Who is the FIRST? Ihagee: Kine Exakta (1936)

Posted: June 25, 2012 in WaLL Gallery!, WaLL Museum!
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Ihagee Kine Exakta (1936)

My collection – Ihagee Kine Exakta (1936) – the first 35mm SLR in the world!

Different camera collectors have different preferences and directions. Some collectors like to acquire selected brands (e.g. Leica, Olympus, Nikon etc…), some of them are only collecting several specific types (e.g. Single Lens Reflex (SLR), folding, rangefinder (RF), instant etc…). However, collecting “landmark cameras” is one of the major directions of almost all the collectors. “Landmark camera” that represented the first of the a new breed whose design concept would last and influence other cameras for sometimes. Therefore, such cameras are eminently collectible.

Collectors have frequently debated “the first 35mm SLR” this honor should go to the Soviet Union’s “Cnopm” (meaning “Sport”) or German Ihagee Kine Exakta.

Let’s us talk about “Cnopm” first, it is a 35mm SLR produced by GOMZ (now called LOMO). Special 35mm cassettes are used (not standard 135 cassette created by Kodak) for 50 exposures. Around 16000 “Cnopm” cameras were manufactured. This is ALMOST the first 35mm SLR camera: the concept prototype model was introduced in 1934, but unfortunately it did not in production until 1937.

Soviet Union's "Cnopm" - ALMOST the first 35mm SLR camera

Soviet Union’s “Cnopm” – ALMOST the first 35mm SLR camera

Picture source: http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Cnopm_img_0822.jpg

Therefore, Cnopm CANNOT be claimed as the first 35mm SLR, because another 35mm SLR was already in the market in 1936. It is the German Ihagee Kine Exakta. Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co (located in Dresden) introduced the first 127 film SLR in 1933 and just in three years, they manufactured a first 35mm SLR – Kine Exakta too.

Kine Exakta is not only the first 35mm SLR, somebodies also claimed that it is the first system SLR, and the first interchangeable lens SLR with bayonet lens mount. The folding viewfinder is fixed waist-level type (with a magnifier on the top), as pentaprism had not yet been invented in 1936. (N.B. The first SLR with pentaprism eye-level viewfinder is Zeiss Ikon Contax S, produced in 1949).

Fixed waist-level viewfinder of Kine Exakta

Fixed waist-level viewfinder of Kine Exakta

Kine Exakta is equipped with many interesting features, e.g. there is a “film cutter” inside of the camera. That means, if you want to develop the exposed frames of film before you finish the whole roll, you can simply use the cutter to separate the exposed and the non-exposed. Then you can take the exposed film out from the camera in a darkroom to develop it.

Film cutter of Kine Exakta

Film cutter of Kine Exakta

Furthermore, it has a left-handed film advance lever and shutter release, which is different from most of the other cameras. Also unique, the range of shutter speeds on the Kine Exakta is running from 12 sec to 1/1000 sec, with delayed action on 14 of the speeds! It is absolutely a remarkable mechanical shutter.

Left-handed film advance lever

Left-handed film advance lever

Shutter speed dial

Shutter speed dial

Kine Exakta has several sub-versions. Only Kine Exakta version 1 (only 1400 pieces produced) has round magnifier, all the other versions are equipped with rectangular magnifiers.

Kine Exakta with round magnifier

This Kine Exakta is being displayed in TSD – Technische Sammlungen Dresden (Technology Collections Dreden)

As the circular magnifier covered only the central part of the viewed images, many of the round magnifiers were changed by the manufacturer and replaced with the rectangular ones within a few months of production. Therefore Kine Exakta version 1 with round magnifier is very rare (and expensive) now, and the only difference between version 1 and version 2 is only the shape of the magnifier.

My collection (shown on the top of this article) is the Kine Exakta version 2.1 (according to the Aguila and Rouah book 2003 classification) mounted with the Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 5cm/f2.8 Tessar lens. The camera is very solid, but quite heavy. Because of the fixed waist-level viewfinder, it is not very convenient to use. However, I really love its mechanical part!

