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  1. #1
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Pre-War Proficiency

    “Pre-War Proficiency”: That titular phrase is not oxymoronic. Why? Because it is true and quantitatively verifiable.

    We all know that pre-war Leicas and Contaxes are admirable, capable machines, but we also know that high cost at least partially answers the question ‘How was that achieved back in the 1930s?’ However, my presentation of this entirely pedestrian Bavarian 35mm camera, the Wirgin Steinheil Munchen, with collapsible Cassar f2.9 / 5 cm triplet, (I hope I got it right!) achieves noteworthy credibility, synergized with a relatively low initial cost, because it does not have a rangefinder, only a viewfinder. It is a simple camera with a collapsible lens that performs well. It even has a working self-timer.

    A year ago I bought this item for about $5 at a camera show (see front and rear of this camera, below). It is simple in construction but very solid. (Indeed, foam does not exist in this camera; neither do light leaks. They could achieve that back then. Why not now?)

    First, I removed the four screws holding the lens/shutter assembly to the body. As there are no linkages, removal was simple. I then unscrewed and removed all the lens elements, flushed the shutter/aperture mechanics with lighter fluid, let it dry completely overnight in my oven, (which is lit by a pilot light), making certain to periodically fire the shutter and move the aperture blades during the drying process, cleaned the glass thoroughly, and reassembled the components. But before reattaching the lens/shutter to the body, I removed the top of the camera and cleaned it manually because I did not want to get liquid into the viewfinder (which I could not get into to clean thoroughly). I then bathed the naked body, sans lens, in warm, soapy water, rinsed thoroughly, let dry completely, then reassembled the simple, whole unit and had, finally, a very clean camera that actually worked (without fear of internal grime mitigating that achievement). I then tested it and re-determined the precise focus position for infinity on that lens. Now, I was ready to test further.

    The shutter has engraved (but odd) stated speeds of 175th second to 1 second, plus B and T. Not all the shutter speeds work properly, but most do. On the extant shutter scale I superimposed an EV scale to best approximate the actual speeds currently available. They are, as actually timed:

    EV 8 (250th), EV 7 (125th), EV 6 (60th), EV 5 (30th), next is skipped, then EV 4 (15th), EV 1 (1/2), EV 0 (1 sec), B, T.

    Of course, there is no provision for flash sync. But, somewhat oddly, the tripod socket is not European, it is American, and the focus scale is in feet, not meters.

    The almost perfectly circular aperture has 13 blades. If bokeh is relegated to be unimportant by some, why this extra cost and labor? It must have mattered. Even back then they were smart.

    F2.9 was fairly fast during the 1930s. How did it perform? I wanted to provide color for this test because this lens is not coated. In addition, I wanted to provide one photo at the full f2.9 aperture (doorway 1923) just to see how worthy that ‘large’ aperture would be. The lens formula, formulated with naked, manual, mental acuity (before Bill Gates and his computers were consulted, or even conceived), is a mathematical achievement which few of us really appreciate. Today, computers do the math and, admittedly, produce far more sophisticated glass with better possibilities. Yet, I consider this lens to be quite admirable (prints and negs are sharper than you see here) because it must have been sold at a relatively low price (I do not know for how many Deutschmarks back then, but it was well after the German hyperinflation period of the early twenties) and this has to give one cause to revel at the achievement that was not only probable and possible, but, indeed, profoundly manifest and supposedly profitable with such a rather pedestrian camera that was not ever sufficiently costly to harbor a rangefinder or other frills. – David Lyga
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Ritt Sq.JPG   juggler.jpg   flowers & pot.jpg   doorway.JPG   Cont Diner.JPG  

    Wirgin rear.jpg   Wirgin front.jpg  
    Last edited by David Lyga; 04-14-2014 at 01:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Not sure what you mean that the tripod socket is American not European, I have German pre-WWII cameras with 3/8th an 1/4" tripod sockets.

    Wirgin never made true precision cameras they use quite basic designs and then needed skilled craftsmen on the production side to make the most of lower tolerance parts. An odd approach but then the Wirgin Edixa SLRs (post WWII) are built like tanks and can be good performers, however they don't have a cult following like KW Praktinas or Exactas.

    Ian

  3. #3
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Well, I thought that the European sockets, Ian, were wider than those used in the USA. My socket works fine.

    It is interesting to find out about this camera. For example, it would be very interesting to discover whether this was first sold in the US and what the price was.

