Help me build an Exakta System

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by steven_bristow, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. I'm afraid a new obsession has started.
    Several years ago, I bought an Exakta Varex IIa body on ebay, it was, in cosmetic and operational terms, a piece of junk. The shutter curtains were wrinkled and had more holes than a screen door, nothing on the camera worked. It did have a nice waist level finder, though.
    I could however see past all the corrosion and the camera's many mechanical defects. I realized how much character these old Exaktas had. Sure, I'm aware of their faults, and quirks, and eccentricities.
    This past Tuesday I bought a nice Exakta VX, with a Enna Ultra Lithagon 28mm f/3.5, a Soligor Elitar 135mm f/2.8, and a prism finder. Both lenses are the preset type, everything works as it should. The only thing wrong was the prism was de-silvered. So, I put the waist level finder from my ratty Varex on it.
    I love this camera.
    Alright, now to the point. I am wanting a standard lens, I wouldn't mind if it was around an f/3.5 or so, and would prefer a preset lens. What would you recommend?
    I also want a second body, is there another model I would like, or should I stay with a VX? Also, what about the original Exas? Are they reliable?
    Are there any useful accessories I would need?
    Thanks in advance, Steve
  2. A good standard lens would be a Tessar 2.8 50mm with an external automatic lever for this camera. The Pancolar 50mm and the Biotar 58mm are excellent lenses; but may be very expensive right now. However, you may get a bargain on those types in a Flea market or country fair. An alternative would be the Meyer Oreston that was made for the RTL. It is an excellent lens but has only internal auto diaphragm pin. So you may have to use it stop down in Manual mode. There is a switch for putting it on Manual mode. There are other less expensive triplets available, such as, the Ludwig Meritar 2.9 50mm and the Meyer Domiran, Primotar or Domiplan. Meyer Primotar is similar to the Tessar [same formula, I guess]. There is a Meyer Primoplan [5 elements]; but it is rare and expensive. I would settle for a Meritar or a Primotar in this group. The Domiplan had mechanical problems though optically can be very good. Check out the site on MF Lenses in the German lenses section; you can see sample photographs taken with these lenses. Summarily, if you want an automatic diaphragm then it would be Tessar or Primotar for a reasonable price. If you would spend more money then go for the Pancolar or the Biotar. Pancolars are aplenty. Biotars are less available. Oreston would be reasonably priced; but you will have excellent quality in sharpness, rendering and Bokeh. But it will be stop down except on the Exalta RTL. If you don't want to spend much money now but still have a good lens then go for the Meritar triplet. It is quite a sharp one and is well built. regards, sp.
  3. Hi! Steven; did not mention Schneider Xenon 1.9 50mm and the Isco Westrocolor 50mm. Both are excellent sharp lenses. They used to be quoted for a very high offer price. But today I saw on Ebay-USA the same lenses for a very reasonable price. I would grab one of them if they suit the budget. Regards, sp
  4. I was not too fond of Exakta cameras and eventually traded my VX500. In the time that I had it I sold the 50/2.8 Meyer Domiplan and replaced it with a 50/2 Pancolar. It was a very decent standard lens. There may have been a later 50/1.8 Pancolar. There seems to be a lot more Exakta equipment in England and Europe than in the U.S.
  5. SCL


    Here's a site for Exakta lovers in case you haven't discovered it yet
  6. Steven,
    When I started with Exaktas several years ago, i had a camera and 2 lenses. Ended (so far) with 8 cameras and some 30 lenses. So be careful!
    You can't go wrong with a CZJ Tessar 2,8/50 mm as a standard lens. CZJ Pancoloar 2/50 is faster, a bit sharper, but the difference is gone at ~ f/8 and it has a less pleasant bokeh. Both lenses have an automatic diaphragm. CZJ Biotar 2/58 gives a bit different field of view, has a very pleasant bokeh, is incredibly sharp in the center even wide open, but the corners may be a bit problematic (curvature of the field, I guess). It's a great lens, but wouldn't actually call it a standard one.
