Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Exakta Camera

The Ihagee Dresden Exakta VX IIa 35mm SLR is a brilliantly designed camera.  From the innovative cartridge to cartridge winding system, with integrated film cutter, to a unique and bold look and feel to the camera, including a big and bright viewfinder.  This is quite the camera to behold.  It uses pretty much only Zeiss and Schneider lenses, but there are a few other manufacturers in there.

I really like this camera, really I do!  Although it feels backwards, and I have to completely forget about anything resembling a 35mm SLR to use this, it just works so nicely, and feels so right in my hands.  There is something about this camera, and perhaps it is because it is over-engineered?  I don't know.

What I do know, is that I can't stop using it.  Coming up on April 21, 2012, is another Roll In A Day, Day In A Roll, project that I will be using this camera to shoot. 
That, along with it's incredible Carl Zeiss Jena T* 50mm ƒ/2.8 15-Blade Iris Monster!

Either way, this camera has performed  flawlessly from the first frame I put through it, and probably will continue to perform when I finally decide to either retire it, or let it pass on to someone else (perish the thought!)

Exakta VX IIaOne really nice thing about this camera is the 3 sync ports on it.  This camera is synced for M class and F class bulbs, plus has an X-Sync, which is brutally slow-synced at 1/25s!  Oh it's terrible to know that it its sync speed is that low, but it's more designed for M class flash bulbs compared to the modern electronic flash guns.

The other thing about it that I really like, is that it has interchangeable finders. 
From the standard PRISM finder as you would see on any other SLR, to the Waist Level Finder that you see on Medium Format cameras.  The Waist Level Finder is fun, but tough to use.  As the screen isn't the easiest to see when you've got it down at waist level, at least for sharpness, you can't properly guage if the subject is in proper sharp focus or not.  Granted, most oft times you can just get it in NEAR focus, and stop down the lens, which is the common practice of using a WLF.  The only thing is, what if you want to use a fast shutter, slow film, and a wide aperture?  Well, focusing is then critical, and HAS to be sharp!  Especially when focusing near and doing portraits, a necessity!
Well, the easiest way for that is switcing to the Prism finder.  But what if you don't want to, or you didn't bring it to your locale.  Well, there's the handy FLIP OUT magnifying glass to help you focus.  Similar to using a LOUPE on a L/F camera, the magnifier will allow you to nail that super sharp focus you need for the perfect look on your image.
Which reminds me.  I REALLY have to try this camera out for some portraits.. Perhaps this weekend will be the time to try it!

Tech Specs;

Exakta VX IIa 35mm SLR - Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co. - Dresden, East Germany (USSR Occupied)
Circa between 1960-1963 (65,600 total produced)
Lens Mount - Exakta/Topcon Lens Mount
Shutter - Focal Plane Cloth Horizontal Travel Shutter - Speeds 12s - 1/1000s +B +T
3 flash Sync PC-Port Sockets (M, F, X - Sync Speed 1/25s)
Film Cutting Knife Under Body on Right Hand Side
Interchangeable Focusing Screen
Interchangeable Finder (Eye-Level Prism & Waist Level Finder)


  1. I watched this video a while ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRwELuS91jA And since then I've been thinking on and off about getting one of these cameras. If only I shot more 35mm ... (he said while having 30+ rolls of 35mm film in the freezer).

  2. haha! Yeah, I've got a fair bit of 35mm in the freezer.. Probably 100+ rolls right now, B&W, C-41 and E6.
    Just haven't gotten around to getting it into the camera and exposed.
    I also have a good dozen rolls of film in my fridge awaiting developing. I should drop a few of them off at Walmart for 1hr processing, just to get it done.
    Thanks for the video link, I'll check it out!
    If you can, check out my Exakta set on Flickr, it's got some great (sorry I know I'm biased) images and samples.