I was intrigued by this camera after I saw the top viewfinder on Instagram. A 35mm with a top viewfinder, beautiful. So I actively looked for one on eBay, a cheap one. Finally I found one that said untested so the price was cheap, a gamble.
When it first arrived the shutter button was sticking on all speeds. I added a little clock repair oil to that and just kept pressing. Eventually it didn’t stick any more. By looking through the exposure opening while firing I could see the shutter working. At the top speed the mirror seemed to cover the light entering a little and I wasn’t confident it was working at 1/150th. So when I loaded the camera with Fuji Acros, I left the speed on 1/100th for the test.
This is the second version of the Exa. I know for two reasons. Firstly, this site says the second version has a cover over the shutter button. Secondly, there was a sticker on the bottom saying ‘version 2 1953’.
Mine came with a f2.9 50mm lens, the lenses are interchangeable. This lens has an aperture stop function. You set the aperture you want by pushing the front towards the body and then move the red dot. You can then open up the aperture to aid focusing, then close it down again to take the shot. Once you fire the shutter the mirror moves up as the backside of the mirror acts as the shutter curtain. It is not a focal plane shutter. Once you wind on the film and cock the shutter the mirror returns to the original place. As you can see on the photos the shutter speed is set with the stick on the side of the viewfinder.
With the aperture wide open, the image in the viewfinder is very bright. There is a magnifier to help with focusing. But this didn’t help me, I really need a split screen or micro-prism. On my example the film counter did not work, but it would be set before hand manually, then it should count down.
I took the camera to Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall. The former can be reached easily by train, which I recommend as it can get quite busy. The latter can be reached by a local bus, which I also recommend as the walk is quite steep. I haven’t been to Heptonstall before and I thought it was fantastic. As the link says, it is a hidden treasure. I found it more photogenic than Howarth, with much fewer people. You are just missing the Brontes, but you gain a Plath.
So did my camera work?
I doubted it and felt kind of disappointed all day using it. But work it did, though I had a lot of trouble gaining a sharp focus. My scanner didn’t help in that respect.
As you can see I only took one photo in portrait mode because using the viewfinder on its side was a real pain in the butt. You can also see a light reflection on some shots.
The gentleman you see seems to be a real figure of Heptonstall. He was outside the museum and really interesting to talk to. He told us about himself, his cameras, and the history of the place.
Inside the museum was this display about Alice Longstaff. You can find out more about her here.
I think I will get this camera serviced at some point. It is too pretty to get rid of quickly. I would like to try it again to improve the focusing.