A few years ago my grandfather gave me his two Robot cameras. They have travled with him around Europe, Denmark and Greenland for decades. This spring I gave one to Steves Camera in Los Angeles for cleanup and adjustment. it is back and working wonderfully. Read about this 1937 state of the art camera. - UPDATE added a ROBOT gallery.
Only 60 years old and still ticking as it did the day it was pulled out of the box first time. rock solid from beautifully machined metal. The main feature is the huge dial on top, this is the film winder, wind the spring and the camera is ready to capture 25 frames without further winding. This camera is closely related to a clock-work.
While a contemporary of early Leica cameras, the Robot do not have a rangefinder, they did add this in later models, it does use modern 35mm film cassettes, but unlike modern cameras it have a take-up cassette. The manual suggest that one can remove the film or change with another film midway while only loosing 2 frames.
Loading the film is much easier than one would think. Twist the take-up spool to open, the take-up spool have a notch to capture the perforation of the 35mm film. Well-thought out and easy to use, it is also very error free. Once the film is hooked to the spool put the spool in the canister and push the two parts together until they click. you now have a set of two canisters ready to be put in the camera.
Start by putting the black take-up canister in the right slot, pull up the wind button first. there are a couple of notches on the bottom which must fit the with the groove in the bottom right of the camera. then push the full film canister in the left side, inserting the part towards the top of the camera first.
Now lay the perforation over the sprocket for advancing, then wind the right wind button until the advancing sprocket have a firm grip of the film. about 1/2 turn does the trick for me.
Close the back door and make sure to slide the lock bar up to secure the back. Then click off 2 frames, while you do this keep an eye on the "screw" on the top left shoulder of the ROBOT camera, this is the shaft of the rewind and will spin to indicate that the film is advancing correctly.
You are ready to start photographing, but I suggest that before you start push the little button to the right of the shutter down, then you can spin the wheel on the right shoulder to set the counter, I like to set it to 1 at this point.
Because the ROBOT photograph square images, you will get roughly 55 frames on a normal roll of 36 exposures. I keep finding myself rotating the camera vertical when I want to see a little more up, only to realize that square is equally square regardless how I turn the camera.
I should give credit to Steve Choi from Steve's Camera, he both fixed the camera, cleaned very thing to perfection including the viewfinder and made it shine. a few days after I got the camera back the shutter jammed, so I ups'ed the camera back to Steve and got it returned in 3 days, shutter fixed under warranty, this is a 60 year old camera which have seen lots of action, I never expected Steve to fix the shutter again at no extra charge. Overall I am hugely impressed with Steves work and service, he have worked on my Leica cameras and lenses before and I wholeheartedly recommend Steve for any work on mechanical cameras. Click for Steves website.
UPDATE - got the first roll of film back. Click for Gallery.
Several things are painfully clear, first of all, the camera and lenses works VERY well, second I am not very good at estimating distances for close-up shots and there were several blurred images..
Naturally - who is kidding who.? this is a 70 year old lens and it does have some technical short comings, one notable such is the flare control, note the image in the outdoor restaurant with light through the trees, there are a clear flare around the highlights however it is not un-pleasant and does not distract from the image.
The end of the story is that the camera does what it is expected to do. and does it well.