    Another great lens is Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 1,9/50. All Schneiders have a bit different contrast and colours than CZJ lenses, it's a matter of taste.
    For wideangles, you can't go wrong with any of CZJ Flektogons. Meyer Lydith 3,5/30 mm is a stunning perfomer and can be obtained for a reasonable price. Don't have much experience with wideangles from the West Germany, though. LM Curtagon 4/28 is to rare to use it much, but the few rolls I took with it yielded some nice pictures.
    On the telephoto side there are three CZJ Sonnars 4/135, 2,8/280 and 4/300 (all available in auto versions). They are all great, but some weightlifting experience may be required for the latter two. Meyers (100, 135, 200 mm) are good lenses, you also can't go wrong with Schneiders or Steinheils.
    KIlfits (macros and supertelephotos) are great if obtained in decent shape.
    If I go out for a walk with an Exakta, I usually take a Pancolar, a Flektogon 4/20 and a Sonnar 4/135 with me.
    Take a look at:
    Best regards,
  7. I noted your preference for preset lenses.. Why? Anything can be learned or getting used to etc..maybe I#m too old but having top compose open and stop down for the photo each is a PIA. I used a caemr Today that was like that! I was glad when the roll ended (8 shots) You asked about build quality on the Exas, and I'd say the followed the norm the early the better, but all in all it'S a simple design and therefore plenty (cheap!!) available. I have a 1a and it seems OK. Could use one faster shutter speed !! I think SP suggestion for a semi-auto 2.8 Tessar is great! Great Lens bokeh and the front twist is a
    cool design. I have this lens for M42. I have both auto-Tessar and Pancolar and they're both quite nice. Seems to me trying to buy one of these lenses is not sensible, buy a CAMERA with one of these lenses it'S usually a better deal! Lately I've been using the 35 Flektagon, but prices are out of this world, I can't recommend it. I also have the 120 Biometar, but I rarely use it! Never seem to get to it I guess!! ...
  8. One of the advantages of the Exaktas is that the lens automatic mechanisms are external, so retrofitting is desirable and possible.
    Some of the old lenses that used to be cheap are getting pricey. I used to joke that one thing you could depend on in collecting old East German cameras was that they would be worth just as little in the future, but that has turned out to be wrong.
    I think some of it may be increasing prosperity in the former Second World where nostalgia for the old Warsaw Pact days is coupled with the fact that these were the best cameras they could ever hope to own - the Japanese and West German stuff was out of reach politically and financially.
    Anyhow, as Subbarayan said, the Zeiss Biotar 58mm f/2 is one of the best 'normal' lenses ever made. Many of the best of the current crop are just copies of it in so many ways. If you can find it for a good price (often you can get it cheaper on a camera body than by itself), it's a wonderful lens. There are stop-down, pre-set, and automatic versions of it.
  9. Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Keep them coming.
    Chuck, I prefer preset lenses because that's what I have for this camera. I really don't want a mix of auto, semi-auto, and preset. Too much to remember. If I want to use a more modern camera, I'll use my Nikon F or F2. Yes, it can be a bit of a pain. It's not the camera I use when I'm in a hurry.
    If this camera would have come with auto lenses, it would be different. But quite honestly, I really don't mind the preset type.
  10. I really don't have too much in the way of new suggestions to add, but I would reinforce that the 50/2.8 Tessar is a fine std lens and dirt cheap, and the CZJ Flektogons are amazing, although they are auto and run around $300.
    The easiest way to get a 50/2 Pancolor might be on the front of a Varex/VX IIB, which would be a good choice for a second body. They're not as well-made or as good looking as the IIA but in my limited experience, the shutter curtains on IIBs have survived better.
