Akarelle

Akarelle I
Akarelle I

I’ve stumbled over this camera, an AkArelle I from the mid 1950s, whilst looking for spare-parts of my Arette BN. Little did I know about the German company AkA Apparate und Kamerabau Gmbh which has been founded in 1946 by the brothers Dr. Eugen Armbruster and Dr. Max Armbruster, starting manufacture in a disused hotel in Wildbach, a town in the Black Forest.

Over time, the company grew considerably and eventually settled down in a former preschool for aviation technics at the beautiful Lake Constance, producing my little camera. If you are interested in the history of AkA as well as all the series and models which have been produced, I kindly invite you to visit Martin Kohler’s website.

The AkArelle has a very pleasant and smooth form. The upper, lower and front parts are chrome-plated, unfortunately, the front-cover easily wears off over time, hence you will see the brass shining through. Nonetheless, my sample is overall in a good shape and after CLA, working as expected.

When it comes the camera’s specialities, it is the support for interchangeable lenses, back-wards compatible with AkaRette, the (uncoupled) viewfinder with bright frames, indicating the focal lengths for 50/75/90mm and the combined film advance and shutter cocking feature – something that not that usual back in those times.

The CLA was rather straight forward, with the Prontor SVS shutter being accessible from front and the relevant mechanics being easily accessible by removing 4 screws exposed behind the chrome-plated front elements. Unfortunately, I could not completely CLA the film advance mechanism as there was a screw I did not manage to remove and I did not want to ruin anything. However, I’ve managed to take off the old and sticky grease. Top and bottom covers are held by screws with the top cover requiring to remove rewind knob and film advance lever. Not special tools are required 🙂

See my journey in pictures below and as usual, reach out to me on FB or through the comments section on this page, should you have some questions on the CLA process.

King Regula IIId – part III final

Putting everything together reminds me of my days as a child, first playing with lego and later, taking apart “stuff” to see how it works and put it together again. My parents would not have been very happy if they ever knew that our Yamaha HiFi chain from the 70ties were going through my little hands – just to satisfy my curiosity 🙂

Obviously, I am now rather grown-up and develop my skills even better than ever before. Given I had no reference or service manual for this gem, I kept on taking pictures of every single step to document the before and after. In the meantime, I’ve also top mounted a Sony a6000 on a desk holder and can record my sessions. This to get ready for my own channel on Youtube one day.

With all the pictures, reassembling the body was swift, except from once where I forgot a washer and had to take apart the inner shell again. No bother, helps to develop my skills, right? 🙂

I’ve tried to use a new cleaning product, replacing Acetone which gives me a headache when inhaling the vapours for too long. It’s an orange terpene from Liqui Moly and it works very well on old and stick oil and grease, to soften glue on leatherettes for easier removal and to clean bodies, however you have to be very careful not to remove painting.

Further, I was trying out different greases – but on that topic I will post a dedicated article in the future.

After the body was complete, there was one more thing…the lens, here a ENNA Ennit 50/2,8 with a pretty oily aperture. Given I have no experience yet with cleaning lenses as well as no possibility (yet) to verify and adjust focus, I was not forcing it an only took apart as long as I felt confident. This way, I could not take apart the aperture itself but had access from both front and back. With many (!) cotton buds and isopropyl alcohol I carefully flooded and repeatedly cleaned the blades. The result was good enough for the current stage.

Lastly, the camera was brought to shining with a microfibre cloth. All that remains is a small repainting job of the black color in the front, which has worn off during the camera’s life. Below the finished work and some pictures of the lens disassembly.

King Regula IIId – part II (Prontor-SVS)

Some “first-timers” here: Prontor-SVS, shutter for interchangeable lenses and lengthy process to get the delayed action device doing its work. But step-by-step:

Prontor-SVS shutter for interchangeable Lenses
Prontor-SVS shutter for interchangeable Lenses

Given the Kind Regula IIId features support for interchangeable lenses, there must be an extra safety measure put in place to prevent light from entering the camera when changing the lenses. Gauthier therefore came up with the system of light-sealing shutter blades which only remain open until the shutter completes its cycle.

My challenge was to fully access both shutter and light sealing blades as you need to remove the pin in the chocking shaft, which took more efforts than simply removing the tiny screw holding the pin in place but carefully hammering the pin out of the shaft. I’m pretty sure there was a more convenient tool available back in the 50es 🙂 The reason for the difficulty is the pin being bulged in the middle to hold tightly in the shaft. I’d assume this was an extra safety measurement besides the screw.

Prontor-SVS cocking pin
Prontor-SVS cocking pin

Cleaning and reassembly of the different shutter blades was pretty straight forward and so was the rest of the shutter parts. The fun really started when I realised that the delayed action device (aka selftimer) did not remain chocked but always would snap back into its relaxed state. Clearly some timing was off, but which one? First, I read through the very long Prontor SV, SVS and Pronto shutter repair manual but was not exactly clear in which direction I would need to bend the nose of the cocking arm, so I went with the second option which was to compare to a similar Prontor SVS shutter.

I therefore took the (working) shutter of a rather similar Kind Regula IIId automatic apart and compared the two cocking arms and it became immediately obvious what could be wrong:

Prontor-SVS cocking arm 
Prontor-SVS cocking arm

On top is the one from the IIId automatic, underneath the one from the IIId. I’ve bent the latter to look similar to the first and the selftimer would now remain wound up and would run down when engaging it!!

With this adjustment done, I could put the remaining parts of the shutter together and proceed with the reassembly of the body. See part III.

Some more pictures of the shutter – for your reference.

King Regula IIId – part I

Another lovely rangefinder camera from the 1950s, built in Germany by the company King who initiated their business in Pforzheim. It offers interchangeable lens support and the body is built like a tank, with a full outer shell and componentised inner structure.

Scanning through the webs to check for any service manual (which – as so often – does not exist) it seems the camera is difficult to repair. At least for the disassembly, I cannot second this statement. There are many screws, mostly the same shape and size (!) some of them are a bit hidden, requiring further steps and levers pushed, but it was not very difficult. The shutter comes off in one piece as well.

Let’s see how the rewind mechanism can be taken apart, something for the next step.

Here some pictures from the dismantling process, enjoy!

ZEISS IKON CONTINA IIA – PART 2

Well, there is my second camera which I’ve completely overhauled and I’m very happy with my achievement.

My journey of learning just got to a next level, particularly with the process of reassembly. As I am taking pictures of every single step before and after I remove parts, one should believe that reversing the process will swiftly bring you back to the original state, right? Yeah, not really. Here some of the “pains” I’ve been suffering from today:

  1. Aperture blades: it took 4 attempts to bring it all together, mainly because one blade being particularly stubborn to stay in its position. So try, fail and repeat until success. At one stage, I’ve been forgetting to mount the guide-disk:
Guide-disk for apertue
  1. Putting things together without checking the details: the lever for the flashynchro setting was not completely in place so the whole shutter assembly was slightly misaligned
  2. It took me a lot of trial and error to put back the front plate to the body so it did well align with the rewind mechanism
  3. I yet need to set the focus correctly on the front lens but to do so, I’ll need a ground glass to simulate the film plane. That’ll be another tool on my ever growing list 🙂

All-in-all, I am confident to get better by every camera, even if there will be some drawbacks. My personal tip for all those seeking for an easy way to clean brass and copper is to use a q-tip with some Sigolin Standard or similar and the rub it off with clean q-tip. I’ve used this to clean the copper and messing shims.

Zeiss Ikon Contina IIa – part 1

Today, I’ve been picking up a little Contina IIa with a stuck shutter and film advance. Otherwise, the exterior was in very good condition, no dents, scratches etc.

