Exakta Varex IIb heavy

Monday, June 10, 2013

This is one of Ihagee's 'serious' cameras.  It is very similar to the two Exas I already own but has more facilities and is built to a higher standard.  It is the usual Exakta/Exa rhomboidal shape.  On my two Exa cameras, the back and base come away as one to allow film loading.  The Varex IIb is more traditional with a hinged back.  This back, however, is also removable if you want.

Exakta Varex IIb as I bought it
lens: none
focal length:  n/a
apertures: n/a
focus range: n/a
lens fitting: Exakta double bayonet
shutter: horizontal cloth focal plane
speeds: 12 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
flash: three PC connectors, no accessory shoe
film size:  35mm

The camera is heavy, weighing 581g without lens or viewfinder.  It is left-handed.  The film advance is on the left as is the shutter release and one of the two (yes, two) shutter speed selectors.

This camera came without a lens and has both (yes, both) the Exakta bayonet mounts so this camera will take any Exakta fit lens.  Strictly, this is a Varex IIa type bayonet as it has slots at the inner bayonet flanges (not sure why).

The reason for having two bayonet mounts on one camera is that the original mount restricted the width of attached lenses.  When Ihagee developed telephoto lenses, there was too much vignetting of the image to be usable.  the new bayonet mount has a wider diameter and so allows wider lenses to be fitted.  (note: I am using the word 'wider' in a mechanical sense, not in its other, optical, sense.)

The shutter release is beside the lens mount to allow the use of automatic lenses.  In the Exakta system, the lens has a secondary shutter release which fits over the camera's shutter release.  When you press the lens' secondary release, the lens diaphragm closes and the primary release is pressed, actuating the shutter.

The shutter is a horizontal cloth focal plane shutter.  On this particular specimen, the shutter is faulty.  The mechanism sounds dry (there is a faint but clear squeal when the shutter actuates), the second curtain is significantly wrinkled and, at the slower speeds, the second curtain doesn't quite close.  At 1/1000, it works fine.

This is the only camera I have seen that has two speed selectors.  On the left is a small conventional selector that covers speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000 plus B and T.  This works in a fairly conventional manner - lift, turn to the required speed and release.
slow speed selector
fast speed selector
On the right of the camera is another speed selector which covers speeds from 1/8 to 12 seconds.  These figures are in black.  This selector also provides a delay of up to six seconds (using the figures in red).  When using the delay, you also get mirror lock up so reduced vibration can be achieved when using the macro attachment - a facility that no other of my SLRs has until my Canon EOS of 1995.  In the centre of the slow speed selector there is a film speed reminder dial.  As this camera is totally manual, this dial does nothing except remind you what film you have loaded into the camera.

Another quirky thing about Exakta cameras is the film advance lever.  This moves through over 300 degrees which is more than you can do in one motion.  I am actually finding this ok but I start the motion with my left thumb for the first half of the travel and then my left index finger takes over.  Around the film advance lever there is a frame counter.  This counts up from zero - so tells you how many frames you have shot.  It is also quirky as the frame count changes when you press the shutter release rather than when you advance the film.

Exakta cameras have exchangeable viewfinders.  When I bought this camera, there was no viewfinder with it, just a rectangular hole in the top plate.  I have two viewfinders for my Exa cameras and these fit this camera so I have a choice of an eye-level finder and a waist level finder.

Moving to the front of the camera, there is little to note.  As I have mentioned, there is a double bayonet mount and a shutter release.  There are also three (yes, three) PC connectors for a flash gun.  Ihagee seem to have tried to be as idiosyncratic as possible with there cameras.  Rather than go down the route used by Prontor and Compur (hence PC) and have a switch to select between bulb and electronic flash, Ihagee have provided separate connectors , one for electronic flash and two for flash bulbs.

In fact, the three PC connectors can be used in various ways to allow different shutter speeds.  Using the X connector and a shutter speed of 1/60 allows use of electronic flash.  Using the FP (Focal Plane) connector allows shutter speeds up to 1/1000 seconds which is an incredibly fast shutter speed for flash.  The manual gives guide numbers for different bulbs and shutter speeds - the fast speeds being achieved because the flashbulbs suitable for the FP connector have a flash duration of around 1/40 second and so are burning throughout the expossure.  The F (Fast) connector allows small fast flashbulbs to be used with a shutter speed of 1/30.  The X (Electronic) connector can also be used with a shutter speed of 1/8 with any flashbulb.  I am not sure how much advantage is given to the photographer with the above choices, but I almost never use flash and have never used flashbulbs, so I am likely to be missing the point.

Underneath the camera are four knobs.  The smallest of these unscrews to allow the use of an internal knife to cut the film when an empty cassette is used in place of the take-up spool.  Next to this is the rewind knob with a small folding crank.  At the other end of the camera is a knob which is pull away from the camera to release the catch on the back.  Between these two knobs is the tripod boss which is the standard 1/4 Whitworth tread.

The outside of the back has two small chrome rectangles and one large chrome rectangle.  These are the fitting for internal components, the small rectangles help to keep the film flat and the large rectangle is part of the fitting of the pressure plate.