Background and first impressions
This camera sure looks like a child of its times, designed in strict graphic patterns but rounded off by soft curved lines. It was released in 1965, one sibling in the Demi family of cameras. But it was an odd bird there, and in the world of compact cameras as a whole.
The singular reason for the camera being an exception is the fact that you can use two lenses. One is a 28 mm f:2.8 - which since this is a half-frame camera equals a 42 mm image as projected on a full frame film - and one a 50 mm f:2.8 (≈75 mm). Having the option to switch between lenses on a very compact half-frame camera was unique - not like today.
I felt that this camera would be great for me, particularly since I had grown tired of lugging a heavy camera with a large lens when I wanted to take tele pictures. The Demi C 'tele 75 mm' lens surely is small. Hence, since my interest in this camera was to use the tele, this review is mainly based on my using it with the 50 mm lens.
Some would argue that 75 mm isn't a tele lens but a 'portrait' lens. I'm fine with that. The way I use it is to narrow down/minimize the image more than my usual compact cameras 50 or 45 mm lenses do.
The viewfinder is surprisingly bright and large with the 42 mm picture filling the finder while the 75 mm picture size is articulated with a grey square in the middle. The frame is positioned standing in vertical "portrait", like in most half frame cameras.
Focus, aperture and shutter
Unfortunately the Demi C is not equipped with a rangefinder, so focusing is done depending on the photographer's preferences. The focus ring shows the distance in meters and feet. It is important to not confuse the marking indicating the focus distance with the one marking shutter time. I added my own reminder with a sharpie pen.
There are no aperture blades placed in the detachable lenses, like in all other non-bellow cameras that I know of. Instead shutter and aperture blades are placed in the camera body, where the lens is mounted. This is because of the rather original exposure control of the camera.
You can manually set the aperture with a control on the underside of the lens housing. The exposure will be automatically set to 1/30th of a second. This is the camera's flash mode - similar to how it works on lots of other cameras. This aperture scale is also a visual aid when in shutter speed priority mode you turn the exposure control ring between 1/30th and 1/250th of a second.
The camera has a special system. Based on which shutter speed you choose when you turn the exposure control ring (1/30th to 1/250th of a second) the exposure system adjusts the aperture accordingly. To set exposure "correctly" you align the exposure control needle of the light meter display - placed on the top of the camera - to the one of the light meter by turning this ring.
There is the very common manual override option as well: Set exposure to B (bulb) mode and choose the aperture of your choice by moving the peg on the underside of the lens.
I would say that the 50 mm lens is as good as any - if not better - compact camera lenses. I always compare to Olympus XA and RC which are outstanding lenses for such small cameras. And the 50 mm Demi C lens is not far behind, considering its half-frame projection size.
The 28 mm Demi C lens hasn't been used on the camera. However I've used it on my digital Fujifilm X-Pro1 after some modding to make it fit a M39 adapter. The pictures are as good as you'd expect from an experiment as this. Focus is good, apart from being off at the edges - an effect occurring in this situation but not when used as intended, from what I gather from other users. Also on the X-Pro the lens is fully open since the aperture blades are situated in the Demi C body.
The camera is small; the shutter is very silent (and there is a nice ringing tone emanating from some spring inside); the lens with the big glass appears to strangers to be a wide angle but is the opposite; it fits in a coat pocket (the lens protrudes 3 centimeters from the body - how's that for a tele lens!).
So - size, appearance, framing are great. But there are annoying things. And they are design related.
First: The focus ring, at least on my specimen, is too loose. So, when taking pictures using zone focusing one still always has to keep an eye on the focus setting since it slowly glides out of place.
Second: The ASA setting ring is aligned to the shutter speed control ring. But when turning the shutter speed ring the ASA ring most often has more resistance and "clicks" out of place. Yes, I've tried lubing it, to no avail. So the solution is to use electrical tape to keep the rings in sync. Not very pretty.
Third: As there are no strap lugs on the Demi C it has to be carried upside down on a strap screwed on to the tripod mount. Or you need to come up with your own solution. I use a halfcase which I got from a Smena 8 camera, if I remember correctly.
It's great to have a very compact interchangeable lens camera. Later compacts would of course feature motor zooms, but where's the sport in that? Well, at least for me this is the perfect tele photo kit even though the exposure system is a bit too 'automatic' for my overly analog tastes. But I can live with that when the resulting pictures are as nice as this.
Thanks for reading!
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