Edixa Electronica

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The 35mm SLR Edixa Electronica of 1962 was a masterpiece of Heinz Waaske's camera constructions[1], patented in 1958[2]. It is the first SLR with exchangeable lenses featuring full exposure automation (aperture and shutter speed). This was achieved with a built-in Metrawatt selenium meter and unique motor-driven fully automatic exposure mechanics, which had to be activated by pressing a lever. It was a revolutionary but complicated an some-how unreliable concept, which made the camera relative expensive. Its main direct competitors with a more practical approach were on the market since 1959. In addition, TTL measurement as presented by the innovative SLR concepts of Asahi and other Japanese producers, put Wirgin's camera on a dead-end of the technical development. The camera was only produced in about 4100 units, many of them only sold at heavily discounted prices.


  • glass-prism-based reflex viewfinder, SLR screen with split-image
  • mirror returns only with shutter advance
  • Synchro-Compur leaf shutter behind the lens, B-1-2-4-8-15-30-60-125-250-500
  • five Mallory RM-1 1.35V batteries to drive the motor. Camera meter (Selenium cell) and manual shutter and aperture setting works even without batteries.
  • manual correction of the automatic settings were possible.
  • flash synchronisation with FP-socket, switch for X/M
  • Edixa-type DKL-mount, available lenses:
    • From Schneider-Kreuznach:
      • Xenar 50 mm f/2.8 (standard lens)
      • Curtagon 28mm f/4
      • Curtagon 35 mm f/2.8
      • Xenon 50 mm f/1.9
      • Tele-Xenar 135 mm f/4
    • From Steinheil:
      • Culminar 50 mm f/2.8
      • Quinon 50 mm f/1.9
    • other DKL-mount SLR lenses could be used after modification
  • Dimensions: c. 144 x 104 x 75/61 mm, 962/846 g (w/w.o lens, w.o batteries)
Edixa Electronica details
images by Christoph Batz (Image rights)


Since the middle of the 1950ies, a few developments, both technical and commercial, came together. They eventually culminated in the development of this camera, but also caused its failure on the market place:

The hype towards SLR cameras with exchangeable lenses

While the East-German (VEB Zeiss Ikon, Ihagee) and the Japanese producers (Asahi, Nikon, Minolta, etc.) mostly used focal plane shutters, the West-German producers (Kodak, Voigtländer, led by Zeiss Ikon bet on the leaf-shutter, although this required quite complex mechanical constructions. The company Fr. Deckel, München introduced their synchro-Compur behind-the-lens shutter with the DKL-mount for exchangeable lenses in 1956, and a modification for SLR cameras in 1958. This was quite innovative as it coupled shutter speed and aperture in a way, that the photographer could just choose a light value (LV) and then by turning a ring around the lens get any corresponding shutter/aperture combination. In fact, that was the basis of the automation Heinz Waaske developed for the Edixa Electronica.

Selenium meters entered the cameras

This already started in the late 1930ies. The first camera to feature this was the Contaflex (TLR), but also others followed. However, WW2 caused a long break and by mid of the 1950ies most ambitious cameras had one built-in. The smart ones started to couple either aperture or shutter speed with the meter, and finally both. This is generally called a match-needle design and was used by the majority of the high-end SLR's of the time. Also, the Edixa Electronica would work this way if the batteries were dead.

Exposure automation

Exposure automation was the consequent continuation of the above. If you have a built-in meter, why not use it to set either shutter speed or aperture (or eventually both)? The problem is that a selenium cell produces electrical current, but this is only in the µA range. Unfortunately, this cannot generate enough force to control the aperture or the shutter. Camera engineers found ways to overcome this by the so-called trap-needle method. Here, the light dependent meter current only had to move the needle of the moving-coil instrument. Pressing a button (e.g. the shutter release) would trap the needle in its place and further sets the exposure depending of the needle position. The force for this would just come from the photographers finger. The first camera to feature this was Kodak Super Six-20 in 1938 (shutter priority), the second the Agfa Automatik 66 of 1956 (aperture priority). 1959 was THE year for fully automatic cameras, the most successful of at least 6 different models was the Optima.

Automatic SLR's

Of course the 3 developments above would eventually be combined in SLR cameras. The first SLR with exposure automation was the french Royer Savoyflex Automatic (1959), a leaf-shutter SLR with a fixed lens. The second was the Voigtländer Ultramatic of 1961, a luxus version of the Bessamatic featuring shutter priority auto exposure. Well, and then there was our Edixa Electronica of 1962, setting the light value of the Compur shutter DKL system by means of an electrical motor. Actually, it is still a trap-needle design, but the force to set the exposure automatically is now coming out of an expensive battery.

The Edixa Electronica story

Interestingly, during the 1950ies Wirgin was the only relevant West-German camera maker, who used focal-plane shutters in its SLR's, the famous Edixa Reflex series. However, obviously inspired by Deckel's new synchro-Compur behind-the-lens shutter with DKL-mount, Wirgin's chief engineer Heinz Waaske filed a patent for a fully automated camera already in 1958[2]. It took him two years to finalize development and design and 1960 the camera was presented as the "Edixa-Motorkamera". However, supposedly commercial considerations within Wirgin delayed the market launch another two years, obviously a big mistake! When the camera eventually hit the market, it was expensive: 750 DM (with Schneider Xenar f/2.8) and really flopped selling. According to the records, from April 1962 to October 31st, 1964 only 1400 units were produced, 1,100 of them sold. Therefore, the management decided to stop production of camera parts and only allow final assembly out of existing spare parts. From this another 3,000 units were built, which were sold as low as 250 DM (ex-works price). Therefore, total production is considered 4,100 units [1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jörg Eikmann, Ulrich Vogt, Kameras für Millionen - Heinz Waaske, Konstrukteur, Wittig 1997, ISBN 3-930359-56-1, pages 103ff
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wirgin Patent DE1109519B from 21.08.1958 on Deutsches Patent und Markenamt