A Perfex camera? The Perfex Forty four of 1939

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Dec 23, 2010.

  1. Perfex Forty four

    Kadlubek Nr. CCA0030?
    1939-40 several models listed that don't seem to exist independently of other listed bodies, not clear which is which, I suspect Kadlubek is lost here. Specs may be wrong too (p. 158)

    There are lots of reports on this camera. One of the best, of course, is our own Rick Oleson at http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-8.html . Other information can be found at http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Perfex. There is also a Camerquest article on it at http://www.cameraquest.com/perfex.htm .
    A Google™ will reveal many more examples of photographs taken with the camera, etc. The book Glass, Brass, & Chrome: the American 35mm miniature camera, by Kalton C. Lahue and Joseph A. Bailey also has discussion of this camera (pp. 239-40) link .

    Carl Price, Joseph Price and Benjamin Edelman set up the Candid Camera Corporation of America in May, 1938. Like Argus, they were said to have been in the radio/electronics business earlier.

    The first Perfex was the 1938 "Speed Candid." The Speed Candid was the first American-made 35mm focal plane shutter camera. The early model was a bakelite and metal contraption looking a little like a Argus A with a plate screwed on the front, but it was theoretically more sophisticated than Argus A. Among other features, the Speed Candid had interchangeable lenses with a 38mm (not 39mm like the Leica) screw mount. Despite its theoretical advances, the Speed Candid was not a great success.

    So the Candid Camera Corporation went back nearly to the beginning and came up with the Perfex Forty four camera. This camera came very close to being an American interpretation of the best features of the Contax cameras from Zeiss, with a touch of Leica thrown in. It's a fairly handsome and modern looking camera on the outside. Arguably more stylish than either the contemporary Leicas or Contaxes with its almost streamlined lines. It has an aluminum cast body with some sheet metal stampings. It set the style for most of the remaining Perfex models (such as the Thirty three and others, most of which were variations on the Forty four without slow speeds, etc.). As the picture of the inside shows, however, the aluminum cast body has a more crude look where it doesn't show. This is no Mercedes Benz of the camera world; no, it's closer to being a Chrysler Airflow.
  2. Inside the Perfex Forty four
  3. The Perfex Forty four kept the 38mm screw mount of its predecessor, and was provided with a Graf Perfex Anastigmat 5cm f/3.5 (which is what is on the camera presented here). A faster Graf Perfex 5cm f/2.8 was also available, and supposedly a 15cm (6") f/4.5. The actual lens manufacturer is supposed to have been the General Scientific Corporation of Chicago.

    Focusing was by a linked rangefinder, but in a separate view than the viewfinder. The viewfinder, unlike many of its contemporaries, is large and easy to compose with.

    The cloth focal plane shutter operated in two ranges:
    fast speeds of B, 25, 50, 100, 200, 500, and (ta!ta!) 1250
    slow speeds in red of 1, 2, 5, and 10.

    The speed range was chosen by throwing the bottom lever on the front of the camera to F or S.

    On my camera, all of the fast speeds except 'B' operate at something like the appropriate range. The second shutter hangs on bulb when the trigger is lifted.
    None of the slow speeds work properly on my specimen. The problem is that the second shutter simply does not have the "oomph" to make it across to close the shutter. Sometimes it makes it most of the way, sometimes none of the way. I shot only with the fast speeds. Exercise did loosen up the shutter somewhat, but it needs a little more than exercise for the slow speeds.

    There is even a built-in exposure meter, but instead of a selenium cell, it is an extinction meter with an elaborate dial system on the back of the camera to convert the letter seen through the meter wedge into an aperture and shutter speed for a particular film speed (see picture below)

  4. Another feature that was years ahead of even its European inspiration, was the fact that the Perfex has a HOT SHOE! Take that, Contax and Leica.

