Rectaflex: Worlds first PP SLR:

Two beautiful samples of the Magic Rectaflex..

Rectaflex camera, Worlds first penta prism slr, was produced in Rome, Italy. Its founder, Telemaco Corsi, started construction of a PP SLR in 1946. He made a couple of prototypes later that year to be tested among professional photographers. At the Milan Fair in May/June 1947 the prototype was shown, although only partly working. At the Milano Fair one year later, the fully working prototype was gaining much attention and went into production a few months later.The first version was for sale late '48, most likely at least one year before the Contax S of East Germany! (For timeline Rectaflex/Contax S, see PP SLR: 1948-1954
The Rectaflex Standard was produced in different series. Here are the ones from '48 till '55 ('58):
1948: From June till September: the preseries Standard 947
1948: From September on: the first series production of series A.1000, sn. 1001-2127+
1949: April till June: series B.2000, sn. from -2233 to somewhere under 3000 
1949: From September: series B.3000, sn. from 3001 to 3970+
1950: From June: series B.4000 Duo Focus, sn. from 4001 to 4471+
1950: From September till May 1952: Junior (special) series, most A.1000 bodies, some B.16000
1951: From April/May till April '52: series B.16000, sn. from 16001 to 16862+
1951: From June till December: test series 20000 B; sn. from 20101 to under 20350
1952: From September: series 25000 B/25000. From 25001 to close to 29500.
1954: From January till very early 1955: series 30000 from 29500 to some 31350

1952: From June through 1953: the very special 3 lens Rotor. Some 50-75 units built.

1955: Company sold and moved to Lichtenstein. Prototype series 40000 till 1958, some 300
1957: Production of new prototypes 40000 series in Rome. Only 12 produced.

This information is based on Marco Antonettos very detailed book "Rectaflex- The Magic Reflex" of 2002.


The Rectaflex features a rapid return mirror - RRM - that follows the movement of the shutter release button, finder going gradually black as you press the button and opens as the button goes back to normal position. Not as fast as the IRM, but far better than having to rewind to see the motive through the finder. The shutter speeds range from 1 to 1/1000 second, latest versions had 1/1300 and Junior version had 1/500. It also featured a kind of 45 degree cylinder split image focusing system, introduced from around A 1250, that is already from 1948. As Rectaflex had no intentions of producing lenses of their own, many independent and famous optical companies qued up to produce for them, like Angenieux, Berthiot, Royer, Schneider Kreuznach, Kilfitt, Carl Zeiss Jena, Steinheil, Voigtländer, Filotecnica Salmoiraghi and Old Delft. Rectaflex then rebuilt them to fit their own mount. 
Some West German camera producers, like Leitz, would not deliver lenses, or at least hesitated to do so, as they soon saw the italians as hard competitors to their own cameras. Would Ferrari ever deliver motors to Mercedes?


1948 - September: Rectaflex Standard A.1000 series:

The first series produced Rectaflex was the A.1000 series of September 1948. Some 1150 copies were produced until December. Due to some problems with the quality on the long shutter times, a major part of them were held back at the factory, while most of the ones sold were called back. The bodies of these cameras were later used for the production of the Junior series in 1950. The letter A before the serial number indicated the first version, the ones with film cutter.

A body from the almost non existing first Rectaflex series. They were produced from September 1948 from sn. 1001 to some 2150, with 2127 as the last known number. This very sample was built around October 1948.

1949 - April: Rectaflex Standard B.2000 series:

The second series in the Rectaflex line was unofficially called the 2000 series, and given a B before the number. The letter B indicated a second series, those without film cutter. The same bodies as on the previous series were still used, although not with a film cutter but rather an ordinary knob for rewinding the film, and with some inner corrections made. Still, the bottom of the camera was maintained as on the A. 1000 series. Besides the lack of film cutter handle on the left side of the top plate, the only externally visible change was the somewhat different look of the back wall opening handle on the base plate. Internally, there where some some small changes. During the production of the B. 2000 series there was an ongoing development, especially as concerns the pentaprism. But officially, this came with the next series.

As Rectaflex very soon discovered problems with the long shutter speeds on the A 1000 series, the major part of it, not yet being sold, was helt back in the factory. The ones already sold, some 250 pieces, were called back for modification, and a major part of them returned. The A. 1000 series numbered more than 1000, thus having serial numbers up to 2127, as the last known. The ones kept in the factory were rebuilt into later versions, most of them to the less expensive Junior model a couple of years later.
Because of this, the next series, called the B. 2000 and starting with 2233 as the lowest known number, is the oldest series one can expect to find today. Samples from the A. 1000 series may still be there, but in extremely low numbers, if at all.

So, my sample with the number 2238 may be among the earliest ones still around. More than that: it seems to be in perfect condition!

