Toronto. After a few months in Labrador, a few of us decided to buy a top quality camera. Many nights were spent discussing the pros and cons of various German makes, especially Exakta and Leica. A visitor had a IIIf Leica and spoke highly of its handling and features. Another technician and a visitor had Exaktas.
We had no idea that Exakta in Dresden fell into the Russian sphere as part of East Germany. Nor were we aware that there was some doubt about Russian quality. A decision was made to go for Exakta cameras and select lenses. The best deal came from the Drummondville, Quebec shop of Pierre Dozois. I was elected to pay for the entire order. The cameras were great but had a thin leather covering, not the thick gutta percha covering on the IIIf. Their speed range far exceeded the tiny Leica with its squinty viewfinder/rangefinder. The Exakta also had many other features like film winding cassette to cassette, built-in knife, etc.
The lenses from Zeiss, Steinheil, and Angenieux were much larger than the tiny Elmar, but as beautifully finished. The SLR view was also bright and large. Extension tubes opened up the ability to take close-up photographs. The 58mm and 135mm Steinheil lenses made beautiful photos. The 28mm Angenieux was something else. It suffered from severe geometric distortion.
The film pressure plate caused scratches and the camera was returned to the distributer to be polished (and left shiny …). Later the mirror return lever failed to engage and for the rest of the time it was in use, I removed the lens and reset the mirror by hand.
Years later, I discovered more evidence of cheap internal construction. A shutter test showed my camera’s shutter to be erratic in movement, not smooth as expected. Disassembly showed thin gears and brass ‘sawdust’ as a shutter stop was nearly broken off. I set the camera aside and bought an older model that still seems to work today. My next step was a Leica.