[Old Film Camera] EXA 1a

EXA 1a (Selfportrait)

During a district expedition this summer I visited Atelier Beissert. After our talk about art, photography and black tea, I discovered some old film cameras tucked away in a cabinet. Showing some (okay… a lot) of interest, Peter offered me two of them to try/buy. One was an EXA 1a equipped with a Carl Zeiss Jena f2,8/50mm lens.

Nearly 1 million EXA cameras were build between 1949 – 1990 in Dresden, Germany. They are fully mechanical, have no light meter and are build like a tank. Good for taking photos or hammering nails. Most of them (1a is one of them) use the “Exakta” mount.

Shooting experience

It took some time to shoot a full roll of film on *another* camera – I might have a collecting problem. Being able to use a waist level viewfinder gives you a whole new perspective and shooting experience. I really liked it. What I didn’t like was the max shutter time of 1/175 sec.

Now that the film is developed and scanned I have to say, damn that’s a good lens. Sadly the frame counter was physically broken off, so I had no idea how many images were left. In the end I didn’t buy the camera because of that, but I guess now I have to look for a better preserved one, or at least for a M42 mount version of that lens.

Black and white photography for the financially challenged

On a side note I think I settled on an ISO400 b/w film for “normal” day to day shooting: Rollei RPX 400. If you order 10 at a time over at Macodirect you pay 3,75 EUR per roll. I also looked into bulk loading film, but decided against it for the time being. I’d have to shoot a whole lot more, before the savings on film exceed the investment of a bulk film loader. But I’ll keep that option in mind.

Leipzig, Germany – Summer 2016

Shop Talk

EXA 1a + Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 2,8/50 + Rollei RPX 400

Thanks to Peter (Website / Facebook) for letting me try out the camera!

Days of Industrial Heritage Leipzig

The “Days of Industrial Heritage” (german website) are 4 days of presenting past and present effects industry had/has on production, history, city development and social life in Leipzig, Germany. It’s held once per year, 2016 being its 4th installment and my first time attending it.

I already showed some photos, but wanted to take a bit more time and create a small photo-essay summarizing all of my photos in one article.

If Paradise is Half as Nice #6

International artist group taking over an abandoned industry building. My favorite event of the week. By far.

Films: Rollei RPX 400 + Bergger BRF 400


Former heating plant, now event space. In every room there’s some part of equipment left/preserved.


Film: JCH Street Pan 400 (underexposed)

Fortuna Lichtspiele

Former cinema, now abandoned / bricked-up building. The city district desperately needs a cultural space. A lot of problems with the citys building departments, but there’s hope.

IG Fortuna

Film: JCH Street Pan 400 (underexposed)

Roll #42 – Ilford HP5 Plus

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 (35mm)

Ilford HP5 was the next stop on my Search for Spock aka an ISO 400 b/w film to finally settle on. My favorite b/w film Fujifilm Neopan 400 was sadly discontinued in 2013.

I bought the film for testing and then it sat for weeks and months in my camera bag waiting for an opportunity. It finally arrived last month, when I used the one roll on 3 different occasions – a spontaneous photo walk and two portrait sessions.

At the end of the roll the rewind lever of my camera got stuck, so I lost 5-6 potential frames. But it’s not that big of a problem, since I already shot a wide variety of subjects.

Looking through the images now, I don’t see that much of a difference to Rollei RPX 400, which is a cheaper (3,95 EUR vs. 4,95 EUR). I think I’ve read somewhere, that HP5 has a special anti-scratch layer. Maybe I should test medium format and pushing as well, before finally settling. And on goes the search…

Leipzig, Germany | Aug 2016

A lot of thanks to the people, who allowed me to photograph them:
Uta / Ruslan / Leo.

Shop Talk

35mm, black and white film, ISO 400, 36 exposures.

Praktica LTL 2 + Helios-44-2 f2/58mm  + Ilford HP5 Plus
Film bought for 4,95 EUR via Macodirect.
Developed by myself @ Mühlstraße e.V. Community Darkroom.
(Developed: A49 / stock / 7:10 min @ 20,5°C)
Scanned with Epson Perfection V550.

Roll #41 – Bergger BRF400 Plus

Bergger BRF400 Plus (35mm)

Some weeks ago, we had the “Days of Industrial Heritage” (german website) in Leipzig, during which you could visit working or abandoned industrial sites, attend presentations or visit crazy artist groups taking over a whole building.

The last mentioned art project was “If Paradise Is Half As Nice“, that showed several installations, a photography based animation, performance art and offered very interesting tours through the exhibits and the building itself. “If Paradise…” was my favorite event of all 4 days.

I shot several rolls of film throughout the Days of Industrial Heritage and I’m not sure if and how I should present the rest of them here. I didn’t use new film stock, so I can’t just show them with Roll #42, #43 and so on. I’d have to write a separate article. But then I repeat the images here. Well, I guess I have some thinking to do.

The development itself was a bit tricky – I had not enough developer left for an exact 1:1 dilution, so I poured in all that was left and sort of guessed the time increase (10mins instead of 9:33min). The developer was way too hot as well, so I had to cool it down (25°C down to 20,4°C) in an extra beaker full of semi-cold tap water to get a manageable development time.

But this wrestling with the physicality of film photography is one of the reasons I do it. At the time it’s headache and problem solving, but afterwards it’s immensely rewarding.

Leipzig, Germany | Aug 2016

Shop Talk

35mm, black and white film, ISO 400, 36 exposures.

Nikon F80 + Nikkor 50mm/1.8D  + Bergger BRF400 Plus
Film bought for 5 EUR via Fotoimpex.
Developed by myself @ Mühlstraße e.V. Community Darkroom.
(Developed: Ilford ID-11 / ca. 1+1 / 10min @ 20,4°C)
Scanned with Epson Perfection V550.