Here are the pictures:


This is how it came. After 64 years.. The original box a bit worn. What would I find inside?
Wow. With a cut out room for it in the box..
and a manual hardly ever read, sales and service documents all there..
Flawless. Perhaps some particles of dust I did not wait to brush off in my eagerness to present it..
The first series had a film cutter. This one hasn't. One of the changes from Standard 947 and A 1000. A very clean layout. Shutter speeds from 1 to 1/1000 second, split in two units, one operated from the top and one small dial from the rear. Size: 152x90x48mm. Weight:664 grams. Prism house height: 17mm.
The little dial on top of back wall regulates long shutter times seen as 0 and 1 (second) digits on the disc under the short shutter time dial.
Probably one of the earliest serial numbers remaining of Worlds First Penta Prism Single Lens Reflex camera...!
Not even a scratch.. Base plate/back door opener to the left. To be turned 180 degrees.
When doing so, this is part of what you see. Not marked for export.
The Rectaflex logo including La Reflex Magica.
The lens: a little jewel from Carl Zeiss, Jena. A Tessar 5cm/3,5. Sn. 473934 . As far as I can see, this one is not mentioned among the regular lenses in Rectaflex literature. So, probably a special adaption, but done at the Rectaflex factory.
The lens has a very old style, even some kind of threads that become visual when turning the focus handle. They are not ordinary threads, rather a way to prevent dirt from entering the lens when compressing it, as the lens does not rotate.
With the B 2238 came this lens:
World first wide angel lens for SLR camera: the famous Angenieux Paris 35/2,5 Retrofocus! Sn. 181428.
Another B.2000 camera, sn. 2676. Note the flash contact glued very neatly to the prism top. Probably done as a special order at the factory.

1949 - September: Rectaflex Standard B.3000 series:

The B. 3000 series, starting with 3001, was produced from September 1949, about the same time as the Contax S started production. The new series represented some changes from the outgoing B. 2000: First of all, the pentaprism had undergone some development through the year and they were officially presented with the B. 3000. By replacing the sides in the prism with newly developed convex sides, the image was seen bigger and brighter. This led to a somewhat bigger prism house, being 2 mm higher than the previous ones. 
To stabilize the film cassette and eliminate the danger of twisting the film, the bottom of the film cassette well was made more open so that the spole of the cassette could rest on a small aluminum cylinder being attached to the inside of the base plate.

The sn. on this Rectaflex is B.13255, a number that should not exist. There is a gap between sn.B.4480 (approximate end of 4000 series) and 16001 (start of next series.) No sources ever mention any sn. like 13xxx. But there is an answer to this quiz: as cameras between sn. 2700 and 2800 and between 3200 and 3420+ were exported, the first ones to Great Britain and the later ones to the USA, Rectaflex marked those by adding a digit 1 before the regular sn.! And suddenly my first Rectaflex is not an unknown one, but a part of the 3000 series produced from September 1949! Hard to find any differences between the B 2338 and the B 13255 on the outside. Until you look closer and find that the penta prism rises 2 mm higher! Size: 152x92x48mm. Prism house height: 19mm. Weight: 676 grams.
This Schneider Kreuznach Xenon 50/2 normal lens was probably the most common lens to follow the Rectaflexes, through almost all the years of production. Still it was ranking higher on the price lists than both SOM Berthiot 50/2,8 and Angenieux 50/2,9. 6 elements in 4 groups. Sn. 2145881.
Studie of serial number. From the B 3000 series, added the digit 1 for export to the US.
Close up on the long shutter time dial.
Imported to the american distributor Director Products Corp.

1950 - June: Rectaflex Standard B.4000 series:

The B.4000 series, introduced from June 1950, was called the Duo Focus. The prism had been improved from the last B 3000 cameras, in fact from late B 2000, by changing a second side in the prism from flat to convex, making the viewer even brighter. The name Duo Focus was pointing at the fact that there was a combination of two systems. First the 45 degree split image system that broke any line in the center of the motive until it was in focus, plus the more traditional focus system . In fact, the Duo Focus system had been there from later A. 1000 cameras, but improved through the B 2000 and B 3000 series, the later leading to a third convex side in the prism that was officially introduced with the 400 series. Mechanically, the only improvement from the previous series, was done to the lens mount and the long time curtain gears.
The possible explanation of the Duo Focus name being introduced on the B 4000 series in 1950 is the competition that came from the Contax S at the same time, during its first year of production. The East Germans had the name and the production skills, while the italians had a more advanced camera with the rapid return mirror and the Duo Focus. So, they needed to tell the world about it. There was even a folder explaining it.
The production of B.4000 series rose to only some 480 pieces, ending at roughly sn. 4480. 

The Rectaflex Standard B 4000 with Angenieux 35/2,5 Retrofocus. This lens was introduced in late '48, but available from 1949. Camera has sn. 4398. As usual, not much news to be seen from the front of the new model. The visible news on this camera in fact officially belonged to the next series!
According to literature there is an error here..
The ASA/DIN reminder was announced with the B.16000 series. But as other samples have shown, Rectaflexes underwent continuous development, and later versions of earlier series could often show improvements that was not mentioned before next introduction. In this case, even Marco Antonetto has not mentioned it. But it underlines his point. Another explanation, of course, may be of that the owner had the camera serviced and upgraded at a later point. This is a factor that one must bear in mind whenever coming across a hybrid of old and new. Which goes for all technical devices. Even humans!?!
A house from the very first series production! Stay tuned!

1950 - September: Rectaflex Junior series:

After having discovered the long shutter time problems on the A 1000 series, Rectaflex might have just repaired them before sending them to a market that was so eager to get them. But Telemaco Corsi was already into the next generation cameras, and the A 1000 cameras belonged to a passed stage. So he a and the rest of the leadership found themselves sitting on several hundred houses that they at first did not intend to use. This is typical to they way the company was run. Production was changed all the time, giving room for new inventions but also slowing down the production capasity. There are reports of machines being ordered for improved production, but never even used because new ideas made them old fashion before they entered the factory. The machine costs were phenomenal and production low..
So, Telemaco Corsi needed to do something with the A 1000 houses. As the price of the Rectaflex was relatively high, he saw a market for a less advanced and less expensive model. So, the Junior series, based on the A 1000, was introduced in September 1950. 



