The Uncommon Wester Autorol

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 11, 2017.

  1. Typical in many ways of the 6x6 folding cameras made by a variety of manufacturers in immediately post WWII Japan, this Wester Autorol is a cut above many I've come across.

    Wester Autorol

    Wester Autorol copy.jpg

    There's not much I can tell you about the Autorol. It was manufactured in the early 1950's by Nishida Kōgaku Kikai Seisakusho, a Japanese company who had begun operations in the 1930's making shutters and optical components for other manufacturers. In the early 1940's they created a folding camera apparently named "Wester", but it wasn't until 1945 that other models began to appear. Basically simple folders, the Autorol is one of the more sophisticated models in a range of around eight cameras that were marketed before the company lapsed into bankruptcy in 1958. Where the name "Autorol" came from I have no idea, other than to speculate that it refers to the auto-stop film wind the camera features.

    I think our Bill Bowes would like this camera. It's rather like an improved version of the Agfa Isolette he uses to great effect, and I've found it much quicker and more convenient to use. Along with the auto wind feature that, rather to my surprise, produces perfectly-spaced frames, it has a bright and accurate coupled coincident rangefinder and unit focusing, the whole lens and shutter unit moving to and fro. The 75mm Wescon f/3.5 lens is very well-coated and seems to me to be uncommonly bright and clear, rather like crystal as opposed to glass. The shutter has to be cocked in the usual way by means of a lever at the top of the shutter, and the actual release is very smooth indeed. Overall, with it's big bright viewfinder, it handles as well as any folder of this class that I've come across. Here's a photograph from above, showing the exposure table affixed to the top deck.


    Autorol top.jpg

    It took me some time to discover the frame counter, hidden beneath the film wind wheel. It's interesting that the back is embossed with "Wester Six", the name of a previous model.


    Autorol counter.jpg

    Overall, the standard of manufacture and finish is better than many of it's contemporaries, probably slightly better than the Agfa line but not up to the more expensive European models. It's a heavy camera, and it conveys a sense of quality design and engineering. The triplet lens performs much the same as the Agfa Apotar, though it may lose a little more quality in the corners of the frame under some conditions. However, overall, I was delighted with the contrast and tonal graduation the lens delivered, almost up to Zeiss standards in some cases. I'll post the usual collections of samples, the film being either Arista EDU Ultra 100 or Ilford HP5 Plus, both developed in PMK Pyro. Scans are from an Epson V700 Photo using Silverfast SE software.

    West Walk

    West Walk copy.jpg



    Jimmy and Daisy Remembered

    Jimmie and Daisy Remembered copy.jpg

    The Sexton's Cottage

    The Sextons Cottage copy.jpg

    Bright House

    Bright House copy.jpg

    Pioneer Cemetery Pioneer Cemetery copy.jpg



    Pin Oak


    Wood Pan

    Wood Pan copy.jpg

    Last edited: May 11, 2017
    Don Harpold likes this.
  2. Just when I thought my 12 step program was working, Rick comes up with another jewel! I "prowl" a few pawn shops in Honolulu & will now have "another" target ! The lens look's very sharp, and some of the features you mention Rick would have really gotten the Isolette's into another plain of operations. Thanks for getting the little grey cells charged up. Aloha, Bill
  3. Lovely photos - really adore The Sexton's Cottage. I could praise the camera, but sure the main quality of these images are operator-induced.
  4. This is one I'd never heard of.
    another bravo to you for this one!
  5. Excellent write up , Rick !
  6. Great post, Rick. Thanks for sharing.
  7. Rick - Great camera and post. I really like the exposure guide with its May to October listing. Those of us who started our photography with the aid of our film's "inside the cardboard box" exposure guide would certainly appreciate it.
  8. Great Exposé Rick. Like the others...never knew this or any of the other 7 models you allude to. It's nice when you get that feel for quality and obviously this was a premier model. Your shooting results are excellent, but I value completely your assessment of the lens and it'S qualities, ..most everything you shoot is a success. Also I noted some tonal variations. Some images are more golden than the others, which have a more silvery contrast. Is this the side effect or variation as to how the films "take" the stain? I suspect youR'E on the right track for the naming and the feature... Even the Japaneses let you get 12 x 6x6, Zeiss only lets you get 11 for this feature.
  9. Thanks, Chuck. The change in tone is the result of my converting the grayscale scan to RGB and adding a little colour, hopefully to achieve the old-fashioned sepia look, where I felt it might be appropriate. From other recent threads I formed the impression that some users scan B&W images in RGB, an option that I find creates very variable results. After all, the purpose of the stain in the negatives is not to create colour, but to control tonal qualities. Yes, I found the accuracy of the frame spacing a nice surprise, after the hassles I have with Kiev and Pentacon MF cameras.

    Thank you Marc, Wouter, Mike, Erko, JDM and Bill, for your comments and input.
  10. There are a number of things funny about that top plate. Were people not meant to make pictures November through February? At what nursery can I buy a bright tree? Would the exposure for an individual by the window be different to that for a group? And finally, what a flagrant case of hemispherism! Oughtn't they have made that exposure table panel with the Northern Hemisphere advice printed on one side and Southern on the other, with the panel reversible by the user? ;)

  11. Yes, I really couldn't make head nor tail of it, for all the reasons you note, Dave. But then, I never had much joy from any exposure calculator, mainly because most of them were designed for the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps it might have been better to have printed the panel with Japanese characters, to save our puzzling over it...

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