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View Full Version : Still looking for a Kodak Ektra close focusing rangefinder


Dez
10-17-2012, 13:13
I am the happy owner of a nice Kodak Ektra, with a working shutter. I actually take pictures with it, albeit very carefully. I would very much like to make use of the close focus capabilities of the 35 and 50 mm lenses, but I do not have the needed close focusing rangefinder accessory.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v191/johndesmond/zot2.jpg


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v191/johndesmond/Front2.jpg

I saw one on ebay several months ago for $149, and like an idiot I stalled around rather than grabbing it, and it was snapped up by some other Ektra enthusiast. Does anyone out there know where I might be able to find one of these things for a fairly reasonable price?

Thanks,
Dez

Roger Hicks
10-17-2012, 13:32
Dear Dez,

I've never even SEEN one. But then, I've only ever handled three Ektras (three more than most people, and only one working). I fear that your assessment "like an idiot" may turn out to be distressingly true. "Reasonable price?" Good luck!

Cheers,

R.

furcafe
10-17-2012, 14:46
Might be easier to find a company willing to make an Ektra-to-mirrorless adapter. Downside is that it would inflate the value of Ektra Ektars to Leica-like or Contarex-crazy levels.

Dez
10-17-2012, 20:25
[QUOTE=furcafe;Downside is that it would inflate the value of Ektra Ektars to Leica-like or Contarex-crazy levels.[/QUOTE]

They are already there. I have been looking for a scarce 153mm lens for a while, and I would want to negotiate a mortgage to buy one. It's a lovely camera, though. Like all things designed specifically to be worldbeaters, it is very much over-engineered. With only 2000 ever produced, Kodak never got to pay for all the tooling that went into it, and I imagine they lost a lot of money with this camera.

I have overhauled three of the 135 lenses at one time or another. If complete disassembly is required, putting it back together is a nightmare. Very fine threads, and no slack anywhere. Re-engaging the focus mount threads is a horrible job. I think there are (at least) six starts, and if you don't line up the parts precisely, it will never engage. But sometimes you get lucky. When I got my Ektra, the 50 f1.9 lens was quite cloudy. Fortunately, it turned out that the fog was on the rear surface of the front group, which is trivial to access. Five minutes' work had it like new again.

I have a spare 35mm lens in good shape that I want to sell. Maybe I'll find someone interested in some trading.

The strangest accessory I have for this camera is a pair of extension tubes. I have only ever seen one reference to the existence of such things, and they are not mentioned in either the camera manual or the Ektra brochure. I suspect these may be in the same rarity class as an honest politician in an election year. OK, maybe not THAT rare!

I don't understand the enthusiasm behind adapting old lenses to Micro 4/3.
If the format were full-frame, maybe, but the sensor is so small that a 50mm lens only provides about a 100mm coverage. Once you buy or build a complex adapter, you get to struggle to defeat the camera's automation, and eventually manage to get a picture which often serves as a demonstration of how much the lensmaker's art has progressed since one's expensive piece of antique glass was manufactured. I have a little Panasonic Micro 4/3 camera, and it is unbelievably handy with its compact 14-40mm lens. I have not yet found a situation where there is any important difference between its results and those of my big and heavy Nikon D700. Then again, I have always been a closet heretic.

Cheers,
Dez

furcafe
10-18-2012, 06:53
Yes, the last 153mm I saw went for over a grand (IIRC).

Good to hear about your spare 35mm, that's a sweet lens. Come to think of it, the accessory that someone should be making right now that would be pretty easy to produce would be new clip-on accessory finders for the 35mm.

As far as full-frame mirrorless, I think we're less than a year away from that.

They are already there. I have been looking for a scarce 153mm lens for a while, and I would want to negotiate a mortgage to buy one. It's a lovely camera, though. Like all things designed specifically to be worldbeaters, it is very much over-engineered. With only 2000 ever produced, Kodak never got to pay for all the tooling that went into it, and I imagine they lost a lot of money with this camera.

I have overhauled three of the 135 lenses at one time or another. If complete disassembly is required, putting it back together is a nightmare. Very fine threads, and no slack anywhere. Re-engaging the focus mount threads is a horrible job. I think there are (at least) six starts, and if you don't line up the parts precisely, it will never engage. But sometimes you get lucky. When I got my Ektra, the 50 f1.9 lens was quite cloudy. Fortunately, it turned out that the fog was on the rear surface of the front group, which is trivial to access. Five minutes' work had it like new again.

I have a spare 35mm lens in good shape that I want to sell. Maybe I'll find someone interested in some trading.