The Rectaflex Junior of 1950: At last the remaining houses made in 1948 could meet the market, although modified. Size: 152x91x48mm. Prism house height: 18mm. Weight: 662 gr. Here with one of the most common lenses for Rectaflex, the Angenieux 50/2,9.
There were several changes from the A 1000 series to the Junior: the film cutter was removed, but the body was the same, so the handle was blinded with a button wearing the the letters Jr. But the body shell itself was maintained, except from the name Junior under the Rectaflex name in the prism front. Even the serial number from 1948, the A 1000 series, was there. This sample is among the early ones without the split image focus system that came around sn. A 1250.
A. 1182: An original 1948 body. Remainings of the first ever PP SLR series.
A detail seen on some Junior cameras around this sn.: The mushroom shaped trigger. This was officially introduced on the last Rectaflex series, the 30000 series in 1954. A unique link between the first and last series! Also note the lack of long shutter times. They are replaced by a DIN reminder scale, operated by the same dial on the back as on other models.

1951 - April: Rectaflex Standard B.16000 series:

There was a big leap in serial numbers from the last of the B 4000 series to the next series, called B. 16000. Production started in April/May 1951 and ended in April 1952, the last known sn. being 16862, There were many smaller improvements being introduced with this series, such as a new, more flexibel mirror housing, a further improved lens mount, internal matt blackening to avoid damage by any stray light, new film plane plate, improved film transport system. The most visible improvement on the 16000 series was the third flash socket added to the two sockets from previous models, and the film indicator dial at the top, placed under the rewind knob. (I have seen it on a B.4000, too, though!). The rewind knob could also be lifted, resting in the upper position. 


There were some changes from B. 4000 series to the B. 16000. A third flash socket was the most visible news on the front wall, allowing flash bulbs and electronic flash, however again abandoned on later series as systems improved. This sample has sn. 16172. The lens that followed was the SOM Berthiot Paris Flor 50/2,8. An rare and very expensive lens now, but in fact lower priced than the german lenses at the time, and higher priced than the Angenieux 50/2,9. Sn. on this one is 822250. A very well working sample!
On the top plate, the film speed reminder was officially introduced. The edges of the prism have been worn after contact with the case. The rewind knob could be lifted into a fixed high position.
In this kit: SARIS extension rings and ASVOP hood with patented fingertip aperture control, mounted on the Berthiot 50 lens.

1951 - June: Rectaflex Standard 20000 B series:

Almost parallel to the production of the B. 16000 series, Telemaco Corsi started the production of a test series that was to lead to the 25000 series with shuttertime of 1/1300 a year later. The 20000 B featured above all a new and improved shutter that, in spite of the 1/1000 mark on the shutter time dial, introduced a faster shutter than the previous ones. This test model was produced between June and December '51 in only some 250 pieces, the first serial number being 20101 and the last one somewhere below 20350. Mine has sn. 20292. Marco Antonetto claims last sn. to be under 20300, but I have seen as high as 2033x.  


The very rare B.20000 series, with only some 250 pieces made, was a test series produced in 1951. Size: 152x89x48mm. Prism house: 18mm. Weight: 658 grams. Lens is the Angenieux 28/3,5 Retrofocus.
Not often seen: the 20000 series. Mine is 20292 with the B moved from first to last position.
Faster than the B.16000 series. Still showing 1/1000.
The filmspeed reminder officially came with the B.16000. Though found on some B.4000s, like on mine.

1952 - September: Rectaflex Standard 25000 B/ 25000 series:

September 1952 was the start of the most productive period in the life of Rectaflex. The cameras had undergone several improvements since the start, and was finally at its best, both quality wise and in terms of production. The 25000 series was the biggest series by production, reaching some 4.500 pieces. As this series turned into the next one, the 30000 series at around sn. 29500, the total production of Rectaflex cameras had been doubled. 
The 25000 series introduced a worlds fastest shutter at the time by increasing fastest shutter time to 1/1300 of a second. This was due to work done on the test series 20000 B, and marked what some call the second main series, the 1300 series consisting of 25000 and 30000 series.
The 25000 series was split in two, the first some 600 pieces with a B after the number, the later without the letter. That was due to the fact that Rectaflex changed to a new supplier of the aluminum alloy body, as they wanted a better quality on the die-casts. However, they still had some old ones in stock, and they were used first. As they soon were finished, the new parts were marked as if it was a new series - for the first time without any letter in the serial number.


The Rectaflex Standard 25000 series, here sn. 26835 with rare Kilfitt Makro Kilar 40/3,5, sn. 211-4199.
The 25000 series went from 25001 B to 29500. This one was imported to the french distributor Télos, perhaps Rectaflexes most active partner. Here is one of the last of this series, sn. 29372.
Here is the news that has led to some people to split the Rectaflex cameras into two series: As from the 25000 B, the shutter speed was improved from 1/1000 to 1/1300 of a second. It was world record at the time. Then 1/600, before joining the old range of 1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25 and so on. The gap from 600 to 200 was big, as it meant 1,5 step in exposure values. (Normal step would be 500 to 250.) This would give 1/2 step underexposure when going up the scale, or 1/2 step overexposure when going down, if not corrected by 1/2 step opening. (That is, IF the official shutter times had been correct. Tests have indicated that the REAL shutter time was just a bit faster than 1/1000, while the earlier 1/1000 was some 1/850!)
New on the 25000 series was the automatic flash synchronizer control dial under the film speed reminder, with a scale engraved on the top plate. The EL meant electronic flash, while the 7 option VAC scale was for bulb flash. Early cameras of the 25000 series lacked the scale. As one can see, this camera has a rougher, not polished center area on both winder and rewinder knobs, and coned a bit towards the ends, more like the design of the shutter speed dial. Another example of the ongoing development within each series. Note the differences on the following cameras:
26xxx: still the old design on rewinder and lens release button.
27xxx. As on the 26xxx, except for the extra viewer glass. Probably self made. Late 27xxx had the new design.
28xxx: The new coned top on winder/rewinder, with a rougher satin finish in the centre.
29xxx: As on the 28xxx series. Old style lens removal button.
30xxx: New winder/rewinder design and new mushroom shaped release buttons.

