Ihagee Exakta Varex iib

Every now and then, I buy a camera from eBay that is listed by a charity. Usually, they are listed as untested, but I see it as a donation rather than a perfect purchase. This was one of those buys. It was £30 and came with a 135mm lens. I was looking for a body for a 50mm lens that I took off a broken camera. If this worked, it would be perfect. I wasn’t expecting much though.

When it arrived the shutter wasn’t working. I have come across this issue before with these types of cameras and a little clock oil on the shutter button, not the shutter, has resolved the issue. So that was my first line of attack, and it worked. With a few actuations, the shutter curtain started moving fairly freely. I say fairly as the shutter curtain itself obviously hadn’t moved in a while.

Before I worked on anything else I wanted to make sure the camera was really working and was light tight. I loaded it with an expired roll of FP4 and headed to the colliery to try both lenses. Here are some of the results from that walk with a bonus photo of dad.

Well, everything looked good…apart from the numerous pinhole light leaks. I had noticed them, you couldn’t miss them, but I wondered how much they would affect the final image. And that would be a lot then. Some people pay a lot of money for films with that effect. I don’t mind using film with that effect in mind, but not created with the actual camera. It needed to be fixed.

When I looked at the shutter curtain I found it was quite crinkly and had pinholes on one side. I went for my usual repair of tulip fabric paint and let it dry. This is the curtain before the fix.

When I tried it again it didn’t move much at all. I realised I had managed to get some of the paint on the track, durh. Once it was cleaned off it worked as it should, the more I actuated the shutter, the better it worked. Super.

The next thing was to clean the viewfinder. The one attached had a fair bit of dirt in it. Taking it off was very easy as I found out it was interchangeable with a waist-level finder. You just pulled it off.

While researching the camera, I saw images of it with the other viewfinder, it looked a bit awesome. I wondered how much they were?? Apparently not much at all, so I ordered one.

What a lovely-looking setup, quite an unusual combination for a 35mm camera. When I finally took it out for a play, it certainly got a lot of attention. I tried it out again with that filter you can see in the photo, a Cokin speed filter. I loaded some Exeter 400 and went for another walk among the trees. These are some of the results.

What an interesting effect and best of all, no light leaks.

But how was the experience of using this 1960s camera?

I found both viewfinders very bright, but the original one had a split screen centre which made it easier to focus. The waist-level finder (WLV) had a magnifier, but no split screen. The film advance worked until the shutter was cocked then it would move, but not advance the film until it was fired. I liked that idea. The shutter also had a turning lock function so no accidental exposures. The film counter was set to one manually with a small dial. My camera came with a take-up spool but you can insert another cartridge to act as one. I preferred this as it meant my shots were protected immediately.

Now, here is the best bit, especially for this example…my rewind lever was a bit loose, but using another cartridge saved me from making it worse as I didn’t have to use it.

Also, this camera has a knife inside. YES, a knife. I didn’t find that out until I read this very useful blog post. Just like that post said, mine was still very sharp. It meant I could change the film mid-roll, the film used was already protected inside a cartridge and the unused film was ready to be swapped as a little tab was sticking out. I have never come across that before.

The dial on the right is also something I have not come across before and to me seems a little complicated. I will have to use this camera a lot to really understand it and use it without thinking. This blog post has more information about that dial. It is explained on there better than I ever could.

I tried the camera again on a photo walk in York with some friends. I loaded a roll of Banachrome and wandered around. Here are some of the results.

In the first two shots, there is still evidence of a light leak. It looks like the door hinge. There isn’t any felt on there or at the bracket end at the moment. I might add a very thin strip at each end just to give a little more protection before I try the camera again.

I liked using the WLV for the street shots as you can focus on an area, then fire the camera when appropriate. You don’t have to lift the camera to your eye.

Well, that was a fun journey that isn’t over yet. I am torn with this camera. It is gorgeous and quite different from anything I have, but I know I could get my money back and more if I sell it especially with the Travenar 135mm lens too. With the current cost of living climate, I am not sure how long I can hold out. It is a camera that needs to be used or it might seize again. I don’t think I will use it as much as it needs, given all the other cameras I have. BUT, if I did sell it, I know I will regret it immensely.

Anyway, here is a great video about the camera with a close-up of the knife in action.

At this point, I also realised you can swap the focus screens out of the viewfinders. How I didn’t realise that before I don’t know as I had taken out the first one to blow away the dust. So right now my WLV has the split screen focus in it and I am waiting to try it all again on another day out.


6 thoughts on “Ihagee Exakta Varex iib

  1. Kurt Ingham says:

    Some great shots! I am a big Exakta fan- epitomizes the mechanical camera! Using the knife is really cool- and in the days before electronic shutters those long speeds were like nothing else. I never used them enough to forego checking the instructions – and I was saddened when Exakta dropped them when they were ‘economizing’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roger B. says:

    You’re blessed to have found arguably “the” best Exakta in terms of features and reliability. After the IIb, Ihagee began to economize, the end result being the VX1000 and VX500, two dogs by comparison to the IIb.
    There are many fine Exakta-bayonet lenses from the great German makers available used, as well.
    Here’s a link to the archives of The Exakta Circle: http://exaktacircle.org/

    Liked by 1 person

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