Altix V

[German version]

Lens interchangeable (Altix bayonet mount); in this case: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50 mm f/2.8, 35.5mm filter thread
Shutter Tempor leaf shutter (there also were models with Cludor shutter); Speeds: B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250; self timer.
Focusing Scale focusing, 2 ft./0,6 m to infinity
Viewfinder small inversed galilean, no framelines
Flash PC socket
Film transport removable bottom, back door. Thumb wheels for advance and rewind.
Dimensions 115/70/50mm (without lens)

This camera was sold in 1956 at HO-Warenhaus ("Handels-Organisation", national shops of GDR) for 290 Mark, which must have been a lot of money in those years. I bought it for EUR 22,50 in February 2002 and it looked like new (save for a major filter ring ding). It was accompanied both times by a Carl Zeiss Jena 50/2.8 Tessar lens and a selenium light meter of the "Iris" brand.

The Altix is an East German VF camera with interchangeable lenses, I heard of 35, 50, and 90 mm lenses by Meyer-Optik, Görlitz. There was also a "universal finder" with interchangeable masks for each focal length (well, 35 mm is the unmasked finder). The Altix company was incorporated into the Pentacon Kombinat towards the end of the 1950s.

The Zeiss lens is sharp, distortion-free and has a kind of smooth and subtle colour rendering I happen to like a lot. Close focus 2 feet!

There is no built in light meter. The camera came with a seleneium hand held meter that still is working properly. The scale was missing, but I just had to xerox the scale from the manual where it was printed 1:1 and glue it onto the meter. Easy job.

Unfortunately there is no rangefinder, so you have to stick with guess-focusing which is not too reliable (in my case at least). I imagine a coupled RF would have been hard to integrate because of the camera's construction with the leaf shutter behind the lens.

Mechanics and workmaship are flawless. It is important to note that the film transport sprockets engage a double exposure lock, so it is not possible to release the shutter without a film in the camera (unless you turn the sprocket wheel manually). The right way: load film, wind, cock shutter with separate lever on lens barrel, set shutter speed, shoot. It took me a little time to findout, you can easily get to think the camera is kaputt.

The self timer is activated by moving the shutter cocking lever a little further. To that end, you have to press an unlock button beside the lens mount. The color of this button (chrome with red dot vs. grey plastic) seems to be rather important to collectors. On the other side of the lens mount you see the PC socket.

The camera is really small, the body being only slightly larger than a Konica C35. The lens is quite big in relation, so it is hard to get a good grip on the camera. I very much like the handsome design of this camera, with its symmetrical layout of controls and its beautiful finish. This is a fine optical instrument, not a workhorse.

Film is loaded by a removable bottom plate and a hinged back door, pretty much Leica M-ish (same period, too). When the roll is finished, pull out the wind thumbwheel and rewind the film with the rewind thumbwheel. Then open the camera, take the film out and look for the take-up spool which will inevitably have fallen out of the camera. Thumbwheel advance and rewind are not everybody's darling, but on the Altix the thumbwheels are quite ergonomic and pleasant to use.

Finder is small, dim and almost useless for glasses wearers. I tried a Pentacon universal finder, but its parallax compensation was misaligned which resulted in the main subject being somewhere on the edge of the negative. I think I managed to readjust it finally, but nowadays I prefer a KMZ turret finder.

Altix' were also produced for square 24/24 mm frame format on standard 135 film. See external links for details. The successors of the V were the N without and the NB with an internal light meter, but they have a more conventional design (like the Kodak Retinette or similar cameras). Lens mount seems to be the same.

Status March 2016: for sale.


Copyright © 2002-2016 by Erik FissErik Fiss. All rights reserved.All rights reserved. Last modified April 1, 2016

If you find this website helpful or just nice to have around, you can support it by making a donation through PayPal.