1952 - June: Rectaflex Rotor series:

In addition to the Standard Series, counting all ordinary cameras from A.1000 to 30000, Rectaflex released several special cameras. The Junior of 1950, although built on a standard house, can be counted as a Special model. But there were more:
June 1952 saw the introduction of a camera that had hardly been seen before, and that was never to be seen again: the 3-lens turret operated Rectaflec Rotor. It was of course heavy, expensive, as the already rather high price of the camera would have to be added three lenses, and big in volume, especially if one added the rifle stock. But it was much faster to operate under various conditions, with the need to change from wide to tele lens or from standard to wide angle, back and forth. Just turn the turret!
The first samples gathered much interest among photo journalists, and the first series production houses were ready in 1953. Some 50-75 units were built until the company stranded. 

The Rotor, here with house, turret and the lenses: 35/2,5 Angenieux, 50/2,8 Berthiot and 135/2,8 Steinheil Quinar. This house has sn. 28797. Complete weight of this combo is 3104 grams!
The turret with three lenses, the pistol grip, rifle stock and belt with cushion. All produced by Rectaflex. Note the angle of the rifle stock where it hits the pistol grip.
The trigger on the pistol grip was connected to the shutter release button on the camera through a rod. It was stuck upon arrival, but some lube and some care always make wonders..
The impressive Rotor. A rather worn prism house, though.
back of turret with manual transmission from trigger to release button.
Note the blinded lens release button, as each lens mouth on the turret had its own. Some rather worn parts.
The inside looks surprisingly good.

1954 - January: Rectaflex Standard 30000 series:

The 30000 series, produced from january 1954 till the company was sold in 1955, was the best built Rectaflex ever. Still, after some eight years of technical and productional improvements, the company was not making money. The bank account was empty, and the owners did not want to pour more money into it. The numbering reached some 31 350, with 31330 as the last known sample.

The producing unit was sold from CISA Viscosa to a swiss company that moved the production to Vaduz, Lichtenstein. But in spite of trying out a new promising model called the 40 000 series, no more than some hundreds preseries cameras were produced. There were unexpected problems with some light leakage on the cameras, as well as assembling problems. Still, some of the cameras may have been sold.  

So, the italian 30000 series was the last production series of the proud Rectaflex - The Magic Reflex - worlds first series produced penta prism slr camera.

The last series of Rectaflex Standard, the 30000 series. Here an sn. 30492 with Angenieux 135/3,5 lens, last version, with sn. 469099.
Exported to Telos of France.
The mushroom trigger and lens release button.
A little redesign on the rewind switch. came with 25xxx.

Rectaflex lenses:

As Rectaflex did not produce lenses, they were depending on the cooperation of other companies to be able to deliver complete cameras. But that was certainly no worry; lens producers from many countries soon qued up to deliver high class lenses. They were: Pierre Angenieux Paris, S.O.M. Berthiot, Boyer Frères, H. Rousel Paris and OPL (Foca) of France, Old Delft of Holland, Schneider Kreuznach, Voigtländer, Rodenstock, Kilfitt, Steinheil and Schacht of West-Germany, Carl Zeiss Jena of East-Germany, Elgeet Optical of USA and, from Italy itself, Officine Galileo and Filotecnica Salmoiraghi Milano. In addition, the Kilfitt lenses, or some of them, were produced on permission in Lichtenstein by Kamarabau Anstalt AG. And, although not mentioned in Rectaflex literature, there is an english Dallmeyer lens around. It might be a sole sample and therefore a special build. But if Dallmeyer had some regular production for Rectaflex, this brings the numbers even higher.
So, at least 17 companies from at least 7 countries were involved in lens making. But of these companies, Angenieux and Schneider were by far the most common. Of the french, I have yet to see a single lens from Boyer, Rousel or OPL. And the same goes for Old Delft, Voigtländer, Rodenstock, Schacht and Elgeet. They are all on different Rectaflex lists over available lenses, but may have contributed with only a few, or even none. 

As all parts in the Rectaflex system had code names, the standard lenses were named STA for Standard, RE for Rectaflex and then a letter for each producer, like A(S) for Angenieux, B for Berthiot and X for the Schneider Kreuznach Xenon.  

Among the standard lenses, some 3000 Angenieux 50/1,8 were ordered, some 2000 Angenieux 50/2,9 and some 2000 Schneider Kreuznach Xenon. Yet, when following the Rectaflexes for sale through the last couple of years, a majority of them has come with Xenon lens, which could indicate that they were the most sold, after all. On the other hand, as Xenon lenses are more commonly seen, they will not be as sought after as the other lenses, and therefore will stay on the sales lists for a longer time and seem more dominant than they are. At this moment, late November 2014, six out of ten standard lenses offered on ebay are Xenons. But while the Angenieux, the Berthiots, the Filotecnicas, and the Kilfitts are mostly sold during first round, most of the Xenons have been there for months, even years. 

