Classic Exakta Cameras: Books and Web Links


The two most comprehensive and most widely recognized resources on Exakta were originally not available in English, translated into that language only recently (better late than never!).

Both are indispensable for any serious (or even semi-serious, like myself) Exakta collector, and therefore they are on the top of my list.

Exakta Collection, Le Guide du Collectionneur Exakta

by Clement Aguila and Michel Rouah, 2003 (in French); ISBN 2-9519891-0-5.

English Translation by Michael Spencer, 2014

This is not just a second edition of the 1987 book by these authors (see below), but a completely new monograph, most impressive in scope and depth.

This oversized paperback has more than 600 large-format pages and 930 photographs. It covers all Exaktas, starting from the 1933 Vest Pocket model (4x6.5 cm), and ending on Japanese name-only Exaktas of the Eighties; most of it, however, is devoted to the 35-mm Exaktas from Ihagee, Dresden.

Importantly, the book introduces a new classification of Exakta models, vastly improved from the "standard" A&R 1987, more consistent and quite similar to the one I'm using in my Exakta pages.

A large section is devoted to lenses in 35-mm Exakta bayonet mount. A few hundred of these are listed and described, and for the most important standard Exakta lenses the authors provide a detailed model taxonomy.

This is by far the most comprehensive resource in existence for an Exakta enthusiast, and the amount of work which went into gathering the information and presenting it must have been superhuman. Every Exakta enthusiast in the world should feel indebted to the authors for undertaking (and completing) this effort. I am.

My only gripe is not about the book substance, but about the publishing style. A glued paperback of this size and weight will not last very long, especially if used often (and believe me, it will be!). Also, the offset printing technique applied uses newspaper-quality rastering of illustrations. A book like this deserves something better. I understand this was to keep the cost within limits, but I would gladly pay twice as much as the book actually cost (which was about $85 including shipping).

As far as I know, the original French edition is sold out. The English version has been (I assume) self-published by the translator and can be purchased by contacting Mr. Spencer directly (see here).

Spiegelreflexkameras aus Dresden

by Richard Hummel, 1995 (in German); ISBN 3-930846-01-2 or 3-89506-127-1.

(For partial English translation, see below.)

Quite a large part of this book is devoted to Exakta and Exa cameras, but the reminder is of great importance, too. In addition to a history of camera-making in Dresden (dating back to the 1830's, no less!), you will find here a complete model listing of a number of 35-mm SLRs: Exakta, Exa, Praktiflex, Praktica, Praktina, Contax, and Pentacon, all the way from 1936 to 1990. (The book does not deal with lenses or accessories.)

The author was an Ihagee insider, having started his work there back in 1937 as a precision mechanic apprentice. From 1955 to 1964 he was the Chief Constructor at Ihagee, directly responsible for the Exakta and Exa line development. Do you need a better recommendation?

Interwined between the details on cameras and lenses this is also the story how the Communist authorities succeeded in taking away from Ihagee any elements of independence (guaranteed, on paper at least, by company's charter), thus dooming it to failure.

When Ihagee was incorporated into the ill-conceived VEB Pentacon, Mr. Hummel became the head of the corporate Information Center for Science and Technology, with access to all documentation and, I would think, plenty of time to do his historical research. This book might have been longer in the making than it seems.

A big hardcover volume of densely typeset 300 pages, printed in just 1000 copies on premium glossy paper and richly illustrated, the presentation does justice to the contents.

True, another book not in English, but even if your German is rusty (I took mine 50 years ago at school), this is another source for any serious Exakta (or Praktica, etc.) collector. Hopefully, one day someone will translate the whole thing into Reflex Cameras from Dresden (in the meantime, see below).

The Exakta Story

English translation by Michael Spencer of the Hummel's book (selected parts).

In the meantime, Michael Spencer translated into English the parts of Richard Hummel's book related directly to Exakta and Ihagee, and the 114-page, spiral-bound copy is available — but only to members of the Exakta Circle.

While this is not a professional translation, it is, hallelujah!, in English, and that's what counts.

The translation was in the making since 1999, appearing in installments in quaterly issues of the Exakta Times newsletter, another good reason to join the Exakta Circle.

Having translated into English two most valuable Exakta information resources, Mr. Spencer did more to the English-speaking Exakta community than anyone in the last thirty years. This effort should be appreciated.

Exakta — Krótka Historia Doskonałości (A Short History of Perfection)

by Paweł Fila and Jerzy Szajta, 2009 (in Polish).

Having taken a break from my Exakta-related activities, I wasn't aware of this book until quite recently. That's a shame, as Polish is my native language.

So far I've read just some snippets of the book, and so far I like what I've seen.

While the authors are planning to have an English translation, this seems to be moving rather slow. You may want to check the book's Web page, being a part of the site (not working as checked in December, 2017).

As soon as I get a copy, I will write more about this book. I hope it is good enough to become another Exakta classic. In the meantime, have a look at the English Table Of Contents and Introduction, as posted by the authors.

Exakta Obscurities

by Garry Cullen with Klaus Rademaker (in English and German); ISBN 0-968986809-0-3 or -1-1).

This delightful coffee-table book used to be available directly from the author, but (according to a number of sources) is out of print now. Its original Web page with the ordering link is still out there, but it looks very, very dead.

