Robots are a world apart. They are ultra-small, spring-wound 35mm film
cameras with interchangeable lenses. To keep the cameras small, they
chose the 24x24mm picture format. They are completely mechanical. They
are designed for discreet, hyperfocal use, colour-points on the
distance scale of each lens indicate the depth of the field according
to the aperture set. Until the introduction of the Star II, they
had even an angle-viewer for more discretion. So the Robots played an
important role in spying from the 30s to the 80s. There were silenced
shutters available. And there were technical versions with big film
canisters for the use in trafic radars.
A bit of general
information: There are two main lines, the original Robot (24x24mm,
screw-mount) and the Royal (24x36 mainly, but also 18x24 and 24x24,
When the Robot I appeared in 1934, there was no
standard 35mm cartridge yet, so they had their own feeding cassette (T) and
a winding cassette (N). The II in 1938 had some improvements. The I and
the early II have 26x0.75mm screw-mount which was then changed to
26x1mm until the end of production. All lenses can be mounted on 26x1
cameras, but the 26x1 lenses cannot be mounted on 26x0.75 cameras.
IIa in 1951 is the first to accept standard film cartridges, but still
has no rewind. The Star introduced the rewind, but still needs the N cassette
for winding. There was a cheap version of the Star without rewind and
angle-viewer called Junior.
The Star II (Vollautomat, which
isn't automatic at all) is a major redesign from the end of the 50s in
2 spring versions, the integrated 25 picture and the sticking out 50
picture version. It needs the NR cassette
for winding. Both were renamed in the 60s as Star 25 and 50. They
stayed in production until the 90s. The production ended with a limited
edition collector's model, the Star Classic in 1996.
is a different line, bigger, with bayonnet mount, burst mode and a
rangefinder. The Royal II is a
simplified version without burst mode and without rangefinder. The III
is the last and most sought-after model of the series. They were made in
3 formats (with the same exterior body), 24x36, 24x24 and 24x18 (rare).
When buying lenses for these, please note that all lenses for the 36
model fit the others, but 24 model lenses will not properly work on 36
models. The lenses are not marked, the 36 versions have 2 cut-out slots
at the back, the 24 version only one. The
Recorder is a technical variant of the Royal without viewfinder. Some
Recorder models have a simplified mount.
shown here, a Robot Star 50, the successor of the II Vollautomat. The
stainless steel trim of the older models has disappeared, the camera is
all black. The film compartment opening has been re-designed. Theses
models were delivered with a new take-up spool. No cassette anymore,
the film leader can be fixed without having to take the spool out. If
you prefer, it would work with a NR cassette as well. The camera's main
Various interchangeable lenses, hyperfocal setting Fast automatic shutter cocking and film wind via spring motor, up to 50 pictures per wind Shutter: fast rotary shutter, B 1/4 - 1/500, 2 flash contacts, Bulbs and X Size body: 98 x 113 x 40 mm, Weight : 525 g, 566 g with the lens
Front. A 30mm F4 focus free "spy" lens and built-in viewer. 2 flash sockets. Speed setting.
The lens can be reversed for closer focussing.
view. Finder, it shows 2 frames for 40mm and 75mm. Switch unblocked-blocked-rewind. Spring wind sticking out on top.
from above. Rewind wheel with film reminder, no accessory shoe (!), spring wind
shutter button, wind wheel is missing, exposure number indication.
from below. Tripod mount.
open, film compartment and the new take-up spool. With this spool
the camera can still be used in spite of the wind wheel missing.
camera came with an interesting lens. It's a 30mm F4 fixed aperture and
focus free Xenagon lens. It's a "spy" lens, they called it
"Beamten-Objektiv" (civil servant lens). It focusses from about 2m to
infinity. The edges are soft. As it has a 26mm thread on both sides,
the lens can be reversed. In reverse mount it focusses from about 70cm
to 3m. With this lens, it's 50 exposure wind and a cable release the
camera could easily be hidden for spying purposes.
Robot cameras are very small cameras with interchangeable lenses. They
are extremely robust and fast, which makes them quite heavy. Film
loading is easier with the new film spool. Just insert the film leader
under the spring at the core of the spool until it's hooked. The film cartridge goes into the other side. The film has to be
tightened with the wind knob. Then close the film compartment a action the shutter twice.
You can also use cassettes. The cassette has a big advantage: if you open the camera
with the film in it, you only lose 2 photos. There are feeding
cassettes for bulk film. Handling is easy otherwise. With some training
and short shutter speeds you can shoot up to 4 photos per second. A 36
exposure roll gives up to 55 photos. Spacing is very tight omn my cameras. I can sometimes have up to 64 photos from a 36 roll. The lenses are
high quality lenses and designed for hyperfocal use. So the absence of
a rangefinder is only a minor issue.
The Robot cameras are fun
to use. The lenses are very sharp. As they are small and rapid, they
don't attract any attention, so they are very good for street
photography. Last, but not least, they are mechanical beauties....
If you want to see more lenses, please visit thelens page. If you are interested in accessories, please have a look at the accessory page.