Wide angle lenses:

Wide Angle lenses were produced by P. Angenieux and SOM Berthiot, covering 28 and 35 mm.

Berthiot delivered from 1949, but only a 28 mm with an external viewfinder as the mirror had to be lifted to allow the rear of the lens to enter the camera. From the time Angenieux introduced their Retrofocus lenses, they were dominant.


The Pierre Angenieux Paris 35/2,5 Retrofocus was worlds first functioning wide angle lens for slrs. There had been lenses like the 35 Berthiot before, but they were designed for rangefinders were one had no mirror to take into consideration. This one is the second version from early 1950.
The Angenieux Retrofocus construction made wide angles fully operational on an slr. Here sn. 181428.
The first version of three of the Angenieux Retrofocus 28/3,5 introduced in 1953. Sn. 365854.
The design of the Angenieux lenses were changed over the years. Here is a first edition with most silver and less black. Next edition was almost identical, but differed by some black on the aperture ring. Last version was differently shaped, and with more black.

Normal lenses:

Most of the 17 producers of lenses for Rectaflex delivered normal lenses. But the most common ones were Angenieux with either 50/2,9 or 50/1,8, and Schneider Kreuznach 50/2. Angenieux were delivered from start till finish, the Xenon from B.2000. These lenses make up for some 70% of normal lenses to follow the cameras.

One of the most common lenses to be seen with Rectaflex cameras, the Pierre Angenieux Paris 50/2,9. Still very valuable today. Delivered from A.1000 through 30000 series, though in different designs. Here of first design from 1948. Sn. 149456. Code name STAREA, but not engraved on this sample.
Angenieux 50/2,9 compressed for infinity focus.
And extended for close up.
The very common (among the rare) normal lens Schneider Kreuznach Xenon 50/2 lens. (STAREX). Delivered from the B.2000 through the 30000 series. Sn. 2145881. Of all Rectaflex mount normal lenses sold on ebay lately, this lens is by far the most common.
The french SOM Berthiot 50/2,8 (STAREB) lens was delivered from the A.1000 to the 30000 series, the same design was kept all the way. Here a sn. 822250.
Not the most expensive at the time, but highly sought after now.
Smallest aperture.
Italian producer Filotecnica Salmoiraghi Milano produced this Beta 50/3,5 lens for Rectaflex. More or less common from early 50s.
The little lens with the long name: Filotecnica Salmoiraghi Milano Beta 50/3,5. The first edition had no Salmoiraghi in the name. It was introduced in 1950 and had the early triangular focusing lever. This second edition came in 1953 and followed the Rectaflexes till the last production in '55. It was built like a Tessar, a much copied lens. Simple, but very good. Sn. 40135.
Extended for 3,5 ft.
Compressed for infinity.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50/3,5 is not in any price list, but must have been a special adaption on special order. It has a very old style. 30s? 20s? See more pictures under Rectaflex 2000 series. Sn. 473934. NB! When conferring a list of serial numbers versus year of production, it becomes clear that this lens is produced second half of 1922!
Originally a veru small lens, but here built into an adapter to fit the Rectaflex mount.

Tele lenses:

While only Angenieux made usable wide angles, there were quite a few standard lenses to chose from. When talking tele lenses there were many, from 75 to 600 mm. Again, Angenieux delivered some, from 90 to 180mm. (There was also a 75 mm in one pricelist, but that lens was never produced.) Carl Zeiss delivered from 75 up to 300 mm. From there and up only Kilfitt of Munich would deliver. Others were Boyer with Saphir 100/1,9 and SOM Berthiot from 135 to 180mm.

The P. Angenieux Paris 90/2,5 was a marvelous lens for portraits.There was also a 90 mm 1,8. This sample is the second version, produced from 1950 till '53. Only cosmetic differences from the first and later versions. Sn. 194324.
The special shape of the aperture blades forms the perfect round opening for portraits.
Compressed for infinity. Length: 74 mm.
Extended for close up at 1 m. Length: 83 mm.
This is very rare Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 12cm/4,5. As with the CZJ 50/3,5 shown under normal lenses, this lens was never in any Rectaflex pricelist. The sn., 377060, tells us it was produced early 1920!
The old design tells us that this is a special order, probably delivered by a customer to be mounted at the Rectaflex factory. The Tessar was a popular construction, produced first in 1902, consisting of 4 glasses in 3 groups. Later copied by most other lens makers for many years.
The Rectaflex mount.
The diaphragm closed to a 32 opening..
..and opened to 4,5.
A fantastic piece of glass - the Steinheil Quinar 135/2,8. As if it was taken right out of the box. Sn. 991133.
The Steinheil Munchen 135/2,8 with hood. Beautiful - smooth - sharp.
Sn. 991133.
Diaphragm at f.stop 8.
The Pierre Angenieux paris 135/3,5 tele lens, here in the last version from 1953. Sn. 469099.
180/4,5 to the left, 135/3,5 to the right, 1 cm longer!
Filter size: 49 on 180, 44 on 135.
A very rare Meyer Görlitz Primotar 165/3,5 tele lens. This is not mentioned in Rectaflex literature, so it is probably a special customer order. Note the tripod adapter under front of the lens as the glass elements, and thereby most of the weight, were all placed there.
Length: 148 mm, weight: 829 grams. Sn. 688152.
The Pierre Angenieux Paris 180/4,5 long tele lens. This is the last version with the late design, delivered from 1955, as the company had stopped production. Sn. 537141.
Elder Angenieux lenses often had a very soft coating which in some cases has led to cracks on the front glass. This one is clean.
A beautifully round opening, giving nice bouquet.