The book contains mostly pictures with brief but informative notes (in both German and English), presenting some exotic or previously unknown Exakta collectibles: cameras, lenses, add-ons, and others. Some less-known facts from the Exakta history will add to your reading pleasure.

The book, although not professionally typeset, is nicely printed on premium glossy paper; the quality of illustrations is also first-class.

Although Exakta Obscurities will not (and does not try to) replace the "new" A&R, it will make any Exakta enthusiast happy and salivating.

Exakta Cameras 1944-1978

by Aguila and Rouah, 1987 (Hove Books); ISBN 0-906447-38-0.

For more than 20 years the only Exakta monograph available in English, until recently this used to be a definite must for every Exakta collector; now of lesser importance, obliterated by the new A&R and Hummel translations.

This is a small-format, hardbound book of less than 200 pages, nicely printed and well illustrated, and for 25 years it served its purpose just fine. The model classification system introduced in it, as flawed as it was, is still widely used in the collectors' world.

Good luck in finding a copy.

Collecting and Using Classic SLRs

by Ivor Matanle, published by Thames and Hudson in 1997; ISBN 0-500-28901-2.

A more general book, with a small section on Exakta and Exa.

Unfortunately, this enjoyable and interesting source contains a number of significant factual errors and omissions, limiting its usefulness to a collector. It is a fine reading, still, for anyone interested in photographic equipment.

Ultimate Exakta Repair

by Miles Upton, one of the top Exakta experts in the world, and also a repairman.

This is a step-by-step description of cleaning, adjustment and lubrication of an Exakta Varex or Varex IIa. I don't have this one, as I'm missing the necessary manual skills. If you need a copy, check Mr. Upton's Web site.

Instruction manuals

Exakta manuals are sometimes offered on eBay auctions or by antique camera dealers — often at a price. Many are, however available on the Web. Try the following link:
  • Orphan Cameras by Mike Butkus makes aboyt 1500 camera manuals available for the modest, voluntary donation of $3. Some are provided as PDF files, others as HTML.
Exakta and Exa Web links

There are quite a few Exakta-related pages and sites on the Web, although most of them do not seem to be regularly maintained. Here I'm listing a these which have attracted my attention.

  • Exakta Kine and Varex Series on Camerapedia is perhaps the best introduction to 35-mm Dresden Exaktas you can find on the Web: informative, balanced, brief, and reasonably complete. The article contains links branching to short descriptions of particular models and is a perfect place to start any reading on those cameras.

    Similarly, the Exa article offers an introduction (if a bit less detailed) to Exa cameras, branching to all major versions.

  • The site by Hugo Ruys, the legendary Dutchman, contains not only an extensive history of Ihagee ans Exakta, but also two major Exakta-related resources: a huge Exakta lens list (maintained and expanded on a regular basis, almost 2500 items), and a digest from the Topica Exakta discussion group, a gold mine of useful information.

    There is also a large selection of related publications (catalogs, advertising, manuals, magazines and other) from various countries (mostly Germany, U.S., U.K., and France), converted to the PDF standard — interesting, entertaining and useful to a camera collector. Check, for example, the first issue of the American Exakta Magazine (1950), or the brochure (1954) from the Exakta Camera Company in Bronxville, NY.

  • Captain Jack's Exakta Site, for many years hosted by (at this URL), now no longer to be found there (or anywhere else).

    Jack Dugrew's collection included practically all Exakta and Exa models and versions ever made (more than 80!), a variety of lenses, and some other Exakta equipment, all described and pictured at his site.

    Most importantly, the text contained some information hardly, if ever, available elsewhere. From where I stand, this used to be the most valuable Exakta resource on the Web.

    Even if the site itself disappeared from the Internet, the contents is not lost. The incredible Wayback Machine stores snapshots of it, taken between 2002 and 2017, and you can access the latest one here.

  • Mauricio Frizziero's site, in existence since 1996, is quite large, and underwent a major structural re-design over the last few years.

    A major part of the site showcases the Frizziero Collection, including virtually all (60) known versions of the 35-mm Exakta and Exa cameras, plus a number of VP Exaktas (65×40 mm frame). Each camera is presented as a single PDF page with a few pictures and some (very) brief remarks in English and Italian, see an example.

    There are also some articles to read, and more can be found in the "old", still accessible while the transition is under way. (As of 2017/12/30, to get there use my link, not the one in the "new" articles page.)

  • The Exaktaphile site, by Miles Upton, an Exacta collector, dealer, and repairman. This place certainly deserves a visit (check the delightful set of instructions for camera disassembly!).
  • The British Exakta Circle Web site got a new life (and a new URL address) a few years ago. they also publish the quarterly Exakta Times newsletter available with the membership worldwide.
  • Steven Gandy at his CameraQuest site has a number of interesting, Exakta-related articles. Much of the non-Exakta material will be also of interest to anyone interested in classic photo equipment.
  • The Exakta Pages by Olaf Nattenberg (in German), deserves a visit, especially (but not only) if you know the language. Check the Frankenstein of a camera: a Praktica body with Exakta prism, front plate, and lens mount!
  • Peter Mishur's Kultkamera Exa site (also in German) boasts a most impressive collection of various Exa models (with data included), plus related material (books, advertising, etc.).

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Posted 2001/10/22; last updated 2017/12/30 Copyright © 2001-2017 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak