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Two new film cameras under development represent modern, traditional approaches

Create: 11/12/2017 - 22:37
Reflex and Elbaflex

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Two cameras will be manual-focus and are being funded through separate Kickstarter campaigns
  • Reflex will allow transmission of exposure information to a smartphone
  • Ihagee Elbaflex will use the Nikon F mount

With most in the digital photography declaring film dead, maybe there is some life left in celluloid.

Two Kickstarter campaigns take a different approach to 35mm film photography, but both have the ultimate goal of renewing interest in the format.

The two cameras are the Reflex and the Ihagee Elbaflex, and both are manual-focus 35mm single-lens reflex cameras.

Both take radically different approaches with the Reflex representing a blending of today’s app-based photography and the Elbaflex a revival of the traditional 35mm camera.

Both merit a a closer look.

REFLEX

The Reflex seeks an approach that combines current app-based technology with 35mm film.

The Reflex is a full-frame modular camera, something that was tried with some success by a couple of camera makers. The Reflex takes things a step further with interchangeable backs, as well as lens mounts. That’s right – you can mount lenses by changing the lens mount, which is known as the I-Plate.

At the moment, the list includes M42, Nikon F, Olympus OM Canon FD and Pentax K.

It wouldn’t be unexpected for this to possibly expand to other also-defunct lens systems, such as the Konica AR, Minolta MD, Yashica/Contax and possibly the Rolleiflex QBM lenses.

The interesting part about the Reflex is that it can communicate via Bluetooth with your smart device to store information about your photo, such as film speed, aperture and shutter speed.

The interchangeable backs allow for a photographer to preload film in several backs, as well as to change to a new back mid-roll, which might be desirable if you want to switch between high- and low-speed films or color or black and white.

Shutter speeds will run from 1/4,000 to 1 second, plus B and T. The flash synchronization speed is 1/125. There will be full manual exposure, as well as aperture-priority autoexposure.

The Reflex will have two types of build-in light – electronic flash and continuous LED light, similar to the “flashlight” feature that is found on smartphones.

The camera will use manual controls to advance and rewind the film. However, it will have a built-in rechargeable 5-volt battery to power the light controls and other functions.

Photos of the camera that appear on the Kickstarter page show a fairly traditional SLR with one exception: the shutter release is on the front of the camera, just above the self-timer. While some might compare it to the Ihagee Exakta, this placement is more Alpa, because it is a right-handed release.

The company behind this camera is not producing lenses. It will package the camera with one of two lenses that it will refurbish: a Soviet-era f/2.0 58mm Helios-44, or the East German Pentacon f/1.8 50mm.

Currently, the camera is in the prototype stage with just physical models in existence. The team, with funding from the Kickstarter campaign, hopes to use digital-camera parts that exist in the supply chain in its assembly. That should keep costs in check, rather than having to design and manufacture entirely new parts.

Finally, the company hopes that the camera will be environmentally friendly. It has been certified as “Climate Aware,” which includes the use of sustainable materials when feasible.

IHAGEE ELBAFLEX

For those who know the name, Ihagee represents one of the old names in photography with its roots predating 35mm film.

Ihagee is credited with producing the world’s first single-lens reflex cameras, starting in the 1930s, first with 127 roll film and later for the “miniature” 35mm format.

While most associate Ihagee with the Exakta name, the company sold names under the Elbaflex banner following a West German court ruling in 1969.

The new company was formed by a team with deep ties to the film industry, including experts from Leica and lens maker Schneider Kreuznach.

The other part of this venture includes the Arsenal factory in the Ukraine, where 35mm rangefinder, SLRs and medium format cameras were produced under the Kiev name during the Soviet era. Manufacturing will be handled by the Arsenal factory, which was shuttered in late 2009. The Ukraine group will be made up of a team of 20 employees who have “long-time experience in the manufacturing of cameras and lenses.”

Based on information on the new Ihagee website, the Elbaflex will likely use components from the Kiev cameras, but many of the parts will be redesigned and improved. This camera does not have a built-in light meter.

This will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign with information to be released the week of Nov. 12, 2017.

The Ihagee Elbaflex website offers some specifications:

  • Manual 35mm single-lens reflex camera with pentaprism viewing
  • Nikon F lens mount with the ability to use other lens through use of a mount adapter
  • Mechanical shutter with speeds running from 1/500 to 1/2 second plus B
  • Manual film advance
  • Auto-resetting frame counter
  • PC flash synchronization socket (synch speed is 1/60)

While it uses a mechanical shutter, it is not a traditional focal-plane shutter. Ihagee describes it as a "vertical slot closure."

Like all Kickstarter campaigns, there are several pricing packages. Ihagee is working with Meyer-Optik to offer lenses for the Elbaflex. The buyer can choose one of four leather coverings, and the camera has a wooden hand grip made from "dark German oak."

After the Kickstarter campaign ends, the expected retail price for the Elbaflex will be about US$1,500.

Resources

For more about Ihagee’s history, visit these websites:

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.