Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Mar 27, 2016.
Here's one of the prettier Paxettes to come my way, the slightly rare Paxette Automatic Super III.
Well, that's what written on the camera, but variations of this name seem to exist. The Paxette nomenclature was always confusing and it takes a close inspection to tell many of the models apart, but this title seems to be acceptable according to most sources, including the manual that came with it. Created in 1961, it arrived near the end of a range of cameras produced by the Braun company in Nurenberg, Germany from 1951 up to 1962.
Paxettes seem to have been held in disdain in many photographic circles, but I have accumulated quite a few over the years as they were a very popular camera down here in New Zealand, and I'm rather fond of them. They started out as viewfinder cameras and quickly became rangefinders, some with built-in exposure meters and many with interchangeable lenses. The last of the range were the Paxette SLR's, short-lived and now hard to find. The Paxettes are tiny cameras, very solidly built but lacking the finish of the more esteemed German marques; the "Poor Man's Leica" tag plagued them, but I feel that's unjustified. They were built to a price and for a totally different market, and keen amateur photographers bought them in their thousands. I've found them to be mechanically robust, though difficult to repair when faults occur. The brick-like heft of the Paxettes is somehow reassuring; there's quite a lot of metal in one's hands.
This Automatic Super II is typical of the later Paxettes. It still takes two throws of the wind lever to advance the film and cock the shutter, and it has a similar little lever on the back for rewinding the film, though that's a tedious procedure. It has a good bright viewfinder with frame lines for the 50, 90 and 135mm lenses, and a clear rangefinder patch. Loading the camera is something of an undertaking, with swing-out cassette holders and a hinged pressure plate to cope with, after removing the back. It's all very small, and a challenge for big fumbling fingers like mine. Here's how it looks:
This model has the Prontor SLK shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/300th second, plus B. Most of the Paxettes with interchangeable lenses used a M39 screw mount, incompatible with other M39 mounts, but the mount was changed on the Automatic Super to what is known as a SLK mount, a bayonet mount shared only by the Photovit 36 and King Regular IIID cameras. However, as many have found to their peril, the lenses are not interchangeable among the three cameras; in many cases they will mount, only to become inextricable attached. Here's a picture of the mount:
What really put many users off the Paxette was the poor quality of the standard lenses, such as Cassars, Cassarits, Katas, Katagons and others, all rather undistinguished triplets. But there were decent lenses available, such as Ultralits, Tessars, and Xenars, all high-end 4-element designs. My favorite is the 50mm Steinheil Munchen Quinon f/2. This camera is fitted with it's standard lens, the 50m Enna Munchen Color-Ennit f/2.8, and it's up there with the other four-element designs. There was a fine range of Enna and Steinheil lens available in the SLK mount, ranging from 35mm to 200mm, all coupling to the rangefinder. The selenium-powered meter is still accurate on this example and is coupled to shutter speeds and aperture settings, hence the "Automatic" tag. The shutter and aperture rings lock together after setting to maintain a constant exposure.
Anyway, after cleaning the camera and removing a dusting of rust from the film pressure plate, a common problem with Paxettes, I loaded it with Arista EDU 100 and took a walk around town. I processed the film in PMK Pyro and was quite impressed by the results. I'll post some samples; scans are from the Epson V700 using Silverfast SE software.
Lovely pictures Rick! as always. I like the last one the most for its tones and light & shade effects and the perspective. Thanks for the post. sp.
Great results. Thanks for an informative post.
As always a wonderful post! Not only are your 'finds' unique, but truly informative. I am always impressed.
Then there is your photography, once again an inspiration. You show us all how good black and white photography can be. One request, I can tell you are near a rail line, would it be possible to include some photos of locomotives and rolling stock for those of us back in the States?
Thank you for your efforts.
Beautiful images Rick. A quantum improvement over my attempts with my first 35mm camera (as a teenager in NZ), an early Paxette, I think with a Cassar and Extinguishing meter. No rangefinder and between hand movement & zone focusing, nothing could be called sharp. However it put me on the road to the SLR. Oh! Where will it ever end??
I appreciate the pictures of the camera and with the camera.
An excellent post with delightful imagery. I didn't know those cameras had behind the lens shutters. Numbers 3 and 6 stand out as really showing off the quality of the Enna Color-Ennit. Thanks!
Thanks Rick, a showcase of a camera that I have no experience with at all. Paxettes seem pretty thin on this side of the pond, and it's great to see one in this condition and still working!
Usually the combination of old German cameras with the words "automatic" or "electronic" makes one shudder! Great to see that the Paxette is holding out.
I'm always amazed at the photogenic nature of your home town. You never seem to repeat yourself and keep coming up with unique images. I guess the locals must be used to you roaming about with strange old cameras.
Rick, the more I see these 1950s German rangefinders, the more I think I'd be keen to get one, with its solid metal feel, large VF/RF, and usually good glass (if, like you, one knows enough to dodge Cassarits and the like). But then each time your exposition touches upon the ridiculous ergonomics that seemingly all these cameras share, I quickly get out of the mood to click "Buy." A removable back seems less inconvenient than the bottom-load of a Barnack, but is still problematic if you're reloading someplace where the only surface to set down the back is problematic (e.g., beach, barn, factory floor) so you must hang onto it and then you need three to four hands to execute a film change. Then the Paxettes really clinch it with the "looks compatible but is inextricable" lens situations. Wow. My Vitessa seems poised to remain the only one of its class!
Great pictures despite the seeming challenges of working with the Paxette.
Thanks for the responses. Dave, you still have to put the Vitessa's back down somewhere while you load it, and the chance of finding a lens from a Photovit 36 or King Regula IIId that's going to jam on your Paxette is pretty remote... The system's really no worse than scores of other cameras of the era that preceded the hinged back. But I'd still rather use the Vitessa! Thanks, Ed; sadly, our railway system is in a state of decline and there's not much of interest running on the rails these days. Other than daily commuter trains and the occasional log train, not much happens, but I'll see what I can do in the way of sorting out some photographs.
Thanks Tony E., you probably recognise the town. I hope you're back to full good health. Tony L., I do struggle a little these days to avoid being repetitive, and I think the locals regard me as a sort of institution. Or possibly consider that I should be confined in one... Yes, there are locals, despite the lack of humans in my images. I attach a photograph of a few typical specimens, photographed at 8.0 am on the morning of Easter Saturday. And thank you Mike, SP, JDM and Louis for your comments.
By coincidence I pulled my Paxette off the shelf and took some shots and then I see your post. I will spare the usual repeated witticisms. This is abandoned piece of road when it was straitened a few decades ago. Fun camera. My next will be a Regular or Ricoh 126 cartridge SLR 135mm lens
Indeed Rick, part of my hesitance to dip further into this class of cameras is down to the likelihood that I'll never top the Vitessa! The f/2.0 Ultron is almost unmatched, so I'm willing to put up with the strange design and controls on that one. In addition to some of the weirdness you've mentioned here, the Vitessa also requires a manual reset of the frame counter. Does the Paxette need that as well? (And/or if not that, what does the toothed wheel at upper-back above the "Super III" label do?)
Yes, Dave, the toothed wheel sets the frame numbers. Your enthusiasm for the Vitessa has me about to load a film into mine, having been reminded that it's some time since I've given it a workout. I agree with you about the Ultron; had you considered the Prominents as a more flexible system?
Very atmospheric photograph, Donald. The Paxettes are fun to use.
Yet another lovely presentation of another beauty thanks, Rick. I was always big fan of your crisp, juicy pictures.
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