  4. #4
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lyga View Post
    Well, I thought that the European sockets, Ian, were wider than those used in the USA. My socket works fine.

    It is interesting to find out about this camera. For example, it would be very interesting to discover whether this was first sold in the US and what the price was.
    Some of my pre WWI British cameras use our modern tripod thread

    I've seen them (your camera) advertised in my pre-WWII BJPA's - British Journal (Photographic) Almanacs, I'm in the middle of moving house and so not sure when I can get a chance to scan an advert.

    There were a lot of German emigres living in the US who'd fled the Nazis and many in the camera trade selling imported German cameras.

    Ian

  5. #5

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    Wow

    Gee willikers you seem to take the notion that your pronouncements (led and first graf) are handed down by Moses and engraved on stone. I think you need to think about that. I wouldn't trade my (formerly owned) post War Leica M2R for any pre-WW2 model. Ditto with my post-war Roilleiflex and my Nikon F. I have a new (to me} pre-war and war Kodak 35 and it is a beast. I love it like a pound-rescued puppy but it ain't the ultimate test of the camera maker's art. I own a pre-war Exakta and it lends itself to not taking the photo rather than taking it. Pre-war camera makers had an attitude about cameras that did not necessarily lend themselves to proficient photography. Those photogs who were good at it were that way despite some strange ways cameras were built. As Professor Von Dexter used to say "ve needs to chill outs a bit."

  6. #6
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lyga View Post
    “Pre-War Proficiency”: That titular phrase is not oxymoronic. Why? Because it is true and quantitatively verifiable.

    We all know that pre-war Leicas and Contaxes are admirable, capable machines, but we also know that high cost at least partially answers the question ‘How was that achieved back in the 1930s?’ – David Lyga
    Because in 1930's manufacturers made products that they thought people wanted. Marketing and salesmen talking bullshit was not as prevalent as today. People could evaluate a product more from its function rather than than fashion. In short the society of the time had a more realistic grip on product integrity and quality.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by snapguy View Post
    Gee willikers you seem to take the notion that your pronouncements (led and first graf) are handed down by Moses and engraved on stone. I think you need to think about that. I wouldn't trade my (formerly owned) post War Leica M2R for any pre-WW2 model. Ditto with my post-war Roilleiflex and my Nikon F. I have a new (to me} pre-war and war Kodak 35 and it is a beast. I love it like a pound-rescued puppy but it ain't the ultimate test of the camera maker's art. I own a pre-war Exakta and it lends itself to not taking the photo rather than taking it. Pre-war camera makers had an attitude about cameras that did not necessarily lend themselves to proficient photography. Those photogs who were good at it were that way despite some strange ways cameras were built. As Professor Von Dexter used to say "ve needs to chill outs a bit."
    You made me laugh.
    I don't know who needs the chill pill, now; you, me or David.
    "There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).

    Regards
    Bill

  8. #8
    AgX
    AgX is offline

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    "Deutschmarks"

    It was Reichsmark back then.

  9. #9
    Peltigera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lyga View Post
    Well, I thought that the European sockets, Ian, were wider than those used in the USA. My socket works fine.

    It is interesting to find out about this camera. For example, it would be very interesting to discover whether this was first sold in the US and what the price was.
    I think the 3/8 inch sockets are an older standard and the 1/4 inch sockets are the newer standard. I think both originate from the British dominance of international trade in the 19th century. My 1930 Zeiss Ikon Icarette has a 3/8" tripod socket with a factory installed 1/4" insert - Zeiss Ikon obviously used both standards back then - even on cameras not destined for export (no 'Made in Germany', distance scale in metres) such as my Ikonta 520.

  10. #10
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snapguy View Post
    Gee willikers you seem to take the notion that your pronouncements (led and first graf) are handed down by Moses and engraved on stone. I think you need to think about that.
    snapguy: I did not get anything handed down by Moses. You have a lot of nerve here. I AM Moses, and don't you forget it (even though I am not Jewish).

    cliveh: I am old enough to remember when firms fought for the perception (and reality) of integrity. That was a bit before Wall Street started calling all the shots for the next perpetual 'five minutes'. You are correct with your assessment.

    cowanw: You are very, very funny with your Trifecta.

    Correct you are AGX. - David Lyga
    Last edited by David Lyga; 04-15-2014 at 07:23 AM. Click to view previous post history.

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