Macro lens:

Heinz Kilfitt invented worlds first macro lens for 35mm format, released in 1955 as Kilfitt Makro Kilar 40/3,5. Mounts were made especially for the brands that did not produce lenses themselves, mostly Exacta, but also for Alpa and Rectaflex. And for the Praktica/Contax/Pentax M42 mount.  


The rather rare and probably worlds first macro lens, the Heinz Kilfitt München Makro Kilar 40/3,5. Sn. 211-4199.
Note that Kilfitt built some lenses at the Kamerabau-Anstalt-Vaduz in Lichtenstein. Also note that when Rectaflex was sold in 1955 and moved abroad, it was the same Kamerabau-Anstalt-Vaduz that was to carry on!
Compressed for infinity objects.
Dramaticly extended for macro.

Rectaflex Special parts:

Rectaflex aimed at being a system camera, producing all kind of extra equipment for the photographer. Bellows, extension tubes and rings, filters, special lens hoods, adapters for microscopes and more.

Here is the patented Rectaflex lens hood ASVOP. As the diameter varied on different lenses, Rectaflex produced several lens hoods with different names. (ASOP, ASRAP and more.) How to use? See below..
Fasten the lens hood around the outer ring of the lens with the black arrow pointing at the chosen f-stop.
Turn the hood with your fingertip until it stops at full opening. Focus.
Turn the hood back again til it stops at chosen f-stop. Fire!
Original boxes for SARIS extension tube set, for Rectaflex filters and for ASVOP lens hood. And even some Rectaflex lens papers.
The extension tube set SARIS. Also mounted with ASVOP lens hood on Berthiot lens.
Original cases for camera, ASVOP hood and SARIS extension tubes.
There were at least 6 different cases for Rectaflex, depending on the model and the lens to follow. This one followed the 25000 and 3000- series, and could take a medium tele lens.

Rectaflex factory life:

Pictures from the factory in the very early 50s.

Almost all information presented about the history of Rectaflex is based on Marco Antonettos fantastic book: "Rectaflex - the Magic Reflex" . Nassa Watch Gallery 2002. 

Founder of Rectaflex SpA, Telemaco Corsi during work.
Rectaflex SpA factory, via Monte delle Capre 23, district of Trullo, Rome, Italy.
Inside the factory, 1951.

1955 - 1958: The end:

The structure and economy of the company was not as good as the cameras, and they had to end their production in '55, then taken over by a swiss company that moved the production to Vaduz, Lichtenstein. Some 200 prototypes of a new 40000 series were produced there, but no new series production took part until the game was finally over in 1958. During this period, in 1957, some cameras were also produced in the lab in Roma. They were not under Lichtenstein contol and were to be sent to the french distributor, had they ever reached series production.

I have given the Rectaflex story a time frame between 1948-1955 as it marks the start and the end of series production.


A Glimpse of a Wonder:

The following is an article, dropped on facebook!, based on the very detailed book: Rectaflex - The Magic Reflex, by Marco Antonetto of 2002. Its a google translate, with all the fun it brings: you can read about prices like 65.000 pounds when the author speaks lire. And it says "car" when "macchina", camera, is the word. The founder, Telemaco Corsi, is sometimes called course. And so on. But it gives some very interesting details about the development of the Rectaflex in 1948.

"At the Milan Fair in May 1948 finally appears Rectaflex the Standard Model 47 fully functional. 
Courses needs to take a lot of orders to support the program Rectaflex, and finally convince the Board of Directors of the CISA Viscose to allocate the money necessary for the transformation of plant SARA and for the recruitment of qualified personnel.

The machine is equipped with the prism of Rectaflex monolithic sloping roof for proper vision right-left; has the tagliapellicola and still does not provide the rewinding of the film. The mirror is free from vibration, and is almost instantaneous return as it is pushed by springs but accompanied by the lever of the shutter button and falls with the release of the button. The mechanism of this is slow and it is very similar to the delay with lever escapement mounted on rubies. In Stand Rectaflex is also exposed a machine immersed in a glass bowl full of water, demonstrating the strength of the materials that compose it.

At the booth Rectaflex there is a beautiful small eight-page, where it appears for the first time the slogan Rectaflex, the SLR magic and logo with Saturn. On the occasion of the 26th Fiera di Milano also appears in the first price list information, which is marked in May 1948. The camera body is called STARE and costs Pounds 65,000. The book can be with different optics: Angenieux 75, 90 and 135 mm; Berthiot 135, 145 and 180 mm and the resplendent Boyer 1:1.9 / 100 mm. Undeniably, for his Rectaflex, Courses wanted the objectives of the Leitz Wetzlar but the house would never have granted its optics, such as Ferrari does not grant its engines to opposing teams: the Rectaflex is a real competitor, which overlooks the market with an even more attractive of the small Leica.

The accessories that enrich the kit include: Leather Case Ready (5,000 pounds), the color filters in boxes of 10 (45,000 pounds) and others.

The Pavilion Photography Optics-counts, alone, over seventy exhibitors.Among the most visited areas we are willing to stand quadrilateral Ducati, that of Ferrania, the Cattaneo (Rollei and Leitz) and Meccanoptica (Zeiss-Jena).Among the exhibitors there are Fototecnica of Turin (Herman with the 24 × 36 Rangefinder and Bandi, box 6 × 9, from the front and the colored box integrated in the body); Ferrania (with Condor and Falcon); Ducati (the Dream); Boniforti and Ballerio (Perseus with the 24 × 34), the Kristall (with Lux ISO).

