A forgotten brand: Wirgin Edixa Reflex

Did you know that the Edixa Reflex was world’s first camera with a film wind lever? Such a common thing in use, but where did it came from? Germany, or in this case from a company in Wiesbaden that started in 1920. Only a few people know that the Edixas were one of the first and the best of West-German cameras in technical terms, ending the leaf shutter and one of the first to present the Instant Return Mirror. And the most silent shutter as well, as if using a Leica.

In 1954 Leica and the Contax dominated the German market. West-Germany. In the Eastern parts the very innovative Exakta Varex was successful since it introduced a new mirror reflex design. But not everybody believed this would be the future. Rangefinders were more trustworthy than this new, bigger camera concept. And sometimes all seems to be right on a camera. That is surely the case of the most popular camera between 1954-1957: the Edixa Reflex from a more unknown brand, that of the brothers Wirgin. Henry, the oldest of them, was a very rational man. He was not into the finishing touch and did not care for the exact ‘polish and finish’ style of Leica or Zeiss Ikon. People need cameras and will buy them anyway, he said to his lead engineers. Make sure people can pay it.

Review Wirgin Edixa Reflex A
The front of the stylish Edixa Reflex, the best SLR in the early fifties in West Germany.

But Henry wanted a East German Praktica/Exakta style SLR and asked his head designer Heinz Waaske to make one. And so he did, with the cameras bearing in mind. The ‘Komet’, as the camera first was named, was the idea from the East, but perfected in Wiesbaden, with better materials, an exact shutter with a super fast 1/1000s for a SLR. The legend was born and after a name dispute it was renamed to the Wirgin Edixa Reflex A. It became the best selling and best available professional camera halfway the fifties in Germany.

Review Wirgin Edixa Reflex A
The long shutter extension of the three elements Westanar 50 mm F2.8 lens, provided by Isco-Gottingen. A remarkable lens on the Edixa Reflex.

The Edixa became so popular that it lasted till 1972, in many models, even an electronic version with TTL metering. What makes the camera so exciting, is first of all the silent shutter that resembles the Leica rangefinders. A bit louder, but not as fearful as some models from that time that would shaken up your subjects. The camera’s mount was (thankfully) a M42 which allowed the use of lenses from many brands that adopted this new worldwide standard. The Edixa came with lenses from Isco Gottingen, maker of lenses and high precision optical systems. They made very high optical lenses and the ‘Westanar 50 mm’ standard lens became one of the finest and still sought after lenses, because of the sharpness, bokeh and built quality.

Review Wirgin Edixa Reflex A
Top-plate of the Edixa Reflex A, a big knob on the right for the slow speeds and a smaller one which can be lifted for the high speeds.

The camera got as first SLR a lever for winding the film. It also cocks the shutter and moves the film counter. All in one stroke. On the left is the rewind/ASA/ISO knob. A nice prism is placed for eye level focussing. It contains no additional information, even not lines or a rangefinder patch for precise focussing, but gives a full and clear focus image. On the Westanar lens a black handle is placed that extends the shutter button for ease of use. What uniquely identifies the A model and the first Westanar is the semi automated aperture opening feature. It can be switched to manual or automatic. On manual it means the aperture will close when setting it, in Auto it only closes when taking the actual picture and provide as much light to the prims as possible to set the focus.

Review Wirgin Edixa Reflex A
The back of the Edixa Reflex, that cannot be removed fully, but opens as the later, modern SLR’s.

The Edixa is a heavy, solid camera that has a very nice grip. It feels easy in your hands and has a professional look to it. It is relatively smaller. Using the big lever is pleasant and remarkable the sound of the shutter. The quick selection for slow speeds on a separate dial is a unique feature. It is meant for quick action. Your finder can rest on the extended shutter knob. Composing is bright and easy. It is indeed one camera that almost has no flaws and even in 2021 feels like a modern to use camera. Everything is there where you expect it to be, only with this a great vintage look and feel.

Review Wirgin Edixa Reflex A
manual on Mike Butkus

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