This is currently the oldest camera that I own, it was made in 1930 by Ihagee in Dresden, Germany. It’s a medium format camera that uses cassettes holding a single 6x9cm sheet of film. It can also be loaded with glass or tin plates for alternative processes.
Ihagee was named for the way that the initials of the company (IHG) were pronounced in German – Industrie- und Handelsgesellschaft. The company was best known for the Exakta range of SLRs which were made from 1933 until the 1970s. The company was in the Soviet-controlled DDR after the Second World War and was taken over by Pentacon who continued the production of Exakta cameras alongside their own Praktika range. The original founder of Ihagee set up a new company after the war called Ihagee West but this folded in the 1970s.
The Fotoklapp Duplex is a folding, view camera. The front standard can be pushed all the way back to the rear and then the focusing rail folds up to close the box. A button hidden under the leather on top releases the catch to open it up again. When it’s folded up it’s smaller than a paperback book. It has a leather case with a very snazzy purple velvet interior which is still in very good condition and a small wallet that contains three numbered film cartridges. As with most view cameras, it’s fairly slow to use, you’re going to want to keep it for portraits or landscapes rather than anything that moves.
The process runs like this. First you open the hood on the ground glass back and open the aperture to focus the scene, the image is very dark and inverted so this is not easy to do. You need a lot of light otherwise it’s just too dark to see anything. Then, you remove the glass back and insert your film cartridge, close the aperture, remove the darkslide and take the picture. Once you have exposed all the cartridges that you have, you’re done. You need to return to a darkroom to remove and replace the film. The lens is an F. Deckel 105mm that stops down from f/4.5 to f/32 and the shutter is a Compur with speeds from 1 s up to 1/250s plus a bulb and T setting. The T setting is mostly used for focusing as it holds the aperture open until the shutter is pressed again. You can compose the scene via a fold out wire viewfinder or there’s a magnifying lens and a mirror just above the taking lens. Because of the need to switch backs between focusing and taking the picture, the camera is really only usable with a tripod – additionally you’ll need relatively long shutter speeds as most sheet film is relatively slow.
I’ve not yet had a chance to use this one as I don’t have access to a darkroom. It’s not really possible to load and unload sheet film or develop it without a darkroom, unlike roll film which can be easily developed in a tank and loaded in normal light.