When I got back into film a few years ago, the first camera I used was a nice looking vintage affair that I found on a boot sale stall – a Regula RM. I was attracted to its textured leatherette over gleaming chrome, clean lines and a cool badge of a ‘K’ inside a shield topped with a crown. This camera was a ‘King’!
The seller wanted a fiver for it; I ended up paying a tenner for three cameras i.e this one plus a Halina and a Welmy. I ran a roll of Ilford Pan F+ through it at the nearby community woodland walk, which I got commercially processed. A sample first result…
The second camera featured in this post does not have the shield & crown logo. However, it is like the first one, a ‘King’. It is one of those cameras made by one company for another company, with some revisions and renaming. It is a more recent acquisition and came in a bundle of expired Kodak BW400 and Agfa HDC film, some of which I duly exposed in the said camera. Some results…
Before we head into my mini review, a little piece of background information – the King company started trading in the 1930s but didn’t really take off successfully until the 1950s and 60s with its multiple series’ of viewfinder/rangefinder cameras under the ‘Regula’ brand, becoming Regula-Werk King. Like most West German camera manufacturers it eventually folded, but did last longer than most. Both cameras on review here belong to a line known as Regula III, from the late 1950s.
Anyway, first up, is the top of the line Regula RM. It is one of the rangefinder models. However, the focus ring is rather awkward to operate. In fact, it’s positively difficult: it is so tightly cramped behind the lens up against the body it is hard to know where to hold it without blocking the viewfinder. It is quite tight also. To overcome this, I tend to use a cold shoe mounted portable rangefinder instead and then pre-set the distance before composing the shot. Not ideal.
The lens itself, a Steinheil Cassar 45mm 2.8 is quite sharp and contrasty. Results look better when taken in good light, not so much on gloomy overcast days. It likes sunshine! There is a Zeiss Tessar 50mm version, which I think is less common and commands higher prices these days.
My favourite feature of the Regula RM is the selenium Bewi light meter. Press a little red button to get an Exposure Value reading. Being uncoupled, you turn a ring on the lens barrel to the desired EV which sets an appropriate aperture/shutter combination. Another version offered an alternative Gossen meter.
The Regula RM viewfinder is a fairly decent size and reasonably bright, although the rangefinder patch is hard to use.
Second, we have the Mastra V35. As you can see from this top view, both cameras are clearly from the same family, even if this one has no King markings. Apparently, it was a deliberately simplified Regula series III model for the British and US markets, and accordingly rebranded.
The Mastra V35 has the same Cassar 45mm lens, which is a joy to use on this camera: nothing in the way when setting the distance on a fairly loose ring at the front. No meter, so no EV settings, just individually set your desired shutter speed and aperture. I use the Sunny 16 rule. This is a viewfinder model, so estimate distance, use a portable rangefinder or hyperfocal scale. All very simple, it reminds me of my Voigtlander Vitoret. Unfortunately, the viewfinder is tiny.
Courtesy of the Cassar 45mm, Kodak BW400, Agfa HDC 200, Vista Plus 200, Cinestill 800T, Ferrania Solaris 800 and Ilford HP5+, here are some photos from my pair of kings:
Generally the Regula RM is much weightier and more fiddly to use than the Mistra V35. It helps to have small hands! You certainly have to be patient with it. As the optics are the same, I find that I am tending to grab the V35 to use rather than the RM. It is virtually a point and shoot. I like it’s simplicity and ease of focus. Shame about the viewfinder, but I can live with that.
Cheers, Rock (some stuff at www.rocksreflex.com)