Category Archives: Camera Reviews

The Ultra FEX 620 6×9 Camera

(Originally written and posted in my previous blog on  FEBRUARY 17, 2010)

The Ultra FEX 620 6×9 Camera, originally uploaded by lancephoto.

OVERVIEW:

My first test with my new (to me) Ultra FEX 6×9 620 camera. (circa 1955) I got it early last November for 6€ at a TROC antique market near Mons in Belgium. After re-rolling the 120 film on to 620 rolls and having some winding issues which were fixed with some lubricant, I ran my first roll through it with outstanding results.

Ultra FEX 620 6x9 Camera

The first shot below is of the GroteMarkt (city center) of Ypres (Ieper), Belgium on Armistice Day 2009. This one was scanned from a print which is cropped a bit from the full 6x9cm negative.

UltraFEX RESULT! Ypres Grote Markt
FILM: Fujicolor Reala 100 (120)
DATE: 11/11/2009

This next shot is one of my favorite so far. It shows Corte De Cå Sarasina, in Venezia

Corte De Cå Sarasina, Venezia
Film: 220 Kodak Portra 400NC (expired 6/2009)
Pro Lab Developed, Negative scanned with HP ScanJet G4050
December 2009

You can Click this link to view more pictures I’ve taken with this camera:

(more pictures will be added to that list as they’re taken.

THE DETAILS:

This is a fixed focus viewfinder camera made of Bakelite Plastic (circa 1955) by the FEX / Indo company in France. (“FRANCE” stamped on front, left, bottom of camera.)

Lens is a “Fexar-Optic-Spec” 85mm (I think it’s glass?)

I haven’t yet determined what the focal distance is but from 6 feet to infinity should suffice.

The Apertures (or ƒ-stops) are labeled “Normal” (= ƒ11) or “Intense” (= ƒ16)

The Shutter Speeds available are 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 (no Bulb or X setting, although there is a flash sync socket on the right of the lens housing.)

This camera is designed to take 620 film so that means the only way you can use 120 or 220 film in it is to either grind down a 120 spindle or re-roll your 120/220 onto a thinner 620 spindle. These 620 spindles can be found in many old 620 cameras such as the Kodak Brownie available in thrift stores all over very inexpensively.

I re-rolled my 120 (and later 220) film onto an old 620 spindle for the first time to test this camera. It was simple and quick but must be done in COMPLETE darkness. So if you don’t have a light tight room then you should look into getting a Film Changing Bag, available used from many online outlets such as eBay or Craig’s List. I just used my bathroom, at night with the lights out and a towel stuffed under the door crack, then made sure to keep my body between the film and the door just in case a stray shaft of light came through. – My advise is: if after 3 minutes you can see you hand in front of your face it is still too light and you should find a way to seal the door or windows better. Trust me, ANY of the slightest light will fog your film and effect the image.

I used this video (linked below) from “Luketrash” to guide me, it’s not exciting, but gives you all the information you need to do the job right. Now it only takes me about 3 minutes to re-roll my 120 film onto 620 spindles. (NOTE: BE SURE TO RE-ROLL BACK ONTO 120 SPINDLES BEFORE YOU TUN IT IN TO YOUR LOCAL LAB FOR DEVELOPING OR YOU LIKELY WON’T GET IT BACK.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF2ODqdpgGg

Advancing the film after each exposure is a manual process. There is the typical red window on the back of the camera to see the frame numbers. You should be able to get 8 – 6x8cm pictures from a 120 roll or about 15 from a 220 roll*.

I recommend keeping the cover over the red window when you are not looking at the counter to prevent the red dot from showing up on your film. Mine came with a nice leather case (shown above) and that likely helps to keep any light leaks from occurring. I did not tape the edges as I hear many others do and had no leaks but I suspect that changes from camera to camera.

My version of this camera (there were several, similar models) has a “cold” shoe for attaching a flash; meaning the shoe is not electronically activated when the shutter is tripped, you must attach a sync cord for a flash to work. I have seen others with a Hot Shoe attachment.

The lens housing in this camera must be pulled out fully from its collapsed position in order for the shutter button to be pushed. You can push the shutter all day long with the housing closed and the shutter itself will not open.

Additionally there is no cocking mechanism so double (or more) exposures are easy, just press the shutter again. But beware to advance your film to the next frame after each shot you want to take or you’re liable to forget and make double exposures by accident.

When not shooting you can slide the lens housing back into the body making it quite compact for a 6×9 camera and it is also very lightweight.

It measures about 6 x 3.5 x 3 inches (15 x 10 x 8 cm) when closed. and weighs about 12 oz (350 grams) without the case or film.

So in summary – I really enjoy using this camera and might consider getting a second one (since they’re so inexpensive) and using one for 220 and one for 120 so I don’t have to keep taping and untaping the red window…

PROS: Huge 6×9 Negative, Light & Compact, Easy to Use, Decent Image Quality, Inexpensive, Attractive.

CONS: Very limited shutter and aperture options, fixed focus, no hotshoe, complicated process for using 120 film on 620 spindles, even more complicated for 220 (see below).

Thanks for reading… let me know what you think of my first review…

– Lance

*** USING 220 FILM:

In order to use 220 film in these old 620 cameras, you must tape over the red window ( I recommend inside and out with black tape). Of course this means you can’t see the exposure numbers in the red window and therefore know when to stop turning the winder. To get around this (and therefore shoot 15 frames instead of just 8) I recommend buying an old cheap roll of 220 and running it through the camera in the light, marking off the frames and writing down how many turns between exposures. The number of truns will change as the roll gets thicker on the take-up spool. I have written down how many turns it took me with this camera. You can use this chart below if you want to but keep in mind it is only for this camera and it is quite approximate leaving me plenty of extra space between shots for safety.

I was using Kodak Portra 400NC 220 film which has a “bar code” like stripe at the beginning of the roll. I advanced the film until it was at the end of this bar code (I’m seeing the vagueness of this as I write it, proving even more you should do this yourself with the film you will be using)

At the end of the bar code I wound the film advance knob 33 times (180 degree turns) before I made the first exposure.

After the first exposure – turn 6 times

After the second exposure – turn 6 times

After the third exposure – turn 6 times

After the fourth exposure – turn 6 times

After the fifth exposure – turn 5 times

After the sixth exposure – turn 5 times

After the seventh exposure – turn 5 times

After the eighth exposure – turn 5 times

After the ninth exposure – turn 5 times

After the tenth exposure – turn 4 times

After the eleventh exposure – turn 4 times

After the twelfth exposure – turn 4 times

After the thirteenth exposure – turn 4 times

After the fourteenth exposure – turn 4 times

After the fifteenth exposure – Last Frame – turn until the end of the roll…

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