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Alpa - the unRF/Alpa - the unSLR
Old 03-01-2017   #1
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Alpa - the unRF/Alpa - the unSLR

SLRs - the unRF
"For those of you who must talk about SLRs, if only to confirm they are not RF."


Hmm!
I was in two minds about whether to post this in the SLR forum, or in one of the rangefinder ones instead.

In either case, as they do not appear very often at all, I thought some members might find them interesting to see. It's late now, but I'll post some more photos later on in my today hopefully, or failing that, certainly in the next few days.


L to R: Alpa Prisma; Alpa Alnea 7; Alpa Reflex

Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-01-2017   #2
Crazy Fedya
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What a wonderful collection!
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Old 03-01-2017   #3
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Alpas are beautiful and unique cameras. I wish I could afford one (or a few).
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Old 03-01-2017   #4
KoNickon
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My late uncle, an avid photographer, had a series of them. I think he'd trade his current Alpa for whatever the newest model was. Some day I'll get one, maybe! Though I gather they're rather delicate, and finding someone to fix them may not be easy.

Something like your Alnea Reflex, with a Kern Macro-Switar, might be just the thing.
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Old 03-01-2017   #5
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Cool looking cameras and usually with a great preforming 50mm lens.
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Old 03-01-2017   #6
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This is rather timely , just last night I was looking through a Photo magazine from 1951, and holy crap were those things expensive , over $450 with their faster lens . Peter
ps: as a point of reference a new Chevy Bel Air cost $2100 .
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Old 03-01-2017   #7
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The cameras are interesting and somewhat rare but the lenses are the ones to watch for.
[IMG]PRT24851 by Paul Rybolt, on Flickr[/IMG]
PRT24834 by Paul Rybolt, on Flickr
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Old 03-02-2017   #8
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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There is a bit of a story behind these cameras. They are part of a collection of classics that recently turned up in my home city. It includes a number of different Alpa models, accessories and lenses but also some other types of cameras, such as a Rolleiflex Automat and a couple of Contaflexes. The Alpas include an 11si SLR and various other types. The 11si has the famed 50mm f/1.9 Macro Switar apochromatic. There's an Alpa tripod in the assortment, too, and I was not aware they even made those.

I had the good fortune to visit the business that was asked to consign them and surprised the owner by (A) actually having heard of the Alpa reflexes and (B) knowing just a little about them. I've been quietly keeping an eye out for an Alpa 7 for a little while. The Switar lenses have a lot of appeal, of course, but it has as much to do with their design, because I just find the whole idea of a hybrid rangefinder/SLR fascinating, and eventually curiosity got the better of me.

I made some reasonable observations about how best to approach selling the items, and my ears pricked up when it was mentioned that these included a 7. So I've agreed to assist with their disposal as part of the terms for acquiring the 7 in the image above (post 1).

At the same time I was really excited to have an opportunity to handle some of the company's older models. I'd read a great deal about Alpas online and in several of my reference books, but never actually seen one in real life. It's been wonderful to take a closer look at the pictured trio which all share the (unique?) Alpa feature of having both reflex focusing and coupled rangefinders. Not all of their models did: in fact, most did not, and it was a feature common to only the original Reflex, the Prisma and the 7/8 series to the best of my knowledge.

I've also pointed out that very few dealers or sellers of collectible equipment go to the trouble of exposing a test film through their items these days, and that, in the interests of getting the best price for the seller this would be one way of making them really stand out. No prizes for guessing who is going to be doing that.

Not all the cameras are functional, or fully functional. Alpas, it has to be said, do not seem to be known for aging particularly gracefully. But I have a date with an 11si and Macro Switar next week and, whilst it's a pairing I can only dream of owning at this time in my life, I'm delighted just to have the opportunity to run a film through one as it's something not many people can say they've done. I can include some photos of it and some of the others in due course if people would like to see them, too.

It's also been instructive to compare the earlier cameras with the 7. They have a few common design cues, but also some fundamental differences, the schematics of the early v late rangefinder installation being one of the most notable.

The earlier ones are also substantially lighter than the 7. A lot of that has to do with the solid Switar lens as opposed to the positively miniscule Angenieux collapsibles fitted to the Reflex and Prisma, but part of it must relate to the substantial alloy casting that makes up the 7 body instead of the pressed metal approach taken with the Reflex and Prisma. The older models are prettier, though, in my eyes at least, and they have reasonably usable non-coincident rangefinders on the left of the body with the separate viewfinder to the right of the reflex one.

