Ihagee Exa IIb
Camera makers carry a high-end line, always kept at technology cutting edge and a secondary, cheaper line aimed at the mass market and for grooming first-time users towards the costlier models, Just as Toyota grooms young Corolla drivers for the Lexus brand.
For some reason, the camera universe uses the suffix ‘ette’ for the cub models. There are Novelette, Baldalette, Baldinette, Adoxette, Kristallette, Juniorette, Korolette and Primarette, and this is just to the letter ‘B’ on the brands’ list. Oddly, this suffix appears in 655 camera model names in my database.
Ihagee being Ihagee, looked at this convention and has done the opposite. Instead of adding a diminutive suffix, they shortened the Exakta name to become das fräulein Exa, young, fresh and uncomplicated.
1952 saw the first model. A low-end, cheaper model under the Exakta fame. Slightly smaller and lighter than the Exakta, with different technology but using the same optical viewers and lens ecosystem. Still a lefty, with a high forehead, it retained the trapezoid shape, but while the Exakta was flat on the back and protruding at the front, here it was reversed.
To do away with the Exakta’s notorious complexity, Ihagee offered a no-frills model in features and price. A very different, unorthodox shutter system, where the mirror doubles as the shutter, offered a few speeds only: B, 25-150. The speed selector earned its nickname – gearshift, resembling the manual column mount gear lever handle on cars of the 1950s, at least on the American models.
1961 followed with a facelift model, tailed a year later with the Exa I, with a slightly different, rounded body shape. It still has the same shutter system as its predecessor. Exa Ia and Ib followed with minor changes, with an optional 42mm lens mount. These models were made till the mid-1970s.
Ex II of 1959, sold at the same time as the earlier models, parted from the combined shutter and offered a vertical cloth focal plane shutter, not a small feat for the small body. Also gone are the interchangeable viewers, now offered only with an eye-level prism. An IIa followed with the usual cosmetic changes, and the 1965 Exa IIb had introduced an instant return mirror, a full two years before that feature was included in its senior sister, the Exakta VX 1000.
The Ihagee Dresden plant was awash with orders for the Exas, so the mandarins in Pentacon assigned production to a typewriter factory under the Rheinmetall brand. The evolution from typewriters to cameras wasn’t overly successful. Products under the Rheinmetall name were plagued with quality issues, so production was assigned to the local market. This speaks volumes about Rheinmetall’s ability in an industry where three out of four cameras made were exported as a foreign exchange generator. Rheinmetall made some other Pentacon sub-brands but was not a significant player. Further, some Exa cameras were also made in the Certo Plant, marked with a ‘C’ in front of the serial number.
The last Exa model was the 1966 Exa 500, still a redressed Exa IIb variant, also offered as the elusive export-only VX 200.
There are several attempts to catalogue the Exa models, where classification suggestions do not always overlap.
Being always considered as second best, made by Ihagee or others, the Exa models gained a negative quality reputation. Not many Exa units survived in operational conditions. If you find a working one, keep it. Of the million units made, quality is known to deteriorate where the later models manufacturing standards and quality controls suffered, perhaps a Pentacon issue.
The Exa II b on my desk is a truly confusing Ihagee, requiring a manual to make sense. Not to be undone, the manual is odd, with pearls like “Friction drive dog of the rapid wind lever.”
- The film rewind release is where others position the shutter trigger.
- A shutter release lock is the small lever at the back, an unlikely location.
- The shutter speeds selector dial is on the top left, around the rewind lever.
- On that dial, a flash sync selector via a red dot takes pointing to either of two icons, electronic or bulb.
- The film memo dial is around the frame counter dial within the winder lever hub. White lettering figures for daylight film, red for artificial light. Further, ‘C’ is for slides and ‘NC’ is for negatives. There are values for ASA and DIN, so it is pretty busy. Guess all obsolete by now.
- For ‘T’, just in case, it takes setting to ‘B’ and locking it in place with the trigger release lever (on the back)
- The Exa can use either ‘auto’ lens that stops down to a preset set f stop or a with a manual lens. See manual page 18
|675 gr, Body only
|Class average weight
|615 gr, Body only
|Focal plane vertical cloth
|B, 2-250. T with trigger lock
|Service / repair links
|Photo but more
Zeiss Ikon web