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Rectaflex was the name of an Italian camera maker from 1947 to 1958. It was also the name of their sole model, the only Italian single-lens reflex camera ever built. Along with the Zeiss Ikon Contax S, it is among the first pentaprisms SLRs.
The original Rectaflex
The Rectaflex was a 35mm SLR camera with a focal plane shutter, interchangeable lenses and a pentaprism eye-level finder. It was the world's first SLR equipped with a pentaprism, with a final presentation in April 1948, and start of series production in September the same year, thus hitting the market one year before the Contax S, presented in 1949. It should be noted however, that ZEISS-IKON has already developed in 1941 the very first camera with pentaprism used: the SYNTAX in 1941, and filed the relevant patent for the Pentaprima used in Sept. 1941 - during the war. Equipped with a vertical metal slot shutter and the external bayonet connection of the Contax II and tilted pentaprism, the first tests were carried out under the provisional name SYNTAX - which is definitively the very first camera using the Pentaprism on own patents in 1941. On 1.9.1941 the patent application had been filed, but the work was severely hampered during the war years - so the camera hit the market years later after re-engineering it as CONTAX S - due to severely bombing of the ZEISS-IKON Works in Dresden in Feb. 1945 - meaning the loss of all documentation/Drawings and production tools used for the SYNTAX in 1941 in Dresden; the Rectaflex was later definitvely developed on the basis of the relevant patents of the SYNTAX filed by ZEISS-IKON in Sept. 1941.
The first prototype of the Rectaflex, presented at the Milano Fiera in April 1947, was a wooden mock-up, with a mirror eye-level finder, giving a left to right inverted image. For vertical pictures, the image was upside down, and that was a big drawback. This was corrected with a Roof prism before the 1948 Milano show, and the preseries model was called Rectaflex Standard 947, and had a fully working pentaprism as well as a focal plane shutter from 1s to 1/1000, synchronised at 1/25.
The first production model was the Rectaflex series A 1000 (serial number 1000 to 2150), quite similar to the preseries model. The Rectaflex series B 2000 (s/n 2230 to 2999) added a split image device in the focusing screen and had no film cutter. Note that Rectaflex series A 1000 and Rectaflex series B 2000 were not official designations, but a way to recognize the variants by way of their serial number.
The B 3000 series was produced from June 1949, and was numbered from 3001 to some 3970.
The Rectaflex series B 4000 (s/n 4001 to some 4500) had a modified A/R lever. The Rectaflex series B 16000 (s/n 16001 to 16870) had a triple sync plug and a film reminder under the rewind knob. The Rectaflex series B 20000 (s/n 20101 to 20300) had an internally modified shutter and a reinforced bayonet mount. This was only a test series.
The Rectaflex series 25000 (s/n 25000 to 29500) was produced from December 1952 and had a modified shutter to 1/1300, and two sync plugs only. From s/n 29500 to 31500 it was called 30000 series and had a new flattened release button. These two last series are sometimes called Rectaflex 1300, because of its shutter speed, the previous series being called Rectaflex 1000. Production in Rome ended early 1955.
The special variants
The Rectaflex Junior was a Rectaflex series 1000 transformed with a simplified focal plane shutter from 1/25 to 1/500. The Rectaflex series 1000 had reliability trouble, so an important number (between 500 and 1000) were converted.
The Rectaflex Gold was a Rectaflex series 25000 with gold-plated finish and lizard body covering. All were offered to VIPs, among which the Pope Pius XII, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill.
The Rectaflex Rotor was a Rectaflex series 25000 with a three lens turret. The estimated production was 200 to 300. In addition, some Rectaflex from various series were independently converted to the Rectaflex Rotor specifications.
A special version of the Rectaflex series 25000 existed with 24x32 format and a microscope adapter, for scientific use.
The Rectaflex Liechtenstein
After the Rectaflex 30000 the original Rectaflex company went down, and a new Rectaflex company was formed, partly controlled by the Prince of Liechtenstein. Telemaco Corsi did not play any role in it. In 1956 they launched a Rectaflex 40000, often called Rectaflex Liechtenstein. It had a reshaped pentaprism cover, with the Liechtenstein blason, and other minor changes. The number produced was less than 200 and it seemed to be plagued by design faults. Some prototypes are known with internal diaphragm preselection. None of the Liechtenstein cameras were ever sold, and the company went down in 1958.
The Recta was a prototype rangefinder camera based on the Rectaflex. It had a focal plane shutter from 1s to 1/1000 and a 39mm Leica mount. Six were produced, with serial number 1001 to 1006. The known standard lens was the Isco Westar 50/3.5.
The Recta was designed by Telemaco Corsi in 1953, before the demise of Rectaflex.
The Rectamatic was the project of an advanced 35mm SLR camera, designed by Telemaco Corsi at the beginning of the 1960s, as a successor of the Rectaflex.
The Rectaflex lenses
- Dallmeyer Dalrac 13.5 cm/4.5, chrome with black mount (sold at lp-foto auction #4)
- Zeiss Biotar 1:1.5 f=7.5 cm (for Rectaflex, Serial #2688858 available at sh photo)
- Crescenzi, Luigi (2005). Italian Cameras. Retrieved December 16, 2005
- Antonetto, Marco (2002): "Rectaflex, the Magic Reflex". Nassa Watch Gallery 2002. ISBN 9788887161014