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First loves and lusts


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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First loves and lusts

28 Jan 2021 8:10AM   Views : 465 Unique : 331


It always seems to go well when I write about old cameras, and I’ve been wondering about Pari the Persian crisp-eater lately. It’s a long story to get to the heart of it, but there was a short story somewhere in there. And Pari.

I late 1969, I went on a schools cruise around the Mediterranean – the MV Uganda was full of Staffordshire schoolchildren, plus – weirdly – half a dozen or so girls from a boarding school in Bishop’s Stortford. (You couldn’t make it up, could you?) They’d been booked on a cruise taking in Israel which was cancelled because of political issues, and they’d been given, if I remember, two consecutive cruises elsewhere to make up for the cancellation.


Anyway… Among them was a rather lovely girl with long dark hair called Pari, with whom I was associated for three days: reading about the current situation in Iran, I wondered what happened in her life. I’ve posted a few pictures from the cruise in recent years, possibly including the one that won me first prize of £20 in a Wolverhampton Express and Star competition for pictures taken on the cruise – a boy and a girl arm in arm on deck – I called it ‘Shipboard Romance’.

That cheque, early in 1970, went towards my first SLR, which is the subject of this blog. I thought about the two most popular budget SLRs of the time, the Zenith E and the Praktica Nova, and decided to go for the quirkier Exa 500. I was already under the sway of Ihagee cameras, which I wrote about in an article here 18 months ago.


The Zenith had a manual diaphragm, and shutter speeds limited to the 1/30 to 1/500 range, which put it at a severe disadvantage. The Praktica was just rather ordinary, and the Exa had a bayonet mount, so seemed a more interesting and advanced machine – a bit like a Morris 11000 compared with the original Ford Escort. Anyway, off to Whitby’s in Reading, and an Exa 500 with the most expensive lens option, a 50mm f/2 Pancolar returned with me.


Following the Exakta pattern, there was an external fully automatic diaphragm mechanism on the lens, at one thirty as viewed from the front of the camera – as you press it, the diaphragm clatters shut, and a bit on the back presses a tiny release button on the front of the camera body. The lever wind is on the right side as you hold the camera, unlike the camera’s big brothers, the Exakta Varex series. The back and baseplate are removable for loading film, and there’s a removable and losable spool for taking the film up, just like the VX bodies. This means that you can run film from one cassette to another, though the 500 lacks the film knife of the VX models.


There’s no self-timer, and a single flash socket. The shutter dial in around the rewind crank, and as it has no detents it’s annoyingly easy to move by accident. On the left side of the body, next to the viewfinder, there’s a shutter lock – also easy to move by accident, in either direction. The screen’s pretty decent, with microprisms to assist precise focus in the middle, and that’s about it: pretty basic, but ingenious and unusual. Prices on eBay are from around £25, but beware: the camera here jammed after a few films, and my local repairer was unwilling to try to repair it (though I did buy it in around 1980!) A much more recent acquisition from eBay is fine – and as you can see, the finish is unusual and attractive.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
28 Jan 2021 8:16AM
Now... Can I find the necessary images for Film Friday tomorrow?
PaulCox Avatar
28 Jan 2021 11:14AM
My first camera was a Yashica J with a Sixon light meter, which my Grandmother bought me around 1964/66, which I part exchanged for a Praktica Nova TL with a 50mm f2.8 Tessa lens I think. I liked the Exa500 but locally nobody was selling them. Paul.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
28 Jan 2021 11:49AM
Mine was an end-of-line special: I was quite lucky, I suppose, that my Mum had moved to Newbury after my Dad died the previous year. I think the RRP was £20 or more higher.
handlerstudio Avatar
29 Jan 2021 2:08PM
My first SLR was a Voightlander (SP?) Bessamatic, with a leaf shutter and a few interchangeable lenses. Then still built in Germany. I got it on a trip to Europe with my family in 1961.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
29 Jan 2021 9:00PM
Very much a specialist bit of kit, that Voigtländer: leaf shutters make for a lot of complication in an SLR! But they offer flash synch at all shutter speeds.

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