Leidolf Lordox, Optina, Lordette
The city of Wetzlar is the Jerusalem of the camera industry, the birthplace of the most revered name in the trade, Leica. Minox moved there from Riga, and the Leidolf company was born there, as were two other minor camera makers, Kurt Kuhmn and Oheler.
The Leidolf factory was established in 1921, making lenses and associated optical equipment. As with other entrepreneurs, they saw the opportunity in post-war Germany, where cameras were in demand for the occupying GIs, and later as a foreign exchange earner for the starved economy. The first model Leidolf made was the Leidox viewfinder, an under-estimated, beautifully styled and well-made camera. Also sold as Leidax, it was followed by the Leidox Ia, Leidox II and Leidox IIS versions with minor updates.
At the time, the 127 format was standard, but Agfa developed a more straightforward format as the Karat, and so did Nagel, later Kodak, as the 135. So, Leidolf took the Leidox with its taciturn top and added a rewind knob, a frame counter, a rewind release lever, and a 35mm camera came to be. Ah, some changes inside as well.
As of 1952, this camera was sold under three names: Lordox, Lordette and Optina, not to be confused with the Apparate und Kamerabau Optina, which has nothing to do with it. I am unsure why the Lordette, as the ‘tte’ suffix, was used at the time for a step-down model. The Optina was the US model. The three models were almost identical, save for shutter and lens combinations and the existence/absence of self-timer and synch options. See the table below.
Leidolf progressed to better-equipped cameras, perhaps to compete with its mighty neighbour. No other model retained the beauty and class of the Lordox; most look cluttered. I have no appetite for the later models, so I cannot offer a first-hand opinion. Leidolf did not branch away from the monoblock viewfinder/rangefinder styles, and production ended in 1962 when the company changed hands.
Leidolf sold locally through Widina, in the US via Unimark and Montgomery Ward with several ‘Adams’ models. In France, they sold through Coufin, using the ‘Malik’ model names.
Today, to the collectors, the Lidolf models are meaningless. The most expensive models are the late Lordomat models, which sell for over US$ 100. To grace the shelf, I would pick the models shown here: well designed, well made, and are reasonably priced. A model truly representing the early 1950s German camera industry.
The camera is well-proportioned, made in clean lines and perfectly finished. The two I have look like they just came off the store shelf, not a blemish, rust or peeling skin.
The viewer is smallish, and the barrel-mounted cocking lever shows through it if not cocked. It was probably made like that on purpose. The speeds offering is modest, as is the lens. All that was common for compatible models of the era. All the settings are clustered on the lens barrel, well-positioned and easy to reach.
Good to know:
- Winder does not cock the shutter. It is done by the lever on the lens barrel at 12 hrs.
- The cog on the film pathway needs turning to engage the top trigger. Meaning that if there is no film, the trigger will not move. I guess it is so to eliminate double-takes. If you insist on firing without film, use the bypass shutter release on the barrel at 8 hrs. See last image.
- The self-timer is marked ‘V’ on the synch lever.
- To remove the back, turn the lugs on both sides.
- To rewind, pull back the crescent lever by the winder knob. See last image.
- The dial on top, which looks like a speed selector on other cameras, is the frame counter.
|Value||Lordox at camdex.ca||Optina at camdex.ca||Lordette at camdex.ca|
|Weight||460 gr, Body with lens||450 gr, Body with lens||450 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||480 gr, Body with lens|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Shutter make||Prontor SVS, Prontor SV||Vero||Vero|
|Speeds||B, 1-300||B, 1-200||B, 1-200|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|
|More||Old camera blog
CJS classic cameras