    Here's one contemporary ad text:

    THE PERFEX forty -four
    Everything you would expect to find in your ideal
    camera, you will find in the Perfex forty-four. Its
    high speed focal plane shutter gives you slow speeds
    of 1 second-top speeds of 1/1250th second. Large
    aperture, highly corrected lenses focus automatically
    with the Perfex coupled range finder. The built-in
    flash synchronizer assures perfect "peak" exposures in
    flashlight photography. Built-in exposure meter eliminates
    the last element of guess work in picture taking.
    Have your dealer show you a Perfex forty-four

  5. A little historical aside: the only useful color photograph of the first atomic bomb explosion in New Mexico in the summer of 1945 was, according to some, taken with a Perfex 44. The story of this picture, and the picture itself, can be seen at --- However, another source at the Manhattan project site itself says a "Perfex 33" with "33mm film." Whichever Perfex it was, the photographer was Jack Aeby (often misspelled as Abbey). Other efforts to take color pictures apparently were drastically overexposed by the fireball, but the somewhat iffy shutter on the Perfex did the job, perhaps - one could speculate - by malfunctioning?

    Finally, here are some pictures taken with this camera. Despite some of the bad press this camera has had in the historical literature and on=line, The only inconvenient feature I found was turning the focus wheel, being careful not to unscrew the lens at the same time. Mine was pretty solid, so it wasn't really so bad, as long as you kept the problem in mind. The rangefinder was as good as lots of 35mm cameras from the late thirties into the forties, and the viewfinder window was considerably better than most I have tried, even on 50s cameras.

    I didn't try to use the extinction meter, not least because it was a dark day. I shot on a roll of Ilford XP2 (C41 chemistry, getting close to the end of a large number of out-dated film rolls I had got at my photo collective a few months ago). I just metered with a Gossen Luna-Pro sbc for the initial settings. Some shutter speeds were a little off, and some negatives were fairly dense, but most were fairly easily handled in scanning, and a touch of "Auto Levels" essentially.

    The pictures are from my default (after my own neighborhood) shooting site -- the Lake on the Campus. This is an artificial lake built fro a hunting and fishing club and taken over by the University in its expansion period after WWII.
    As the pictures show, the cleanup from what is now identified as the first known "Super Derecho" of May, 2009 still continues. This was no less than an "inland hurricane" that formed over land ( http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/super-derecho-storm-0504/ ). Oddly enough, super derecho without a filter also brings up some Spanish language buttocks shots, go figure.

  6. Here's one of the exercise course stops on the trail around the lake, showing lens character at medium focus.

  7. This is the final resting place for the cleared timber - apparently the University is chipping this, rather than burning? I can't imagine, and don't want to contemplate, what is needed to chip whole trees... (shades of the movie Fargo).

  8. Finally, a couple of pictures showing the 'swirley' bokeh when the lens is focused up close. A veritible American Petzval, eh?

