135compact.com       35mm cameras       Robot Star 50

The 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, bayonnet-mount).

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.

The 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.

The Royal 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.

camera 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 features are:

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.

Back view. Finder, it shows 2 frames for 40mm and 75mm. Switch unblocked-blocked-rewind. Spring wind sticking out on top.

Seen from above.  Rewind wheel with film reminder, no accessory shoe (!), spring wind shutter button, wind wheel is missing, exposure number indication.

Seen from below. Tripod mount.

Camera back open 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.

This 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.

The 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. Done.

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 the lens page. If you are interested in accessories, please have a look at the accessory page.