. He said, if I recall correctly, that it was a 300 Kilar cinematographic lens adapted for the Exakta mount. Presumably, manual diaphragm.
More recently, an Exakta VX or VXIIA was seen in the movie "L.A. Confidential". The camera was seen with a detective after he had used it to photograph Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger in a potentially "compromising" situation.

I always understood the lens was a Kilfitt 400 f:5.6

I think the lens in Jim Steward's version of Rear Window (the original) is a Tewe. But it could also be an Astro-Berlin.

After 25 years in dealing strictly with cameras and lenses I insist that lens in Rear Window is a Kilfitt. If not it is sure designed like one (like exactly)???

As a past collector of Kilfitts, I'm sure it is definitely a Kilfitt.

Maybe the confusion lies in the photo mag full page ad by Exakta Camera Company of NY advertising "Rear Window." I believe that lens has a large hand ring around the barrel. Could it be that the camera ad was showing a different lens than the one in the movie???

I also concur that it is a Heinz Kilfitt lens. I might further suggest that it is a F5.6/400mm "Fern-Kilar"; lens code: "KIVIR"; it has 2 lens elements forming a single achromat; 1 foot & 5 33/64 inches in length; 3 pounds & 14 ounces in weight. As with the vast majority of Kilfitt lenses it had a pre-set diaphragm. It has an Exakta "Kizex" attaching it to the Exakta. Kling photo listed this particular lens, in 1954, for $239.95 (List); the adapter for $12.00; and its carrying case for $24.50.