By Daniel Walsh and Ethan Delgado
Our Dan is extremely fond of shiny objects. His car is shiny, his pokemon cards are shiny, and his most recent acquisition, a Kine Exacta/Exakta, is very shiny too.
The Exacta brand was introduced by Ihagee Kamerawerks in the German city of Dresden. Starting in the 1930's, the Exacta models were available in various film formats, and were some of the first SLR cameras on the market.
This “Kine” Exacta uses 35mm film - which was used in movie cameras at the time (Cine, or Kine in German, is short for Cinema - makes sense, right?).
This example is one of their earliest models, and is very well made. What makes Dan’s particular camera interesting though, is that a previous owner has removed the chrome on the front plate and rubbed in a gallon of Brasso to give the front of the camera a golden mirror finish. The same owner also converted the lens mount to M39, rather than the standard Exacta mount - although this is easily reversible.
The unusual and distinctive design of Exacta cameras have always piqued Dan’s interest. The Exacta cameras all have a left-handed wind lever, shutter button on the front, and a wonderful Art-Deco inspired aesthetic. Perhaps not very ergonomic, but very different.
Dan and his Exacta actually share something in common - they are both quite dense.
The heft of the Kine is justified by its superb build quality, as well as the mechanical feel of the camera, something which is important to Dan when taking photos. Entirely metal, completely mechanical and built with the care and attention that made Dresden famous for manufacturing. It is an impressive feat of engineering.
Another notable feature is the clockwork mechanism which controls the slow speeds and the self timer, in one. Very few mechanical cameras offer a timed shutter speed longer than 1 second, but the Exaktas have this bonkers little dial where most cameras have their wind lever which lets you have exposure times all the way up to 12 seconds.
Impressive today, cutting edge in the 1930s.
Sadly, despite how great these cameras look and feel, they are plagued by reliability issues. Dan had to go through a few examples to find a good one!
Some of the more common issues relate to the shutter. The shutter curtain material often develops pinholes over time (which will leak light and ruin your images) - look out for these by shining a torch onto the shutter with the back door and lens removed, whilst the mirror is up. The shutter curtains are also prone to dragging, leading to overexposed or partially exposed images. Shutter ribbons can also snap, making the shutter unresponsive. Most Exacta cameras which have not been used in a long time will require a service, or more involved repairs to fix these issues.
Sadly, in the 1970s the firm closed down and Ihagee are no longer a company. The people that service these cameras are now few and far between.
Similarly, finding lenses for the Exacta system is not always easy. In Dan’s experience, there are plenty of choices for standard 50mm lenses, but wide-angle and telephoto lenses are harder to find for reasonable money. We reckon that’s why a previous owner converted Dan’s to an M39 mount.
Finally, the earlier Exacta models such as the Kine do not have interchangeable viewfinders, meaning you are stuck with a waist-level finder. Great for TikTok, but not so great for portrait-orientation photos. On the subject of usability, the controls can be a little hard to get used to, and the all-metal construction can have a tendency to shred the fingertips.
A combination of ard steel knurling and decades-old lubricant does not always make a dial pleasant to turn.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? The camera has some shortcomings, and the lack of familiarity and complexity does slow you down - but For Dan, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The finicky controls and the waist level finder are all part of the fun. See Dan’s staff interview for more insight into the weird and wonderful cameras he likes to use.If you are relatively experienced in shooting film and fancy shooting something different, why not try an Exacta? Everyone loves an underdog.
“Having said all this, the main reason for shooting the Exakta and bringing it in to the shop every day, is to wind Howard up, who has a particular hatred for them.” ~ Dan
[Refer back to the ‘dense’ comment earlier ;) - Howard]