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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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