Classic Exakta Cameras: Books and Web Links

Books

Unfortunately, the two most comprehensive resources on Exakta are not available in English. Still, both are indispensable for any serious (or even semi-serious, like myself) Exakta collector, and therefore they are on the top of my list.

Exakta Collection, Le Guide du Collectionneur Exakta

by Clement Aguila and Michel Rouah, 2003 (in French); ISBN 2-9519891-0-5.

This is not just a second edition of the 1987 book by these authors (see below), but a completely new monograph, most impressive in scope and depth.

This oversized paperback has more than 600 large-format pages and 930 photographs. It covers all Exaktas, starting from the 1933 Vest Pocket model (4x6.5 cm), and ending on Japanese name-only Exaktas of the Eighties; most of it, however, is devoted to the 35-mm Exaktas from Ihagee, Dresden.

Importantly, the book introduces a new classification of Exakta models, vastly improved from the "standard" A&R 1987, more consistent and quite similar to the one I'm using in my Exakta pages.

A large section is devoted to lenses in 35-mm Exakta bayonet mount. A few hundred of these are listed and described, and for the most important standard Exakta lenses the authors provide a detailed model taxonomy.

This is by far the most comprehensive resource in existence for an Exakta enthusiast, and the amount of work which went into gathering the information and presenting it must have been superhuman. Every Exakta enthusiast in the world should feel indebted to the authors for undertaking (and completing) this effort. I am.

All the well-deserved praise aside, the book suffers from two problems, both of which are due to realities of the market.

First of all, the language. Devoting all this enormous time and effort to publish a book in 250 copies for the small French-language market does not seem right. An English translation would allow to increase the printing by a factor of ten at least, being also a great service to the world-wide Exakta community. Apparently, Hove Books did not want to pick up the English version. Too bad.

Second, the publishing. A glued paperback of this size and weight will not last very long, especially if used often (and believe me, it will be!). Also, the offset printing technique applied uses newspaper-quality rastering of illustrations. A book like this deserves something better. I understand this was to keep the cost within limits, but I would gladly pay twice as much as the book actually cost (which was about $85 including shipping).

The Exakta Collection is not easy to find. I got mine on the Internet from Jay Collector in France, paying in US$; they ship worldwide. If you are serious, order your copy now; they will not last long.

Spiegelreflexkameras aus Dresden

by Richard Hummel, 1995 (in German); ISBN 3-930846-01-2 or 3-89506-127-1.

Quite a large part of this book is devoted to Exakta and Exa cameras, but the reminder is of great importance, too. In addition to a history of camera-making in Dresden (dating back to the 1830's, no less!), you will find here a complete model listing of a number of 35-mm SLRs: Exakta, Exa, Praktiflex, Praktica, Praktina, Contax, and Pentacon, all the way from 1936 to 1990. (The book does not deal with lenses or accessories.)

The author was an Ihagee insider, having started his work there back in 1937 as a precision mechanic apprentice. From 1955 to 1964 he was the Chief Constructor at Ihagee, directly responsible for the Exakta and Exa line development. Do you need a better recommendation?

Interwined between the details on cameras and lenses this is also the story how the Communist authorities succeeded in taking away from Ihagee any elements of independence (guaranteed, on paper at least, by company's charter), thus dooming it to failure.

When Ihagee was incorporated into the ill-conceived VEB Pentacon, Mr. Hummel became the head of the corporate Information Center for Science and Technology, with access to all documentation and, I would think, plenty of time to do his historical research. This book might have been longer in the making than it seems.

A big hardcover volume of densely typeset 300 pages, printed in just 1000 copies on premium glossy paper and richly illustrated, the book will last until you are able to buy a good car for the price of one Varex IIa. I ordered my copy at Petra Kellers Photo in California, camerabooks.com, and I'm delighted with the purchase.

True, another book not in English, but even if your German is rusty (I took mine 40 years ago at school and I'm getting headache reading words barely fitting into a page width), this is another book for any serious Exakta (or Praktica, etc.) collector. Hopefully, one day someone will translate the whole thing into Reflex Cameras from Dresden (in the meantime, see below).

The Exakta Story

In the meantime, Michael Spencer translated into English the parts of Richard Hummel's book related directly to Exakta and Ihagee, and the 114-page, spiral-bound copy is available — but only to members of the Exakta Circle, and the price of less than $30 (£15) for new members, it is just a steal.

While this is not a professional translation, it is, hallelujah!, in English, and that's what counts, Translating from German is not too easy: follow the original too closely and the prose is really wooden; enliven it a bit, and you may lose accuracy. No easy task, and Mr. Spencer did more to the English-speaking Exakta community than anyone in the last twenty years. We are all indebted.

The translation was in the making since 1999, appearing in installments in quaterly issues of the Exakta Times newsletter, another good reason to join the Exakta Circle.