But their reflex viewing experience leaves me in no doubt as to where the Alpa reputation for dim viewfinders originated. To be fair, they'd probably improve a bit after dismantling and cleaning, not at all surprising after around seventy years of course. At one stage I had been vacillating between looking for a Prisma instead of a 7, however I now appreciate that the earlier ones seem better viewed as an occasional shooter with a usable, but not brilliant, rangefinder and a reflex prism that's definitely less than stellar. If I can get into the knack of keeping my fingers out of the way of the 7s rangefinder window (it's sort of like an inverted Contax in this respect) it's going to be a pretty serviceable image making device using either focusing system when it is working again.

Yes, because I will need to repair the 7 before I can use it, since its shutter curtains are looking rather pious these days. And it's not the only one I've heard of to be so afflicted. I have to assume that whatever material Pignons used simply doesn't age very well at all. But as it's a 7 I can afford to own that's OK with me, because it's turned up in the most unlikely location, when least expected, and I've actually got one.

The Prisma and Reflex are both in pretty fair cosmetic condition for their age but they also need some work. The Reflex is completely locked up at present—why, I don't know—and its mirror system may have suffered some damage at some point (probably as a result of someone stowing the collapsible lens without first using the mirror lifting lever). Early Alpas are not very forgiving of those who do not know how to use them. That lever for lifting the mirror takes the form of the small tab handled protuberance on the top covers at the front of both the Reflex and Prisma on the wind side, forward of the shutter release button. You can see it on each one in my photograph. Gently depressing it and then pushing it forward ever so slightly will lock the reflex mirror in the up position, so that the collapsible may be retracted without bodily shunting the mirror into the shutter curtains which will have, sadly, very predictable results if it's overlooked.

The Prisma in my original image, on the other hand, is in rather better condition. It's mechanism sounds good and it is smooth and basically working on all its speeds, although most of them are running slow(ish), and it's capping completely on 1/1000 and also on one second (but not on any of the other slow speeds, interestingly). But it is doing its best to work at seventy years young, so I think that after some dismantling, cleaning and adjustment it will be very good--after all, many no longer work at all, as found any more, so, it is a better starting point than some. The early models are going to be sold as is and like the rest of the items in the collection, will probably end up on eBay over the next few weeks. As I've had the chance to appreciate these unusual, but beautiful, cameras for a short while, I thought that others might also like to see them, before they depart to destinations unknown.
Cheers,
Brett

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Old 03-02-2017   #9
Larry Cloetta
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Thanks for the very informative write up, Brett.
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Old 03-02-2017   #10
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
Thanks for the very informative write up, Brett.
My pleasure Larry. I should also have noted above one key point differentiating the early models from the Alnea and subsequent types—they use a smaller version of their bayonet mount that is not compatible with the lenses made for the later Alpas. It's important to be aware of which lenses were made in which mounts as the dimensions of the bayonet itself vary from early to later Alpas and they can't interchange lenses. I'll try to get a photo of the two versions alongside each other in the next few days to demonstrate this.
Cheers
Brett
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Old 03-02-2017   #11
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A camera make made in Switzerland, with incredible lenses.
The Alpa were made by Pignon, who made gear wheel for watch industry.
The 50mm Macro-Switar, the 1st retrofocus wide angles by Agineux.
I was offered a system owned by one of the richest woman in South Africa.
The camera and lenses were filthy, covered in mud, dust and debris.
The need for specialist servicing sent me far away from the deal!
That was in late '60's.
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Old 03-02-2017   #12
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The lenses were not necessarily that remarkable. Yes, the best of them (Switar/Macro Switar) were very good, but probably not as good as the best from other manufacturers (Leitz, Nikon...)

But the Alpa was more than the sum of its parts, and that's true even today for the 12-series of rollfilm cameras. Alpas are, without question, touched by magic. But the magic is built on a solid foundation of brilliant engineering, wanton eccentricity, superb finish and a refusal to believe that just because everyone else is doing things a particular way, that is always the best way to do things.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-02-2017   #13
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Fascinating, Brett, thanks for this. So the 7 has a rangefinder? I only see the one window on the front, which made me think it was only a viewfinder.

Have a great time with these -- keep us posted on your 11si/Macro Switar outing, and your repair work.

(And I finally figured out your use of "pious" -- synonym for "holy," or is it "holey"?)
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Old 03-02-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
Fascinating, Brett, thanks for this. So the 7 has a rangefinder? I only see the one window on the front, which made me think it was only a viewfinder.

Have a great time with these -- keep us posted on your 11si/Macro Switar outing, and your repair work.

