Time to round up my reports on the three vintage cameras I acquired before anyone gives me any more. The final of the three is the Werra I, a fixed lens compact 35mm camera with an unusual design. It’s a fully manual camera, but the only control on the top plate is a shutter release. The frame number indicator is on the bottom plate, and everything else is on the lens barrel. Now obviously I’m used to aperture and focus being on the lens, and even shutter speed when the shutter is in the lens, but film advance is a new one. To wind on you twist the base of the lens – it is quite a smooth motion but not being used to it, I found it ergonomically awkward. I guess the idea is that you keep hold of the lens with your left hand and keep the right hand on the shutter, and then as you shoot just twist the camera. If I used it enough I could probably get used to it, but compared to all my other cameras it feels a bit odd, and with the frame counter on the bottom plate even more awkward.
Like the Yashica the shutter was initially very sticky – gummed up with years of inactivity. Opening the back I found I could get at the blades, although it has a complicated double shutter arrangement, which was quite a bit of work to get working again. Indeed, the first film I ran through came out of the developing tank dishearteningly blank after the shutter had seized again. A bit more work however and it seemed reliable enough to try again. But why go to all the effort for a manual compact with no focusing aids or even a built in meter?
Well, the reason I was so keen is that the lens is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8. Zeiss is a pretty highly regarded name in the optical world, and I’ve rarely seen the output from a Zeiss lens look shoddy, but I’ve never actually used one myself. The Tessar is a classic, tried and tested, lens design known for excellent performance at a reasonable cost, the only downside really being the relatively slow maximum aperture of 2.8. So after all the effort cleaning the shutter, what have we got?
Well, apparently my distance estimation is getting better, as I seem to have focused on what I wanted. And what is in focus is pretty damn sharp. I think you can really see where the Tessar got it’s reputation, and not only is it sharp, it’s got lovely contrast and tones too. The out-of-focus areas are very smooth and thanks to the compact design, like the Agifold, it has a gorgeous swirly effect under the right conditions.
So, again like the Yashica, if I can clean up the shutter enough to be properly reliable, I can certainly see myself using this odd looking camera more.