Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Legends: Alpa 9d Reflex camera

Alpa was the brand name for high end reflex cameras made by the Swiss company, Pignons S.A. The original 1940's design by Jacques Bolsky was revolutionary for its time. It was a high end camera with a reputation for precise elegance, much like that of a Leica M cameras of the time. The front facing ratchet advance lever worked opposite to most other cameras. The shutter release was mounted on the front of the camera where it could be coupled to lenses thereby stopping down the aperture at the same time. The camera back was removable allowing accessory backs to be mounted.

Although Alpa continued making reflex cameras until production ceased with the model 11 in the 1990's, for me the 9d was the pinnacle of the Alpa Reflex design both in terms of its looks and features. Made in 1964, it introduced an SLR view finder with a built-in CdS TTL meter.

A black Alpa 9d with 90mm Schacht Alpa-Altenar lens and a 135mm Schneider-Kreuznach Tele-Zenar next to it.
Alpa did not make its own lenses, but instead relied on other high-end optical companies such as Kern of Switzerland, Enna, Old Delft, Angenieux, Schneider, Schacht and Kinoptik to produce lenses with an Alpa mount. Even the camera lens mount was unusual, having a shorter lens-to-film distance than most SLR cameras of the day.

Here the 9d is fitted with a rare Angenieux Alpa Retrofocus 24mm f/3.5 lens. Note the aperture ring mounted as a ring on top of the lens. The lens has a shutter release button. When pressed it closes the lens diaphragm and then trips the camera shutter button beneath it.
An early 80-250mm Enna zoom lens is mounted on this silver 9d. 
Here a 9d is fit with one of the most renowned macro lenses of all time, the 50mm f/1.8 Kern Macro-Switar. This was replaced with an f/1.9 version in 1968.  I found a Leica M adapter for this lens and will be trying it out and posting results in a future blog post.


  1. You propably know that Alpa is making multi-platform camera:

  2. When I go to use the light meter on my 9D, the needle always swings up to the top. I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with that. I plan to shoot with it for the first time next week.

    Thanks for your article.

  3. Sorry to have to say it, but your meter could be dead. These older CdS cell meters don't last forever.