Maybe about a year ago Matt at Glass Key Photo took a really nice looking camera off the shelf to show me something. He said he really loved all the things that designers used to build into cameras. The Ihagee Exakta he showed me had interchangeable finders for example – his had a waist level finder fitted and he marveled at how it had even a pop up magnifier. Build quality was another thing he was impressed with and he went on to discuss other features of the camera. One thing that stuck out in my mind was this built in knife that could cut off part of the film if you wanted to stop mid roll. That’s different! But makes sense when you think about it.
Until that day, I honestly had never even been aware of the Ihagee cameras which were made in Dresden, Germany. If you speak German then you can pronounce the name by just saying the letters I, H, and G together which in English is more like E-ha-gay.
Shooting film is very pleasurable for me, but personally I stick to medium format and larger normally because there is just more information there and I don’t really find the 3::2 crop of 35mm format cameras to my liking. Once I moved to the Rolleiflex and shot square, I could never make the small format cameras crop work anymore. Another reason I like medium format cameras are for the large viewfinder they typically have which makes composing much easier.
Perhaps it was the waist level finder that drew me to Exakta, but perhaps it was also because of its nice looks and simple design. I succumbed to curiosity and I bought two of them on ebay, both XVIIa models with prisms but a waist level finder was included in a nice leather case. One came with a Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/2.8 Tessar and the other with a Pancolor 50mm f/2.0 (also Carl Zeiss Jena). Both of these cameras were still perfectly operable and that’s a testament to their build quality. I’ve decided to shoot first with the Tessar, and the film is being developed as I write this. I’m really curious to see how it comes out.
There are quite a range of lenses available for these cameras and most are really quite inexpensive. The oldest designs are totally manual lenses, and one has to stop the aperture down after focusing, but the rest have semi-automatic or automatic diaphragms. These lenses have a little outrigger that when mounted to the camera hangs over the shutter release which is located on the face of the camera upper left side. This outrigger transfers your push to the shutter release and simultaneously stops the aperture down – ingenious!
This is a fun camera to shoot with and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ll be updating this post as I go… I’ve already purchased a 35mm Flektagon wide angle lens to go with my kit.