Voss Diax

Last modified date

Comments: 0

Voss Diax

Cameras in review specs
Diax camera family list
Diax Standard images
Diax Ia images
Diax IIa images
Diax accessories

The city of Ulm in southern Germany sits where two ancient trade routes meet, one following the Danube, flowing from the Swiss Alps to the Black Sea, and the other the Alb Valley route, crossing it at about a right angle towards today’s Stuttgart. Trade route junctions garner merchants, who, in turn, congregate as markets, growing into communities with tradespersons and artisans to provide wares for a self-feeding communities. Such happened when a river stream ended before getting south to York in Upper Canada, so it became a market aptly named Newmarket, which name still holds to this day in Ontario, and the citi of York became Toronto, which is where my humble abode is.

As of the 10th century, the Ulm community became a commercial and industrial hub. Due to its location, it was a lucrative pray for competing powers as an easy income source taxing the passing traffic. It kept growing till WWII, when most of the city was flattened by the Allies. The town was rebuilt and is now an eclectic building style, from Medieval to Renaissance to Bauhouse to modern post-war construction.

The city’s claim to fame consists of two extremes: the tallest church steeple, which miraculously survived the war and being the birthplace of an extreme mind, Albert Einstein.

Walter Voss, a WWII AA gunner on the wrong side, was lucky enough to fall captive at the American hands. As a POW, he was guaranteed three meals a day and a warm corner to bunk, way more than what the millions displaced during that period had. This gave him peace of mind and time to plan a compact camera to compete with the pre-war giants like Leitz and Zeiss. It is odd, as with a background in commerce, he had no technical experience to rely upon.

Nonetheless, two years after the war had ended, he set shop in Ulm due to its industrial reputation. Named Fotokamerafabrikation und Feinmechanik, the company embarked on producing relatively simple yet well-made 35mm cameras.

The company ran for ten years, making about 100,000 Diax cameras, primarily variations of the early model. Besides the cameras, Voss produced as many accessories, mostly attached rangefinders, to complement his and other brands. Midway, it was renamed Diax Kamera Werk.

Diax cameras were sold at the local market, with some exported to the US and UK, and one model made solely for OZ / NZ. Furthermore, Voss offered different lenses for different markets, creating unnecessary logistical difficulty. Moreover, it is puzzling to have a dedicated model for a fraction of the market there, I would assume a smart distributor was involved.

As with many other small camera makers that flourished in the late 1940s, the company could not cope with the change of taste to SLR models, with the East Block mammoth industry flooding the market as a foreign exchange generator and the advancing Japanese makers offering features unseen before.

The Diax cameras are exceptionally well made, solid, advanced, yet simple to use. Willi Kerlkman serenades their quality and its long service life, untypical to him and so far not seen in other models I looked up. The cameras are catalogued as having ten models, but there are perhaps three generations with sub-variants. As with other camera makers of the time, there were endless combinations of lenses and shutters, presumably dictated by tight post-war supplies. Moreover, Voss was confident enough to offer a proprietary lens mount with an array of lens configurations for a meagre 100,000 cameras, which figure includes the fixed lens models.

The first model was a small-run prototype with an Axinon 3.5/40; some come up for sale occasionally.

The first Diax commercial model, offered in 1947, was a simple viewfinder with a fixed lens. Specifications for this and the following models are in the table below. The guides list several Diax variants, which were just different lenses matched with different shutters, so I would lump all under this model’s name.

The Diax I came in 1950, same as the previous model, with a larger viewfinder window.

Diax II of 1951 was a rangefinder, still with a fixed lens. The bottom part was taken from the earlier models, with a new top housing the mirror assembly.

1952 saw the Diax Ia. A viewfinder with an odd removable lens. A M55 thread, reversed mount to the common style. Here the body has the male thread, with a female thread on the lens side. It is peculiar but very easy to use.
Three viewer windows, for 45/50mm, 35mm and 90mm. An added self-timer  activated by pushing the cocking lever on the lens mount a tad further.

In 1953, Diax offered an entry-level model, the Diaxette, as if the market was short of another ‘ette’ named camera. A viewfinder with a fixed lens. The bottom was borrowed from the Diax Ia, and the top from the Diax I. Not many were made, relatively hard to find. There is a difference between cheap and inexpensive models, as high-end manufacturers cannot make cheap products, and vice versa. Bencini will never be able to make a Leica competitor, nor could Leica compete with Bencini on price.

