|image by Hubertus Bendi (Image rights)|
Introduced in 1959 at a price a shade under the Leica M2 and with no name "cachet" Iloca had entered a market far above the one they had been familiar with. The Iloca Electric was a direct challenge to Robot-Foto's pre-eminence in the motor driven market place with its Robot Royal and Star 2 cameras. In terms of technology, electric drive (the motor was powered by four AA cells and was housed in the take up spool) was far superior to the clockwork drive of the Robots. However the Robot range had a more extensive lens range (8) as opposed to four and a good reliability record and most importantly of all, dominated the industrial and scientific market for this type of camera. The emergence of the Japanese SLR at a similar price could not have helped either.
Pricing and probably size (it was rather on the large side!) killed it stone dead in the European market. In the USA, marketed by Graflex, the price was not so much of an obstacle and it sold better.
In terms of handling, two frames were visible in the viewfinder (135mm & 50mm) with the whole viewfinder the boundary for the 35mm. The rangefinder circular spot is none too clear these days and one wonders if this was an original design fault.
The Iloca Electric used the DKL-mount for a range of exchangeable lenses as it was used by a few other contemporary cameras (e.g. Retina IIIS & Retina Reflex S). Although the mount was tailored for the Iloca, Retina & Voigtländer lenses (Not to mention Baldamatic III & the ill fated Edixa Electronica) can be made to fit with a small adaptation. Most of the available lenses feature an interesting field of depth indicator realised by two movable red arrows.
The shutter was a ten speed (1/500 - 1 sec) LV Synchro Compur and has an easier and more definite system of selection than the contemporary Retina "wheel". The DKL-mount meant the shutter blades were behind the lens, the aperture blades being still in the center of the lens.
Contemporary Iloca's had the most complicated back release method of any camera. The Automatic was probably the most difficult to get into, but the Electric is the most difficult to re-assemble! The back comes off in one piece, but woe betide you if you refit it backwards! (easy to do, for the red marker dot is not exactly conspicuous) Look forward to hours of fun while you partially dismantle the camera!
Handling is dominated by size. Think, the Nikon F of rangefinder cameras! Taller than most reflexes of the period and nearly as wide. Solid is the word I would use. The automatic wind on is reasonably quiet and efficient. No fast motor drive this, but on a par with most 1990s film compacts.
In terms of pricing, the Iloca version is now worth double that of the Graflex, but other than the inscription on the top and a little Graflex badge, there are no other differences.
As AA cells are commonly available, this is still a workable rangefinder for you to try - though with a limited choice of lenses - unless you are handy with a file! In which case, all the various Retina & Voigtländer lenses are available to you.
In 1959 Iloca developed a simplified version, the Iloca Auto Electric (without lens interchangeability) from the body casting of the Electric. It had a fixed Isarex f2.8 lens and shutter priority automatic exposure. This camera never reached production (a prototype was sold by WestLicht Auction in 2004 for EUR 825 and a second prototype with a different Compur shutter surfaced on eBay in January 2011). Actually, Iloca went bankrupt in April 1960, because their orders of Compur-automat shutters never arrived and they obviously put all their eggs in this basket. Eventually, Agfa bought the remaining assets of Iloca including the readily developed auto-electric, and launched it in 1962 as the Selecta m (originally announced as the Optima Electric). Few changes were made, the lens became the Solinar R (R for "Rodenstock?"), the viewfinder changed in shape from from square to round, the shutter release became a lever rather than a button, but the body casting & mechanics were substantially Iloca Auto Electric.