Lordomat – a compact 35mm rangefinder

The Lordomat 35mm rangefinder camera is a 50s era film camera that has a lot going for it. With many lenses available for the camera, and other accessories it would have been a good pick. The Lordomat is easy to operate and fun to use, so the unique design is just icing on the cake.

History

Founded in 1921 by Rudolf Leidolf making microscope lenses until after WWII making the Leidox, which was the first camera released by Leidolf in 1950. The Leidox is a 4cm medium format roll film camera that used 127 film. It featured a somewhat unusual Gallilean Viewfinder but a capable 50mm f/3.8 Triplet lens in a Vario shutter. Unfortunately the camera was comprised of a somewhat brittle plastic and the top plate was impossible to remove. During the next few years, Leidolf would create a few more cameras which all basically led to the Lordomat. They refined the top plate in the Lorodx IIs, and moved to 35mm film with the Lordox 24 x 36.

Lordomat 35mm camera
Lordomat

By 1953 Leidolf Wetzlar was ready for the Lordomat. Even though it is still only the second 35mm film camera they produced, they collected all of the designs and successful features from previous models and made a very capable and lightweight rangefinder. The Lordomat film advance was a pull system that you had to cycle twice to advance the film and cock the shutter. They took the time to create a interchangeable lens system using the Prontor SVS shutter and a breech lock mount with a threaded collar to affix and tighten the lens.

Optics

The standard lens, which is what I have, is the four-element f/2.8 Lordonar 50mm. There are other wide-angle and telephoto lenses available from Schacht-Travenar but they didn’t have the same optical quality as the Leidof lens. There was one additional lens available and it was quite fast and sharp. The fast six-element 50mm f/1.9 Lordon made by Enna Optik was also available.

The lens mounting system for the Lordomat is a breech lock mount with a threaded collar and the standard lens option was the 50mm Lordonar f/2.8 with a Prontor-SVS leaf shutter. Also new to the Lordomat is the film advance lever. The lever operates backwards to most cameras of this time as it pivots towards the user and it’s a double-pull type; so you have to crank it twice; which advances the film and cocks the shutter. The shutter release is more like a large format shutter than a 35mm, but at least it auto-cocks it when the film advances, it also keep the mechanism pretty simple both from a use and a repair aspect. The external shutter is common to this model of Lordomat, so in theory you could just remove the shutter mechanism and replace it and off you go. As you would expect with the shutter mounted the way it is, it’s a 5 blade leaf shutter.

Design and build

The camera is lightweight and in a lot of ways it reminds me quite a bit of a Leica. From the size and mounting method of the lenses to the way the camera back & base come off to load the film. Which isn’t surprising in that I have heard that Leidolf started out making parts for Leica and later on decided to make their own cameras. Given that Leica would have exceedingly high standards and expectations for any vendor, it’s really not a surprise that the Lordomat cameras and later iterations and models would be solid and very well built.

On early models of the Lordomat the viewfinder had a red lens on it to reduce contrast which, while it would work in that regard, it was removed from later versions as I imagine it would make the image difficult to focus in low light situations. Mine is an older model without the red lens. The viewfinder is bright and easy to see and focus through, but like all cameras of this type they have a hyperfocal scale on the camera so you could easily use the camera and focus via distance from the subject like many street photographers do. This model doesn’t have a meter so it’s ideal for that; you only need to get used to framing the camera from the top rather than through the finder.

Function

Lordomat lens detail
Focus scale and frame counter on the Lordomat

Given it’s age, I mean it’s almost 80 years old, the camera works amazingly well and is a testament to the construction. The film advance mechanism is smooth and solid. There is no slop in the lever on either of the two strokes, and the shutter still fires accurately at all speeds.

The film counter is a little small for my liking, but it’s larger than most, but my eyes aren’t what they used to be these days, and mine is a little dirty so it’s not as clear as it once was, but it’s still very usable.

I don’t have any of the optional lenses or any other accessories for the Lordomat, and while it would be fun to get the wide angle and maybe the 90mm, or the 50 f/1.9 I doubt I will put much effort into collecting more lenses for it. It’s a completely usable camera, as are so many in my collection, I just tend not to use them much. Maybe that will be my next project. Take all of my cameras and run at least 1 roll of film through all of them and see how the actually work.

Final thoughts

While this one is going to go back on the shelf where it hangs out with all its buddies if you happen across one in your travels I would highly recommend picking it up if the price is reasonable. The Lordomat 35mm rangefinder is well made, but the does not command high prices, so for $50 or so you could hardly go wrong.



Specifications

General:

Lordomat
Type: Rangefinder
Production: 1953
Film: 35mm
Shutter: Leaf shutter
Weight: 1lbs 6oz
Flash: cold-shoe/pc socket
Flash syncing: M, X, V
Mount: breech lock mount & threaded collar
Shutter speed: 1 sec – 1/300

Manual shutter release cable

Download the Lordomat Standard manual.

Lenses:

50mm
Lordonar
Elements: 4
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
Filter size: 40.5mm

50mm
Lordon made by Enna Optik
Elements: 6
Aperture: f/1.9 – f/22
Filter size: 40.5mm

35mm
Schacht-Travenar
Elements: 4 (needs verification)
Aperture: f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size: 40.5mm

90mm
Telordon
Elements: 4 (needs verification)
Aperture: f/5.6 – f/22
Filter size: 40.5mm

135mm
Schacht-Travenar
Elements: 4 (needs verification)
Aperture: f/5.6 – f/22
Filter size: 40.5mm

Mount: a breech lock mount with a threaded collar to tighten the lens to the shutter body.

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