Sunday, September 18, 2011

Modern Photography Review: Edixa-Mat C, 12/1961

OCR scan of original magazine article. Provided here as a source of vintage product information and entertainment for camera collecting. Modern Photography magazine has long since ceased to exist. If any copyright holders can be found to object, I will remove this entry from my blog.


Manufacturer's specifications: Edixa-mat C 35mm eye-level single-lens reflex. Lens: 50mm f/1.9 Xenon with stops to f/22, focusing to 1-3/4 ft. Shutter: Cloth focal-plane with speeds from 1- 1/1000 sec. plus B, FPX sync. Viewing: Interchangeable eye-level prism finder with ground-glass screen and split-prism rangefinder. Other features: Built-in exposure meter; internal automatic, instant-return diaphragm; rapid return mirror; depth-of-field previewer; manual reset frame counter; shutter release safety lock. Price: $299.50. Importer: Edixa Camera Co., 10 S. Second Ave., Mt. Vernon, New York.

The Edixa-mat body is basically the same as that of the Edixa Reflex, which was reported in the August 1958 "Modern Tests." The main differences are that the newer camera has a rapid-return mirror in addition to the fully automatic diaphragm, it has a different standard lens, and it costs about $30 less. The Edixa-mat comes in three versions: the B is the basic model, the C has an improved built-in exposure meter, and the D has an adjustable self-timer. 

Mechanically, the camera operates smoothly and easily. The rapid wind lever with its 180-degree throw is among the sweetest-moving we've handled, and the front shutter release is among the most sensitive. Of course, since the body does remain much the same as that of the Edixa Reflex, there's still a rewind knob instead of a rapid lever, and there are two setting dials, fast- and slow-range, for the non-linear shutter speeds. 

What we said of the Edixa Reflex' finder image applies just as well to that of the Edixa-mat: It "was exceedingly bright and had no fall-off of sharpness or brightness at the image corners. The centrally located split-image rangefinder worked clearly with both halves of the image moving out of alignment when the camera was out of focus." In addition, the Edixa-mat features a flag that appears in the finder to warn you when the shutter is not cocked. 

The exposure meter offers a dual brightness range, with a hinged baffle over the meter window that is raised or lowered accordingly. The meter proved to give sensitive and accurate readings in a low-light level requiring the equivalent of f/2.8 at 1/50 sec. with E.I. 400. 

Our tests of the 50mm f/1.9 Xenon lens showed that central sharpness was good at f/1.9 with much fall-off at the edges. Between f/4 and f/5.6 sharpness was very good with some fall-off in the corners. Overall sharpness decreased slightly at smaller apertures. 

Some of the corner sharpness fall-off found with this lens is caused by curvature of field. At all but moderately close focusing distances this effect is slight.-W.H.J.

It was crap then, it's crap now: the truth about some vintage equipment

In the golden-age of mechanical-chemical photography (1950-1980, IMHO) there were a staggering number of companies from around the globe offering thousands of products. Amateurs and pros had their pick from inexpensive box-type cameras like an Instamatic to complex 4x5 sheet film cameras like Sinars. Gadgets ruled the day, each one promising a more efficient, more fun photo experience for the shooter.

But along with fabulous products from venerable firms there were many cameras and lenses of dubious origin and engineering quality. As our popular culture has erased all but the dimmest of memories of chemical photography from the landscape, there is a tendency to believe that everything that was available back then was pretty good. I've seen this from writings by young folk who are new to film photography. I've read great praise for junk we wouldn't have used as doorstops a few decades back.

Popular but poorly-built Vivitar 220SL
Maybe this feeling has also arisen from the dearth of photo product variety today. The digital equipment offered now is generally all well-made. It should be, most of it originates in the same few Chinese factories which rely on the same sub-vendors and the products are simply rebranded for sale by the few remaining camera manufacturers or distributors. So, if we don't see dramatic differences between brands now, we assume it must have been the same back in the day. Nope. Not even close.

Here's my growing list of crappy equipment and lines from the past. I'll give a short reason why it's on the list. It's important to note that I consider some crappy equipment collectible due to a unique industrial design or for a significant role the equipment played in photo technology development.

