Every article about the Wirgin company begins with four German Jews, the Wirgin brothers, that fled the country once the Nazi party came to power, and when the war was over, they came back and got it again.
I wonder. Wirgin, pronounced Virgin in German, is not a common Jewish name. Further, four Jewish brothers would be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant and perhaps a rabbi, for sure not making cameras. And before you sharpen your pencils to scold me, please hold; I belong to the tribe, so it’s healthy to smile, especially these days.
The Wirgin brothers began making cameras in the 1920s, with several glass plate folders. Two box models using 120 followed. A Monoblock 127 viewfinder camera, the Gewirette / Klein Edinex / Midget marvel, all name variants of the same camera, introduced in 1930.
The Gewirette got a facelift in 1935 with a very similar young sister, the Edinex, now catalogued as the Edinex 0. The main change here was using the newly introduced 35mm cartridge format, developed by Nagel and backed by the omnipresent Kodak.
Nothing was good in those years. Germany was going through an economic crisis, recuperating from the devastating aftermath of WWI. In 1933, two years before the Edinex introduction, the Nazi party came to power and, as fashionable as ever, blamed the Jews for the country’s vows and the loss of the empire. My grandfather, who fought for the Keiser in WWI, took his wife and son and, with just the shirts on their backs, rushed to the Land of Israel. Clio’s sense of humour saw my father join the British army to fight against his birth nation.
In 1938 the Nazis revved their war engines, announcing compulsory conscription, military re-armament and reinstating the Luftwaffe, well against the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. That was bad enough for the world, but the Jews had one more: the Nuremberg Laws revoked their citizenship and barred them from all professions and trades, disallowed them to hold any properties or assets, and forbade Aryans from dealing with them. The Kristallnacht was a clear and loud message for those who still hoped for normalcy, and the Lebensborn law just underlined it.
In the very same year, the Nazis annexed Austria, and a short year after, WWII was a reality.
The only good thing that came out of this year is Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suite No.2 in C Minor, made famous as the first waltz in the War and Peace movie and further immortalized by André Rieu. But you cannot fight evil with music.
At this time, the Wirgin brothers came to their senses and promptly escaped for a safe haven. By the Nurenberg laws, they were forced to divest all their assets. Adox, a camera maker closely associated with Wirgin, took over. The Edinex was renamed Adrette; otherwise, unchanged. I see some Wirgin models dated 1939 – 1940, but I don’t think anybody had the mind or time to make or buy cameras then.
It is not clear how the brothers got back the company and what was there to recuperate after German industrial infrastructure was crashed into dust, but I guess the Marshal Plan was part of this revival as well. Fast forward to 1948, when more Wirgin models began to appear. The old-style Edinex came back accompanied by a line of fresh-looking viewfinders and stereo cameras, and from 1954 onward, endless highly regarded compact SLR models. My list counts 93 SLR models of that period, which is a nice comeback.
Post-war Wirgin cameras were sold via European and US distributors, whereas in the 1990s, Prost was selling cheap point-and-shoot Edixa models. Porst may have bought the brand after the original company’s demise.
The Edinex is a compact viewfinder with distinctive looks. Not many compact bodies were available then, so it was a trailblazer. The Edinex was sold before and after the war with several lens and shutter combinations. While selling this model, Wirgin added a variant with a top trigger and another with a fixed lens. These models were sold parallel to the base model under the same Edinex name.
1949 saw a second Edinex model, described below, confusingly marked Wirgin, Edinex, Edinex I, Edinex II, Midget Marvel (again), Candid Midget, Edinex S and Edinex Synchro. This model has a body similar to the early model, with an embedded viewer, top-mounted trigger and standard accessory shoe. Different backs, shutter and lens combination adds to the confusion.
The Edinex III, a 1951 rangefinder, still retained the same body style but was made to that time available technology. The Edinex IIIS, which did not change much, followed a year later and was the last of the Edinex legacy.
For the collector, these models should have a place of honour on the shelf. Most are inexpensive, although not always in working order. It is unimportant, but the metal parts were finished in two hues: natural chrome and pinkish.
Top of the camera
- Two equally sized wind and rewind knobs at each side, a nice design touch.
- For rewind, a disk by the winder, marked ‘R’ with an arrow, releases the cogs in the film path.
- A square viewer tube looks as if installed as an afterthought, with a tiny view window.
- A pillbox-style accessory mount. It was replaced on later runs of this model with an ordinary accessory shoe.
- Frame counter on top, manual reset.
- To enable a double exposure, a slight turn anticlockwise of a disk by the rewind knob will release the trigger. Seems double exposure was a big thing at the time.
- The bottom plate is removed with a fold-down handle, marked ‘A’ for ‘Auf’/open; and ‘Z’ for ‘Zu’/close.
- There is no integral takeoff spool; the user needs to provide one.
At the back
- A trap door opens by a fin on the right jamb. It allows access to the film path to assist with the film loading, which must have been a pain. A pressure plate is mounted on the inner door side.
- The lens is pulled out by two flaps and locks in place with a slight right turn.
- The focusing ring at the base, by the body, is marked on both units I have.
- An imposing shutter assembly is at the front end. Cocking arm on top, shutter release at 7 o’clock, self-timer arm at 4 o’clock.
- The aperture setting is via a fingernail-sized fin on top of the assembly. If moved towards the smallest opening, the fin hides behind the pull tab.
- Shutter speed marks are on the front of the assembly, with a dial around it and a minuscule red chevron position mark.
Edinex I / II
Similar to the early model, but:
- Same body style, with an integral viewer within the top fascia.
- Standard cold accessory shoe.
- The aperture lever does not hide under the lens pull tab, having an extended finder rest under the lens barrel.
- Machined wind/rewind knobs and machined bottom opening handle instead of cast / punched metal in the early model.
- Restyled, easy-to-read dials on the shutter assembly.
- A much larger back door is easier to open and provides better, free access to the film path.
|Model||Edinex 0||Edinex II|
|AKA||Adrette, Midget Marvel||Wirgin, Edinex, Edinex I, Edinex II, Midget Marvel, Candid Midget, Edinex S and Edinex Synchro|
|Weight||450 gr, Body with lens||400 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||470 gr, Body with lens||470 gr, Body with lens|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens||Fixed lens|
|Shutter make||Prontor II||Prontor S|
|Speeds||B, 1-250||B, 1-300|
|Timer||Yes, mechanical||Yes, mechanical|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com||See camerlog.com|
CJ’s Classic Cameras