The strangest accessory I have for this camera is a pair of extension tubes. I have only ever seen one reference to the existence of such things, and they are not mentioned in either the camera manual or the Ektra brochure. I suspect these may be in the same rarity class as an honest politician in an election year. OK, maybe not THAT rare!

I don't understand the enthusiasm behind adapting old lenses to Micro 4/3.
If the format were full-frame, maybe, but the sensor is so small that a 50mm lens only provides about a 100mm coverage. Once you buy or build a complex adapter, you get to struggle to defeat the camera's automation, and eventually manage to get a picture which often serves as a demonstration of how much the lensmaker's art has progressed since one's expensive piece of antique glass was manufactured. I have a little Panasonic Micro 4/3 camera, and it is unbelievably handy with its compact 14-40mm lens. I have not yet found a situation where there is any important difference between its results and those of my big and heavy Nikon D700. Then again, I have always been a closet heretic.

Cheers,
Dez

Dez
10-18-2012, 15:35
I was looking into ways of making one of those. It's a bit tricky, as it has grabbers on all four sides of the window. Doable but tricky. I tried using a large Nikon dioptre lens which could be made to fit, but the window was too small for the full field. I am making a 28mm adapter for my Nikon varifocal finder, a much easier job as most of it can be done with ordinary series V bits. The cost of the Nikon part is ludicrous.

Cheers,
Dez

bugmenot
10-18-2012, 15:38
Well then, you learn something new everyday ...

This is the first time I have ever even seen this particular camera ...

Dez
10-18-2012, 16:11
They are hard to find, and most are non-functional due to a complicated and fragile shutter mechanism.

Here's Steve Gandy's excellent page on the Ektra.
http://www.cameraquest.com/ektra.htm

Cheers,
Dez

bugmenot
10-18-2012, 16:20
That is a mechanical beauty ... I want one! :D

Are there actually anybody who is skilled in repairing and cleaning these old cameras? How about the lenses? Are there any adapters to mount these lenses on today's mirrorless cameras?

Dez
10-18-2012, 18:39
The only repair shop I know of that handles Ektras is called Bald Mountain
Photography, or something of the sort. I think their flat rate repair is $650 plus parts, so you need to think twice about the condition of the camera before buying it. Expect to pay about $1000 for a good working body. The lenses tend to be on ebay at very high buy-it-now prices, but they stay there for a long time, too. Be careful of Ektra lenses designated "Television Ektanon": they are optically identical, but do not couple to the rangefinder.

I suspect these lenses are too obscure to warrant anyone making adapters to anything else, and the mount, like every other aspect of the camera, is rather complex. And again, as in my rant above, what's the point? These little cameras are designed for flexibility and convenience, and the lenses are the most modern designs available. Putting on a piece of glass that was designed seventy years ago, however mechanically brilliant it is, negates all the convenience of the camera, and will usually yield disappointing results.

I remember a detailed lens test in Modern Photography several years ago which compared a late 50's Leitz Summicron, a truly splendid and horrendously expensive lens, with a new plastic mounted Canon 50mm f1.8 lens which was dirt cheap and looked it. The el cheapo Canon lens beat the venerable Summicron in every objective optical measurement because it was designed thirty years later. Which lens would I rather have? The Summicron of course. Which lens would do a better job on a modern camera......................

The moral of the story is: If you want to be a Luddite, just go ahead and have fun being a Luddite, but don't put a lot of effort trying to rationalize it.

Cheers,
Dez

L David Tomei
10-20-2012, 03:30
This VF focuses down to 1 ft but was sold as a Retina accessory along with aux lenses. I see no reason not to use it on the Ektra although there could conceivably be a problem with the parallax correction.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8332/8104955759_9be7e27526_n.jpghttp://farm9.staticflickr.com/8188/8104966763_d55e3436e4_n.jpg

Dez
10-20-2012, 15:00
Thanks, but there would be a few problems. The diopter lenses would not fit on the larger Ektra 50mm lens, and the reason the Ektra finder is special is that there is a second closer focusing scale on the 50 and 35mm lenses operating in a similar manner to the dual-range Summicron. The Ektra finder works with those second focusing scales.

Cheers,
Dez

L David Tomei
10-21-2012, 01:22
Hi Dez,
I have used my close range rangefinder on my Ektra with the 50mm lens. Since the lens has a dual range and is already optically corrected for distances down to 1.5 ft, the diopter lenses are not needed. The range finder goes down to 1 ft, so it will accurately measure close distances matching the 50mm lens.

