Exa Ia

  • Type: Ia
  • Serial No: 379142
  • Manufactured: 1965-1977
  • Manufacturer: Ihagee, Dresden, Germany
  • Shutter: “guillotine-type” focal plane
  • Speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/175 and B
  • Lens: Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan 2.8/50
  • Apertures: 2.8 - 22 in half stops
  • Lens No:5116628
  • Lens mount: Ihagee/Exakta/Exa bayonet
  • Last CLA: unknown

The Exa Ia is a cheap and simple SLR camera system from Ihagee with interchangeable lens, interchangeable finder and lots of accessories (like a 3 parts macro tube for as close focusing as 2 cm). It was designed to be an affordable alternative of the more sophisticated and higher quality Exakta series.


It comes with a waist-level finder which can be replaced with a normal eye-level finder but why anybody would do that? A waist-level finder is a great fun. Firstly because you have to compose in a mirror (and it’s not as easy as you think). Secondly you will get a completely different perspective. Composing while the camera is on the ground is not a problem anymore. Same applies when you hold it up above your head. Finally, the waist-level finder is the less obtrusive solution possible. Most people will not even notice that you take photo.



Then comes that ugly clash. The Exas have a very simple shutter which is basically the mirror itself making a noise of an empty can. It’s really ugly. Simplicity means a limited choice of speeds from 1/30 to 1/175 which is surprisingly enough in most of the cases. Simplicity also means reliability: it’s free from the slowdown in cold - a typical problem of other mechanical shutters having higher speeds.


The camera itself is somehow wobbly. However, it’s wobbly in a German way. For example the cover of the waist-level finder is beveled because of an imprecise fastening. But not only on mine - it’s beveled on all Exa Ia-s exactly the same way. Engineered discrepancy.


The manufacturer was IHAGEE, a strangely named camera company founded by a Dutchman in Dresden, Germany (the name is the German pronunciation of the acronym IHG standing for Industrie- und Handelsgesellschaft).


You can find several lenses for the EXA Ia since it has a standard IHAGEE Exakta/Exa bayonet mount. Mine came with a Domiplan lens which is not a sharp one but reliable and without noticeable distortion. Here is a sample photo taken with it:


All in all, the EXA Ia is a unique camera with a really special look. It’s simple, medium quality but reliable and fun to use. You will like to play with it.

Raoul Pop, an American photographer made a short video to introduce the EXA Ia in details. A must see.

Exakta EXA Ia SLR from Raoul Pop on Vimeo.

Kodak Retina IIa

  • Type 150
  • Serial No: 362056K
  • Manufactured: 1939-1941 (yes, right)
  • Manufacturer: Kodak
  • Shutter: Compur-Rapid
  • Shutter No: 6059689
  • Speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 and B
  • Lens: Schneider-Kreuznach - Retina-Xenon f:2.8 F=5cm (uncoated)
  • Aperture: between 2.8 and 16 without stops
  • Lens No: 1589863
  • Lens mount: fixed
  • Last CLA: unknown
No, this is not the Retina IIa you think. That was made between 1951 and 1954. This one is a little bit older. It was designed in 1939 and manufactured until 1941 by the Nagel Camerawerk in Stuttgart, Germany under the Kodak brand name. Only 5107 pieces were produced from this type so you can call it a rarity.

Kodak Retina IIa Type 150

The two visual differences you can use to identify it are that this one has film wind knob while the later types have a lever and this one has a depth-of-field scale wheel at the bottom which is missing from the 1951-54 series.

The camera itself is small. It fits in a larger pocket when folded. It’s surprisingly heavy and robust for the small size, feels like something very serious and extremely reliable - and it is. It can provide you with a sufficient range of shutter speeds to 1/500 and an acceptable choice of apertures.

Kodak Retina IIa Type 150

It’s a really old camera, not something from the 50’s so it’s a little bit difficult to use. You have to turn the camera to yourself to be able to set the aperture and shutter speed, for example. Accidentally modifying the settings is easy so be careful and check them before each shot. Your finger can unintentionally turn the shutter speed ring when you cock the shutter.

The rangefinder is coupled and surprisingly usable; a pink spot picture on the blueish image of the viewfinder. In fact it’s far better than the rangefinder of a Super Dollina II or an early Zorki or Fed.

Kodak Retina IIa Type 150

You can find a depth-of-field scale wheel typically Nagel on the bottom of the camera. It can be used to pre-calculate the right distance setting when one decides to go with zone focusing instead of using the rangefinder. Zone focusing is like anything else with this camera: possible but not easy.