(And I finally figured out your use of "pious" -- synonym for "holy," or is it "holey"?)
The RF on the 7 is vertical, with the RF window at the bottom of the camera. But what would you expect from a company where the rapid wind lever was on the front of the camera and was swung backwards with the index finger instead of forwards with the thumb?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-02-2017   #15
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
Fascinating, Brett, thanks for this. So the 7 has a rangefinder? I only see the one window on the front, which made me think it was only a viewfinder.

Have a great time with these -- keep us posted on your 11si/Macro Switar outing, and your repair work.

(And I finally figured out your use of "pious" -- synonym for "holy," or is it "holey"?)
"Holey" is spot on, yes and actually, at least one of the curtains is in tatters. Repair documentation for Alpas is very limited, but the items on hand include a copy of the Ed Romney repair manual (more a book of exploded parts diagrams, I believe). And Rick Oleson has, as ever, been kind enough to pass on some notes he has about the Alneas. I've tackled enough complicated mechanisms by now to be reasonably confident of redeeming the 7. Patience and an aversion to breaking parts goes a long way towards success in itself, both traits I seem to possess, fortunately.
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Old 03-02-2017   #16
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Oh yes, there it is. Thanks. Well, seems to me the Lordomat and the Agfa Karat also had one of those "backward" advance levers too. Let's just say Alpa was (is) not tied to conventional approaches.

The company, Pignons, also made Hermes typewriters, which are highly regarded but, like their camera cousins, don't age particularly well.
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Old 03-02-2017   #17
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Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
Oh yes, there it is. Thanks. Well, seems to me the Lordomat and the Agfa Karat also had one of those "backward" advance levers too. .. . .
Dear Nick,

Not exactly...

This picture (with motor mounted above the camera body) shows just how unusual the front-and-top-mounted lever was.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-02-2017   #18
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Very interesting post--I've known of Alpa for many years but have never seen one in person. Definitely would be curious to sample one someday!
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Old 03-02-2017   #19
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Thanks, Roger.
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Old 03-02-2017   #20
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Here are my pair I have owned for about 50 years !! How frightening is that.
One of the attributes they had was the extensive support for macro and micro work, I have a brochure somewhere with the Macrostat system which uses names as obscure as Leica or Ikea.



This is a photomicrograph using an Alpa Microfix on a Watson microscope with Leica lenses and Tungsten balance reversal film with polarised light I made it in 1978:



Of course the 50mm Kern Switar is one of the stars, here it is paired with Kodachrome in 1989:




They still are in use, here is a B/W from 2015, I have left as scanned as another characteristic is the two notches in the frame similar to Hasselblad, top of the frame here:



FP4+ XTOL on the 50mm f1.8 Switar

Edited I remembered I had a shot of the Watson, on the Alpa, this was for a competition, wordplay the theme EGG - Egzamine, there were others, equally bad.

Kodachrome 64

One service each in the 50 years, seem robust to me!!
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Old 03-02-2017   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLivsey View Post
Here are my pair I have owned for about 50 years !! How frightening is that.
One of the attributes they had was the extensive support for macro and micro work, I have a brochure somewhere with the Macrostat system which uses names as obscure as Leica or Ikea.



This is a photomicrograph using an Alpa Microfix on a Watson microscope with Leica lenses and Tungsten balance reversal film with polarised light I made it in 1978:



Of course the 50mm Kern Switar is one of the stars, here it is paired with Kodachrome in 1989:




They still are in use, here is a B/W from 2015, I have left as scanned as another characteristic is the two notches in the frame similar to Hasselblad, top of the frame here:



FP4+ XTOL on the 50mm f1.8 Switar

Edited I remembered I had a shot of the Watson, on the Alpa, this was for a competition, wordplay the theme EGG - Egzamine, there were others, equally bad.

Kodachrome 64

One service each in the 50 years, seem robust to me!!
Thanks for those photos Chris, I was hoping you would add something. I love that photo of the rose, I remember adding it to my favourites on Flickr, but the black and white image is just as impressive for the sharpness and detail it contains.

Tell me, please: do you usually use the rangefinder, or the reflex viewfinder when photographing with your 7? I can appreciate the virtues of both by looking through the one I have but am obviously yet to shoot with it.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-05-2017   #22
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Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Thanks for those photos Chris, I was hoping you would add something. I love that photo of the rose, I remember adding it to my favourites on Flickr, but the black and white image is just as impressive for the sharpness and detail it contains.

