Altix V

Description of a vintage compact film camera from GDR
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  erik fiss . photograhy . . November 9, 2014  Altix V  [German version]Lensinterchangeable (Altix bayonet mount); in this case: Carl Zeiss JenaTessar 50 mm f/2.8, 35.5mm filter threadShutterTempor leaf shutter (there also were models with Cludor shutter);Speeds: B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250; self timer.FocusingScale focusing, 2 ft./0,6 m to infinityViewfindersmall inversed galilean, no framelinesFlashPC socketFilmtransportremovable bottom, back door. Thumb wheels for advance and rewind.Dimensions115/70/50mm (without lens)This camera was sold in 1956 at HO-Warenhaus ( Handels-Organisation , national shops of GDR) for 290 Mark, which must have been a lot of money in those years. I bought it forEUR 22,50 in February 2002 and it looked like new (save for a major filter ring ding). Itwas accompanied both times by a Carl Zeiss Jena 50/2.8 Tessar lens and a selenium lightmeter of the Iris brand.The Altix is an East German VF camera with interchangeable lenses, I heard of 35, 50, and90 mm lenses by Meyer-Optik, Görlitz. There was also a universal finder withinterchangeable masks for each focal length (well, 35 mm is the unmasked finder). TheAltix company was incorporated into the Pentacon Kombinat towards the end of the 1950s.The Zeiss lens is sharp, distortion-free and has a kind of smooth and subtle colourrendering I happen to like a lot. Close focus 2 feet!There is no built in light meter. The camera came with a seleneium hand held meter thatstill is working properly. The scale was missing, but I just had to xerox the scale from themanual where it was printed 1:1 and glue it onto the meter. Easy job.Unfortunately there is no rangefinder, so you have to stick with guess-focusing which is nottoo reliable (in my case at least). I imagine a coupled RF would have been hard to integratebecause of the camera's construction with the leaf shutter behind   the lens.Mechanics and workmaship are flawless. It is important to note that the film transportsprockets engage a double exposure lock, so it is not possible to release the shutter withouta film in the camera (unless you turn the sprocket wheel manually). The right way: loadfilm, wind, cock shutter with separate lever on lens barrel, set shutter speed, shoot. It tookme a little time to findout, you can easily get to think the camera is kaputt.The self timer is activated by moving the shutter cocking lever a little further. To that end,you have to press an unlock button beside the lens mount. The color of this button (chromewith red dot vs. grey plastic) seems to be rather important to collectors. On the other sideof the lens mount you see the PC socket.The camera is really small, the body being only slightly larger than a Konica C35. The lens  is quite big in relation, so it is hard to get a good grip on the camera. I very much like thehandsome design of this camera, with its symmetrical layout of controls and its beautifulfinish. This is a fine optical instrument, not a workhorse.Film is loaded by a removable bottom plate and a hinged back door, pretty much Leica M-ish (same period, too). When the roll is finished, pull out the wind thumbwheel and rewindthe film with the rewind thumbwheel. Then open the camera, take the film out and look forthe take-up spool which will inevitably have fallen out of the camera. Thumbwheel advanceand rewind are not everybody's darling, but on the Altix the thumbwheels are quiteergonomic and pleasant to use.Finder is small, dim and almost useless for glasses wearers. I tried a Pentacon universalfinder, but its parallax compensation was misaligned which resulted in the main subjectbeing somewhere on the edge of the negative. I think I managed to readjust it finally, butnowadays I prefer a KMZ turret finder.Altix' were also produced for square 24/24 mm frame format on standard 135 film. Seeexternal links for details. The successors of the V were the N without and the NB with aninternal light meter, but they have a more conventional design (like the Kodak Retinette orsimilar cameras). Lens mount seems to be the same. Copyright © 2002-2010 by Erik FissErik Fiss. All rights reserved. Last modified March 16, 2010 November 9, 2014
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