Bought from ebay today, on the identification of the seller as a Beier Beira Westex, 1939, the Westex is a modified German Beier Precisa, of which there were many variants, the Westex was made for The Westminister Camera Exchange Shop in London in 1939.
But, although I have bought it, the lens board struts look wrong for a pre-war folder, they are a post war type used by other makers.
The Picture is none too clear, it has a large range shutter, should be Prontor if Precisa, or Compur if Rodenstock lens are fitted.
The Lens looks right appearance for pr-war, black fittings etc.
However the body does not have the octagon styling of Beier, and the makers name on the leather is vague in the shot. It has an Octagonal surround just visible though.......
Anyway it is a nice folder and cheap. Looks like a bit of restoration required, and if a Westminster Camera Exhange model, then one of the batch requisitioned by the Government on the outbreak of war. Westminster Camera Exchange were the first shop visited by the team who were given the task of finding any decent photographic gear for use in the war.
Any have any other ideas on the maker if not Beier?
Last Edit: Aug 15, 2013 14:06:08 GMT -5 by Stephen
After very furious thinking, painful!, the lens board struts are the Balda type, a very typical arrangement, but the rest is not really Balda, the strap supports, the wind on knob is on the wrong side (Balda were "left handed" designs, and often had the knob on the bottom of the camera).
So unless this is a curious Frankenstein model, it may well be a Beier in the end, but with Balda struts. Enhancement of the name plate seems to read Beira, which was the trademark of Beier, but usually used on the Beira 35 RF.
I wonder if this is not a Westex model, but one made during the war as a combined effort by Beier and Balda, or even an odd post war production from East Germany to use up existing parts from both German makers, maybe a bombed out factory causing production to move.
A session with the Gimp shows the name on the leather to match Westex, so it is a pre-war Beier 120. Other references say the Westex was not based on the Precisa or other models. Beier specialised making models for other distributors, and tailored the spec to suit the customer. The lens appears to be a Schneider Radionar, the faster alternative on many models.
Marco....., many thanks for the excellent very helpful suggestions, I realised after a net search just how many cameras were made by both Beier and Balda, in their own names and plenty of other suppliers.
The problem may be solved as Westex is on the leatherette, and of course the proper answer is quite simple, Balda, not Beier made the Westex.
Campedia, the "font of photo and camera knowledge" as it is , have stated Beier made the Westex, for Westminster Camera Exchange of the Strand in London, in it's day a very large photographic store, and an importer to the UK.
As the Westex is relatively rare, being made only in 1938/9, it is far more likely that Balda made the model, the lens board struts are their own Balda design, the placement of the knob in the normal position being perhaps to make it different from Balda's own "left handed" or "on the bottom" arrangement.
I think Campedia are just wrong in this instance, it is a Westex, but made by Balda.
Balda and Beier were equivalent quality makers, but with Beier going down market after the war, due to the East German Government. They remained the property of the original owner till his death, and then like Ihagee Exakta, slipped into VEB Pentacon state control, about 1960.
The lens on close examination is definitely a Schneider Radionar F2.9, which Balda used. Camera should be here for closer examination early next week, post willing.
Got it, I think I am sure, and it is a Balda Rigona clone, it matches in all details, including the wind on knob's position, straps and rivets, and finish, and explains a further oddity, the length of the camera body in the Ebay shot is too small for a full 6x9 or 6x6 camera, and the explanation, confirmed with the image is that the Westex is not 120, but a 127 film size camera.
They still had a Schneider Radionar lens, but shorter 50mm focal length, which explains the squat appearance and the short lens board and struts completely. The lens is mounted in a Prontor shutter, with black finish surround to the front focus ring.
So not quite so usable as 120, being 127, but I have supplies at the moment of 5x 127 films made from 120 film, made at home, with photo copies of old Kodak black paper 127 backings, in Ilford Pan-F, (out dated, but frozen film), so testing it out should be quite practical.
The Ebay seller has just confirmed the identification, it is definitely stamped "Westex", and being 127, based on the BaldaRigona, which Campedia do not list it as such. Perhaps a bit rarer? I suspect Westminster Camera Exchange did more than one model of Westex anyway!!
The original Rigona usually had the wind on on the left handed side or bottom, but the photo shows a Rigona with the same right handed, top plate, knob.
Baldawerk usually had the very quirky wind on knob placed on the bottom of the camera.
Thankfully it has a 127 spool with the camera, the seller has confirmed, one Ebay listing wanted £15 for an empty reel, quite ridiculous, but even cheaper ones are £5, or thereabouts, when postage is added. For £15 I'd want an in date film included as well.