Here are some of the pictures taken by this amazing camera, while we were traveling in her motherland (Dresden), Berlin, and Dornach:

Dornach, Switzerland - Film: TMax100

Dornach Goetheanum, Switzerland – Film: TMax100

Jewish Museum Berlin - Film: TMax100

Jewish Museum Berlin – Film: TMax100

Displays of Technische Sammlungen Dresden (TSD) - Film: TMax100

Displays of Technische Sammlungen Dresden (TSD) – Film: TMax100

Technische Sammlungen Dresden (TSD) - Film: TMax100

Technische Sammlungen Dresden (TSD) – Film: TMax100

Lu in Dresden - Film: TMax100

Lu in Dresden – Film: TMax100

Details of the Camera:

Camera model – Kine Exakta I (version 2.1)

Year built – 1936-1937

Lens mount – Ihagee bayonet (Exakta bayonet)

Lens – Carl zeiss Jena (CZJ) 5cm/f2.8 Tessar

Shutter – Textile focal plane shutter

Shutter speed – 12 sec to 1/1000 sec

Total quantity built: 13200 (version 2.1)

Made in Germany

Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 5cm lens

Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 5cm lens

bayonet lens mount of Kine Exakta

bayonet lens mount of Kine Exakta

  1. Mickey Oberman says:

    Lu & Wu,
    I am not sure if the Kine Exakta has this feature but my in VX IIa film may be wound from one cassette to another thus eliminating the need to rewind. Preparing several rolls in advance can save time when necessary.
    I think the Exakta bayonet lens mount is one of the easiest, fastest and most positive of any camera.

  2. Wu and Lu says:


    My Kine Exakta has no such feature. There is only a normal take-up spool (not cassette), so I have to rewind.


    • Matt says:

      Your Kine Exakta does have this feature. It is the main purpose of the film cutting knife. The take-up spool is removed and replaced with a re-usable cassette (which you would need to buy). When the roll has been completed, the knife is used to cut the film off at the feed cassette, and the film is then advanced fully into the re-usable cassette. No rewinding needed!

  3. Manuel Ventura says:

    Qual cassete qual carapuça! As exaktas (todas) têm uma lâmina para cortar o filme, coisa que eu saiba mais nehuma máquina tem.

  4. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a
    amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    However, how could we communicate?

  5. In sorting through my mother’s things, I have found that my grandfather’s camera is identical to yours pictured at the top of your site: Ihagee Kine Exakta 1936 with rectangular lens. It is in its original brown leather case with strap. All in excellent condition. The camera has not been used since my grandfather’s death in 1949. He was an excellent photographer with his own developing room. Many of the black and white pictures of my mother as a young woman (1937-49)through my own infancy and early childhood (1942-1949) are among my greatest treasures.
    I have no idea the value of this camera, but would like to have some idea.

    • Wu and Lu says:

      Hi Sheri Smith Shenk

      Thanks for visiting
      The camera’s value really depends on whether it is functional or not. Did you try to fire the shutter? And is the film advance working fine? etc etc…
      you can also send me some more pics (kannenfeldstrasse@gmail.com), then I can help you to estimate the value.

      It is a wonderful camera, and I think it s very meaningful for you too.

      Eddy Wu @ WaLL Photography

      • thank you. I have not tried to use the camera. It has been packed away since the 60’s. I will take it to a good camera shop and ask someone knowledgeable to attempt these things.It would be a shame for me to damage a wonderful camera.

      • Wu and Lu says:

        Good. If you need further information, please feel free to contact me.

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  8. I just need the dimensions and weights of VP Exakta, Kine Exakta and Exakta 66.

  9. Wes says:


    Hopefully you can help me. I own an Ihagee Exakata Enlarger that is in working order. It is the same one written in this link https://www.cameraquest.com/exkenl.htm The only thing I had to replace was the power cord. I have used it to develop 120 and negative glass plates.

    My question is what would your estimate/ worth be and such a rare piece of photo graphic history?The quality is fair to good.

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