Alpa Reflex 9D

by John Waco Jr December. 11, 2018 115 views
Alpa Reflex 9D

Alpa Reflex 9D

Alpa Reflex 9D

Alpa Reflex 9D

The oddball Alpa Reflex 9D was distinguished by being the very first (by a short head) camera with TTL metering. It was also distinguished by its unusual design, with its horizontal shutter release placed far in front of the camera body, and (so that it could be reached with the right hand from that position) long, forward-facing wind-on lever. The Alpa needed to be gripped like the stock and trigger of a crossbow. The uncoupled TTL meter, with two CDS cells inside the fixed pentaprism housing, works by the stop-down method, by centring a needle in the (rather dim) viewfinder. A third CDS cell, facing the eyepiece, electrically subtracted any light entering the viewfinder - a feature which other, even modern, cameras lack. The ground-glass focussing screen has a diagonal split-image focussing aid surrounded by a ring of clear glass.

The Kern Macro-Switar 50mm was a uber lens, a true Apocromat and optically at least on a par with the legendary 50mm Leitz Summicron and Zeiss Planar f2 lenses. Uniquely for its time, when bellows were normally needed for close-up work, the Macro-Switar focussed down to 6" or 1:3 ratio, by two and a half complete rotations of its silky-smooth focussing ring.

In the old Exakta style, the shutter release was incorporated in the lens mount to provide a primitive FAD facility. Alpa lenses took proprietary push-on filters only, now very expensive to procure. The 9D had an instant-return mirror and cloth focal plane shutter with continuously-variable speeds. The shutter speed dial rotates when the shutter is fired, another legacy from the past.

The Alpa Reflex was an unusually well-made camera consistent with the quality reputation of other Swiss watchmakers. Most Alpas were hand made in very limited numbers and were always very expensive. While there were a lot of very expensive cameras made in the 20th and 21st centuries, not all of them can claim the high number of custom features that weren’t found on other models of the era. I can’t say that if I was a photographer in 1962 I would have spent $469 to buy one. I would have had a camera unlike any other.

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