Tell me, please: do you usually use the rangefinder, or the reflex viewfinder when photographing with your 7? I can appreciate the virtues of both by looking through the one I have but am obviously yet to shoot with it.
Cheers,
Brett
Brett, again , I nearly always use the reflex, despite the angle, it does take a few frames to adjust. I have used the rangefinder with wide angle lenses dialling in 135 on the rangefinder to get a spot accurate focus. The image is really contrasty and the "zoom" is helpful in those circumstances.
The finder on the Model6 gives 50mm view and is redundant, at least I can't find a use for it.
Your kind comments are appreciated.
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Old 03-06-2017   #23
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Brett, again , I nearly always use the reflex, despite the angle, it does take a few frames to adjust. I have used the rangefinder with wide angle lenses dialling in 135 on the rangefinder to get a spot accurate focus. The image is really contrasty and the "zoom" is helpful in those circumstances.
The finder on the Model6 gives 50mm view and is redundant, at least I can't find a use for it.
Your kind comments are appreciated.
Thank you for that information. I actually noticed the 135 setting really does zoom in on the RF patch so that's a good tip, thanks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLivsey View Post
Brett, that detail is much appreciated, I don't have the book, the last one I saw was for sale at 250, that's an awful lot of film.
I don't have my own copy of the book either, Chris. But one came along with all the other items in the collection. I was thinking of making an offer of fair market value for it, that is, until I did some checking to find out what that was. Your figure of 250 is still on the mark, so I don't think I will be keeping this copy unfortunately.

There's not much more information it will inform about particular cameras, only the serial number ranges of different batches and the year in which they were produced. Occasionally there's a reference to serial numbers reported stolen, or if a particular one was upgraded or modified by the factory or was a half frame, or a special finish Eg black it may be noted. Lothar's information I think is the best available but perhaps not infallible, there's a black Alpa on eBay at the moment that's not recorded as being black. But it's not necessarily his fault as the Pignon records may not have always been perfect for all we know.

Since neither of us may see a copy of his book again, I will relay the serial ranges for your 1958 Alpa 6 and 7, below.

There were several dozen batches of Alpa 6 serial numbers made during 1958 or combined 5/6 batches. Your Alpa 6 # 37604 is the in the very first serial number range of Alpa cameras in the list for 1958 (all Alpa 6) which was:
37.601-37.699.

Your Alpa 7 # 37.839 was part of the first range of Alpa 7 serial numbers in the list for 1958: 37.817-37.848.

There are nearly 100 entries for the year all up, some for a single camera, or 2 or 3, others for 100 plus consecutive numbers. No total for the whole year, you'd have to work out the numbers of each batch and then add them together. The Alpa 7 33.155 in my image in post #1 was one of a batch of 127 produced in 1955.

If you have any other Alpas that you would like some details of, Chris, please feel free to pass on the serial numbers, and I will check Thewes's book for you, while I still have access to it.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-08-2017   #24
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Quote:
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If you have any other Alpas that you would like some details of, Chris, please feel free to pass on the serial numbers, and I will check Thewes's book for you, while I still have access to it.
Cheers,
Brett
Those details very much appreciated. I will find my invoice for the 7, bought S/H in Manchester UK in the early 70s. Lots of filters and Tubset included for little money, they were really out of favour then. My Dalmeyer Dalrac 135mm for Alpa cost 17 I do recall!!
I have fallen for Nikon rangefinders for a while now and Leica of course, and Hasselblad, Oh dear me.

This UK dealer has a steady throughput and must have "the" book as he quotes numbers produced etc.
http://www.peterloy.com/stock-list.php
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Old 03-08-2017   #25
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there's a black Alpa on eBay at the moment that's not recorded as being black.
Brett
Just found that one, looks like a re-paint to me. They have copied the paint distribution from a 9 where the rewind is black. I have seen a 7 black paint with genuine wear and the rewind was chrome as was the film speed dial and self timer. Never fired the shutter, the lens release is pristine have they? No sign of wear at all.
I may be wrong it may have gone back to the factory and been done with the 9 pattern or may have been special order but as you say not listed.

this one looks genuine:
http://www.thephotoforum.com/threads/alpa-8b.142223/
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Old 03-02-2017   #26
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Wonderful, Chris. Thanks for showing us these.
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Old 03-04-2017   #27
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By the way, Chris, according to the list of serial numbers in Lothar Thewes book, both of your Alpas were manufactured during 1958.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-05-2017   #28
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By the way, Chris, according to the list of serial numbers in Lothar Thewes book, both of your Alpas were manufactured during 1958.
Cheers,
Brett
Brett, that detail is much appreciated, I don't have the book, the last one I saw was for sale at 250, that's an awful lot of film.
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Old 03-05-2017   #29
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Ifa lighter combination is needed, the early non-macro Switars were much slimmer than the later auto-aperture varieties, not to speak of the macro-Swotars and the last Japanese-mounted ones.