Kodak Retina IIa Type 150

The Kodak Retina IIa is a beautiful camera. No doubt about it. The Type 150 is even more. It’s usable but it’s so old that you have to make some compromises despite the good range of f stops and shutter speeds. (I’m willing to make compromises and hardly waiting to put a black & white film into it and go out somewhere.)

Kodak Retina IIa Type 150

There is no coating on the lenses so it’s better to be careful with the light sources. On top of that, the lens is meant to render black and white images. Using a color film it can produce really strange colors. The result is completely unpredictable, sometimes too red, sometimes too blue, sometimes too orange, sometimes dead grey and sometimes ok.

Here are some test shots with more or less realistic colors (a bit yellowish, but just a bit):

Clouds in blue



Do you want some extra attention for yourself? Get a Retina IIa, put a roll of 35mm film into it and go to take some pictures. This camera is not an ordinary view, especially not in action.

I couldn’t find any manual for this exact type so I had to experiment with it for a while to get to know each other and I found two quirks:
  1. There is an interlock which prohibits the camera to fold when the focus ring is not set to infinity. It looks like the folding unlock buttons to be jammed, but if you set the focus to infinity, everything works fine. So don’t force, set the focus to infinity before you close it.
  2. There is a switch on the back of the camera behind the film wind knob without an obvious function. It enables the rollback of the film. It’s a unique solution of this type, other types have different mechanisms.
You can read the manuals for the I, II and later IIa types on butkus.org for the rest you need to know on how to use this great camera.

Altix IV

  • Type: version 2 type B
  • Serial No: 130546
  • Manufactured: 1952
  • Manufacturer: Eho-Altissa, later VEB-Altissa Kamera Werk, Dresden, Germany
  • Shutter: Vebur
  • Shutter speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250
  • Lens: Meyer-Optik - Trioplan 1:2.9/50
  • Apertures: between 2.9 and 16
  • Lens No:1681093
  • Lens mount: fixed
  • Last CLA: 06/2011

I had bought this camera to have something which I could take with me on my motorbike and I didn’t mind to wreck. It was cheap. It was ugly on the pictures. I didn’t care about the look just wanted something simple and functioning. It cost less than 15 EUR.

Altix IV

As for the functionality, it provides with the bare minimum: small aperture and speed range, separate film winding and shutter cocking, no metering at all, you have to use a separate light meter for the exposition settings and a good guess-o-meter for the distances. Sounds not too handy, right?

Altix IV

The first thing I noticed when I finally got it was how small it was. And how seriously good looking. Far better than on the pictures. It was a real surprise for me.

Altix IV

I took it to the International Seiberer Bergpreis oldtimer race to have an old camera with me. It was sunny so I didn’t have to use my light meter just set f/16 and 1/100. I used range focusing to forecast the distance. Winded the film, cocked the shutter and shot. Modified the distance and shot again. And again and again. I fell in love with it for the first roll.

Altix IV

The rings and knobs are ergonomically designed so the handling feels absolutely natural. The viewfinder is surprisingly bright and useful. The lack of metering gives you speed. You have to calculate and set everything in advance so you won’t miss the right moment of exposition. It turned to be the ideal camera for the oldtimer race. I could shoot 2 or more pictures of a car or a motorcycle taking the curve. Here are some pictures of the first two rolls:



Oldtimer race

Oldtimer bus race

And now some words on the Trioplan lens. It has 3 elements. It was designed to be an affordable alternative of the more sophisticated 5 elements lenses. Well, its designer made a terrific job. It renders sharp and clear images. I simply love it.

The small Altix quickly became one of my favorite cameras. It’s so ergonomic that it feels almost like a part of my body. It’s a great performer if you can prepare for the light conditions with the appropriate film speed. However, the absence of a rangefinder makes it very difficult to use if it comes to wider aperture settings.

Super Dollina II

  • Serial No.: 51385
  • Manufacturer: Certo, Dresden, Germany
  • Shipping date: 19.6.1957.
  • Shutter: Synchro Compur
  • Shutter speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 and B
  • Lens: Carl Zeiss Jena - Tessar 2.8/50
  • Apertures: 2.8 to 22 in half stops
  • Lens No.: 5026 936
  • Lens mount: fixed
  • Last CLA: 06/2010


    "Dear CERTO-friend
    Hearty welcome to the occasion of choosing the Super Dollina II, after thorough consideration, therefore becoming a part of the large group of photographers who like the Certo cameras for half a century – and have always been satisfied with them." starts the manual (in my humble translation) and continues "We would like you to enjoy your new camera so we kindly ask your attention for a few minutes before you go and take photographs with your Super Dollina II. This few minutes will contribute to the formulation of a long lasting friendship between you and your camera. With right handling, the Super Dollina II will always be your faithful friend."