Another low-cost model, the Diax Standard of 1954, meant for Australia and New Zealand, offered a scaled back shutter combined with an interchangeable lens. Essentially, it was a Diax Ia body with a Diaxette top.

The Diax IIa of 1954 was a rangefinder with a dedicated viewer for a telelens. Two rear viewers, one for a 50mm lens rangefinder, the other for a telelens 80/90mm, as at the Diax Ia. The factory converted some units from Ia to IIa, identified with serial numbers beginning with 5 or 6. This model was the most popular of the lot; most cameras offered for sale are the IIa.

Back to the viewfinder with the 1956 Diax Ib, similar to the Ia but with a flat top and a lever winder. Three viewer windows: 35mm, 50mm, 90mm.

The same year saw the Diax IIb, the same as the Ib, again with a flat top and lever winder.

The Diax L-1 of 1957 was the first model to divert from the classic Diax form. A rounded body, styled like most models of the time. It is a fixed-lens viewfinder with an uncoupled selenium meter.

This model was the last of the Diax run. A Diax L-Matic prototype in a rangefinder flavour or coupled meter was in the works, but the company had folded in 1958. It is said that some exemplars pop up for sale.

General notes, at no particular order:

  • The rangefinder and viewfinder bodies are almost identical. On the Rangefinder, a ring at the shutter’s base transfers the movement to the mirror assembly at the top housing.
  • Some early models were offered with ‘Made in Germany US-Zone’ marking.
  • The late models have a leaf spring added to the inner bottom of the back cover, making it easy to remove.
  • Winder cocks the shutter and pulls the film one frame. Not widely found on that generation models.
  • Two cogs on the film path ensure the film moves correctly, not depending on the take-off pivot pull.
  • The take-off pivot is of a nice size, with an easy-to-use groove for the film pilot.
  • An extra shutter cocking lever is mounted above the lens mount, with an actuation lever on the side. I guess it was a standard feature on the third-party sharers used. Both options were redundant here.
  • On the late models, the self-time is cocked by pushing that lever a bit further, not marked on the camera.
  • The lever on the right side of the barrel, either a fin or a green tab, is X/M synch selector.
  • A nice touch is having the same filter size, 40.5mm, for all lenses.
  • The Diax models hold value and are sought after by collectors. Unless abused, most still click and hum, yet being 70 years old.

What I don’t like:

  • The speed selector ring is flush with the lens barrel base, making moving and seeing the gradients difficult. It does not click into position, so in poor light, it can be positioned anywhere.
  • Many screws are brass rather than steel. It is challenging to remount as you need both tweezers and a screwdriver, which is difficult to impossible in tight places. Further, a stubborn screw head would likely damage being softer than the tool used.

.

Voss Diax cameras in review

List number 3304 3305 3308
Brand Diax Diax Diax
Model Diax Standard Diax Ia Diax IIa
Manual Butkus
Value Diax Standard at camdex.ca Diax Ia at camdex.ca Diax IIa at camdex.ca
Format 35mm 35mm 35mm
Introduced 1948 1952 1954
AKA
Country Germany Germany Germany
Qty made
Initial price
Currency
Type Viewfinder Viewfinder Rangefinder
Body material Metal Metal Metal
Mode Manual Manual Manual
Weight 460 gr,  Body only 500 gr,  Body only 460 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 480 gr,  Body only 480 gr,  Body only 480 gr,  Body only
ASA range N/A N/A N/A
Kit lens 3.5/50 3.5/35 2.8/45
Lens make Westar Xenagon Xenar
Filter size 40.5mm 40.5mm 40.5mm
Lens mount Thread Thread Thread
Mount size 55mm 55mm 55mm
Aperture
Shutter Leaf Leaf Leaf
Shutter make Synchro Compur Synchro Compur Synchro Compur
Light meter None None None
Winder Knob Knob Knob
Lock No No No
Speeds B, 1-500 B, 1-500 B, 1-500
Mirror N/A N/A N/A
Viewer Viewfinder Rangefinder / Viewfinder Viewfinder, 3 windows
DOF preview No No No
Exposure lock No No No
Exposure compensation No No No
Shoe Cold Cold Cold
External sync X/M X/M X/M
Sync speed
Timer No No No
Battery, original N/A N/A N/A
Battery, replacement N/A N/A N/A
Battery voltage N/A N/A N/A
Integral flash None N/A None
Other
Service / repair links See camerlog.com
More Foto Historicum
kamera samling
Even more Photoaugenblick
Corso Polaris
Chello
Shutterbug
Leitz Museum
CJ’s Classic Cameras
Camera Collector boards

