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  1. #1

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    Exakta VX - any advice out there from Exaktafiles?

    I just bought a used Exakta VX with an eye level prism which appears to be working and even has relatively good shutter curtains - not easy to find! The lens it came with is the Schacht 35mm F3.5 Travegon, which I know from prior experience with the Praktina and Leica thread version is pretty darn good.

    The VX has two problems, possibly there is no good solution, but I thought it worth asking if there are any experts here. First the viewfinder is pretty dim, certainly dimmer than say the more modern Exakta VX1000, but not quite as bad as a Praktina from the same era. Secondly the prism has no focusing aid such as a split viewer or micro screen dots. As I recall prisms from the VX1000/500 do not fit older Exakta. My question: Are there any available prism upgrades or focusing screens available that might improve the brightness of focusing capabilities of this camera? I suppose the waist level prism is an option, but that's a little too retro for even me! What are the screen/prism compatibility rules among the Exakta 35mm SLR line?

    Despite these difficulties, I put up with this because Exakta does have one great trait besides its good looks (in my view): The lenses - so many damn fine ones of all manner from all over Germany (east and west), and even a few from Japan!

    This is the camera: eBay # 150695241314

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/150695241314...#ht_790wt_1384

    - it's on my desk now and I'll try to upload some photos of it and some results with it soon!

  2. #2
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    IIRC, all Exaktas (and many Exas) from the Varex to the IIb can share viewfinders. I actually thought that the VX500/1000 *did* use the same viewfinder mount, though I've never had one.

    One of the things I don't like about the Exakta are the murky viewfinders, though there seems to be some variation between viewfinders and screens, maybe even sample- or condition variation.
    Some prisims definitely seem brighter than others, perhaps due to better or more intact silvering. Also the screens can look quite different, apparently irrespective of type.
    A split image screen exists, but most samples are bad - the splitting prisms often have glue/balsam problems.
    The "prism" I actually end up using is the Harwix meter, while still somewhat dark and darker than a normal prism I recently got, it has a rather rough microprism spot which I find quite effective. I preferred it to the more common Travemat meter prism because of its better focusing ability.
    At one point in the past I actually held a "focusing contest" between 2 meter prisms, 2 normal ones and 2 WLFs by repeatedly focusing on an object and marking the result on the focusing ring. The Harwix yielded the most consistent results, after the older WLF.

    The best image of all is from the older (silver-coloured 4 piece fold down) WLF, which has a massive condenser and produces a big and bright image, despite the drawbacks of a WLF (verticals, anyone?).

    The best you can do is to try cherry-picking, see which screens and prisms give the best view on your camera.

    Anyway, I can only agree that the Exakta is probably the most beautiful camera out there.

    P.S. I found the screen of a Praktina FX I once had to be quite good, much better than the Exakta's....
    Sample variation? Subjective imprssion? Who knows...
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  3. #3
    wotalegend's Avatar
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    Surely part of the dimness is due to the f3.5 lens.

    I had a Varex IIb in the 60s when it was new, and I am sure that it had a split image screen. I often wish that I had never traded it for my MInolta SRT-101, which I do still have.

  4. #4

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    Oh yes, part of the problem is the 35/3.5, but not all. I'll look around for a Hawix and a normal lens as fast as I can afford.

  5. #5
    Trask's Avatar
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    The lens aperture on my Exakta has to be cocked open to get the brightest focusing image. The aperture closes down by the mechanical pressure of my left index finger tripping the shutter via the button that's fixed to the lens.

  6. #6
    Wade D's Avatar
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    I have 2 VX's. The focus screen is built into the bottom of the prism. Early prisms were plain ground glass and the later ones have an almost fresnel like design. I have one of each plus a WLF. All are easy to focus with my Tessar 2.8 but the later prism is brighter. I'm not sure that the screen on the bottom of the prism can be changed. There are screws holding it in though. I've never seen one with split prism or other focus aids.
    Regardless of the finder, the cameras are mechanical marvels.

  7. #7
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wade D View Post
    I have 2 VX's. The focus screen is built into the bottom of the prism. Early prisms were plain ground glass and the later ones have an almost fresnel like design. I have one of each plus a WLF. All are easy to focus with my Tessar 2.8 but the later prism is brighter. I'm not sure that the screen on the bottom of the prism can be changed. There are screws holding it in though. I've never seen one with split prism or other focus aids.
    Regardless of the finder, the cameras are mechanical marvels.
    In all my prisms and in the Harwix (no longer have the Travemat, it may have been fixed) the focusing screen is held in by pressure and can be carefully pulled out and exchanged.
    In my early WLF it's fixed. I think I saw a later WLF where it could be exchanged, but am not sure about that.

    Also, regarding a previous post, how the lens diaphragm works depends on the particular model of lens. Some are completely manual, some pre-set, some cocking automatic and some with the full shutter button-coupled automatic diaphragm...

    Regarding subjective viewfinder darkness, one thing I noticed is that some lenses make the viewfinder look far darker than other lenses do when stopped down to the same aperture.
    For example, the 20 & 25mm f/4.0 Flektogons look far darker than, say, a typical 50mm stopped down to f/4.0.
    This effect carries over to other & far more modern cameras as well (I used the M42 versions on a Rolleiflex 3003).

    I once had the 35mm Primagon, found it a nice lens (I love the Schacht 90mm!) but don't remember if it darkened the viewfinder beyond measure.
    My favorite 35mm lens for the Exakta is the Schneider Curtagon (I think I've tried them practically all except for Angenieux, the f/2.4 Flektogon and some Japanese brands).
    Last edited by Rol_Lei Nut; 11-18-2011 at 01:44 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Correction
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa



 

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