Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer
This week’s featured camera is kind of a work in progress. Just came through the door, needs work, not sure if we can fully resuscitate it, but it’s too cool to ignore or wait for the diagnosis. What you’re seeing is an Alpa 6C body, with an Angenieux 24mm f/3.5 wide angle lens. Alpas are fairly rare birds, so, lotsa pix…
Pignons S.A. was the Swiss company behind Alpa. They were founded around the end of WWI, and made precision parts for watches/clocks and scientific instruments. Camera production started in 1939, not a great time to launch a precision camera line, with their first reflex camera appearing in 1944. All their cameras were Swiss made until the late ’70s, when they subcontracted some models to Japan, and Pignons closed their doors in ’91. The Alpa name was later bought, and is now a high-end line of medium-format cameras and digital adapters, with no connection to the earlier cameras.
Alpa didn’t have in-house optical production, so they built the bodies but contracted with high-end optical companies for lenses. Kern in Switzerland and Angenieux from France were the most common. I see this stuff so infrequently, I couldn’t even tell you how extensive the lens line might be. I’ve never had a 24mm Angenieux in the store before.
The first thing to know about Alpas is that they are precision instruments, with exquisite fit, finish and feel. The second thing to know is that they are another one of those quirky brands that designed their early cameras from a clean sheet of paper, changing virtually nothing over the decades, with most of the controls seeming bass-ackwards. A quick look at the photos should give you a clue that very little on an Alpa is “normal”. The shutter release is on the front of the body, with the body release button pushed by a plunger integral with the lens. Film winds from front to back! Some lenses have aperture rings, which is usual, but others have a dial, unusual. The back is removable instead of hinged, which was not weird in the 40’s-’50s, but fell out of favor during the ’60s.
The lens focus ring is one of the only normal controls. That, and the film rewind knob, but even that has a surprise. Lift it up, and you’ll find two hinged struts instead of a shaft, so what looks like a rewind knob actually turns into a crank. A very solid crank, with a much wider “throw” and far better leverage than any other rewind crank I’ve ever used.
The 6C was produced from ’60-’69, and is usually paired with a Kern 50/1.8 Macro-Switar lens. It has an external meter, which should clue you in that Alpa wasn’t always at bleeding edge of technology. This puppy was not stored in a warm, dry place. Might have some water damage, smells moldy, fast shutter speeds are inoperative, as are the aperture blades. We won’t be able to think about pricing until we find out what can be salvaged. But please stand by…