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Durst Automatica - An Appraisal

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<u><b>Durst Automatica - An Appraisal</u></b><br>

I recently acquired this 35mm viewfinder type automatic/manual camera from the site that shall not be named. I am posting what I


have been able to find out about it because there is precious little freely available info currently out there and this is a way of


passing on my findings to future searchers.<br>

While not being ultra rare it is unusual: Durst is a company famed for its enlargers not its cameras<br> <br>

As stated above it is a viewfinder type camera made by Durst SA of Bolzano, Italy between 1956 and 1963 which comes with a


coated Schneider Kreuznach Durst Radionar 45 mm f2.8 lens . The Prontor SVS shutter has speeds B, 1sec to 1/125th and a


1/300th sec setting (flagged in red) which also doubles as the auto speed setting. It carries two flash synch settings (X, M) for


electronic and bulb and a delay timer setting (V)<br>

The brightline viewfinder carries yellow frame lines, no parallax compensation and no exposure information but is very easy to


use with both eyes open. Focusing is manually set by estimation and distances are set out in both feet and metres with default


focus marked in red at 10 feet (3 metres).<br><br>

<u><b> Using theDurst Automatica on Automatic</u></b><br>

In the hand the camera is about the same size as my Leica M2 and weighs only slightly less. It has a very well made feel to it for


an item which superficially has such a basic specification. To use the camera on automatic, the switch below the metering window


is set to the red 'A' and the shutter speed is set to 1/300th. The ASA/DIN setting determines which aperture will be used; more


on this later. The selenium meter is used to assess lighting and an appropriate shutter speed is selected between 1/4 and 1/300th


sec. A read out on the top plate dislays the chosen speed and a red area below 1/30th acts as a camera shake warning.<i>The


meter is coupled to the shutter via a pneumatic cylinder and the shutter action is beautifully quiet and precise. It shouts quality at


me</i> It is working flawlessly on all speeds after what looked to be years spent in its case. <br>

I do not normally like shutter release buttons placed on the front of the camera. They are arkward to use and I feel they can


contribute to camera movement when the shutter is fired. This is a real exception: the release is perfectly positioned and the


movement is an inward rather than a downward one. This makes for great ergonomics as the shutter release action becomes part


of tightening the grip on the camera as a final steadying just before taking the shot.

The film advance lever is nicely designed to lay flush with the camera top plate, rising above it only when the wind on action is


performed. Another small indication of a well thought out design.<br><br>

<u><b> Using theDurst Automatica on Manual</u></b><br>

The switch under the metering cell window is flicked over to the green 'O' marker and the shutter speeds are set on the lens


barrel as with any other rim set shutter<br>

The apertures of between f2.8 and f22 are directly coupled to the ASA/DIN settings as noted in the section on automatic use.

To expand on this if you set an ASA setting of 6, an f stop of f 2.8 is selected; if you set ASA 400 an aperture of f 22 is selected.

Three reference points on the lens barrel relate to the 3 sets of settings marked on the lens barrel (ASA, DIN and f stop) and all


change in unison as below.Aperture settings are thus easily visible and changeable<br><br>

<b>ASA 6         = DIN 9        = F 2.8 <br>

ASA 12         = DIN 12        = F 4 <br>

ASA 25        = DIN 15        = F 5.6 <br>

ASA 50         = DIN 18        = F 8 <br>

ASA 100        = DIN 21        = F 11 <br>

ASA 200        = DIN 24        = F 16 <br>

ASA 400         = DIN 27        = F 22</b> <br>


This is all much harder to explain than to demonstrate.<br>

<u><b> Postscript</u></b><br>

The obvious weakness of this model 45 years on is the selenium meter. It works and it delivers the shutter speed indicated on


auto but is overexposing by about 4 stops so it is now effectively a manual only camera. In all other respects it represents a very


nicely made fully working viewfinder camera with a beautifully sweet and quiet shutter. Interesting as a quite innovative early


attempt at exposure automation.<br>

I would be glad to hear from anyone who can add further to what I have been able to find. I would love to know what the original


selling price was and how many were made. It was in production for 7 years so I am surprised there are not more around. I would


also like to replace the cracked glass but top plate removal looks a bit scary on account of the rising rewind lever. I am probably


best advised to live with it. <br>

I hope someone finds all this useful<br>

Cheers Steve S.

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That was definitely worth a try, however it didn't produce any change in the right direction. And then I thought further: if the meter is over-exposing it means it is not "seeing" as much light as my good meters. To bring it onto a par with my good meters it would need to see more light not less as would occur if you mask off part of the cell. this meter is displaying a loss of sensitivity as result of the ravages of time I think. A good thought though.


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Yes interesting thought; the Ilford does share some similar design features,notably the front panel layout. However I think the Durst is a larger camera and the metering cell window and wind on are rather different and the shutter release is a good bit bigger. The Ilford Sportsman is a very common camera in the Uk (there are 6 or 7 different versions) and you can hardly go to a fleamarket without finding one or two.

Incidentally the camera pictured is name variant of the Dacora Super Dignette.

Cheers Steve

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Steve Salmons,


I call Gianni and I write from Italy, from a small country close to Ferrara.

Also I have one Automatica Durst s/n 73390 from little days.

It' s in good state, with original case and flash a type モFerrania MICRODUEヤ.

Perhaps only the meter to the selenio does not work well, is too much old!


I thank you very much for the information that you have published on the forum.

Unfortunately I do not have new information for you.



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Hi Gianni,<br>

I am glad you found the Durst information useful;this was my hope when I posted to the forum. It sounds like you have the same selenium cell problem that I have on my camera. I think this is very common where the cell is exposed constantly to light (or damp). Cameras with a cover over the cell window tend to last much longer.<br>

Cheers Steve

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  • 2 years later...

<p>use a google traductor please......french to english ,thanks !posemètre cds=resistant en proportion de la lumiere reçue<br>

posemètre selénium=produit un courant electrique proportionnel a la lumière reçue<br>

posemètre selénium ancien et trop longtemps exposé la lumière=produit peu de courant electrique=surexposition des images<br>

dans ce cas on peut mesurer la lumiere incidente (celle qui éclaire le sujet)<br>

au lieu de mesurer la lumière réfléchie par le sujet comme le font les appareils automatiques<br>

les posemètre sont étalonnés ainsi=lumiere refléchie:18% de la lumière reçue!<br>

toutes les chartes de mesure en carton sons faites ainsi!<br>

avec une selenium ancienne on cherchera quel et le coefficient car différent de 18%!<br>

c'est tout</p>


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