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Alpa is the brand name of successive generations of high-quality 35mm SLR cameras made by the Swiss manufacturer Pignons S.A. The brand has continued under new ownership since 1996 and makes special medium-format cameras.

The traditional 35mm Alpas are of an unusually solid construction, and have a cast metal body with figured surfaces. The controls are very simple, consisting of only a film-advance lever, and a shutter-speed indicator. The standard lenses for the cameras and the viewfinder prism of the advanced camera models were made by Kern. Lenses are labeled "Kern-Switar" or Kern-Macro-Switar. Alpa also used lenses made by Angénieux. The standard lens for the Alpa 10d is a macro 50mm lens, unusual for its time.

The original design was the Bolca Reflex and had been made by Jacques Bogopolsky, who had already designed the Bolex movie camera (see Bolsey). The rights were bought by Pignons in 1942, who named the camera the Alpa Reflex.

Alpas were very expensive hand-made cameras, made of carefully selected materials, with many variants that could be produced on special order.

For a few years from about 1980 the company made a rotating panoramic camera for medium-format film.

The company ceased camera production in 1990 and liquidation was initiated, but the company was bought by Ursula Capaul and Thomas Weber; see below. They have continued to make special-purpose medium-format cameras.

Pignons Era

35mm cameras

There were five distinct generations of Alpa 35mm cameras produced by Pignons, the last of which was manufactured in Japan under license.

First Generation

Unlike later generations, all of these models offered a coupled rangefinder; the Alpa Standard, however, did not offer reflex viewing[1].

Second Generation (Alnea models)

Initially the second generation cameras were branded "Alnea," later replaced simply by "Reflex."

  • Alpa Alnea/Reflex model 4
  • Alpa Alnea/Reflex model 5
  • Alpa Alnea/Reflex model 6
  • Alpa Alnea/Reflex model 7
  • Alpa Alnea/Reflex model 8

Third Generation

The third generation of Alpa SLRs introduced built-in meters, both conventional (Model 6c) and TTL (Model 9d).

Fourth Generation

Fifth Generation

Based on Chinon models, these bear little relation to other cameras bearing the Alpa name, and cannot mount previous lenses.[3][4]

Panoramic medium-format cameras

Capaul & Weber era

The Alpa trademark was purchased by new owners Capaul & Weber in 1996. Later that year, the Alpa name was revived for a prototype of a new, premium-level medium format camera, the Alpa 12. Production models of the 12WA, and 12/SWA (with built-in perspective control) followed in 1998. All of these cameras had a modular design that accepts a variety of superb wide-angle lenses from Rodenstock, Carl Zeiss, and Schneider. In 2007 the new enterprise became the ALPA Capaul & Weber AG.


  1. Alpa Standard at (archived at in 2016)
  2. Alpa Reflex 6c with Makro-Switar 50 mm f/1.8, sold at the 20th Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 12 November 2011.
  3. Alpa Si 2000 at (archived).
  4. Alpa Si 3000 at (archived).