Photo.net
Collection-appareils
Casual photophile
35 MMC
Rollei List
Hank Kellner

Voss Diax models list

wdt_ID Model Year Type Image Model Lens Windows Shutter Winder Meter Timer Mount Shoe Sync port Notes Details
1 Diax 1947 Viewfinder Diax Heligon 3.5/40, Axinon 3.5/40, Xenar 2.8/45, Trinar 3.5/45, Culminar 2.8/42 1 Compur Rapid, Synchro Compur B, 1-1/500 Knob None Fixed Cold X/M on late models More details
2 Diax I 1950 Viewfinder Diax I Xenar 2.8/45, Xenon 2.0/45, Heligon 2.0/45 1 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Knob None Fixed Cold X/M Larger finder than the early models. More details
3 Diax II 1951 Rangefinder Diax II Heligon 2.0/45, Xenar 2.8/45, Xenon 2.0/45 2 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Knob None Fixed Cold X/M As the Diax I, with rangefinder top housing. More details
4 Diax Ia 1952 Viewfinder Diax Ia Xenar 2.8/45, Cassar 2.8/45, Westar 3.5/50, Xenon 2.8/45, Diaxar 3.5/50 3 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Knob None Yes M55 Cold X/M on late models Some Diax Ia were transformed in Diax IIa adding rangefinder top. Removable lens 3 viewfinder windows. Self timer activated by pushing the cocking lever on lens barrel a bit forward. Three viewer windows, for 45/50mm, 35mm and 90mm. More details
5 Diaxette 1953 Viewfinder Diaxette Cassar 2.8/45, Westar 3.5/50 1 Pronto, Prontor, Prontor S, Vario B, 1-200 Knob None No Fixed Cold X/M Low-cost export model. Fixed lens, several shutter configurations. Bottm borrowed from the Diax Ia, top from the Diax I. More details
6 Diax Standard 1954 Viewfinder Diax Standard Westar 2.8/45, Westar 3.5/50 1 Pronto B, 25-200 Knob None No Interchangable Cold X/M Diax 1 body with Diaxette top, but interchangeable lenses, sold in Australia and New Zealand More details
7 Diax IIa 1954 Rangefinder + viewfinder Diax Iia Xenon 2.0/50, Xenar 2.8/50 Isconar 3.5/50 3 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Knob None Yes New interchangable lens which ?? Breech lock?? Cold X/M Two rear viewers, one for a 50mm lens rangefinder, the other for a tele lens 80/90mm. Similar to the Diax Ia. Some units were converted by the factory from Ia to IIa; serial numbers begin with 5 or 6. More details
8 Diax Ib 1956 Viewfinder Diax Ib Xenon 2.0/50, Xenar 2.8/50, Isconar 3.5/50, Westar 3.5/50 3 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Lever None Yes Rotated 90 deg? Cold X/M As the Ia but with a lever winder. Three viewers: 35mm, 50mm, 90mm. More details
9 Diax IIb 1956 Viewfinder Diax IIb Xenon 2.0/50, Xenar 2.8/50, Isconar 3.5/50, Westar 3.5/50 3 Compur Rapid Synchro, Compur B, 1-1/500 Lever None Yes Rotated 90 deg? Cold X/M As the Diax Ib, but with a lever winder. More details
10 Diax L-1 1957 Viewfinder Diax L-1 Trinar 2.8/45 1 Compur Rapid B, 1-500 Lever Uncoupled Selenium Yes Fixed Cold X/M Uncoupled selenium meter, front-mounted trigger, hinged back, self-reset frame counter. More details

.

Voss Diax Standard images

   

Voss Diax Ia images

Voss Diax IIa images

  

Diax accessories

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment