Beirette SL 100 N – This was my first camera

From my last visit to Germany I brought this camera back. It was my very first camera which my parents gave to me when I was around 10 years old. At that time I wasn’t much interested in photography and after a few unsuccessful attempts I gave up. I still remember one blurry photo of my sister and me taken somewhere outside in winter. Sadly I didn’t treat the camera very well as it was more like a toy for me. The outside is a bit scratched and there is dust inside and outside. Nevertheless the camera seems still to work and I am looking forward to try it soon.

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Front of the camera. The symbols indicate shutter speeds and focusing ranges.

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Back of the camera. The film is advanced by pushing the orange bar to the left. This also moves the frame counter to the next position.

Even though it looks like a toy, it was originally not intended to be one. The Beirette SL 100 N was made by Carl Zeiss Jena from 1987 till 1989. There were different colors available: orange, yellow, green and pink. It was made for young beginners and offers a few basic features: three different shutter speeds, a simple focusing mechanism, hot shoe, cable release socket, and a standard tripod thread.

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View on top of the camera. The cable release socket is next to the large shutter release button. On the right hand side is the hot shoe. The camera design is very simple. I like how they tried to use simple patterns to give some structure and look to the camera body. 

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Carl Zeiss Jena logo on the backside of the camera.

The camera uses a 35 mm film with 50-100 ISO/ASA (that was recommended), but loaded in spool-less so called “SL type” cartridges with 12 exposures. SL stands for Schnell Lade which means speed loading. The SL system was based on the Agfa Karat system and was designed for amateurs to quickly load and unload the film.

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Open film chamber. The cartridges are simply inserted. There is no winding mechanism. Film transport happens with a small pin that goes into the perforation of the film. Originally the film would be collected in a second cartridge, therefore it it not necessary to rewind the exposed film. Unfortunately I have only one cartridge here, because many years ago the other one was given to a lab to develop the negatives.

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Comparison of the “SL type” cartridge on the left and a regular 35 mm film.

Now this might be a challenge to load film. To my knowledge there is no fresh SL type film available. My plan is to take a black and white film, cut off a strip and spool it into the cartridge, and hen load it into the camera – of course everything inside a changing back. In a future article I will keep you updated about my plan and how it worked.

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Detail of the viewfinder and the frame counter. The frame counter can also be moved by hand. There is no connection between the actual frame number and the number displayed. The viewfinder mimics a rangefinder, but without any coupling with the lens. It is only a simple window.

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A funny thing about the viewfinder is that with the right viewing angle it is possible to look inside the camera and see some of the mechanics.

Technical specifications

  • 50 mm Chromar lens (two element achromatic lens)
  • fixed aperture f/11
  • shutter speeds: B, 1/30 s (cloud), 1/125 s (sun)
  • guillotine shutter
  • focusing range: 1-3 m (single person), 3-8 m (group of people), 8-infinity (mountains)
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