The Westminster Westex 127 camera arrived in the post this morning, all in good working order, but the leather condition is poor, but serviceable, with a bit of attention. It has a spare 127 spool fitted as a bonus!
The Prontor II shutter is very accurate, and amazingly the delayed action works properly. The Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 50mm F 2.9 lens is clear and bright. It is a front cell focusing version, no rangefinder, or parallax correcting viewfinder, unlike the Baldina. Despite the same 50mm focal length as the Baldina, it is much faster at 2.9 than the F4.5 of the Baldina's Radionar.
The bellows look all right, no gaping holes, but I am testing the light tightness next, the body work chrome is a bit rusty in spots, all will clean away. The paintwork needs a bit of attention with black lacquer paint.
The 127 Balda made Westex is smaller than the 35mm Baldina camera, both slimmmer and shorter. It is a 16 on 127 format camera, there are two shuttered red film number windows on the back door.
Balda Werk made the camera in 1935/8 for The Westminster Photographic Exchange stores, 81 The Strand, London, and of 111 Oxford Street, London, from a re-badged Balda Riconda. Most unusually for Balda, the wind on is where it should be, on top of the camera.
The Original Westminster Photographic Exchange Ltd adverts, from just before the war, the Westex Miniature Camera that is illustrated in the advert has the Balda bottom wind, but is the same 127 model, and shows the British retail prices, and the Hire Purchase terms of 12 months at 9 shillings and 10 pence, or 24 months at 4 shillings and 11 pence.
The Westex used "Standard VP film, available everywhere"....... only wish it was!!!
Other Products including the "new model" Zeiss Tenax 1, with prices. Also a rarity from the retail Price maintanace days, the Weltini II was on "Special offer" at a reduced price, (and still relatively expensive against others).
Turns out the 24 Charing Cross address was yards from Hamblings Model Railway shop where I once worked, and where the Camera Requisitioning Officer for WW2 ran this business in later years. He had the job, as Officer, of arranging to seize all the required photographic equipment on the outbreak of the war. He outlined the activities of the gathering of all cameras etc., at the start of the war.
They had a group of Squadies and several lorries, and were instructed to strip the shops and warehouses, and had powers to requisition any privately held cameras. The instructions were aimed at Leica and Zeiss mainly. The Strand shop was the first to be visited, then all the London Photgraphic shops were stripped over a couple of weeks. Kodak (UK), provided a location at Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, for the sorting and storage, and return of un-wanted items.
The same Kent site became the wartime location of Agfa staff who worked for the Allies during the war, as Whitehall needed processing of large Agfa color stocks of 16mm cine film. Three German Agfa technicians had defected just before the war, and provided Kodak with the process details.
All other photographic chemicals, paper, and enlargers etc were taken to a site controlled by Johnsons of Hendon.
Soldiers were not allowed any photographic gear at all in the war, only authorised Officers could carry cameras, and lots were seized from servicemen who should not have had them.
Needless to say all of this stopped the Photographic trade during the war, most independent shops closed down, leaving limited supplies for the public from chain stores like Boots. Possession of a camera and film became a very serious offence, if there was no proper explanation for it's use. The remaining photographic shops existed on secondhand cameras and developing and printing for regular known customers, most being Chemist shops as well.
Last Edit: Aug 15, 2013 10:58:05 GMT -5 by Stephen
The Westex Miniature 127, made by Balda Werk for The Westminster Photographic Exchange in 1937/8
It really is very miniature indeed, far smaller than the Balda Baldina 35mm. Lots of leather to repair or replace, plus a spot of painting with an airbrush, otherwise in good mechanical and optical order.
With both the Baldina and the Westex taking a 50mm lens, and both being Radionar types the whole shutter is virtually interchangeable!, although this will not be done!
I have couple of B/W 127 films to hand, made from 120 Efke 200 ASA roll film with new paper backings, so tests next week. There is also a colour film, Fuji 120 stock, but I will wait to see the first B/W results before risking any colour photographs. I have already done a quick test for light leaks with printing paper, and there are no leaks at all.
First black and white shots from the Balda made Westex 127 miniature, Efka 120 100asa film sliced down to 127 in the darkroom, with old Kodak 127 backing paper and spools, then the pictures scanned from the 127 half negatives (16 on 127).
Results are quite good, a fraction softer at one edge than the other, all put through the Gimp for corrections. The Schneider Radionar works fine, the softness is one strut out of line ever so slightly, allowing the lens board to be out of true.
Nice small camera all round, just needs a tidy up and the strut adjusted, and image check for even focus at large aperture.
The Statue marking the entrance to the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford on the Old Pilgrims Way.
The River Medway at Aylesford, still Tidal at this reach.