Exakta Obscurities

by Garry Cullen with Klaus Rademaker (in English and German); ISBN 0-968986809-0-3 or -1-1).

This is a recent (2002) addition to available Exakta literature. This delightful coffee-table book is available directly from the author.

It contains mostly pictures with brief but informative notes (in both German and English), presenting some exotic or previously unknown Exakta collectibles: cameras, lenses, add-ons, and others. Some less-known facts from the Exakta history will add to your reading pleasure.

The book, although not professionally typeset, is nicely printed on premium glossy paper; the quality of illustrations is also first-class.

Although Exakta Obscurities will not (and does not try to) replace the "new" A&R, it will make any Exakta enthusiast happy and salivating.

Exakta Cameras 1944-1978

by Aguila and Rouah, published by Hove Books in 1987; ISBN 0-906447-38-0.

This is still the only Exakta monograph available in English. Until recently it used to be a definite must for every Exakta collector; now of lesser importance, obliterated by the new A&R.

This is a small-format, hardbound book of less than 200 pages, nicely printed and well illustrated, and for 25 years it served its purpose just fine. The model classification system introduced in it, as flawed as it was, is still widely used in the collectors' world.

Check the MicroTools site to find a copy.

Collecting and Using Classic SLRs

by Ivor Matanle, published by Thames and Hudson in 1997; ISBN 0-500-28901-2.

A more general book, with a small section on Exakta and Exa.

Unfortunately, this enjoyable and interesting source contains a number of significant factual errors and omissions, limiting its usefulness for a collector. It is a fine reading, still, for anyone interested in photographic equipment.

Ultimate Exakta Repair

privately published by Miles Upton, one ofthe top Exakta experts in the world, and also a repairman.

This is a step-by-step description of cleaning, adjustment and lubrication of an Exakta Varex or Varex IIa. I don't have this one yet, but I'm planning to get it, so stay tuned.

Exaktas, Exas, and Friends

Last but not least, Norlin Rober and Stephen Gandy are reportedly working on their definitive Exakta reference. If and then the project actually reaches completion, it should become a valuable resource — let us wait and see.

The book is slow in coming, it has been announced a few years ago. I'm not surprised, though: after the monumental work by Messrs. Aquilla and Rouah, the bar has bees set awfully high.

Instruction manuals

Exakta manuals are sometimes offered on eBay auctions or by antique camera dealers — often at a price. Many are, however available on the Web. Try the following links:

  • Orphan Cameras by Mike Butkus makes aboyt 1500 camera manuals available for the modest, voluntary donation of $3. Some are provided as PDF files, others as HTML.
Exakta and Exa Web links

There are quite a few Exakta-related pages and sites on the Web, although most of them do not seem to be regularly maintained. Here I'm listing a sample of these which have attracted my attention.

  • Captain Jack's Exakta Site: Jack Dugrew's collection includes practically all Exakta and Exa models and versions ever made (more than 80!), a variety of lenses, and some other Exakta equipment, all with pictures.

    Most importantly, the included text contains some information hardly, if ever, available elsewhere. From where I stand, this is the most valuable Exakta resource on the Web.

  • The Exaktaphile site, by Miles Upton, an Exacta collector, dealer, and repairman. This place certainly deserves a visit (check the delightful set of instructions for camera disassembly!).
  • The British Exakta Circle Web site has been recently revamped and cleaned up; they also publish the quarterly Exakta Times newsletter available with the membership worldwide.
  • A recent addition is Exakta Pages — site by Olaf Nattenberg (in German, at least for now). (Check the Frankenstein of a camera: a Praktica body with Exakta prism, front plate, and lens mount!)
  • The ihagee.org site by Hugo Ruys from the Netherlands contains not only an extensive history of Ihagee, but also two major resources: a huge Exakta lens list (updated and vastly expanded in December, 2003), and a digest from an Exakta discussion group, a small mine of useful information.
  • Peter Mishur's photo site (in German) boasts a most impressive collection of various Exa models (with data included), plus related material (books, advertising, etc.).
  • The exakta.org site is quite large, and its most interesting part is the documentation of about 50 models from the Frizziero Collection. (The site is, however, not regularly maintained, and many internal links are broken. The last articles were posted in June, 1999.)
  • Steven Gandy at his CameraQuest site has a number of interesting, Exakta-related articles. Much of the non-Exakta material will be also of interest to anyone interested in classic photo equipment.
  • Peter Lanczak's page with the brief history of Ihagee, list of products, and a table of models and serial numbers.
  • The exakta.dk site by Jan B. Jans seems to have disappeared. If you find it in some other place, let me know.

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Posted 2001/10/22; last updated 2007/06/05 Copyright © 2001-2007 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak