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Observations on the Petri Flex V

Wayne Cornell , Sep 01, 2005; 03:04 p.m.

In my quest for examples of all the cameras I've used over the years, I recently acquired a Petri Flex V. Hadn't seen one for nearly 40 years and the first thing that struck me was the quality of the construction -- heavy plating and outstanding covering. The shutter has a very solid reassuring sound to it.

I traded off an Exa I to get my original Petri. The Petri had an instant return mirror and the Exa didn't. I didn't keep the Petri long because it had a proprietory lens mount and didn't have a meter. Later the company switched to the M42 screw mount. From what I can learn the Petri V was made from 1961 to 1964.

The Petri had to be one of the best-made slrs of its era. They certainly don't me 'em like that anymore. I'll post a photo if anyone is interested.

Responses


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Gary Turner , Sep 01, 2005; 03:42 p.m.

Just too bad most of those Petris were not more reliable long-term. Hard to find anyone who will repair them. I agree, well made (in most respects) and high quality finished at least until the screw mount models reappeared. For some though, 'an acquired taste'. The later M42 screw mount models seemed to cut a few corners (typical of the times) and eventually Petri even replaced the unusual bottom end 'crankshaft-like' shutter transport system which may have helped long-term reliability on certain later models(?). Petri Flex 7, FT, FA-1 were 3 other excellent examples of Petri's best SLRs. On the rangefinder side Petri also made a few excellent and currently also under-appreciated models such as Automate, 1.9 Color Super, etc. Petri even made a TLR and some nice 6 x 4.5 folding cameras. Interesting company. A very fine collectors guide covers Kuribayashi-Petri history in detail. Author is John Baird.

Wendell Kelly , Sep 01, 2005; 05:06 p.m.

If you need repair on a Petri, or any of the less common cameras for that matter, a good place to try is Essex Camera Service. They seem to be willing to try even obscure makes.

Wayne Cornell , Sep 01, 2005; 05:59 p.m.

This one seems to be functioning properly now and is excellent cosmetically although the lens focus is stiff (dried out lube). I'm more interested in have an example than a shooter (I've got way more cameras than I can shoot already) so if the shutter collapses iwould probably just make it a shelf queen.

Michael Linn , Sep 02, 2005; 12:18 a.m.

Yes, it's too bad most weren't more reliable long term- but the same can be said for Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Leica, Miranda, etc.

None of the above from the early 60's are in perfect working condition today if never serviced. Apart from Leica, they all cost about the same to service. Since the Petri SLR's of whatever vintage were absolutely the cheapest cloth focal plane shutter cameras from Japan, they were the least likely to get an investment in service and that is why they seem so "unreliable" today. Most are easily put in working order. Later models dispensed with the unique camshaft mechanism simply because it was much cheaper to use flat springs and stamped parts than coil springs and machined components.

Petri got more people into photography than is realized today. US military personnel were able to buy a precision made Petri 35mm rangefinder camera with excellent optics for around $30 in the late 50's and early 60's at base and post exchanges. I got one of those used for $10 in 1962 and learned more about photography from that camera than any of the hundreds I have owned since.

H. P. , Sep 02, 2005; 03:55 a.m.

"None of the above from the early 60's are in perfect working condition today if never serviced."

That's an assertion for which I'd like to see some proof. I personally know of two Nikons which are forty years old, work well and have never had a spanner on them.

Curt Saxton , Sep 02, 2005; 09:12 a.m.

Darn, since all three of my Mirandas, and about one third of my 136 SLR's were made in that time period, guess they're not functioning up to snuff and I'll need to sell them for parts on Ebay. Hmmm, maybe just in "as is, was working last time I used it" shape? Michael, methinks you might be stirring up a honet's nest with this one, LOL.

Curt Saxton , Sep 02, 2005; 09:13 a.m.

That would be "Hornet's nest" if I was smart enuff to type properly.

Gary Turner , Sep 02, 2005; 11:54 a.m.

My point about brand reliability could have been better stated. I'll give it another try! All things equal...if various brands of classic 35mm SLRs were treated the same, used the same....then I think there are certain brands and models which are now more apt to be found with a jammed shutter, mirror box problem or wildly inaccurate shutter speeds. My experience tells me that Nikon F & F2, Canon F1, Topcon RE Super, Pentax SP series...amongst others...tend to be comparatively more reliable even without servicing. Two brands in my experience which I tend to find with nagging problems (unfortunately) are Petri and the Miranda Sensorex series (I might add I have a few earlier Miranda models that still work well). Of course determining how much use or abuse a given camera has received is a bit of a wild guess but the Petris and Mirandas I came across were typically in pristine cosmetic condition whereas some of the working Nikons & Canons were real beaters. Maybe more owners of those nice looking cameras just left them for extended periods in a hot car? Who knows? Meters for all brands seem to be near equally problematic. Just my opinions. I do not claim expertise. Unless its my imagination, my classic camera readings over the years tend to substantiate these observations. Anyway, even a shelf camera has value.

Michael Linn , Sep 02, 2005; 01:23 p.m.

"Perfect working order" and "working well" do not have the same meaning. The first is defined by the major camera manufacturers (from one of which I retired in 2002) in writing for each model. Sometimes running to several pages, they specify not only the expected performance but also how and with what instrumentation it is to be measured. When I describe a camera as in "perfect working order" that is what I mean. The second more usually means the owner of the camera deems it "usable".

It's a good point to bring up that some of the worst looking "beater" Nikons and Canons are working well today compared to others which still look brand new but don't function. The "beaters" were likely used by professionals which means that a) they were used regularly and b) they were serviced regularly. It's a fact that much instrumentation from that era whether cameras, microscopes, surveying instruments, etc. all benefited from regular use, which tended to keep the lubricants distributed properly. Some camera manufacturers recommended in their user manuals that cameras put away for storage be taken out regularly to be wound and fired at all shutter speeds.


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