And there's the difference... the Ektra rangefinder works with both 35 and 50mm lenses, whereas the one shown above in my post is solely for the 50mm lens. However, the Ektra is uncommon and expensive, whereas the one above can be found for €30-50.

My Ektra's shutter failed a couple years ago and has been stored ever since. I have considered getting it serviced at Boulder (if I recall correctly), but I now live in Italy where the loss rate in shipping makes it simply too risky.

Ciao from Roma. David

Dez
10-22-2012, 14:37
At the moment, I am away from home and my beloved Ektra, so I cannoit experiment. I think I have a similar Retina close focus device, but I have never used it. I had assumed that since these had three focusing scales, the photographer would focus the RF on the object to be photographed and read the camera focus scale distance off the RF scale corresponding to the used +dioptre. Then that distance would be set on the camera's scale. Looking at your picture, it looks like this is what this device is doing, with metric focusing scales. It doesn't look like it could be used directly as a rangefinder to set the distance on the Ektra with no + lens. Am I missing something??

Thanks,
Dez

furcafe
10-22-2012, 15:00
Tha's Ken Ruth of Photography on Bald Mountain (his actual address is Bald Mountain--http://www.baldmtn.com/Ektrapage.htm), who's also known for converting Medalists to 120. My understanding is that there is also someone in Japan who fixes Ektras; I remember reading an article about how former Senator Howard Baker had 2 Ektras fixed while he was Ambassador to Japan, but can't find it now via Google.

The only repair shop I know of that handles Ektras is called Bald Mountain
Photography, or something of the sort. I think their flat rate repair is $650 plus parts, so you need to think twice about the condition of the camera before buying it. Expect to pay about $1000 for a good working body.

L David Tomei
10-22-2012, 23:38
As the wheel is turned the angle of parallax correction changes continuously and each range comes in to match the field curvature produced by each successive aux lens. You aren't missing anything, I am. One of these ranges needs to match the optical correction that is already built into the Ektra lens. I'm going to set the camera up and calibrate the distance to see which range, if any, would work. However, I'm ready to abandon this great idea.

Furcafe: I recall talking to Ken back when the shutter first failed. I think that the old Ektra will need someone willing to spend a lot more than I to get it back to working state.

Dez
11-07-2012, 17:53
I finally managed to locate an Ektra close focus finder, and cleaned it up for use. I am looking for some instructions on how to use it.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v191/johndesmond/Top1.jpg


If I use the red infinity sign on the inner ring as an index, it does indicate the correct distance from 3.5' to 1.5' on the outer scale, It seems able to focus far closer than that, but there is no obviously usable scale for that. Also, I understand it is usable with a +3 closeup lens as well, but it is not obvious what scale to use in that case. There is a complete focusing scale on the inner ring, but I can find no use for it. Obviously I have something wrong here. Does anyone have a copy of the instructions for this fascinating gadget by any chance?

Cheers,
Dez

Dez
11-08-2012, 20:52
No problem- I figured it out. When the +3 accessory close-up lens is used, the distance to set on the lens is the point where the two black scales on the RF line up. The field is set by moving the slider on the front to the black dot. A bit clumsy, but it works.

Cheers,
Dez

Dez
06-01-2013, 15:04
After years of searching, I managed to snag one of these ridiculously scarce little jewels from an ebay ad from Brooklyn Camera, which somehow seems to have lots of Ektra stuff. I cleaned all the cloudy glass surfaces and checked it out- it works really well for closeups between 3.5' and 1.5'. The closer range, using a +3 diopter lens has to be focused VERY accurately, or a very small aperture used, as there is very little DOF.

So then two weeks ago, I found another one, apparently new-old-stock, also on ebay, and I grabbed it at a ridiculously low buy-it-now price. So now I have two.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v191/johndesmond/zot2.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/johndesmond/media/zot2.jpg.html)


So, is there anyone out there who has an Ektra, and is looking for one of these fascinating accessories?

Cheers,
Dez

Dez
07-11-2013, 13:28
I hope it is OK to plug a Classified ad here. I don't want to run afoul of the moderators.

I have put one of these ultra-scarce devices up for sale in the Classified section.

Cheers,
Dez

jim sparx
07-13-2013, 17:16
Theres another on Ebay now:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.TRS0&_nkw=Ektra+close+focusing+rangefinder+&_sacat=0&_from=R40

Dez
07-14-2013, 06:40
That's mine, actually. I'd prefer to sell it in the RFF Classifieds, but am trying to cover the bases.

Cheers,
Dez