    This small piece of beauty was manufactured in Dresden, DDR, after the WWII until the early 1970's. It has a Synchro-Compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500 and B. The lens is a Zeiss Tessar 2.8/50mm rendering crystal clear pictures. It has all the technology built in to be a great camera. The main design aspect, however, had to be the look and not the ease of use; the handling needs strong dedication.

    The film winding knob, for example, doesn't cock the shutter: it has to be done separately. You have to set the aperture with that ugly peg in the bottom of the lens front which is not only difficult to handle but the scale is almost impossible to read. Focusing is a heroic fight with the coupled rangefinder which is a little dark hole as close to be unusable as possible. Finally, you have to use the viewfinder which is separate from the rangefinder and can be best described as a really bad joke. I haven't mentioned the speed setting which is simply not convenient and has to be re-checked after setting the aperture because aperture setting can easily modify it. All in all, the whole procedure of preparation takes a lot of time, concentration and patience before each shot.

    Which has its undeniable charm. Look at it this way: you have to slow down and think your shot over with an impressive old camera in your hand.

    Some notes on the positive side before you think I'm against the Super Dollina II. No, I'm not, in fact I love it. This is an eye catching machinery with a very unique, characteristic feeling. Unfolding and folding the lens, for example, is a piece of true joy, it moves so precisely. The folder design makes it compact and easy to carry. It can produce really sharp pictures - thanks to the Zeiss Tessar lens.

    The Super Dollina II was an obsolete design in its age, using new technology. Therefore it can give you the feeling of an archaic camera without the rust, stuck parts, low quality and restrictions in aperture sizes and shutter speeds typical of the cameras of the 30's and the 40's. It's a true classic beauty which fits into your pocket and won't let you down even in darker light conditions. A must have for today's individual and ascetic vintage camera user.

    Here are some test pictures taken with it just to prove that I'm ascetic enough. No, I'm joking, it was a real pleasure to take these photos.

    Trpanj port

    Traces of the war

    This Tessar lens is sharp like hell as you see. And the colors are living.
    All in all, it's a lovely little camera.

    Werra Matic

    • Type: Werra Matic
    • Serial No: 387568
    • Manufactured: 01/1960 - 12/1961
    • Manufacturer: Carl Zeiss Jena
    • Shutter: Prestor RVS (metal leaf shutter)
    • Shutter speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/750 and B
    • Lens: Carl Zeiss Jena - Tessar 2.8/50
    • Aperture: 2.8 - 22 in half stops
    • Lens No: 6119161
    • Lens mount: special Werra bayonet with a lens fixing ring
    • Last CLA: 06/2010

    My first vintage camera made in DDR by Carl Zeiss Jena. It started something in me which led to lots of spendings on junk cameras and scratchy lenses.

    The Werra is a fine piece of engineering from the early '50s made by German engineers after coming home from Russian hard labour. (The same engineers who designed the famous Sonnar lens before WWII and later its russian copy called Jupiter. Read the other part of their story here.) Being left out from years of lens research and development, the factory gave them a toy-project: design of a compact camera. In the lens factory. The engineers could easily feel that there was no need for them anymore. With the Werra, they wanted to prove that they were the best optical engineers far and close. And they were, indeed. They produced something unimaginably sophisticated. The applied technical solutions were far ahead from the others and the camera had a really unique and futuristic look. Just compare it with any other camera of that age: the Werra will stand out.

    A Werra Matic is one of the most undervalued vintage cameras. It's small but it contains every possible comfort from the coupled light meter (!) and the coupled rangefinder to the interchangeable lenses (it comes with a great Tessar) and flash sync at all speeds. It feels like a sophisticated and reliable precision clock. In fact, it is more sophisticated than anything else in the 50's, including the precision clocks.

    It's extremely stable. Shooting is like pressing a microswitch which triggers the clock mechanism. You can hear the fast ticking. Everything is easy to operate. Just one thing to get used to it: there is a ring and a switch button to set the speed, the aperture and to shift. It's a bit tricky for the first time but turns out to be practical when it comes to shooting in a given light condition.

