Friday, November 5, 2010

Exakta Varex IIa

Exakta Varex IIa
Exakta Varex IIa by RaúlM.

This camera is from a good vintage 1961, like its owner.
It's a "modernized" version of the 1956 model:

Exakta Varex IIa Biotar Jena pre WW II. Pentaprism.

Exakta Varex IIa Biotar Jena by Juan Felipe Gomez T

This model was produced in three variations, all the features were the same, only the name plate was different, from 1957 to 1960 the name plate had this beautiful lettering either engraved or embossed, mine produced in 1961 has this black plate with straight Roman lettering.
I'm saying that mine was made in 1961 as a wishful thinking, they were produced between 1961 and 1963. 

These cameras where made by Ihagee, in Dresden, Germany.
They are the culmination of a long line of 35mm SLR cameras, a field where Ihagee was one of the pioneers, they started with the Kine Exakta in 1936 and continued its production until 1948.
After the WWII, Dresden was in East Germany, under Soviet influence.
The models prospered with the very early EXA models, then the V model, VX, Varex and finally the Varex IIa and IIb.
After that they started cutting corners with models striped of features like the VX500 and VX1000 ending with the EXA models, from which I have two and like them very much, but in a very different league.

The camera is beautiful, perfectly build, a nice engineering project but an ergonomic nightmare.
I think that the factory closed when the word ergonomic became current.

Exakta Varex IIa
Top view and main controls

Let's start by the shape: a trapezoyd, maybe not the best gripping shape. Although I have to confess it's beautiful
The controls: all the most important controls are located on the left of the camera, maybe it's a good thing for lefties, not my case.
Let's see film advance, shutter speed selection, for high speeds, film counter and film counter reset, release for film rewind and shutter release, this one not only it's in the left of the camera but also in the front.
On the right top we have the shutter speed selector, for low speeds and self timer, in the same knob, and a film reminder.

Exakta Varex IIa - Film advance lever at 270ºExakta Varex IIa
The film advance lever, as you can see in this pictures travels 270º.
It doesn't lock after advanced, so if you, like me, have the habit of verifying if the film is advanced before taking a picture, you are going to find a very loose film advance lever, every time you do it. Of course, if you remember that the mirror only returns after the film advance, you know that if you have image in the viewfinder the film is advanced.

There is also a shutter release lock:

Exakta Varex IIa - release shutter unlockedExakta Varex IIa - release shutter locked
You can see it locked, on the left picture, and unlocked, on the right one.
It's a nice feature, not very pratical with this kind of lenses, with the shutter release extension.

It features a very nice hinged back:

Exakta Varex IIa - Back openingExakta Varex IIa - back closed
Here again it's a tricky operation you have to pull hard, or very hard, on that knob on the bottom left and then twist it either way to keep it unlocked.
It's locked, on the left picture and unlocked on the right one.
The right knob is the film rewind. First you have to pull it so it comes off and then you turn it CW to rewind the film.

Exakta Varex IIa - Take-up spool or cartridge

A nice feature is that you can use either a take up spool or cartridge.

Exakta Varex IIa - Cartridge to cartridge

Using the take up cartridge we can perform a mid roll change:

Exakta Varex IIa - Film cutterExakta Varex IIa - Film cutterUnscrewing the small knob, near the rewind knob, we release a knife, used to cut the film. Clever gadget.

Exakta Varex IIa - Exakta proprietary lens mount

The lens are interchangeable, using the Exakta mount, shared with early EXA cameras, later models adopted the M42 screw mount.
Exakta never produced lenses for their cameras, many of the contemporary lens makers did it for them, even Nippon Kogaku, later Nikon Corporation, made some lenses with its mount.

The viewfinders are interchangeable too.

Exakta Varex IIa with WLF of EXA I

In the above picture the waist level finder is from my EXA I, but I can also use the one from my EXA 1c, a much more recent model.

Exakta Varex IIa

Did you noticed the three flash connections, for slow bulbs, fast bulbs and electronic flash?

Anyway, with all it's quirks, I think this is one of the most beautiful cameras in my collection.

The lens that came with it is a wonderful Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 1:2,8

As a shooter is quite competent, only the 1/1000 shutter speed is faltering, maybe with a good clean up it revives.
I leave here some shots, so you can judge by yourself.

Marégrafo - Tide meter
Tide meter by RaúlM.

Dragon by RaúlM.

Just a park bench
Just a park bench by RaúlM.

Need by RaúlM.

Kodak Portra 160, Expired 2002-05
Caffenol-C Process.

Stay tuned (o;


  1. Mais uma preciosidade dissecada com amor e detalhe... adorei aquele pormenor das 3 conexões para flash!...

  2. Gorgeous post -- just picked one up and am on the web researching -- thanks much!