I’ve decided to have a quick look at what possibly was wrong and once the front-lens assembly including plate has been removed from the body, I could chock and release the shutter. Further down the disassembly, of the shutter and aperture, the latter was completely stuck and all blades oily. The shutter did not look to bad, but again, some lightly oily blades.

Here some pictures of the process until now – next is to clean everything and put all back together.

The bags are packed!

Gear for vacation
The window dressing

Like for every larger trip comes the big question of what camera gear should I take along and finding the right answer is usually rather difficult if you have many options to choose from. If I remember correctly, for last year’s summer vacation, I have taken two Nikon SLR bodies, the FM3a and a FM2 together with a couple of prime lenses and a Nikon Ti35.
This year, I opt again for Nikon (FM3a, F100 and J5) but I add my latest acquisition, which I simply call “the beast”: a Fujica GW690 Professional, the first model, fully manual coupled range finder camera, without light meter but with a fixed 90mm f/3,5 lens. I was not actively looking for this camera, let alone any non-35mm body, given I just recently got a Contax RTS which I have started to CLA, so it was a big coincidence that one of my active search agents on willhaben.at alerted me on this camera, simply because the previous owner mentioned “Contax” in his text describing the Fujica et voilĂ , not even 24h later I am the proud owner of this wonderful camera and immediately decided to take it along together with some of my 120 film rolls that are patiently waiting in the fridge for more useful times.

I have chosen the Nikon F100 with a couple of AF Nikkors (35-70mm f/2,8, 60mm f/2,8 Macro (or Micro as Nikon calls it) and a 20mm f/2,8, my widest full frame Nikon lens) because I had some issues last year with focusing on the manual Nikons and (in my opinion) too many shots were not sharp, hence the AF capability. Also, I take a Tamron 70-300mm with built-in stabilisation, in order to get some potential shots of remote objects with sufficient sharpness.

The FM3a with the 35~70mm f/3,5 and the 50mm f/1,4 are always with me, so no exception now and the Voigtlaender VF101 simply because it is small and has a film in it which I would like to finish. I call it my “going-out” cam.

On the digital side, I was opting for my beloved Sigma DP2 Merrill, which was “re-activated” a few months ago during my first portrait shooting with a model (more to come soon) as second choice camera and it was so nice to experience the famous “3D” effect and microcontrast of the Foveon sensor-based Sigmas that it is now part of the gear, along with an armada of batteries…
Last but not least the smallest system camera I own: the Nikon 1 J5 with a 10-30mm zoom. Its my wife’s camera too when we are travelling.
Rounding up the total pack, a light-weight tripod, a monopod, two Nikon flashlights (SB-30 and SB-800) and some more accessories such as the belts, UV filters, hoods, etc. should not be missing and all is neatly packed in a weekender bag. When shooting, I will use a small rucksack and fill it with the gear I want to use that day.

The film rolls are not on the table but all in the fridge. At the current temperatures in Vienna (today it was 38,9C!) I will not dare exposing them unnecessarily to the heat 🙂

So, here we go, I am ready for some vacation and looking forward to many nice pictures and the writing of more stories about my experience with the gear.

My Nikon 1 System
My Nikon 1 System ready for my niece’s upcoming vacation

Before I forget, this was some other packing done!

Shooting with the Nikon FM3a and the Voigtländer VF 101

A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with some UK-friends in Zagreb at the INmusic festival.

I wanted to shoot some pictures during our stay and decided to go for two cameras: the Nikon FM3a and a RF from Voigtländer, the VF 101. Both are sturdy and lightweight at the same time. The meter of the VF 101 was just working fine and given the music bands were having their gigs in the evening, I packed for the FM3a a fast 1.4 50mm lens, a little flash (Nikon SB-30) which I could use for both cameras and fast film (which however I eventually decided not to use).