    There is no film wind lever or knob, as you probably realized. The film winding and shutter charging is done by turning the leather-covered ring at the lens base clockwise 60 degrees. It's easy, handy and fast, you don't have to take the camera away from your eye. I have to mention the lens cap which can be used as a protective lens cover and a lens shade and as well. Just watch:




    The viewfinder is an optical magic. You can see the shutter speed, the aperture, the result of the light metering and the focus setting in an easy-to-overview setup. And it's bright. It's damn bright. It's so bright actually that if it's too dark outside to see the aperture and speed settings on the rings then you don't have to look for your torch - just look into the viewfinder. How on earth can it be brighter than the outside environment, I don't know. But the thing I know is that it was a big help for me taking night pictures.

    And the rangefinder, oh my God! The rangefinder is not an ugly pink spot on a blueish image, no. It's a prism inserted in the center of the view, clearly visible even in really low light. Its usability is simply not in the same dimension as the other rangefinders of the 50's.




    There is a Werra for everyone - said the ad. The Carl Zeiss Jena factory made it sure with lots of Werra types and accessories.


    • Werra - the original simple viewfinder model with fixed lens
    • Werra 1 - simple viewfinder model, fixed lens
    • Werra 2 - viewfinder, uncoupled light meter, fixed lens
    • Werra 3 - coupled rangefinder, interchangeable lens
    • Werra 4 - uncoupled light meter, coupled rangefinder, interchangeable lens
    • Werra 5 / Werramatic / Werra Matic - coupled light meter, coupled rangefinder, interchangeable lens
    • Werra E Microscope - no viewfinder, no lightmeter, just a body with a Prontor Press shutter and a microscope adapter

    Lens selection:

    Werra with lenses

    Some fixed lens types came with a built in Novonar but Tessar was the default lens. The interchangeable lens types always came with a Tessar 2.8/50 basic lens. There was a wide angle Flektogon 2.8/35 and a short tele Cardinar 4/100 available. Both lenses could do the trick with the coupled light meter just as good as the little Tessar did: you just put the Cardinar or the Flektogon on the camera, twist the aperture ring back and forth and the magical light meter reads the actual aperture setting mechanically.

    Flektogon & Cardinar for Werra

    Flektogon & Cardinar for Werra

    Werra with Flektogon

    Werra with Cardinar


    Doppelwerra and the macro set

    There is a quite strange looking Macro Set for the Werras which has  prefix lens for the rangefinder as well so focusing could be done as usual. The set consists of two prefixes: the Werra Naheinstellgerat 1 for 0.8 - 0.4 meter range...

    Werra with Macro prefix 1

    Werra with Macro prefix 1

    ... and the "supermacro" Werra Naheinstellgerat 2 for 0.4 - 0.3 meter.

    Werra with Macro prefix 2

    Werra with Macro prefix 2

    Werra with Macro prefix 2

    But there is an even stranger accessory, the Doppelwerra.


    It's a metallic mount piece with two screws to fasten two Werras together.


    But contrary the common belief it has nothing to do with stereo photography or any kind of 3D. (The lenses are not in the same level so it would be impossible anyway.) The use of the Doppelwerra is to allow us to take the same photo on two different films (usually a colour and a bw).



    Here are some night shots I took with my Werra Matic having the Tessar on it:


    Self reflection

    Night shot

    The light conditions were not easy as you see but the multi-coated lens could handle them quite well. The Tessar produces good result on color film as well.


    Now some shots with the Flektogon.

    First hike after Winter

    Walk from Kisújbánya

    Clock tower, Eger

    The Werra Matic is one of the tops of the 35mm camera making. It is reliable, easy to use, offers 1/750 speed by a precision clock-like metal leaf shutter, has interchangeable lenses, makes sharp pictures, can handle every possible light condition, is more usable than anything of that age, and it's small. To be like this, it has to be extremely complex - and it is indeed. The amount of effort the design of such a complex thing needed would have been impossible to put into a mid-priced camera in the profit-oriented West. The Werra Matic is the proud child of the socialist DDR where profit wasn't an issue.

    Werra is my everyday vintage camera. If I need something reliable: I take the Werra. If I have to deal with tricky light conditions: I take the Werra. If I would like to be sure not to miss a shot while wrestling with the knobs and rings and pegs: I take the Werra. If it comes to night shots or interior: guess what, I take the Werra. And it amazes me every time.