The Exakta is an advanced camera made by a Dutch owned factory named Ihagee Kamerawerk located in Germany in 1936, just before world war 2. That sentence right there says a lot about its history all by itself. There were a series of 8 versions throughout its production. The Exaktas continued to be produced even under the USSR.
The Exakta VX1000 came out in 1966 in Dresden and ended production in 1970. Like a lot of German cameras, they were well made and expensive, even back then. The line had so many accessories compatible with all bodies in the series that Ihagee knew they could convince consumers to invest, so to speak, in their system as a one stop shop for all their photographic needs.
The VX1000 was more modern than its predecessor, not only in its design but in its features. Especially with the added self-return mirror. The viewfinders are interchangeable. Even with these modern advancements within the Exakta line itself, it still wasn’t enough. The VX1000 was a last-ditch effort for a failing brand to bring their SLR up to speed with the competition.
This camera is set up for left handed shooters. The advance lever is on the left and that of course means you also load the film to the left.
The shutter speeds go from 1/1000th of a second to 1/30th of a second on the left hand dial as well as B and T. On the large dial on the right side of the top plate is the self timer/slow speed dial for speeds below 1/30th all the way to a whopping 12 seconds. There is also an ISO reminder dial set within this multi function wheel.
The cloth shutter is released by a small button directly on the front of the camera on the left hand side. There is a latch just above the shutter release that when closed down, locks the shutter.
Some of the lenses have a shutter button built onto it like this one. The shutter button on the lens also acts as a depth of field checker by lightly pressing it while looking through the viewfinder. In order to use a cable release, you may need to adjust the crown on the lens located around the shutter release button.
I have the Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f/2 lens on this camera. Exakta didn’t make their own brand lenses, but there are many great quality lenses like this one compatible with this line. Zeiss lenses are known for their high quality. This adds to the appeal for this camera.
Judging by the Ihagee Dresden name on the top plate, this may be an earlier model since that was later removed and changed to Aus Dresden after the original owner of the name moved its company to the Netherlands and won its name back in court.
The film cutter inside the camera could come in handy if you’re wanting to shoot a few shots and then cut them out for immediate processing. I kind of like this idea especially if you’re experimenting with different developers or if you don’t want to wait for 36 frames before you can develop photos you need right away. I have wasted a lot of frames in order to hurry up and process a roll. This also allows you to change films mid-roll.
When I first received the camera in the mail from Mike Eckman, I was so excited. He remembered me mentioning that I have always wanted one, but wasn’t sure which one was best for me. He said he chose to lend this one to me because it is in working order, and it is a little more modern in features than his older models. He said he wanted me to have a better example of what a good Exakta is.
I first saw an Exakta on the movie Rear Window with James Stewart, and I fell in love with the look of it. As you know if you’ve been following me, I am a sucker for the vintage mechanical cameras.
I have to admit though, when I ran my first couple of rolls through this camera I was turned off. It was difficult to get used to the left handed aspect even though I am left handed! That surprised me. The advance lever is uneasy. I have seen in my research that this model had a shorter lever than previous models and this does make it feel somewhat odd, but for me it actually felt too long. This caused me to run into trouble with overlapping frames.
All of that being said, this camera is probably the most unique and interesting one I have experienced so far, and that is saying a lot. The way it is held in the left hand with the middle finger propping up the lens, while the index finger presses the shutter release. The film cutter in the back and the very intricate slow shutter speed dial. Everything about this camera is so interesting to me. Anyone who loves mechanical cameras would love this camera.
As time went on and the more I learned about this camera, the deeper my understanding became, the more I started to just be in awe of this machine. Disclaimer though, it does take quite a while to get used to.
As I usually do in my reviews, I put the camera through all sorts of tests.
I sat it on a tripod and tried out the slow shutter dial with still life. This was a bit of a nightmare. To use the speeds under 1/30th of a second, you have to wind the large wheel on the top right of the camera until it’s tight. Then, you have to lift the outer rim on the wheel and turn it to your desired speed before taking the picture. The red figures are delayed speeds, and the smaller numbers are regular long shutter speeds. After you take the shot, before advancing, you have to reset the dial by holding the rim up and let it unwind before you do it all over again for the next one.
I used a cable release and attached it to the shutter on the lens. It would work only on some shots. The plunger wasn’t short so I didn’t think I needed to adjust the crown. That probably was my mistake, but I didn’t want to adjust it since it is not my camera. In the end, I was so frustrated I stopped.
My favorite experience with this camera was at the beach taking regular snapshots.
I hadn’t been to the beach in a very long time, and after a doctors appointment nearby, we decided to stop there. It was so refreshing after being locked up for so long, even before Covid due to my health.
I used my handheld Sekonic meter. The sun was low, so I knew the contrast would be high and it would be difficult to meter correctly.
I think Kodak Gold really lends itself to the subject of the beach. I was afraid the lower ISO wouldn’t handle the shifting light of the sunset, and it did add some grain, but I think it really gave a vintage feel to these shots. To me, these are reminiscent of the typical 1960’s snapshots we all saw growing up from our parents.
Then I tried it out from the car. As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I tend to take my pictures from the car on the way to and from doctors appointments.
Surprisingly, I did get some quick shots. This camera is a little bit too complicated for this kind of photography, but I did get some nice pics.
I also tried the camera handheld in low light.
I even tested out the film cutter. I cut the film off after many shots of a roll of Kodak TX 400. I placed the camera inside of a changing bag and removed the film. Then, I directly spooled it onto the reel and into my light tight tank to be developed. It’s a nice feature to have if you’re under time constraints, and need to change films mid roll, but I can’t say it’s one I would use often.
In the end, I don’t think I would call the Exakta VX1000 a left hander’s dream. In fact even though I am left handed, I would much more have preferred it to be set up for a right handed person, but I will say, that may just be because I am so used to cameras being made for a right hander. In fact, after a while, I got so used to it that I found myself using my left hand with other cameras.
While this camera was beautifully frustrating, and yet intricately genius, I would recommend it more as a collectors item. A piece of history. I don’t know that I would recommend it as an everyday shooter.
Watch my video below to see more of my experience. Let me know in the comments if you are left handed and if you are uncomfortable using cameras that seem to be created for a right hander.