At the other end of the scale in bulk was the Mercure outfit for copying documents with separate lenses for different formats.

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Old 03-06-2017   #30
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Another item from the assortment of Alpa items is temporarily in residence with me. It's a Schneider 80-240mm Tele-Variogon f/4 in Alpa reflex mount. Seen fitted to the Alpa Alnea 7 below, which is sitting on Lothar Thewes's definitive (and expensive!) reference book, ALPA Always Different from the Rest. It's a constant aperture f/4 with some interesting features, such as the switches for selecting lens opening and the aperture stop down, and the strap lugs which I'm not accustomed to seeing on a lens instead of a camera body.

A couple of sources I have found suggest that production of the 80-240mm Tele-Variogon was only around 250 units. I don't know how many of those were in Alpa mount, and I'm not much of a fan of zoom lenses in general, but this one, I'd be rather happy to be able to keep. I'm hoping to pick up an 11si to load a film into this week, it was meant to happen last week but some crusty mirror foam needed to be replaced. When I do, I certainly intend fit the big Schneider to it for a few shots, partly to demonstrate that it works, and, of course, because I want to see what it's like! Of course I'll share some of these images in a week or two when I've run the film and got it developed. Sorry about the image quality: this is just a quick phone pic, to show you what it looks like.
Cheers,
Brett

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Pignon's First SLR/RF, the Alpa Reflex.
Old 03-09-2017   #31
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Pignon's First SLR/RF, the Alpa Reflex.





















I'll add some more images over the next few days.
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-09-2017   #32
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I saw this photo of an opened Alpa 10D on instagram this morning - and it did strike me as "different from the rest"...
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Old 03-09-2017   #33
farlymac
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I got to hold an Alpa once, Model 7 I think. It was only for a few moments, but it struck me as being one solidly built camera. Have fun while you can with those babies, Brett.

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Old 03-09-2017   #34
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
I got to hold an Alpa once, Model 7 I think. It was only for a few moments, but it struck me as being one solidly built camera. Have fun while you can with those babies, Brett.

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Thanks, Phil. Yes, the 7 definitely has that "hewn from solid" feel to it (even if the bodies were in reality cast, not billet machined). For its size, it is surprisingly solid.

Later 10 and 11 models might be the best candidate as an Alpa for regular use because the finders are very bright, but I think the 7, or later, and even more expensive again, 8 series, (basically a 7 with a split RF reflex viewfinder screen and a coupled RF) split the difference between interesting collectible, and usable camera, nicely. No, the focus screens are not as bright as the last of the Alpa reflex models, but, those later types also dispensed with the additional viewfinder and coupled rangefinder that is so technically fascinating, and were simply conventional SLRs (albeit really expensive ones!). I'm going to be keeping the 7, and, as it's the one model I most wanted, am really thrilled about that. Of course, I would love to keep all of them, partly because of the sheer beauty of the Prisma and original Reflex models but, given the rarity of any Alpa, count myself lucky to have one.
Cheers,
Brett
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11si
Old 03-11-2017   #35
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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11si

Some quick and dirty phone shots of the most recent Alpa I've had a chance to handle. Their 11si model in beautiful black from circa 1980 I believe. I took it out today to start off a roll of Agfa Vista 200 colour negative. The Schneider 80-400mm f/4 Tele-Variagon accompanied it and was used for a few images at either end of the zoom range.







The small plate with "K.M." on the top place represents the initials of the cameras original owner. Apparently, when you ordered an Alpa from Pignons they would do that sort of thing for you if you wished.








Here are some impressions after trying the 11si today.
This is one smooth focal plane shutter. Sure, it's quiet, and the mirror is soft. But the sheer silky smoothness of the curtains and their actuation system is unsurpassed in my experience. It's also a camera that's been cleverly designed in some ways and is surprisingly old-fashioned in others. For example the metering system is innovative and possibly unique to Alpa, but also uses stop down metering, and, on that point, it's your finger pressure on the release plunger that is doing the stopping, (similar to some early Prakticas or Exaktas) not springs, rods or levers.

