In 2020, we decided to move from the Northeast of Germany to the south-west, precisely form Berlin Wedding to Esslingen am Neckar. In a short break between packing boxes I had the chance for a last visit of the re-opened flea-market at Leopoldplatz, where I found what would become the last “Berlin” camera of my collection: an Altissa Altix V. I bought it without a special interest for 30 €, mainly as a last catch from our old neighbourhood, but after I developed the first roll (already in Esslingen) I really liked the results, so I will look now for an auxiliary finder (the viewfinder is quite small for someone wearing glasses) and additional lenses for it.
About the Altissa Altix V
The Altix V is a quite compact viewfinder camera from Eho-Altissa. The Altix cameras were produced from 1938 until 1958 when Eho was “merged” with VEB Pentacon. The first Altix cameras (model I – III) used the square 24×24 format, which gave you 52 exposures on a 36 exp. 35 mm film (like the Taxona), the later models (from the III A) changed to the more common 24×36 format. Unusual for a viewfinder camera, the III A and the models from the Altix V were equipped with interchangeable lenses, the latter with a proprietary Altix bayonet. As the Altix V’s viewfinder was only designed for use with the 50 mm kit lens, an accessory viewfinder with interchangeable masks for the different focal lengths were available. My Altix has a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 2.8 50.
There a several versions of the Altix V which can be differentiated by the position and typography of the “Altix” name, (cursive vs Capital Serif), the colour of the self-timer activation or the colour of the leatherette which was not only available in black but also in red, blue, green, orange and brown. This page (in German) gives you a complete overview.
The camera is equipped with an accessory shoe, an 3/8″ tripod mount (so you’ll need an adapter for the more common 1/4″ mount) and PC sync for a flash and a self-timer.
The Altix V has a quite compact and solid build body but due to the rather long lens I would not describe it as a compact camera compared to a Kodak Retina or an Olympus 35 RC. Besides this, the Altix V is a beautiful and well crafted camera.
Taking pictures with the Altissa Altix V
As the Altix has no built-in take-up spool, you’ll need an empty one before you can start. Open the camera with by turning the knob on the bottom. Remove the lower part, then open the door on the back. Cut your new film, so it fits to the take-up spool, then slide both from beneath into the camera. Make sure the sprockets holes match the film transport wheel (which also doubles as a double exposure lock, see Tips & Tricks). Advance the film, close the door, attach the bottom plate and lock it. This sound more complicated as it is, this article (also in German, but easy to understand) has a step-by-step instruction.
Now set the film counter to the start mark after the 36, and you are ready to shoot.
As the camera has neither a rangefinder nor a light-meter, you have to guess the right distance, but due to the depth of field marks on the lens, this part is quite easy at least on the smaller apertures. To find the right exposure time and aperture, use an external light meter of sunny f 16 your way. The shutter speeds on my Altix V range from B to 1/250 s and are selected on the lens barrel, the aperture is selected on the lens, Now advance the film with the wheel on the right, then cock the shutter on the lens barrel. If you would like to use the self-timer, press the red button on the front, which allows to move the shutter lever even further to the self-timer position. To use a flash, connect it via a sync cable, due to the central shutter you can use a flash at any speed. Now compose your picture with the small viewfinder (if you were glasses like I do, too small viewfinder) and shoot. The shutter release is located at the “usual” position on the top, after release you will see a little white dot in the small hole next to the advance wheel. After winding to the next exposure, this will turn red when the camera is ready for the next, which signals the double exposure lock is free again. (In German, we only need one word for this, Doppelbelichtungssperre and I think it’s beautiful).
When the film is full, pull out the advance wheel, turn it a bit to the right, so it stays out, and rewind the film with the rewind wheel.
As the last “Berlin camera” the Altix V already has a special place in my small collection, but even without this personal feeling I believe it is a beautiful camera with an excellent lens, perfect for “slow” photography if you are into this.
|Serial number||Body: 131683 Lens: 4161287|
|Lens||Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 2.8/50|
|Shutter||Tempor leaf shutter|
|Special features||Interchangeable lenses|
|Manufactured by||Eho-Altissa/VEB Altissa Camera Werk|
|Date of purchase||08/08/2020|
|Place of purchase||Flea market at Leopoldplatz, Berlin-Wedding, Germany|
Tips & Tricks shooting with the Altix V
The camera has a double exposure lock, so if you would like to test the shutter, you have to open the back and turn the transport wheel to the right until it locks. For double exposures, you can use the self-timer to bypass the lock: after shooting, cock the shutter again, then press the self-timer release and move the shutter lever further, but not until it locks. As soon as you release the lever, the self-timer runs and releases the shutter again.
Film purchase & processing
The camera can use any 35 mm film, as it has no light meter and works fully manual, so might use any ISO.
https://yanivberman.com/2011/09/10/my-photographic-time-tunnel-altix-v/ (Review and beautiful images)
http://deprofi.de/altix/altixv.html (Description including a detailed how-to in German
https://www.dresdner-kameras.de/altix/altix.html (Overview of the Altix series in German)
https://www.butkus.org/chinon/altix/altix_v/altix_v.htm (As usual, Mike Butkus has a manual)