Robots are a world apart. They are ultra-small, spring-wound 35mm film
cameras with interchangeable lenses. To keep the cameras small, they
chose the 24x24mm picture format. They are completely mechanical. They
are designed for discreet, hyperfocal use, colour-points on the
distance scale of each lens indicate the depth of the field according
to the aperture set. Until the introduction of the Star II, they
had an angle-viewer for even more discretion. So the Robots played an
important role in spying from the 30s to the 80s. There were silenced
shutters available. And there were technical versions with big film
canisters for the use in trafic radars.
A bit of general
information: There are two main lines, the original Robot (24x24mm,
screw-mount) and the Royal (24x36 mainly, but also 18x24 and 24x24,
When the Robot I appeared in 1934, there was no
standard 35mm cartridge, so they had their own feeding cassette (T) and
a winding cassette (N). The II in 1938 had some improvements. The I and
the early II have 26x0.75mm screw-mount which was then changed to
26x1mm until the end of production. All lenses can be mounted on 26x1
cameras, but the 26x1 lenses cannot be mounted on 26x0.75 cameras.
IIa in 1951 is the first to accept standard film cartridges, but still
has no rewind. The Star introduced the rewind, but still needs the N cassette
for winding. There was a cheap version of the Star without rewind and
angle-viewer called Junior.
The Star II (Vollautomat, which
isn't automatic at all) is a major redesign from the end of the 50s in
2 spring versions, the integrated 25 picture and the sticking out 50
picture version. It needs the NR cassette
for winding. Both were renamed in the 60s as Star 25 and 50. They
stayed in production until the 90s. The production ended with a limited
edition collector's model, the Star Classic in 1996.
is a different line, bigger, with bayonnet mount, burst mode and a
rangefinder. The Royal II is a
simplified version without burst mode and without rangefinder. The III
is the last and most sought-after model of the series. They were made in
3 formats (with the same exterior body), 24x36, 24x24 and 24x18 (rare).
When buying lenses for these please note that all lenses for the 36
model fit the others, but 24 model lenses will not properly work on 36
models. The lenses are not marked, the 36 versions have 2 cut-out slots
at the back, the 24 version only one. The
Recorder is a technical variant of the Royal without viewfinder. Some
Recorder models have a simplified mount.
The camera shown here, a Robot Junior. The camera's main features are:
Various interchangeable lenses, hyperfocal setting Fast automatic shutter cocking and film wind via spring motor, up to 25 pictures per wind Shutter: fast rotary shutter, B 1/2 - 1/500, 2 flash contacts, Bulbs and X Size body: 72 x 113 x 40 mm, Weight : 438 g
Front. One of the standard lenses, and built-in viewer. 2 flash sockets. Speed setting.
view. Finder. Spring wind. Counter adjustment wheel.
from above. No rewind. Accessory shoe, spring wind, shutter button, shutter
unlock/lock switch, counter unlock button, wind wheel and
exposure number indication.
from below. Tripod mount.
With original leather case.
Schneider Radionar, 1:3.5/38mm Focal length: 38mm
Aperture: F 3.5 - F 16
Min focus distance: 0.5m (at F 8 = 40cm)
Length (from flange): 21/25mm
Seen from front.
Seen from the mount.
Camera and lens.
lens is very compact. It has a multi-blade iris, perfectly round.
Schneider Tele-Xenar 1:3.8/75mm Focal length: 75mm
Aperture: F 3.8 - F 22
Min focus distance: 1m (at F 8 80cm)
Length (from flange): 44/50mm
Seen from front.
Seen from the mount. Yes, last lens element has to be cleaned...
Frame finder., 75mm frames set
Finder, 38mm frames.
Finder, folded and pouch.
Camera with lens and frame finder seen from the front.
Camera with lens and finder, seen from the back.
lens has a multi-blade aperture, perfectly round. The finder has a
movable back frame which adapts the parallax according to the distance
Robot cameras are very small cameras with interchangeing lenses. They
are extremely robust and fast, which makes them quite heavy. Film
loading is a bit complicated, but once you are used to it, it's fine.
As proposed in the manual, it's not a bad idea to do some exercise with
old film first.
You have to lift the wind button, remove the wind cassette, dismount
the wind cassette and insert
the film into the spool. Then the casette is re-mounted around the film
tip and re-inserted. The film cartridge goes into the other side. The
wind button has to be engaged into the wind spool and the film
tightened. Then close the film compartment a action the shutter twice.
The cassette has a big advantage: if you open the camera
with the film in it, you only lose 2 photos. There are feeding
cassettes for bulk film. Handling is easy otherwise. With some training
and short shutter speeds you can shoot up to 4 photos per second. A 36
exposure roll gives up to 55 photos. Spacing is very tight omn my
cameras. I can sometimes have up to 64 photos from a 36 roll. The
high quality lenses and designed for hyperfocal use. So the absence of
a rangefinder is only a minor issue.
Junior has a major disadvantage: it has no rewind. Either you lose the
last 2 photos and you give the wind cassette to your lab, if you are
sure to get it back undamaged. Or you buy a sleeve, open the camera in
the sleeve, get both casettes out and rewind manually inside the
sleeve. There was a rewinding device from Robot, but still you would
either lose the last 2 photos or load it in absolute darkness.
The Robot cameras are fun
to use. The lenses are very sharp. As they are small and rapid, they
don't attract any attention. Last, but not least, they are mechanical beauties....
If you want to see more lenses, please visit thelens page.