The total FM3a set, neatly stored in my Billingham Hadley Small consists of the following items:

  • FM3a body with a Upstrap strap
  • Zoom-NIKKOR 35~70mm 1:3.5 with hood HN-22
  • NIKKOR 50mm 1:1.4 with rubber hood HR-2
  • NIKKOR 28mm 1:2.8 with hood HN-2
  • Nikon SB-30 flash-light
  • Skylight 1B and  UV filter
  • Spare batteries for flash and body
  • Lens cloth
  • various film rolls (stored in my fridge), such as Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Ektar 100, Fujifilm 200, Ilford 3200 B&W

The whole kit weighs just over 2.5kg which is not too much for me considering I was carrying it in the middle of the crowds during a concert. Also, the Billingham allowed for a very easy access to the gear without having to fiddle with zippers.
Though I love the 35~70mm with its built-in Macro function, I’ve decided to mostly take the 50 and 28mm only thus saving half a kg and make space for my spray to fight the mosquitoes. Also, there’s no big difference between 35 and 28mm on the wide end and for day light shooting, I would take the body with the zoom lens only without the bag.


The SB-30 is probably the smallest Nikon TTL flashlight for their film cameras and aside of the non-TTL automatic mode it even has some rudimentary manual mode and exposure compensation, enough for most use-cases and the Voigtländer. In combination with the FM3a, I achieved great fill-lights, if not too far away give its guide number of 16/52 (at 28mm angle of coverage, ISO 100, m/ft, 20°C/68°F).
Talking of films, I’ve been experimenting with different types and eventually, for general purpose shooting, I like the Fujifilm SUPERIA 200 the most as it has a rather balanced color rendition. The Ektar 100 is great for summer days to give a lot of warmth but it blows out the reds very quickly. The Portra 160 is a great portrait film and I shoot it usually at 100 to give a light touch to the pictures. For shooting during at night / very little available light, my absolute star is the ILFORD Delta 3200, shot in combination with a fast prime lens.

The Voigtländer VF 101 is a small coupled AE rangefinder camera. I just got it very recently from one of my favourite 2nd hand shops in Vienna: Leicashop. (Check the Vintage section). Developed by Voigtländer and produced in the mid Seventies by Rollei, it most likely also has its genes for the lens from Zeiss Ikon,  as the Color Skopar 40mm looks a lot like a Tessar.
Shooting with the VF 101 is a joy, provided there’s enough light. In the dark, it was difficult for me to focus given the tiny overlay image of the coupled range finder function was not really of a big help. The camera is super-silent, hence rather non-intrusive, however, due to my lack of experience when shooting RF cameras, it took me sometimes more time than anticipated to do some basic adjustments, I am obviously not Henri Cartier-Bresson. Holding it is a joy, as you get the impression of holding a sturdy little block of metal and it weighs just over half a kilo.

On my way to Zagreb, I did a stop-over in Maribor and Ptuj Castle, both lovely places in Slovenia, so the coming pictures are from the whole trip.

Shooting B&W with the Nikon FM3a

As stated in a previous post, my favourite combo (currently)for unobtrusive photographing with roll film is the Nikon FM3a with a 50mm 1:1:4 prime, the tiny Nikon SB-30 and Ilford Delta 3200 which I set to 1600 and let develop according to specs. The push gives some extra “pop”.

The standard focus screen K3 is a matte/Fresnel screen which has a (horizontal) split-image rangefinder spot surrounded by a microprism ring and a 12mm center-weighted area reference circle.

Nikon type "K" focusing screen
Nikon type “K” focusing screen

Since I can remember, I had more issues when focusing with a horizontal split compared to the diagonal split (45 degrees) as it is with many other SLRs such as the Mamiya NC1000s:

Mamiya No1 focus screen NC1000s
Mamiya No1 focus screen NC1000s

This might be with me only though and other do not have any difficulties.

Below a series of pictures which I took during an event on invitation only in Vienna where the key topic was to give speeches and everybody could volunteer. Completed by a game to rate different white wines and fabulous Swiss cheese, it was a very nice evening in a relaxed atmosphere.