The Gamma Officine Precision exposes the Gamma II and III with Bayonet Lens Mount and optical Angenieux.

Finally, the stand of the Filotecnica-Salmoiraghi seems that there has been, placed under the counter, a 24 × 36 with reflex viewing prism. Her you will not have as a result of news.

17. "Er miracle viè from Rome ...»

Progress in the photo appears in a large service in May, written by journalist George Balabani, who, with typical style of the 40s illustrates and enhances the product. The service is called The Miracle Rectaflex, subtitled "Stavorta er miracle viè from Rome." We propose a few excerpts.

"As the Commissioners of the Pavilion Photography Optics-we received many congratulations for not having exaggerated exaltation of the new standard, which makes Rectaflex's car today and tomorrow, the aristocratic class of its own.

This is a reflex at eye level, with focus on frosted glass to zoom in, checked to come from a brilliant range finder, which can not know because faults incorporated into the prism receiving the image. Also working vertically, that is, when the unit is upside down, the image is always upright, with the right that is to the right, left what is left. The characters will be read normally.

There you come and say that this particular relative interest, since in the frame is good to see things as they really are: both in groups and in the composition of still lifes or other sports scenes in particular, since it is easier to follow a carin its true direction in reverse ...

The new rangefinder that works integral with the prism, and is called stigmometro (from the greek stigma = sign, point, stigma) is constituted by a tiny cylindrical lens which has the characteristic feature of deforming the image when it is not perfectly in focus, any is the focal length of the lens used, and at all distances. The split screen, which guarantees the math finally focus at any distance with any focal length, is covered by patents worldwide, marking it a real discovery in the vast domain of photography. No one had thought of before!

The optics, it is not even ready the Italian one, is completely French.Angenieux in all its editions F: 2.9 5 cm F: 1.1 5 cm in series. In the list we also find the Angenieux 10 cm up, as well as the classics Berthiot from 1 .1.5 3.5 from 55 mm to 35 mm, and - on request - the famous Boyer Saphir 1.1,4 10 cm.

The slow motion of time, so much admired by the meticulous Swiss engineers, and mounted on non-synthetic rubies, is a jewel of modern and reliable watches. The optical part of reflection is monolithic (patent Rectaflex).That is insensitive to moisture, shock, heat. The entire interior is anodized, that is unalterably. Reveal and ribbons in processed rubber fabric and pure silk, insensitive to light because sheltered from the reflex system. Bushings bronze gears reported on the mass. All parts of duralumin are treated so as to be insensitive to moisture, weathering, and a surface hardness equal to that of corundum.

List with all spare parts, photographed and numbered in the event of an accident. The Rectaflex is delivered to the customer sealed inside a luxurious Plexiglas hood which was to become an ornament for cigarettes or playing cards ... Match won! ".

18. The construction of the factory

After the Fiera di Milano, with many orders in the portfolio - it seems to be at least 300 only for the Italian market - and with interesting open negotiations with some foreign traders, begins the real phase of the productive organization of the Rectaflex.

Corsi went to the extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors of the CISA, and the preliminary contracts from foreign distributors in hand. It comes with the assurance of an appropriation very conspicuous Refers to 300,000,000 lire, for the construction of the new area at the SARA, and to finally begin mass production.

In June of 1948, meanwhile, comes a second eight-page brochure entitled Rectaflex, the SLR magic. Annex brochure you will find the list n. 2, in which are presented the same items of the first order, but, for the most part, be increased by about 15% in the price.

In the early autumn of 1948 will begin the construction of the wing intended completely to Rectaflex, by raising a portion of the existing premises. Is erected a new four-storey building, in the typical architectural footprint adherent post-fascist, structured in a very practical way, in the manner of Walter Gropius, with wide stairs to the upper floors, large rooms open-space which receive light large windows facing east. The new building, yellow ocher, is painted the great written Rectaflex, brick-red. The services and the canteen are also completely new and modern.

The factory is not delivered completely alone in these places: some departments may be less important or less clean, such as electroplating, painting and the Warehouse, are housed in adjacent buildings. The offices and environments drafters intended to occupy the central building, along or adjacent to those of SARA.

It then goes on to commission the equipment - lathes, milling machines, presses, pantographs, all equipment sophisticated for its time! - For the construction of the appliance.

Changing corporate structure and moves forward with the plan of recruitment.The registered office leaves via Barnaba Oriani and moved to Via delle Muratte at number 43 (premises owned by the CISA Viscose) and the name becomes Soc Rectaflex Srl In this way Corsi comes off more and more from the previous activities of SARA and undertakes the manufacture of the new camera.

From the books of the Company Rectaflex, and precisely from the records of the staff of the Assembly Department Rectaflex Officine SARA, it is found that the company carries out the recruitment of staff to the first half of 1948, which increased in the autumn of the same year, in line with the launch of production. The workers are trained by the Heads-editors, which are now the handyman, Fraiegari, Judicone and unoccupied. At the end of December are 12 mechanical fitters, all specialists in fine mechanics, the most coming from Officine Navali di La Spezia and the Laboratory of Precision Italian Army.Among the staff employed there are also some women, because of their natural attitude to manual work of precision.

19. The first sales

The first Rectaflex, assembled by mechanics under the watchful guidance of department heads and Fraiegari Judicone, leaving the new company and go abroad, to feed as much as possible the first demands of the distributors.

