WCPHA Newsletter

Western Canada Photographic Historical Association        January February 2008



NOTE THE DATE CHANGE As the first Tuesday is New Year’s Day we have moved the meeting to Tuesday January 8th.  We will have an informal New Year’s dinner in the restaurant at 6:30, followed by a later start to the meeting with the usual Buy and Sell and Show and Tell — bring an interesting camera.



Back to the regular First Tuesday — February 5th. Dinner at 6:30 for those who want. Buy and sell from 7:30 to 8:00 then a presentation by Terry Cioni on Audio-Visual trends.



The next Vancouver Camera Show will be at its usually Cameron Recreation Centre venue on Sunday April 20th, 2008. One of the biggest shows around with over 100 tables and one thousand attendees. Book your table or volunteer to help — Siggi or Brigitte 604 941-0300. The show coincides with the Nikon Convention — details in the next newsletter.



We are trying to have a presentation at least every second meeting. What do you have in your collection that you could bring and talk about for thirty minutes or so? Let our Program Coordinator know; Joe Vorlicek: jvorlicek@mcelhanney.com; 604 465-5346.



This is a special four-page two-month edition of the newsletter that I have prepared to give our editor Peter Knowlden a break as a special birthday present. The next three pages are a long overdue chapter in the series on the lesser German 35mm cameras — and one of my favourites — the Carl Zeiss Werra. We are always looking for content, please hit your keyboard and email to Peter.


A list of member’s telephone and email is enclosed. For security reasons addresses are not provided. Please send me any additions or corrections



Congratulations Peter

Thank you for the Newsletter every month and for your faithful attendance driving the long distance each month from Whonnock in your tiny Smart car. I only hope I have your energy and enthusiasm if I am lucky enough to get to your age.  Here’s to many more interesting 127s in your collection.




Aperture Camera Show & Swap Meet on Dec 2nd was small and hindered by a snowstorm with many tables packing up early in the afternoon.


Our Christmas dinner saw a record turnout with the Alpine Club providing unusually speedy service. Thanks to Siggi for making the arrangements.






The Lesser German 35mm Cameras —Werra

       by Tom Parkinson


Carl Zeiss Jena VEB was the portion of the optical giant stranded in the Eastern (Russian) sector of Germany, later the Deutsches Demokratisches Republik, (DDR). After WWII the Soviets requisitioned much of the machinery that produced Contax rangefinder cameras, along with staff to run and maintain it. These war reparations were moved to Kiev and continued to produce the Kiev rangefinder cameras for two decades. The Carl Zeiss factories in Jena concentrated on optics, including supplying lenses for a variety of cameras produced in East Germany. Note:The Contax production line in the old ICA Dresden building had been badly damaged in Allied raids. The Soviets required Zeiss to recreate destroyed drawings and reestablish the line with new tooling produced in the undamaged Wünsche plant located on the outskirts of Dresden. This line was established at the Saalfeld works and produced 3000 – 4000 “Jena” Contax cameras (circa 1946) before being moved to Kiev — coincidental with the name of the Soviet Contax changing from the planned “Volga” to “Kiev.” Ref: Larry Gubas After Dresden: the migration of the Contax to Jena and Kiev, Zeiss Historica, 2001.  (The Soviets also requisitioned designs and tooling for other cameras from the Eastern Sector.)



Zeiss Jena itself no longer made cameras after the Contax SLR production was subsumed into the communist Dresden photographic kombinats — until 1954 when purportedly the Soviets returned German personnel from Kiev who were deployed by Carl Zeiss to develop a new 35mm camera. (several web sites reference this but without sub stantiation). This team was not located in Jena but at the Carl Zeiss factory in Eisfeld, still in Thüringer land (province) but some 150 km away over the ThüringerWald—and a much longer trip by railway twisting along the Saale river and over the mountains.

The Ernst Abbe Werk Eisfeld produced military optics and later binoculars and was located near the Werra River after which this new camera was named. For its time the Werra was a revolutionary design, adopting clean lines associated with the Germany Bauhaus design ethic. It evolved into three distinct series that saw a total of over half a million cameras produced between 1954 and 1966 when it was discontinued — attributed to the assimilation of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena by VEB Pentacon in 1964 — which felt it already had enough 35mm rangefinder cameras in its catalogue.

The first series was a simple scale focus camera but displayed all the main Werra features — the clean top with flush shutter release; a reversible lens shade that made the camera self casing with an (often missing) threaded cap, both initially with the same covering as the body — later with molded, ridged black plastic (all cameras had strap lugs at each end of the top plate but leather cases were available); and the annulus ring around the lens that winds the film and tensions the shutter — a continuous ring for the local shutters, notched for the Compur. Originally this ring was machined aluminum, but soon was attractively covered with the body fabric.


Werra 1 (Olive Green)


Later Werra base with “worn” silk-screened information, combined back-lock, tripod socket and rewind button, and the rewind crank. The “V, X, M” relate to the red shutter tab below the lens.


The base of the camera had the rewind knob, originally with a finger indent, then with a ribbed wheel, later with a fold-out crank. A ¼ inch tripod socket was centered under the lens and incorporated the back lock, later a neat combined lock and rewind release. The other end initially housed a rewind button and the frame counter with a central dot that made a complete rotation as the film was wound. Around this adjustable central core the frame numbers were engraved — changing early on to silk screened numbers — a significant deficiency as these easily wore off on a camera designed-to-be-used without a case.

