Spiraflex TTL- a 1974 offering from Spiratone

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. Some of you have perhaps idly noted that I seem to comment a lot of the time on Spiratone, Fred Spira, and the various exotically named gadgets. I didn't actually mean to get into it this deeply, but I remembered fondly going over the stuff in the 1960s and 1970s Spiratone ads with the same attention to detail that I spent on the Johnson Smith ads (yes, the X-ray glasses) on the backs of comics books in the 50s. So when I saw some of those things surface on eBay, well, I seem to have got carried away.

    So when a Spiratone camera, the Spiraflex TTL, of which I had never heard, showed up on eBay with a Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 Pluracoat lens on it, I had to bid. I got the lot for $26 plus postage. The camera looked nice and clean and sounded good, The 400mm seems to work, but has some looseness in the tubes. I've got better examples of it anyhow.
    Spiratone had sold cameras before. In the 50s they had offered some older Exakta models and some other cameras, most of which were probably "remaindered" as newer models had been introduced. The Spiraflex, however, had actually been made by the Petri and branded with the Spira name.
    The Spiraflex TTL is a rebranded Petri FTX of 1974, but apparently offered only in black. It was sold by Spiratone without much fanfare, and the only news release I can locate in my own old magazine holdings is a Popular Mechanics short announcement of April, 1974,where it was stated that it sold for $130 and was only sold without lens. None of the magazine ads that I have for 1974 or 1975 have this among the Spiratone multiple-page listings. Petri had gone out of business around 1977, so nothing later,

    The Spiraflex has (stop-down) through the lens metering. It formerly took a PX625 mercury battery. A modern alkaline 625A (1.5v) battery works, but I confess that it was easier to just use an external light meter, so I didn't try to fine tune the exposure since I was using negative film anyhow.

    I ran my very last roll of Tri-X that had expired in March of 1990 through it and it worked just fine again. I decided not to shoot with the 400mm f/6.3 Pluracoat, both because of uncertainty that the looseness might affect shooting and because using it would have reasonably called for setting up a tripod, etc. So I dug down into my vast box of old Spiratone items and pulled out a fairly decent Spiratone 28mm f/2.8 YS automatic lens. I actually found the 28mm to be a little hard to fine focus on the viewfinder screen, but with the depth of field it hardly mattered.

    The mount is a M42x1 mount to which Petri had switched with this model. The same camera was also sold as the first variant of the Argus STL-1000 before they later made Cosina their supplier for the same name, but different camera. Some of the Petri-made Argus cameras of this sort may have initially been sold as just the Argus STL.

    Although the negatives looked good to the eye, I discovered that there was a little shutter drag on the right (of the negatives, that is) at the higher speeds (1/500 and 1/1000). It also didn't help that I overdeveloped the negatives slightly (D-76 8.5 min), It also turned out as I poured in the fixer, that I had some contaminate, probably silver, that had precipitated out of solution, leaving some specks on the film. All the same, here are the results, with the camera first.
  2. The first examples shot with this combination are, on the top, part of my Darwinian Garden in my backyard in our small snow. The second picture shows a copse of trees on the university campus.
  3. The last shots are (top) of one of our pedestrian picnic shelters around the campus lake that have replaced the Buckminster Fuller ( a faculty member here for many years) geodesic domes that, alas, had a tendency to leak and to be hard to maintain.
    The second shot is a sign of the times. Like almost all state universities--heck, like most states--our budgets are really in trouble. However there is always money for a new football stadium, shown under construction here.
  4. I remember Spiratone fondly too, as the supplier of good quality lenses and accessories for various cameras. I had bought filters and slide duplicators and the like from them. They were among the best mail order houses of that era. Sharp pictures; thanks for the post; regards, sp
  5. I used to read their ads thoroughly, but never bought anything from them. I still enjoy looking at their ads from some of the 50's and 60's back issues of photography magazines. Nice find, JDM and great pictures.
  6. Who could forget those ads! They made everything they sold sound like gods gift to photography. Interesting looking camera and pics.
  7. Having grown up in Flushing, NY, I remember many hours standing at the counter in that small retail store including lusting after that 400mm. Thanks for the memories.
  8. I remember Herb Keppler was big on some of Fred's T mount super telephotos and the morror lenses
  9. One wonders ,why the "SPIRAFLEX" never caught on? It is a "handsome devil", of a camera. It is obviously a Petri product with that front shutter release, and that "boxy" styling.

    My first real camera was the Petri FT w/ 50mm/F1.8. This cost me $129 plus tax in 1969. I was 14 at the time, and this was big bucks. I decided that the Nikkormat FTN or the Canon TL, my real choices, were out of my price range. Both sold for around $275 w/50mm.
    I used to bulk load Panatomic-X and Tri-X, and the Petri saw many a ($15) 100' roll pass thru it.
    Much of what Fred sold was very practical, especially his dark room gadgets. Things like: light tight vent fans, paper safes, collapsing developer bottles, safe lights, etc. He also marketed many special effects filters,tripods, close up gear, etc. All at reasonable prices.
  10. It probably would have helped if they had actually advertised the thing. I don't have a good run of 1974 magazines, but I've never seen an ad for this camera. As I say, it ws new to me when I saw the eBay listing. It looks better in real life, as the lighting I used made it look a little dusty, particularly when I brought up the shadow areas to reveal camera details.
    I suspect that the little bit of shutter drag may just be stiffness that needs moe exercise. It's actually a very pleasant camera to use aside from the need to stop down to meter, but there is a very convenient button for that with automatic lenses like the 28mm I used. I was a little surprised at how sharp that lens was--it was a heck of a bargain when it was new.
  11. JDM, I should have back issues of Modern and Pop Photo from that year. I will take a look.
    A little Spiratone trivia- Remember the early to mid-60's ad for the Spiratone Sun zoom 85-210 f4.8 with pistol grip? The early versions even had a dual cable release to allow non-auto diaphragm SLR's to emmulate the auto diaphragm capabilities. If you watch the 1964 movie, "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" you will notice the astronaut is using this lens as a prop to attach to his video camera.
    BTW, I've enjoyed this thread. I always liked (still do) looking at old magazine ads.
  12. Thanks, Mike.
    I've been buying up old photo magazines, mostly for the ads, but I'm not trying for completeness, just a sort of "representative" sample, as it were.
  13. A bit of background on the Spiraflex body.
    The Spiraflex was the second body we sold. The first, also by Petri, was the first SLR my father gave me to use as a kid (it was manufactured in the early 1960s, as was I for that matter).
    Since Spiratone's philosophy was that the company only sold accessories and no cameras, the Spiraflex was marketed as an extra body or a companion body, so to speak.
    I eventually graduated to the newer Spiraflex and still have it today (along with hundreds of other Spiratone and Acura items).
  14. Thanks very much for that information. Was it ever advertised, so far as you know?
    It's actually a nice little camera.
    I see some earlier cameras back in the late 40s -- here is the Exakta I mentioned (I think the older model then) and by golly a Petri-- apparently your dad had some connections there for a long time.

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