Even the self timer is atypical in certain ways, but considering the provenance of the makers of the Alpa reflexes perhaps this isn’t surprising. Firstly, it’s adjustable in its delay and is tripped via the main release plunger, but depressing that will still lift the mirror immediately, giving you a form of pre-release which I like. After all, once you have activated the timer you’re probably finished with the viewfinder, so the mirror may as well lift when it starts, not just as the exposure commences, right? But the timer can be also used on any shutter speed including Bulb, and just like a few classic Contaxes, if you set it on B, instead of a short time (or even locking the mechanism, in the case of a few designs) instead, you'll be rewarded with an exposure of about three seconds—useful occasionally if you're doing low light work. Lastly, the owners manual also notes that, once armed, if you have a change of heart and don’t want the delay after all, you can simply run it off without actuating the shutter curtains, by sliding a shutter release lock under the plunger and depressing the latter until the timer has unwound.

The shutter lock is a three position sliding chromed tab on the front, next to the base of the release plunger. It will save you losing frames when your Alpa is inside your choice of carry bag, naturally, but it's more than just that. It also enables you to depress the release plunger to stop the lens down and take your meter reading, by switching on the power to the meter circuit without actually firing the shutter in the process. Of course this gives depth of field preview at the same time, like most SLRs using stop down metering. And if you’ve forgotten to pack your lockable cable release, with the speed dial set on B and the shutter opened, sliding the lock over will keep it open for you indefinitely, if you really need it to.

This is all quite sophisticated, but, as you’ve probably already gathered, an Alpa 11si truly is a curious mix of innovative thinking and downright antiquated functionality. Case in point: when you're firing the camera via the self timer, there's no finger pressure on the release plunger, is there? You'll therefore need to rotate a beautifully knurled chromed knob near the plunger release on its famous Macro-Switar lens in order to change the aperture mechanism to pre-set operation because otherwise, you'll be rewarded with an exposure at full lens aperture, whether or not that's what you've actually set! You’ll see the aperture selector knob in the last image, where you'll note that it's placed at 90 degrees to the axis of the release plunger, and again in the second to last photo, slightly obscured beneath the tip of the peculiar Alpa front-to-back wind lever. On that point, Alpa reversed the wind lever (so it is said) in order that a left-eyed photographer would be able to wind and fire the camera with it to their eye, without stabbing themselves in their right eye with their thumb, in the process. And as odd as it looks, I think it works well, and also makes life just a little easier for a right-eyed photographer to do likewise, though perhaps, not nearly as essential for them as it is for a lefty.

There are three illuminated lights at the bottom of the viewfinder window. From Left to Right: Yellow (Over); Green (Correct) and; Red (Under). The lights are hard to see when you are actually looking through the finder (at least they are for me, as a spectacle wearer). They seem to be more visible if you pull your eye back a tad and peer into the bottom of the eyepiece. This will, potentially, let some stray light into the finder via the eyepiece, which, in most TTL SLRs will throw off the meter accuracy. But an Alpa certainly is not like most cameras in many ways so it's no problem, in this case, because Pignons included three meter cells inside the pentaprism housing, instead of the more usual one or two of the time. That third one is there purely to pick up the light entering via the eyepiece and neutralise its influence on the meter circuit. Yes, a conventional viewfinder blind will accomplish exactly the same thing, if you remember to use it—but with this Alpa, one isn’t fitted because it’s not needed and there’s also another benefit—more on that below.

When new, Pignons claimed that the 11si metering system is accurate to within about a tenth to a fifth of a stop. Personally, I'd rather have a conventional meter scale that offers some idea of how much the exposure is out by, as opposed to the 11si "Over; Under; Good" indicator lights, but then, they will still be visible when you're working at f/22, something one cannot always say about a stop down meter needle under poor light, so I suppose that's a plus—when you can actually find the lights, that is. I'm really a hand held guy anyway, so it wouldn't bother me either way, and I employed the built in meter for a few exposures today, purely to test its accuracy.

There's also a top deck meter peephole on the rewind side just behind the owner's plate (the fortunate "K.M", in the case of this particular 11si). A small lever at the rear of the body slides open the peephole cover so that the lights can be viewed from directly above. The finder eyepiece will probably let some light in if you are inclined to take a reading from the top, but, because of the aforementioned cell circuitry, it doesn't matter.

The Alpa viewfinder isn't the brightest SLR one I have ever peered through—to date that distinction belongs to a Leica R series fitted with a 50mm Summilux—but it's streets ahead of the one in the Alnea 7, and positively light years in front of those found in the original Reflex and Prisma Alpas. Several concentric circular lines are arranged outwards of a combined microprism, split RF and clear glass segment in a focus screen that's clearly been designed as much with photomicrography use in mind, as general photography. Whether you’d find it distracting is a personal preference—it's one of many unusual features in an unusual camera, but I love this sort of minutiae and could happily use it every day—and probably would, if I could afford to keep it!

