Having to spend some time at Bad Kreuznach, a small city in southwest Germany, where SCHNEIDER still builds – or at least sells – lenses, I decided to bring a lens home to its town of birth: the Akarette II with its Schneider Kreuznach XENAR 3.5/50, which was given birth to at the Schneider works in Bad Kreuznach. The “system” was completed by a yellow filter and a distance meter.
Shortly after WWII the AKA company was founded in the Blackforest and later moved to Friedrichshafen, the hometown of the Zeppelin-airships. From 1950 to 1954 the Akarette II was built and sold with several standard lenses by different manufacturers, the most expensive one was the SCHNEIDER XENON 1.2/50mm.
The camera has two viewfinders, one for 50mm and one for 75mm lenses. It is not a rangefinder, although on first view it looks like one. The small lever at the front plate allows you to switch between the finders.
I found the camera at a pawnshop and decided to set her free – a good decision as I have to say. Even the first roll of film was astonishing but I did not take into account parallax compensation so I got a lot of foreground and did cut some heads.
The weather was not too good while shooting this roll: not sunny, some fog and even a little bit of rain – not the best circumstances for such an old lens, one might think. But it turned out, that the XENAR is still a very sharp lens after about 65 years, which has very nice characteristics. Not too much contrast (the yellow filter helped a little bit).
Even if the camera together with the distance meter looks somewhat bulky, after some moments it appears to be quite handy and well usable. Of course, it takes some time to measure the light with an external meter (I used Sunny 16 for this roll). Simply set the shutter speed, aperture and distance manually.
If my experience is anything to go by, you will get a lot of feedback when using one – mostly from elderly men who pretend to own a LEICA, young women who assure you that the camera is “so cute” or people who ask whether film is still available.
Thanks for reading,
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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