Ihagee Exacta VX

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

Ihagee is famous for producing what was... if not the first in the world, at least the first widely known single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Exacta in 1936. There's some debate because the Soviet Sport might actually have been produced earlier the same year. In any case, the Exacta is the first SLR in the West.

Well, as you know Germany (and Japan) lost WWII and the Soviet Union occupied East Germany, including the city of Dresden which is where the Ihagee factory was located. Production of the Exacta was resuscitated after the War, with the Exacta II released in 1949 and the V or Varex produced in 1950. It had an interchangeable pentaprism or waist-level finder.

I have the VX which was produced from 1951-1956, with a number of minor version changes. I bought it from an old fellow at a camera swap meet in Minnesota in excellent condition with a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 lens and Wirgin Wiesbaden Tepar 105mm f/4.5 telephoto. Everything was in excellent condition and fully working. What struck me about the camera was the "U.S.S.R Occupied" stamp on the bottom of it.

According to the Classic Exacta Listing, the external bayonet lugs marks my VX as a version #2 (4.2) produced between 1953 and 1955. The ASA/Weston film speed reminder marks it as an export model. Exactas are not exactly rare.


Interesting quirks

The camera is left handed! You wind the camera with your left thumb and release the shutter with your left index finger. You insert the film "backwards." It's very odd although you get used to it. Since I have the waist-level finder and not the pentaprism, everything in the viewfinder is "backwards" as well. Very quirky.

Many vendors supplied glass to Exacta. My camera came with Carl Zeiss Jena and Wirgin glass. The finder is removable. Just push the lever under the "Exacta" logo on the front. Mine came with the waist-level finder and not the pentaprism, which makes it harder to use.

The flash prongs are non-standard. My camera came with two adaptors for the flash unit - one made of plastic and the other made of metal. The camera came with a bulb-flash unit but you'll notice the camera has no accessory shoe to mount the bulb flash. The owner must have disposed of the 'L' bracket that you need.

The camera top plate is confusing so I've done my best to try to explain the controls in the picture below.

The self-timer also doubles as the long-exposure timer. Set the camera shutter to 'T' and dial in your desired long-exposure time from 1 - 12 seconds. This is most probably one of the longest timed manual shutter speeds on a non-electronic camera. To set the slow speeds:

  1. Wind the shutter (important)
  2. Turn the right hand slow-shutter/self-timer knob clockwise all the way
  3. Pull up on the knob and turn it to your desired location:
    1. Black numbers 1/5 - 12 sec are for slow-shutter speeds
    2. Red numbers are for the slow shutter + self-timer



Very weird quirk: the camera has a built-in film guillotine. Unscrewing the knob by the bottom-mounted rewind lever and pulling it forward pulls a small guillotine knife across the film plane. Why would you want this? If you use two film cartridges, you can cut the film half-way through the roll. Since many people can't get through a 36-exposure roll quickly, it's a very efficient system. Three thumbs up! I don't see any indication that the camera took Contax/Leica style reloadable cartridges though, odd.

In summary, while a fun quirky camera, the camera is a pain in the neck to use:

Technical Details

Camera Name
Exacta VX  
Place of Manufacture

Dresden, Germany

Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Single lens reflex
Removable pentaprism

Lens Mount

Exacta bayonet mount (internal and external)
Non-automatic (no auto-diaphragm)


Horizontal travel cloth focal plane shutter: 12 sec. - 1/1000 sec + B

Metering System



M and X prong type flash connection on front body

Film type / speeds

Type 135 (35mm standard)

Battery type
Dimensions and weight
Retail price


Carl Zeiss Jena Wirgin Wiesbaden  
50mm f/2.8 Tessar T 105mm f/4.5 Telepar  
Serial #
36296xx n/a  
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture


Lens Construction
coated (red T symbol indicating coating)
Lens Mount

Exacta Bayonet Mount

Focusing range

1.75 feet - infinity
Right focusing (infinity at right)

8 feet - infinity
Right focusing (infinity at right)


f/2.8 ~ f/22 (stepless)

f/4.5 ~ f/22 (stepless)

Filter Mount

Filter: xx mm threaded
Lens cap: xx mm push on

Filter: xx mm threaded
Lens cap: xx mm push on

Retail price



About Ihagee

Ihagee was an early photographic pioneer in Dresden Germany. According to McKeown, for a while, Ihagee was the largest camera manufacturer in Germany. Unfortunately, like most German camera companies, it was munched up by the giant Zeiss-Ikon conglomeration in the early post-War period.


On the Net


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