    Now as for something that is exactly what you say you don't want, keep your eyes open for a Vivitar/Soligor T4 adapter for your Exakta. This will open up the whole line of T4 and TX lenses made by those companies in the 1970s, and they are auto and very modern in look and feel, but it would be by far the cheapest way to obtain, say, a 24mm or 400mm lens for the camera, and a lot of zooms.
  11. Angenieux made a lot of beautifully constructed lenses for the Exakta. Not particularly fast, but very sharp. (Especially the wide angles.)
  12. Subarrayan mentioned the Meyer Oreston 50mm f1.8, which I have a copy of. It is very sharp and it has 3 diaphragm functions, one of which would act very much like a preset lens on your cameras. First, it is internally automatic on the RTL 1000. Second, as he mentioned, it has a little rotating knob on the bottom that makes it "fully manual," where it will always stay at whatever lens opening is set on the aperture ring. Thus if the ring is at f8, it will be a dim view through the viewfinder but show the depth-of-field. Third, and probably most interesting to you, is that if left on automatic, there is a button-like segment on the right-rearmost circumference of the lens, that if pressed in, stops down the diaphragm to whatever is set on the aperture ring. Thus you would focus with the fully-open aperture, slide your thumb or finger back to this button, press it in, and then the diaphragm stops down before you fire the shutter.
    I also used to have an inexpensive Schact Travenar 35mm f3.5 preset lens that was impressively sharp, but that would be relevant only if 35mm isn't too far off from a "normal" lens for your taste.
  13. Just to clarify that, the diaphragm is stopped down only as long as you are holding the right-rear button pressed in. You wouldn't want to have to do that during a time exposure, in which case you would rotate the little knob on the bottom to "manual" to make the diaphragm stay at the chosen aperture. And it's "Schacht," not "Schact."
  14. I suggest the 58mm Auto Biotar because I like the field of view of a 58mm lens. Besides, it is one of the more "classic" normal lenses for Exakta, and it has a good reputation for optical quality. You need to watch out a little for one thing. The focusing tends to become stiff because the grease in the focusing mechanism tends to harden.
    Probably the other best choice for a classic lens would be a 50mm f/2.8 tessar.
    There are, of course, many choices of normal lenses for Exakta, as others have mentioned.
    If you can find one, and if you have the money for it, the 55mm f/1.9 Steinheil Macro Auto Quinon is worth a look. However, they are not easy to find, and they cost a lot.
    Although you didn't ask about non-normal focal lengths, if you can find a preset 90mm f/3.5 Schneider Tele-Xenar they are very nice... beautiful fit and finish on that lens.
  15. I have an Exakta VxIIa, an old Exa and a newest German Exa Exakta 500. I like the metal body but loading film is not very easy and it seems they are made for left-handed people (which is ok for me)
  16. I think they are made for ambi-dexterous people. You cannot operate the slow speed knob in the Exakta VX series with your left hand. It is a very demanding camera; makes you work hard and rewards you with excellent results. sp.
  17. Before my collecting obsession overwhelmed me, I had thought I would limit myself to the "few" SLRs which transformed post-war Japanese industry (e.g, Mirandas, Topcons, Spotmatic, FTb, etc.). "Made in Japan" was a term of derision before the Nikon F changed everything in 1959 and Japanese engineering and innovation became the byword for QUALITY -- and not just for cameras.
    But my research soon led me to the Exaktas -- the original SLR. Over-engineered and awkward to use, these are simply some of the most beautiful cameras ever made (in my humble opinion). I agree with Bristow: these are not cameras you use when you're in a hurry....
  18. You know, now that I read these excellent posts, I have an urge to put a roll of HP5 through this thing...
  19. I have a boat load of Exakta's and lens what do you need/want?
  20. Here I used an Exakta to shoot sports in high school; before the Nikon F came out
  21. Joe, I'm looking for a standard lens, either preset or fully manual. Maybe an original Exa or another Exakta body, too.
    Are you interested in trading?
  22. Steven,
    I sent you an email.

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