  9. That's all folks. Although I probably won't make this a mainstay of my old camera shooting -- I suspect that its reported fragility is not all 'received knowledge' rather than fact -- it turned out to be a lot more fun to shoot with than I had expected from its press, as I said.
  10. good review
    I have read a little about these ww2 era american 35mm cameras.
    One thing that puzzles me is that they did not have the Leica 39mm mount.
    early on before ww2 I can see that they did not wish problems with germany.
    but after the war started, why didn't they switch to 39mm?
    A lens does not wear out, a camera body /shutter does.
    Leicas were scarce during ww2 and having access to compatible bodies would have been an asset.
    Camera manufacturers did not always do the smartest thing,.
    Take Mamiya, several bodies used a really odd-ball mount.
    on a related subjest US submariners sometimes use an excata for taking photos thru their periscopes.
    Imagine how hard it would be to obtain exactas during ww 2.
  11. Very nice, JDM! I'm trying to restrain myself from searching the Bay for a Perfex...
    Walter -- I know I have read that submariners used the Primarflex 6X6 SLR for periscope photography. They had tried 35mm but the negative was simply too small for the enlargements they needed. They needed a medium format negative, and it had to be an SLR because they needed a camera which could see exactly what the periscope was seeing. And you are right, it was very difficult indeed to round up a sufficient number of Primarflexes, since they were made in Germany. The US Navy placed discreet want ads in camera magazines and managed to scrape up a couple of dozen Primarflexes, which were CLA'd and distributed to the submarine fleet. Thus, as one book put it, "Thereafter Japanese beaches were painstakingly photographed by a German lens looking through the eye of an American submarine".
  12. I think I found another camera to collect :)
  13. Addenda
    The Trinity test shot picture link that dropped out was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trinity_shot_color.jpg
    The Graf Perfex lens was said to be worse than the later Wollensak, but I think that the results suggest that the former was a very usable and competent lens, judging from this specimen.
    Rick, this might be an interesting alternative shooter for you. The shutter is the main problem, and a Thirty three without the slow speeds might be easier to find (also pre-War)
  14. Good Write up! Excellent post! I loved the brochure. I bought one a year ago and had it sent to my Dad.. I'll have to get him to try it out. I also feared alot based on what's written on the web. I'm very pleased to know ...comin' from a fellow poster, that this thing isn't all that bad! One of these days I want an Argus A too! Your Photos look very good and I'm excited and can only hope ym results are that good! Thanks for a great look at an under appreciated camera!!
  15. I should add that, according to the vendor (one of the estate sales haunters), this was supposed to have been part of an architect's estate, so it is possible that it was kept in better conditions than many out there. The model Thirty three is supposed to be the most common, but I only paid about US$20 for this little marvel.
  16. Thanks JDM,
    You made me dig through my pile. Mine has a plain black (brass?) Scienar Perfex Anastigmat 5cm/f3.5 (General Scientific Corp.) lens. It's not as pretty as yours.
    The slow speeds are moot and the rangefinder doesn't match the scale. I can't find my 35mm sized ground glass to actually check the focus. And now with it's latest attention, I have to re-glue the "paper-ette," to the body.
    Thank you for an interesting read. ;-)
  17. That's one great post, JDM, thank you very much. The Perfex is one camera I'd known nothing at all about, so thanks for both entertainment and an education.
  18. Very interesting and onformative; and the pictures look very good. One of the many good industrial products that had a short life span. Just goes to show that not all good things have a long life endurance on the market. Thanks for the post. sp.
  19. Later addendum:
    In looking around, I find that the Perfex has a (bastard?) offspring in the post-war Clarus camera.
    I have not been able to find out if the Clarus people legally licensed the camera design from Perfex, but there's no doubt that the Clarus is essentially a rebranded Perfex.
  20. Addendum still later
    Here is an ad for the first Perfex, the Speed Candid, from 1938
  21. Above, I was following sources that emphasized the connection of the Clarus MS-35 to the earlier Perfex models. However, I have now actually got both a Perfex fifty-five and a Clarus MS-35. Neither are exactly in full working order yet, but they show some promise of eventually being shootable.
    I've posted on the Clarus body at (link), but the primary similarity of the two cameras is in the aluminum body. Close as that is, the Clarus is otherwise not so similar except in concept. The execution is rather different.
  22. Perfex cameras, cannot be judged or evaluated unless you service the optics, shutter gears and Rangefinder first! I took a Forty-four apart for fun and put it back together. The body helicoid was as smooth as silk! The rangefinder window's were only filthy on the outside, once cleaned the rangefinder was accurate in focusing, but vertical collimation was off. The slow shutter speed gears are possible to get at by top removal, back removal and film chamber box removal. Once lubed, the shutter sounded like a Swiss watch! I put it back together and was amazed, how easy to use and good it really was. Lens collimation to rangefinder is a MUST! 99% of the photog's criticize optical systems without making sure they are serviced cameras. Therefore they are not qualified reviewers. For the most part the economic conditions of the day destroyed Candid camera Corp. A serious war 39-45, a major recession 48-49, many design flaws, and emerging Japanese & German competition; drove the American Camera manufacturers into bankruptcy.

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