Probably the first foreign distributor is the Director Products Co. of New York.Is added immediately after the Exclusivités Télos Henry Tieman for France. In addition, other trade agreements, some partially successful, others aborted in the bud, are made in Switzerland (Eschmann of Lausanne), South America (Optica Beri, Caracas), Australia (Puccini) and South Africa.

The Rectaflex intended for export are marked with special symbols, burdened on the black plate that covers the internal delay, for the United States is engraved Exp N. 1 and for France Exp S.
Progress Photo announces, in the October 1948: "The Rectaflex is already on sale abroad alone for the moment, and Italy are the lucky few who are already in possession of the car."

It seems that there are almost practically delivered cars this year in Italy. A strange trade policy that undertaken by the company. The fact is that the marketing department, which depends marginally from classes, already has orders in hand (or promises) with different foreign distributors and want to honor them, even for introitare currency. Neglecting the Italian market, thinking of dealing then through a network of sellers when the assembly line will work at full capacity, is perhaps a fatal error that will be later on, when the domestic market will not respond as expected precisely because of a neglected penetration.

Telemachus course does not hide its aims: to produce a technical object with the same quality and excellence of a German equivalent. The goal of course is identified with the Leitz and Zeiss. This continuous search for technical perfection, also made of simple construction, the door - plus in the first person - day after day to experiment with new solutions and to make new changes on the equipment during assembly. The everything slows down, however, the construction which is always fragmented by continuous modifications and rearrangements and grow at a phenomenal machining costs. The different changes (or variations) can be born and die during the production of a contract, and are not necessarily present in the devices manufactured later.

The parts that undergo more changes, in those early years, are precisely the prism, the back and the body made of aluminum alloy. A few changes are subject to the apparatus of the tendon and perhaps none of the retarder slow.No apparent change seems to involve the external structure of the Rectaflex.

Several are in the first period, the Rectaflex who returned to the factory to be re-checked and modified, and many are the machines that do not then passing the final test, they remain in warehouses.

20. The Mille

With the return to work after the summer holidays of 1948 starts the production itself, with a new series, called A.1000. Factory is still in the temporary premises of SARA, not yet completed the new wing.

The first of the series Rectaflex A.1000 are still without the split screen, and have in fact frosted glass completely smooth. The device appears after about 200-300 machines produced. This machine series A.1000 - the serial number that starts from number 1001 - has the look of Standard 947, with its tagliapellicola, the cap of the prism shape similar to the previous, only less pronounced. The prism has all the flat faces. The group of the body, housed in die-anodized aluminum, is composed of four main parts, which are assembled together during the various stages of assembly: the body itself, the castle that contains the prism and the mirror, the front plane that with opening the lens and the back of which is an integral part of the case back. The attack of the flash is two holes with wide chrome outer edges, as usual in those years, and can be used with the Vacu-blitz (that kind of flash that uses incandescent bulbs called flash bulb).

The mechanism that controls the timing lenses, mounted on rubies from watchmaking, is now an improved version of the original 947's.

The series A.1000, being the most experimental of all, it has several changes and others are made in the years to come when you will be transformed into Rectaflex Junior.

This first series is produced at least up to the number A.2127 (last known number).
The series A.1000 opens a characteristic that remains current for all the first devices Rectaflex: the internal numbering of all the main components, including the prism. In fact each of these components is stamped (or etched awl, depending on the piece) the serial number of the device as to the holes on the body are used as masks, the various external parts (castle, frontal, caps, back, etc..) and then make that single device.

At the beginning of the commercialization of Rectaflex, the Company expects that any repair the unit can be carried out by local fotoriparatori - an idea which unfortunately does not reveal exact, because of the complexity and the diversity of construction compared to normal other machines on the market - for which is provided for a whole series of replacement parts for each individual device. This would allow to send to the repairer of Turin or the Palermo this component for this device that has the same serial number.

In the autumn of 1948 appears in the list n. 3, virtually unchanged from the previous year.

The Rectaflex Via Monte of the Goats, 23 (district Trullo, Rome)

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OK Sender...

Roberto-Italia | Svar 15.12.2014 16.00

Just another question! I have a Rectaflex 30000 with red sn.31035 but another sn in the inner bottom side 31031. Is it common for those models to have 2 sn's?..

Bosse 15.12.2014 21.29

Hi, Yes, it is common. The first series had the same number on many parts, while later ones could have different numbers outside/inside. Sn. always outside.

Roberto-Italia | Svar 15.12.2014 15.52

Hello! Speaking about lens hoods, I'm going to purchase an ASBAP type lens hood... what's the difference detween the ASBAP and tha ASVOP?... Thanks!

Bosse 15.12.2014 21.22

Hi, Different sunshades were made for different lenses. ASVOP was made for Ang. 50/2,9, Berthiot 50/2,8, Xenon50/2 and more. ASBAP for Ang. 90/1,8.

red | Svar 25.07.2013 21.46

nice! I love the Rectaflex cameras...
please have also a look to my site

Baard-Einar | Svar 23.06.2013 16.54

What a very intersting story! And it is the first time I have heard of this camera and make. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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03.05 | 23:06

All black pre Spotmatic Pentax cameras are rare as only a small portion, less than 10%,came in black. So,next to the AP,S and K,the S1 is probably the rarest.

03.05 | 15:40

I have a black Pentax S1. Is it rare?

20.02 | 17:04

I own a very nice condition Super DM with 50mm f:1.8 Topcor, original Autowinder and holster. I also reside in Norway, if you're interested contact me by email.

30.01 | 17:38

Your website is marvelous, one of the best camera histories I've seen. Heartfelt congratulations.
I offer my help in fixing typos and English usage, if wanted.

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