Apparate und Kamerabau Arette
Arette IB / Optina IB
Apparate & Kamerabau, German for machinery and camera works, short as AkA, was established in Germany in 1946 by two brothers, one worked in the camera industry, and the other came from a business background. Their first venture was a shutter assembly mounted in a 35mm format camera, the Akarette, a distinct-looking model with a hump housing the viewer. At first, it used a 24x32mm image size, and as the 36mm size had gained popularity, they changed it to match.
In 1949, they moved From the initial plant in Schwarzwald to new premises, set in Friedrichshafen on beautiful Lake Constance, a stone’s throw from the Swiss and Austrian border. That was by the Dornier aircraft plant, apparently to draw upon qualified employees from the aircraft industry whose future was unclear in the post-war years. Here, the Akarette gained momentum as a high-quality camera at a modest price compared to the market leaders. Key selling of the Akarette was the interchangeable lens feature, which was not widely offered by others other than the top makers. The models evolved into further Akarette models till a lower-end model came in, the Akarelle line. A rangefinder line under Akarex followed.
The mass market models have arrived under the Arette models, which were wisely designed with a standard body and mechanism, as follows:
- Arette IA, a viewfinder, had two versions: first, a center viewer, and later a side viewer.
- Arette IB, a viewfinder with a lightmeter
- Arette IC, a rangefinder
- Arette ID, a rangefinder with lightmeter
Export markets had these models under Optina in Canada by the now defunct Eatons stores and Akarex 700 and Akarex 700 L in the US.
The Arette ad further evolved, where the Ia morphed into A, the Ib to BN, the C, and the Id became the Dn. An Arette automatic S came in 1958. See a complete Arette model list below.
Harmony between brothers did not last long. One brother left for Feinwerktechnik, makers of the MEC 16 and the other who retained the factory had changed its name to Apparate und Kamerawerk, marked as cursive akw.
The market heated up with dumping pricing from the East Block and the aggressive Japanese makers, so akw looked at Foto Quelle as a distributor under the Revue brand. Foto Quelle wanted it on the cheap, so it did not last long, and the company finally folded in 1960. Also, shying away from up-and-coming SLR models might have contributed to their demise.
The Arette models share a common midriff with different top and bottom covers. The Arette I A had two versions, the early model with a centred viewer and later with an offset viewer, to accommodate the light-meter lens beside it. See images for detailed views. The Arette B also had two versions, differing by the top fascia.
The models had several lenses and shutter combinations, and I am unsure if they were for different markets or forced upon them for supply chain constraints.
The cameras are compact and easy to hold, although on the heavy side, offering a good purchase of the dials. The viewer is on the small side, with parallax marks. Lens and speed offerings are modest but sufficient for the occasional shooter. Style is typical to the era viewfinders, with or without meters. Today, most of the models are cheap to get, but being well made, they should function for days to come. The Canadian version, the Optina IB shown here, Is identical to the Arette IB, was sold in fewer numbers, so it would fetch a higher price in the used market.
Not to be confused with Leidolf Optina or Agfa Optima.
Good to know:
- The takeoff mandrel is thin, with a slot for the film pilot end.
- Opening back takes, pulling together the two tabs at the side.
- To rewind, push aside the small fin by the rewind knob base, and the rewind knob will pop up.
- The exposure counter dial, as is the winding lever, is at the bottom.
- Self timer is marked V, on the synch lever.
- Pull out the small tab at the bottom, under the lens to stop the camera from falling on its nose.
- Media reminder is in the window by the film speed dial.
- Unlike most 35mm cameras, where the cogs in the film track are freewheeling, here the cogs are driven by the winder, so there is no strain on the film.
- The film speed setting dial is at the bottom, by the frame counter.
- Using the metre is simple: set the film speed and follow the needle EV settings for the shutter and aperture values.
|Brand||Apparate und Kamerabau|
|Model||Arette I B||Arette I A Offset VF|
|Value at camdex.ca||Arette I B
Optina I B
Arette I C
Arette I D
|Arette IA, centre viewer
Arette IA, offset viewer
|AKA||Optina I B|
|Initial price||168-222, depends on the shutter/lens combination.|
|Mode||Manual, meter assist||Manual|
|Weight||550 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||480 gr, Body with lens|
|ASA range||25-200||10-600, memo only|
|Lens make||Westar, Isconar, Xenar, Ennit|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Shutter make||Pronto, Prontor SVS, Vario|
|Light meter||Selenium, uncoupled||None|
|Winder||Lever||Lever, bottom mounted|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|
Arette models full list
|Arette IA,||1956||Viewfinder||No||Centre finder|
|Arette IA||1959||Viewfinder||No||Side finder||Optina IA|
|Arette I B||1956||Viewfinder||Yes||Optina I B|
|Arette I C||1957||Rangefinder||Yes||Optina IC|
|Arette I D||1957||Rangefinder||Yes||Optina ID|
|Arette Bw||1958||Viewfinder||Yes||Side meter|
|Arette Bw||1959||Viewfinder||Yes||Centre meter|
|Arette I DN||1958||Rangefinder||Yes|
|Arette W||1958||Viewfinder||No||akw model|
|Arette Automatic S||1959||Viewfinder||Yes||Arette Automatic SLK|
|Arette Automatic SE||1959||Rangefinder||Yes||Arette Automatic SR|
|Arette P||1959||Viewfinder||No||akw model|
|Arette Super P||1959||Viewfinder||No||akw model|
Arette IB / Optina IB