It's all wood and paper!' The Ernemann Heag 00 folding camera

'It's all wood and paper!' The Ernemann Heag 00 folding camera

I received a new (to me) folding camera recently, the KW (Kamera Werkstätten) Patent Etui. It's a fabulous little folding camera and is really compact compared to normal folding cameras of the same period. However, instead of a ground glass viewing screen the Patent Etui came with a 118 roll film back. To use the camera properly I really need a decent ground glass viewing screen, so I came up with the idea of picking up a second (actually third after the generic 1920s folding camera) 9x12 folding camera that I could take the ground glass screen from and use this with the Patent Etui. 

Then, on the Kamerastore website I blame across a 9x12 folding camera that looked just like my 1920s generic folding camera and had a decent looking ground glass viewing screen. The Ernemann Heag 00 was classed as 'not passed' by Kamerastore so was, 'untested or tested, inspected, and found to have flaws that will affect typical use' but for €25,00 was certainly cheaper that buying a piece of ground glass and attempting to make myself a viewing screen. 

The camera was described as '[smelling] fungus-y. There's fungus and haze in the lens and serious haze in the viewfinder that makes the viewfinder hard to use. The focusing screen has some coating damage as well. The shutter is a bit slow, resulting in overexposure.' Of all of these issues, the coating damage to the ground glass was most concerning to me but I thought that it was worth the risk.

When the package arrived I was slightly confused by the weight of the box. It seemed awfully light for a folding camera from the 1920s and I wondered if the Kamerastore had sent the wrong camera. But when I opened the package there it was, the unmistakable black leatherette covered box of a folding camera. Opening the bubble wrap I quickly discovered why the Ernemann Heag was so light. On unfolding the camera and pulling out the bellows I realised that apart from the ground glass viewing screen, the door and rails, and the lens assembly and shutter, it was all made of wood and paper. 

Apart from the damp smell that permeated the camera it wasn't in that bad condition. I cleaned and dusted the camera body and bellows, removed and cleaned the viewfinder and lenses and tested the aperture and shutter assembly, which all seemed to be working nicely, and reassembled the camera. To try and eliminate the damp smell, which I think was mostly ingrained in the paper bellows, I left the camera in the sun for a couple of days. About a week later the camera is still open and airing and the smell does seem to be a lot less. 

For a bit of background, the Ernemann Heag 00 was made from 1913 to 1919 by Ernemann in Dresden. The company, which was originally established into the nineteenth century, produced nearly everything for these cameras, from the bodies to the lenses, and this camera is fitted  with an Ernemann Doppel-Objektiv f11 lens, with shutter speeds of O (T), Z (B) and 1/25, 1/50, and 1/100s. 

Of course, I wanted to test the camera, and tried to mount a loaded 9x12 film holder into the back. Here I encountered my first issue. For a wooden camera it was remarkably well engineered, and the wooden viewing hood slotted smoothly into the body of the camera. However, most of my metal film holders, which worked beautifully in the 1920s generic folding camera and the KW Patent Etui, were too tight to fit in the Ernemann. I suspect that back in the day, as they say, Ernemann provided nicely engineered wooden film holders that fitted nicely into the back of the Ernemann Heag but weren't really compatible with other similar cameras. 

Fortunately I found a film holder that would fit the Ernemann Heag and popped outside to expose an image. It was a bright sunny day, and I had forgotten to bring my neutral density filters with me so I knew that the exposure was going to be overexposed. However, at 1/100s (the only shutter speed working) and f36 (the smallest aperture) I actually produced a half decent image.

Sadly, the viewing screen was not compatible with the KW Patent Etui, the wooden cut slots of the Ernemann Heag would not fit in the narrow metal slots of the Patent Etui. So in that sense it's back to the drawing board. On the other hand I have a nice 'new' 100-year-old camera to add to my collection. 

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