Exakta VX 1000
The real thing with solid credentials
The Exakta range of eight models is one of the most frequently reviewed vintage cameras. There is no surprise to it. This is a piece of German precision engineering kit and there is lots to talk about.
The history of this camera is long because it is backed up by solid foundations and the technical credentials of an established manufacturer.
Exakta was born just before the 2nd World War in 1936, in Dresden, in a factory named Ihagee Kamerawerk and Dutch owned. The manufacturer had been known for large format SLRs already, but it really revolutionalized photography when it introduced one for 35mm film.
Despite the destruction of the facility during the bombing the new communist rulers resumed the production of the pre-war models in 1945 to reach pre-war volumes in only 2 years. In 1949 a post war Exakta II model was launched.In the fifties the Exacta range was the leading brand, dominating the professional markets of the soviet block as well as Western Europe and the US.
In the sixties Exakta started to diminish. With the restructure of the business, the brand lost its product integrity by being used on external models that were not as good as the original ones. Even the Hapanese had a go at it. Exacta slowly became just a label put on cameras that could not withstand the competition and could not prove its quality. Exacta's reputation was destroyed by bad business decisions and so came the end of the line.
This was probably the most versatile and flexible model to fit numerous kinds of accessories for all types of photography. With one Exakta you could (and still can if you have it) take microphotos as well as shoot the stars. It could fit the wide range of lenses produced by other manufacturers as well. It was a perfect camera if you wanted to devote yourself to one brand or you could not afford different ones. It was not the cheapest camera and so the wide choice of accessories suggested that the manufacturers recognised the fact that buying Exakta was an investment. Before the new generation of SLRs, this camera had everything a photographer needed to take great shots, so all there that was left was to know how.
Exakta VX 1000, featured here, was released in 1966. The most significant adjustments was the modernised construction of the body and the addition of self-return mirror. The new film-winding mechanism had a shorter stroke which probably didn’t feel as good as the previous but the model continued to be compatible with all old and new accessories.
Everything about its functionality still is very logical although it looks quite complex and unique for those who do not know the camera well. For example, we are used to releasing the shutter with the right hand, while Exakta has the release button on the left side so we can use our right hand for focusing. It is indeed logical when you think about it...
BTW, there is a little shutter-release lock that needs to be moved out of the way to be able to press the release. It can be missed.
There are quite a few manual knobs to choose appropriate settings, including a small disc at the bottom of the camera to set the film-type reminder for black & white and color film for daylight and/or artificial light. With the Exakta VX 1000, it is not possible for unintentional double exposures to occur. It is, however, possible to take double exposures on purpose, if you want to experiment. After the first exposure, the shutter can be re-tensioned without winding on the film.
This Exakta model has three connections for flash synchronizing: for open flash technique with electronic flash units and flashbulbs.
One of the great features of Exaktas is the interchangeability of viewfinders and viewing screens.The hooded finder consists of a hood, a viewing screen inserted at the bottom, and with a magnifying loupe at top. The hood is opened by pressing on the lever. The focusing magnifier can be swung into either the working or rest position. The image is inverted in the left/right plane.The finder had a sports viewfinder: a small cut-off in the rear side of the hood, and a larger one in the front side.This gives the photographer an approximate idea of the coverage for a standard lens.
There were many types of lenses for this camera but Zeiss Jena were really those that dominated. The Pancolar type of this lens is perceived as one of the best and more modern. With a 50 mm focal length and the maximum aperture of f/2.0, it was introduced for Exakta around 1960.
Exakta continues to be a great collector’s item. There are numerous community organisations and groups of photography enthusiasts bound by this camera. There is a good choice of various models available in on-line auctions and for a very affordable price. Also, there are camera repair shops that specialise in Exakta restoration. Although many of them are based in Germany they offer inexpensive international services.
Versatility means you can play with Exakta to discover new techniques and build your own personalised kit to the point when you can feel well armed with a solid quality camera, your camera.
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Vjekoslav Bobić from Croatia has shared a sample of work with Exakta in various conditions.