I’ll post up some images from the test roll in due course when I have knocked it off and had it processed. Maybe more than one test roll, actually. After all it’s a rare, expensive camera, so any potential purchaser is entitled to be absolutely sure it’s working properly…
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Old 03-12-2017   #36
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Addendum:

Unlike most metering circuits, Alpa used a bridge so that battery voltage could not affect the accuracy of the metering.

Slightly earlier models did not use the LEDs but had an ordinary needle readout - also with the top-plate window.

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Old 03-13-2017   #37
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Two more images of the Alpa Reflex showing the unique rear viewfinder design of the early models.




With the camera back removed it's more obvious how close the rangefinder focus viewfinder (on the rewind side) and the framing viewfinder eyepieces are positioned to the film rails. So much that the camera back actually includes two openings to accomodate them. Of course it works well enough as each eyepiece features its own circular light trap around its circumference, but, seeing a camera back with two holes in it is still a little strange. The Prisma has the same arrangement, and differs mainly in its use of a pentaprism finder instead of a waist level. Reflex owners could (and did, in some cases, according to factory records) return their cameras to the Pignon works at Ballaigues for upgrading to Prisma specification.

You can just see through the rangefinder eyepiece that there are two rectangular, horizontal windows. The rangefinder image of the Reflex and Prisma Alpas is not superimposed into the focus viewfinder as is the case with most other rangefinders. The lower horizontal window provides a small view of the lower part of your scene. Very close to the top of this is the rangefinder window. The upper part of the scene is visible through it, but will move left/right within that window according to the focus distance of the lens (presumably via a pivoting mirror, I don't know the precise details of the installation yet). You can see the front of these windows in some of the photos I added in post 32, incidentally.

Thus, focusing with this system entails lining up the lower portion of an object in your scene with a decent edge on it (a tree, wall, whatever) with the lower window, and then adjusting the lens until the upper part of it aligns in the top window. The adjacent edges of the two windows are set very close together, but they don't quite meet, so Eg focusing on a person's eyes for portraiture is vaguely possible, but rather fiddly. And if you are a spectacle wearer like me, all of that just got a great deal harder to do, as there's minimal eye relief, making it that much harder to see much of both windows within the eyepiece readily, except for a portion of the centre. For subjects beyond ten feet or so of any size RF focusing isn't quite so bad, portraiture head shots, well, not so much use.

The reflex finders of either early hybrid camera are less than stellar. I suspect they'd improve somewhat if stripped and cleaned, but as found they are pretty grim, and I doubt they'd ever be good, let alone great. If I was using a Reflex or Prisma, I'd probably focus with the RF at middle distance (it's still faster, previous issues notwithstanding) but switch to the reflex focus system for setting the lens for close range images, head shots etc. Unless the absence of parallax at close range made the case for framing with the reflex finder overwhelming, as the main non-reflex finder is decently bright, regardless of how I focused the lens I'd be inclined to compose with it most of the time, anyway.

If this all sounds very mediocre, bear in mind the Reflex was in production during or immediately after the cessation of World War II. It is not a 1960s camera or even a 1950s one. I should take a look through the waist level of my pre-war Kine Exakta for a fair comparison, as it's the period the Reflex design harks from and would have been the main SLR competition. Rangefinder competitors, well, that's another matter. I don't do Leicas, but my pre-war Contax rangefinders absolutely cream it as far as ease of focus and finder brightness are concerned. I'd love to be able to strip one of the Alpas down, clean, adjust the optics and then try again, but sadly, that's not going to happen.






Inside the back, the serial number of the matching Alpa body is stamped near the pressure plate. At some point someone has also made some pencil notations on the back including its serial number and what might be 80 quid, 7 shillings and sixpence, perhaps? Maybe its second hand purchase price, it seems a bit cheap to be its list price when new, compared to period advertisements from the USA showing USD prices. The cost of some repairs, maybe? Australia converted to decimal currency in 1966, so if it was a reference to Aussie pounds, the notation was made over fifty years ago...
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 03-20-2017   #38
xayraa33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Two more images of the Alpa Reflex showing the unique rear viewfinder design of the early models.




