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Braun Paxina 35 – a cheap, basic snapshot camera

The Braun Paxina 35 was a simple, basic, medium-format viewfinder camera which was first produced in about 1953. It was a typical snapshot camera for someone who wanted to take photos of special events or family holidays and didn’t want anything too complicated.

My Braun Paxina 35 camera

To be honest, I bought my copy of the Paxina 35 not because I particularly wanted the camera, but because I wanted one of the accessories that came with it. I was browsing through eBay looking to see if there was anything interesting when I found this Paxina being sold with a collection of other photographic bits’n’pieces.

Among the filters and lens hood was a Medis rangefinder, which was a popular add-on for cameras without a built-in focus aid, and since the whole bundle was only a few pounds I thought it might be worth bidding on.

After I’d won the auction and the camera arrived with me a few days later, I found that the rangefinder was in pretty good condition, just in need of a clean. I’ll probably write a follow-up article on that in a few days.

The Paxina 35 camera itself looked in fairly good shape with few issues wrong with it other than some dirt and dust in the lens, and the self-timer is a bit sluggish. Oh, and I also noticed that the barrel which extends the lens is a bit sloppy. I’ll take the lenses off to clean them and give the self-timer a clean and, whilst I have the lens off, see it there is anything that can be done to tighten up the extension barrel.

After that, I’ll probably sell the camera to recover costs because it’s not really a noteworthy camera which is worth keeping in my camera collection.

Some pictures of the Braun Paxina 35 camera

Braun Paxina 35 camera description

As I said in the introduction, the Paxina 35 was made for users who wanted to take family snapshots, and the feature set of the camera is not therefore very high.

There is a basic Pronto shutter, with speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 along with a B setting. This shutter is also fitted with a self-timer, which would be pretty important for a family snapshot camera; we need to make sure Dad or Mum is included in the photo.

The shutter needs to be cocked, manually, prior to taking a picture and there is no protection against either multiple exposures, or from missing frames by winding the film without taking a picture. The owner of this camera probably had to make sure they always followed a pattern of either leaving the camera wound on and ready for the next picture, or always wind on before taking the picture. I think I would have had many double exposures and missed frames!

There is one protection however, and that is from the shutter being fired when the lens barrel is closed. There is a small cup on the front panel of the camera and the back of the shutter release fits into it, so it can’t be accidentally fired whilst the camera is folded.

The aperture settings run from f/3.5 to f/22 and in fact the name of the camera derives from this widest aperture setting. There was also a slightly more expensive model which had an f/2.9 widest aperture, called the Paxina 29.

The camera has an adjustable focus (fortunately, otherwise I wouldn’t have got the rangefinder!) with a range, according to the focus scale of about 3½ feet to infinity.

The camera design is a variation on the folding camera, but instead of bellows which were made of paper or cloth and could be easily damaged or wear in the folding areas, the lens is mounted on a tube which can be pulled out and rotated to lock it in position. Although as I said above on my camera this is a bit sloppy, once the tube is extended and locked in place it’s pretty rigid and is an improvement on the classic, bellows design.

Braun Paxina 35 Specifications

  • Braun Paxina 35 viewfinder camera
  • First made in about 1953
  • Gives 12 pictures from 120 medium-format film
  • Praxanar Bayreuth 75 mm f/3.5 lens
  • Pronto shutter with 1/200 to 1/25 + bulb speeds
  • Flash sync socket
  • Self-timer of approximately 10 seconds delay
  • Cable release socket
  • Frame count via Red Window in camera back
  • Barrel extending lens
  • Manual focus
  • Tripod bush on base

My assessment of the Braun Paxina 35

As I said in the opening sentence of this article, the Braun Paxina 35 was made as a family snapshot camera for someone who wanted to take pictures on special days and holidays, but wasn’t particularly interested in photography as a hobby.

With this in mind, I would suggest that it probably made a reasonable buy at the time for the user it was aimed at. This is not easy to assess, because I can’t find a reliable source which lists the price originally charged for the camera, and therefore it’s not easy to judge against other cameras available at the time, but if I try to put myself in the place of that early 1950s buyer these are the plus points for me:

  • Medium format – this gives me a reasonable size picture without needing to pay for enlargements.
  • The lens folds into the camera body, meaning it is smaller to carry around.
  • 120 film which is a standard size available anywhere (Kodak for example, had a habit of making odd sizes that only they produced)
  • Simple controls – exposure can be easily set using the guidance on the back of the film box
  • I’m guessing that it wasn’t too expensive.

I suppose the negative point would be that it is obviously not as well-made as some of the more expensive cameras made by other manufacturers, or indeed some of Braun’s own other models. The materials are quite thin and flimsy, so it wouldn’t take too much mishandling, which might be important if you were going to lend the camera to the kids to take pictures.

One other factor which would obviously influence my assessment is the quality of the pictures the camera can take; I need to fix the issues described earlier in the article, and if I run a film through the camera I’ll post the images and return to this if my assessment changes.

About

I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

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