Please feel free to tell me about any items you'd like to see added to the list and why. I'll add them to the list if I agree. Hey, it's my blog.


  1. Any camera built for Kodak Disc Film technology. OK, that's an easy first hit. Name me one model made by any brand you think you'd have used for an important image.
  2. Petri brand SLRs. Any of them. So-so optics, very poor mechanical reliability, abysmal fit and finish.
  3. Crappy third-party lens makers or importers/distributors: Accura, Admiral, Aetna, Astragon, Bushnell, Focal, Hanimar, Hanimex, J. C. Penny, Kaligar, Kalimar, Lentar, Makina, Makinon, Montgomery Ward, Prinz, Promaster, Revuenon, Rexar/Rexatar, Rokunar, Sears, Spiratone, Starblitz, Sun, Super Albinar, Vemar (oh, yeah, there are many others). Yes, a few lenses stood out, but by and large, these were made for price-point in the market. Some were optically good but mechanically delicate. Collect what you like (obviously) but if you're going to spend money shooting film with old lenses nowadays, stick with the better lines: Vivitar, Soligor, Tamron, Sigma, and Kiron.
  4. Kowa 35mm SLRs. Any of them. Fragile, flimsy, funky. (But collectible for those reasons)
  5. Samoca. Collectible but not usable.
  6. Any Kalimar camera, 35mm, 6x6 or other. Made by many different sub-quality sub-contractors
  7. Vivitar 220/250/420/450 SL cameras. Screwthread mount cameras built in millions by Cosina in the mid-1970's. Really bad, slow 50mm F2.8 (2.8!) lens that's unable to out-resolve a Coke bottle lens. Mostly empty camera insides makes for loud operation when they do work.
  8. Optika, an odd roll film reflex. Collectible and loveable due to oddity. Hard to love for operation.
Oh, there are plenty more to come. This is a random start, now give me your suggestions.

Need better data on vintage cameras? Take a look at vintage photo ads.

Long ago, a friend of my dad's found out I was interested in photography. He was an avid snap-shooter, armed with an enormous Rolleiflex and flashbulbs that was ever the ready to capture whatever he and his wife were doing; no matter how commonplace. As he aged, he decided to rid himself of some items he no longer used or could use. The Rollei went to family (as it should). He presented me with a dozen or so old Modern Photography and Popular Photography magazines from the early 1960's. I couldn't have been more pleased (unless it had been the Rollei).

I poured over those publications, enjoying viewing a window on the state of the industry from 'way back. It was fun to read about what the editors of those magazines had to say about upcoming new photo technologies and trends in photography. Most were fairly accurate, but many were wildly wrong. I still have the magazines, fraying and finger-soiled from much consultation over the years.

The ads from the various companies were great. I like them most. The bulk of them were not done by leading marketing professionals. Profits on camera equipment were slim even then. Big corporate dogs like Kodak, Nikon, Polaroid and Canon had very creative ad insertions, but the rest, um, not so much. In the back pages, there were scads of ad pages for discount photo equipment suppliers. Set in tiny type with blurred line art of camera models, these pages reportedly paid for the printing run of the magazines each month. Nearly all of those companies were located in about a ten-block radius in New York City. No internet, you either called long-distance (not likely) or mailed in your check. How trusting folks were then. (sigh)

Now as I crawl about thrift stores and antique shops in my quest to add more cameras to my collection, I'm always looking for older National Geographic magazines and vintage photo magazines. Partly because I like seeing the old ads, but also because of the important data they store.

Nothing beats information direct from those who actually made the product. I've often seen errors from other collectors regarding specifications. I've made a few myself. The magazine ads help fix a time when the collectible item was available, as well as offer indisputable proof as to what features a camera did or didn't have.

I do not know, but have a feeling there are those of you out there who might collect the ads themselves. I hope so. With so much of the world of chemical photography ending up recycled or tossed-out forever, I think it's important that good information sources should survive. Ads are just one facet of that need.

Here are some ads I happen to like for my own reasons. I hope you enjoy them as well. I'll post some further examples again, stop back and take a look.

A glimpse of  1940's culture.
Wonderful line art was often made.

One of many celebrity endorsements.

List price information.

Nikon product chronology from Nikon.