Aka Relle exchangeable lens camera

The Aka Relle is an exchangeable lens camera with a simple viewfinder for composition and scale focusing. It was made in Germany in the mid to late 1950s and features a rather odd ‘clamshell’ construction.

Aka Relle Images

My Aka Relle Camera

This was a eBay purchase which I made simply because it was a bit different from the run of the mill 35mm cameras which are common. It looked an interesting camera, although very worn, and since it was cheap I placed a bid and won it.

Aka Relle 35mm interchangeable lens viewfinder camera - front view of rather battered camera
Aka Relle 35mm interchangeable lens viewfinder camera – front view of rather battered camera

When it arrived a few days after the end of the auction I found that it is in fact very warn with the chrome plating worn through on several surfaces, but the only mechanical issue seems to be with the self timer which is completely frozen. Fortunately, the design of the shutter means that if the self timer is not selected the camera works without a problem, although at some point I’ll get the timer out and clean it which is almost certainly the trouble with it.

The other problem with the camera is a self inflicted one – the film advance lever was very loose so I removed the top by unscrewing it and lifted the lever off the camera. With the lever off the camera I found there is a spring which needs to be fitted to act as the return mechanism once the film is advanced, and although I can see how it is fitted, I can’t work out how I tension it as I fit it. I suspect I’ll work it out some time but at the moment it eludes me.

Aka Relle Description

As I said above this is a viewfinder camera with an interchangeable lens and composition markings in the viewfinder for 50, 75 & 90mm lenses.

The construction of the camera is somewhat odd because it has a sort of clam shell case which splits down the middle of the camera and hinges open, revealing the camera inner chassis. This means the camera is very easy to load because there is plenty of room to fit the film, but the biggest advantage is there is no need for felt light traps because the case fully encloses the film chamber and the light seals are just moulded into the back case.

Aka Relle 35mm interchangeable lens viewfinder camera - without lens
Aka Relle 35mm interchangeable lens viewfinder camera – without lens

The lens mount is screw on type, but the lens isn’t threaded in the conventional sense. There is an outer ring around the lens which screws onto a threaded ring on the camera.

The lens itself has a locating gap milled out of it’s inner ring and this mates with a peg on the camera’s lens mount. Once the lens is in place the outer ring is tightened up and the lens is locked in place; It’s a bit like the mount used on the Pentacon Six. One advantage I can think of is the lens is located and positioned properly before the threaded ring is turned so there is less chance of the lens not being properly located.

The lens itself is a Schneider-Krauznach Xenar 50mm f/3.5 which should perform pretty well. I tried a lens of a similar type on my Ricoh GXR a while ago and got quite good results and I would expect this variant to perform similarly.

The camera has a Prontor SVS shutter which is one of the better shutters and offers a fairly standard set of speeds for a camera of this age – 1 sec to 1/300sec + B with flash sync for electronic flash or bulbs. Although that seems a pitifully small range of shutter speeds to modern photographers, the speed of films available when this camera was made would have dictated quite slow speeds by today’s standard. In fact, this camera has a film type reminder built into the film rewind crank, and the film types on offer were 10, 12, 14, 17, 21, 23 Din and Col Rev or Col Neg. The Din number refers to the speed of the film using a logarithmic scale and 23 Din is about 160 ISO so you can see that film speeds were pretty slow in the mid 1950s.

The construction seems quite solid – the condition of my example suggests that it has seen a lot of action over the last 60 years and although it looks quite battered, apart from the self timer everything else seems in pretty good order. Perhaps I’ll put a roll of FP4 through it and see how that Schneider-Krauznach lens performs!

Aka Relle Specifications

  • Aka Relle 35mm viewfinder camera
  • Exchangeable lens with screw mount / clam design
  • Prontor SVS shutter
  • 1 sec to 1/300sec + bulb
  • Flash sync socket
  • Accessory socket
  • Frame counter
  • Film Type reminder
  • Schneider-Krauznach 50mm f/3.5 lens
  • Clam shell case design means no felt light seals
  • Viewfinder markings for 50, 75 & 90mm lenses
  • Self timer
  • Tripod bush
  • Ser No: 28552
  • CJ’s classic camera collection has a manual here

3 Comments

  • I’ve not come across this one. But looks like a fine bit of engineering .

    Reply
  • Scott

    I had never heard of this camera, but bought one (from a well-known on-line store) because I was captivated by its art-nouveau-ish 1930s look (Although it’s really not from the 1930s). It wasn’t particularly cheap; I probably overpaid, but I’m not unhappy since when it arrived it was in absolutely pristine condition, as though it had been built yesterday, and came with its original box also in perfect condition, and a matching screw-in lens cap. What’s more, every function works just fine, although the focus is a bit stiff, which is to be expected.

    Mine is almost exactly like yours except it has no flash sync at all, and its lens is the Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar, a three-element lens. I’ve used Radionars before and they’re fine, on 120 cameras anyway. We’ll see how they work in 35mm. The Xenar, of course is Schneider’s version of the 4-element Tessar.

    Looking on eBay I found to my surprise that there are quite a few Akerelle cameras and lenses. (And that sellers have a broad range of opinions about what these items are worth.) I bought a Xenar lens and orange filter for $30 altogether, and I’m going to stop now, before I go down the rabbit hole.

    Your site is a wonderful resource. Thank you so much for all your effort.

    Reply
    • ScottP

      Oh my. I didn’t stop at all.
      There was a “parts or repair” Akarelle for $20 with the rather rare f2.0 Xenar. Fun, although shooting with an f2 lens and no rangefinder will be an adventure.
      And several others with various lenses.
      There are 75mm, 90mm, and even a 110mm lenses out there, but I think the camera will be more useful with the 50s.
      In any case, I became an accidental Akarelle collector.
      Down the rabbit hole……

      Reply

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