This basic scale focus camera was produced throughout the production period gaining features from its peers as the product line evolved through the Werra 1 to the 1E. (The A,B,C,D,E variants were not marked on the camera and collectors have created other Werra designations such as PhotoSaga’s Type 1 through Type 15. Several references use Roman numerals but the cameras and instruction books use Arabic numerals which are used here).

Early models were unmarked but then received a name label under the viewfinder, later on the front plate glass.  The original camera had no accessory shoe except for extra-cost removable ones in two designs one that fitted into the tripod socket the other (on later models) onto the adjustable dioptre viewfinder eyepiece, also improved with a thin black-line albada frame. This was remedied with a permanent shoe on the top plate — somewhat marring the clean lines. The most visible change occurred with the 1960-61 introduction of the Werra 5 and Werramatic where a convex top plate was needed to accommodate the exposure linkage — and allow an integral accessory shoe. This revised top also introduced the front glass plate. The camera coverings varied from olive green or black leatherette with a strong grain pattern to the black striated cloth common on many communist cameras.

The original Werra had a Novonar T f3.5/50mm triplet soon replaced by the well-known Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f2.8/50mm. Shutters evolved from the bought-in Vebur 250 or Synchro Compur 500 to the Prestor RVS 750, specifically developed by Zeiss in response to the DDR restrictions on hard currency purchases around 1958. Mechanical leaf shutter have difficulty exceeding 1/200 without increased spring tension to push top speeds to 1/250, 1/300 and later 1/500, the latter often more marketing prowess than actual.  The Prestor RVS 750 achieved its true faster speed, making it more competitive with focal plane shutters, by having shutter blades that rotated in a single direction, a sequential opening and closing set — dictating a second blanking shutter for the rewind/cocking sequence.

The second series of Werra cameras, the 2, 2B, 2E, Werramat and Werramat E incorporated a selenium photocell, coupled only in the latter two. This series shared most feature progression and variants of the 1 series with the addition of differing hinged covers over the two-range meter. The coupled Werramats had a single range meter and required the convex top plate. The lens housing was redesigned to a conical shape bringing the aperture and shutter scales outward, with numerals on a white background where they could be viewed via two small mirrors incorporated in the lower right of the albada frame viewfinder.

The third series, models 3, 3C, 3E, 4, 4C, 5, Werramatic and Werramatic E all incorporated a coupled rangefinder with interchangeable lenses. The rangefinder used a 52mm base to display a narrow rectangular slit in the centre of the viewfinder. This reflected image was not coloured but almost opaque requiring lining up the image around the border—similar to a focus wedge. The albada viewfinder had fine black lines for the three lenses available and showed the aperture and shutter settings in those models with coupled exposure meters. It also contained parallax marks. Automatic parallax adjustment was a typically German omission in the Werras, while becoming common in the Japanese competition of that era.



Werra 3 rangefinder isometric


Werramatic viewfinder — note centered exposure meter needle at bottom.


The lenses for all series are shown below:


Werra 1

Novonar T f3,5/50mm (Triplet)

Werra 1C, 2

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f2.8/50mm


Jena T (Tessar) f2,8/50mm (Carl Zeiss lost the use of the name Tessar in certain countries at this time)

Werra 3, 4, 5 Werramatic

Interchangeable CZ Tessar f2,8/50mm
Flektogon f2.8/35mm; Cardinar f4/100mm


All lenses used polished aluminum with engraved numbers throughout. Distance scales in both metres and feet are common as the Werras were aimed at the export market to earn hard currencies. The interchangeable lenses used a breech ring with a short twist to lock or release the lens and the aperture coupling allowed a lens to be inserted at any setting. Both lenses used covering matching the camera around their focus rings.


The Werra 3 did not have a meter, the 4 had an uncoupled meter while the 5 and Werramatic had coupled meters and the associated convex, rounded top with glass plate front. The Werra 3 did not have a meter, the 4 had an uncoupled meter while the 5 and Werramatic had coupled meters and the associated convex, rounded top with glass plate front.

There was a microscope version made without a lens and there are pictures on the web of an early prototype and a mock-up of an SLR version. Apart from the usual accessory filters and cases there was a stereo adapter, and (shown below right) a close up adapter and a unique double-coupler that fitted two Werras base to base — allowing you to use two different films. Settings, shutter releases and winders were not coupled. A short series of 250 Werra 1s were produced circa 1960 as awards to top-selling salespersons — with a silver finish instead of the black or olive.

ABOVE LEFT Werramatic with striated black covering showing white scales on aperture and shutter rings for improved visibility through the viewfinder.

The Werra cameras can be approximately dated from the table below. They were produced in large quantities so are not rare although the accessory lenses and attachments are. In recent years they have developed something of a cult among collectors and are holding their value. There are invariable a dozen plus entries each week on eBay.



Serial start





















Watch for the worn silk-screening on the base of the camera, for damaged treads on the reversible lens shade and for missing end caps for this shade. Werras are particularly well-built, durable, aesthetic and functional cameras, with the occasional sticking self-timer and slow speeds typical of half century old leaf shutters— definitely not a “lesser” camera.


Model series










5 Werramatic














Acknowledgements to KRG: http://pagesperso-orange.fr/krg/werra/werra.htm

And the Werra Group:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WerraGroup/

All photos from sales brochures or by the author from his collection.

© Tom Parkinson 2007