With the camera back removed it's more obvious how close the rangefinder focus viewfinder (on the rewind side) and the framing viewfinder eyepieces are positioned to the film rails. So much that the camera back actually includes two openings to accomodate them. Of course it works well enough as each eyepiece features its own circular light trap around its circumference, but, seeing a camera back with two holes in it is still a little strange. The Prisma has the same arrangement, and differs mainly in its use of a pentaprism finder instead of a waist level. Reflex owners could (and did, in some cases, according to factory records) return their cameras to the Pignon works at Ballaigues for upgrading to Prisma specification.

You can just see through the rangefinder eyepiece that there are two rectangular, horizontal windows. The rangefinder image of the Reflex and Prisma Alpas is not superimposed into the focus viewfinder as is the case with most other rangefinders. The lower horizontal window provides a small view of the lower part of your scene. Very close to the top of this is the rangefinder window. The upper part of the scene is visible through it, but will move left/right within that window according to the focus distance of the lens (presumably via a pivoting mirror, I don't know the precise details of the installation yet). You can see the front of these windows in some of the photos I added in post 32, incidentally.

Thus, focusing with this system entails lining up the lower portion of an object in your scene with a decent edge on it (a tree, wall, whatever) with the lower window, and then adjusting the lens until the upper part of it aligns in the top window. The adjacent edges of the two windows are set very close together, but they don't quite meet, so Eg focusing on a person's eyes for portraiture is vaguely possible, but rather fiddly. And if you are a spectacle wearer like me, all of that just got a great deal harder to do, as there's minimal eye relief, making it that much harder to see much of both windows within the eyepiece readily, except for a portion of the centre. For subjects beyond ten feet or so of any size RF focusing isn't quite so bad, portraiture head shots, well, not so much use.

The reflex finders of either early hybrid camera are less than stellar. I suspect they'd improve somewhat if stripped and cleaned, but as found they are pretty grim, and I doubt they'd ever be good, let alone great. If I was using a Reflex or Prisma, I'd probably focus with the RF at middle distance (it's still faster, previous issues notwithstanding) but switch to the reflex focus system for setting the lens for close range images, head shots etc. Unless the absence of parallax at close range made the case for framing with the reflex finder overwhelming, as the main non-reflex finder is decently bright, regardless of how I focused the lens I'd be inclined to compose with it most of the time, anyway.

If this all sounds very mediocre, bear in mind the Reflex was in production during or immediately after the cessation of World War II. It is not a 1960s camera or even a 1950s one. I should take a look through the waist level of my pre-war Kine Exakta for a fair comparison, as it's the period the Reflex design harks from and would have been the main SLR competition. Rangefinder competitors, well, that's another matter. I don't do Leicas, but my pre-war Contax rangefinders absolutely cream it as far as ease of focus and finder brightness are concerned. I'd love to be able to strip one of the Alpas down, clean, adjust the optics and then try again, but sadly, that's not going to happen.






Inside the back, the serial number of the matching Alpa body is stamped near the pressure plate. At some point someone has also made some pencil notations on the back including its serial number and what might be 80 quid, 7 shillings and sixpence, perhaps? Maybe its second hand purchase price, it seems a bit cheap to be its list price when new, compared to period advertisements from the USA showing USD prices. The cost of some repairs, maybe? Australia converted to decimal currency in 1966, so if it was a reference to Aussie pounds, the notation was made over fifty years ago...
Cheers,
Brett

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbielikowski View Post
I was lucky to buy Alpa 6b few months ago, and finally it's back from CLA. Done some test shots, and while Switar is very pleasing, using the camera is trully unique (awkward), some kind of je ne sais qoui.

Click here to see a large version

Not a shelf queen and I'm gonna use it properly (with some chromes).

Some test shots on TMax:

Click here to see a large version

Click here to see a large version

Click here to see a large version

The open back looks like a well made early Zorki 4
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Old 03-18-2017   #39
jbielikowski
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I was lucky to buy Alpa 6b few months ago, and finally it's back from CLA. Done some test shots, and while Switar is very pleasing, using the camera is trully unique (awkward), some kind of je ne sais qoui.



Not a shelf queen and I'm gonna use it properly (with some chromes).

Some test shots on TMax:





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Old 03-20-2017   #40
xayraa33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbielikowski View Post
I was lucky to buy Alpa 6b few months ago, and finally it's back from CLA. Done some test shots, and while Switar is very pleasing, using the camera is trully unique (awkward), some kind of je ne sais qoui.



Not a shelf queen and I'm gonna use it properly (with some chromes).

Some test shots on TMax:





The bokeh produced by the f1.8 50mm Switar reminds me a lot of the bokeh that I gotten from some of the late made Canon 50mm f1.8 lens in FDn mount.
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