The very unique VIDAX press camera

Less than 100 were produced by the

Vidmar Camera Co. N.Y.



What is it and why ?

Its quite interesting to answer the last question first. During the last decades before the World War II, press photographers were mainly armed with 4x5  huge cameras such as the Speed Graphic. These cameras were not only heavy but also very troublesome to use. Before the roll film holder was brought on the market, photographers had to work with plate holders and later sheet film holders with one plate or film on each side of the holder. Before going to an event, photographers loaded a number of plate or sheet film holders in the darkroom, which is almost an act of art and craftsmanship to tinker the plate or sheet film into the holder, making sure that the right side of the film is pointing in the direction of the lens. 

Once arrived on the scene, the photographers had to prepare the camera for shooting by estimating and adjusting the subject distance, metering the light and setting the exposure time on the shutter.  They had to decide what shutter to use: The front or the focal plane shutter, as most of the Graflex cameras had two shutters: The fast focal plane shutter and the in- between lens shutter on the front standard. 

The Focal plane shutter had a number of different slits from wide open for time- exposures up to a narrow slit of some millimeters for the fastest speed shutter time of  1/1000 second. Using the front shutter demands a wide open back-shutter and using the focal plane or back shutter demands an open front-shutter. They had to decide which one of the shutters to use and set the camera appropriately. Beside that they had to insert the holder, pull out the dark slide before shooting and push it back again after exposing. 

After the first picture had been taken, they had to pull out the complete holder, turn the front side of the holder in the back position, replace the holder in the back of the camera, cock the shutter, pull the dark-slide, shoot and so on... It's obvious that photographers who had a lack of this experience, often missed a shot or took a blank or a double exposure. It now becomes clear that the request "one more, Mr. President, one more!" was very popular with the White House press photographers at the time Harry Truman was President of the United States. 

American camera makers were working on new concepts to make the camera lighter and smaller and more reliable and easier to handle.  One of these new "compact" camera types was the Kalart camera and the other one was the Vidax. The Vidax camera is suitable for sheet and roll film in various sizes. A new concept of build in film mask makes it possible to shoot 8, 12 or 16 frames. The Vidax is a genius designed relatively small bellows type portable and handhold-able camera.  Easy film transport, easily interchangeable rangefinder coupled lenses and multiple roll-film formats as well as sheet film. The focusing track rides on dual racks and pinion

The name Vidax comes from a contraction of some names from those people who worked on the design of this camera. It is obvious that “Vi” stands for Victor Yager. The same camera maker who designed the famous and legendary Meridian Press Camera. Though the Vidax is a superb design, from the commercial point of view, it was a serious mistake. Some 75 to 85 cameras were produced according to the Mckeowns Price guide. Under- capitalization was the main reason the factory got bankrupt.

One of the great advantages of the Vidax  Camera were the three different film sizes in one camera and on one roll film. Without separate frame  mask, that easily could get lost. The other was the fine design and easy to handle and not to forget, it's  ruggedly construction of specially hardened aluminum alloy  so it could easily survive a fall of 10 feet. More than one model was made before the first Vidax was manufactured. All thinkable bugs were eliminated after several try outs, however it lacks the double exposure prevention.

The October 1948 'Giant Directory' issue lists the Vidax for the first time.


The left side advertisement announced  the Vidax with an exposure counter dial and Roll Film Size: 620 film. The right one doesn't mention the counter but announced the 120 film as well as the 620 Roll Film Size. Beside that the two cameras have a completely different housing. As my camera looks exactly like the right one, the left one is probably an  earlier design or may be even a proto type.

Vidax camera with the suggested standard lens the 101 mm Kodak 4,5 Ektar  in flash Supermatic shutter or the Wollensack 4,5 Raptar in Rapax Sybchromatic shutter. Both lenses are coated and the shutter speeds range from 1 second to 1/400 of a second. The camera accepts lenses of 65 to 127 mm. A set of 8 slip in mask for the combination view finder range finder window shows the field of view for each different lens. A color coding system permits instant selection of the right mask and the same color coding arrangements correlates the infinity stops for the lenses with the scale of the variable rangefinder. By turning a small button on the rangefinder, compensation for varying focal lenses is speedily made. 

A flexible cable provides the coupling between the focusing bed and the rangefinder. A locking adjustment on the focusing knob, secures the bed at any desired point. Unfortunately I do not have the accessory back for ground glass focusing and use of sheet film. It is obvious that the position of the lens board must be corrected to compensate  the focal plane shutter position. The movement of the lensboard is accomplished by turning a large screw with a coin, moving the standard back to the indicated position and then tightening the screw 

Reading all this you'll be convinced that this was not the dream camera of the photographer of the late forties, but it was a step in the right direction to become the dream camera. It needed an automatic shutter-wind and exposure counter, but also an automatic compensation of the rangefinder for each lens, a body shutter release, a capacitor flash system and a viewfinder masking arrangement. But it never achieved the high standard due to the ultimate end of the manufacturer Vidax Camera Co. This makes the Vidax a real collector's item as there were produced not more than 200 of these beautiful beasts.

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