Classic camera: mid-1950s Certo Six


To make pictures with Certo Six, pictured above, use this simple process;

Point your camera at the subject of your choice, decide what to include in the frame, use a hand-held light meter to determine settings for correct settings on your camera, do a mental calculation to change the suggested settings according to the subject and the effect desired, adjust your aperture and shutter speed for the ISO of the film you are using, cock the shutter, focus carefully, keep the camera steady and press the shutter.

See, it is not all that difficult. Once you are finished with the roll, send it to a lab to be processed or develop it yourself if you are so inclined. Get a contact sheet made (or do it yourself if you are like me) and you are almost done. Select the frame you like and spend a couple of days in the darkroom getting a nice print (or again get a professional lab to do it for you). If everything goes according to plan you will be admiring a print in front of you very soon. It is as easy as that.

You can by now see that almost everyone would prefer to use a camera like this for its simple operation and fantastic image quality.

Wait a minute…..it is 2011 and we do things differently. We point our advanced digital camera at a subject, we care little about, frame it nicely and press the shutter. And behold, the picture appears almost simultaneously on the back screen of the camera. We do not even need instructions to use our beautiful gadgets. And we do not need to waste money on film anymore. To let you in on a little secret – we can even delete the pictures we do not want immediately after we take them.

Wow, and those poor fellows thought it was easy to use Certo Six when it came out of an East German factory in the mid-1950s. My father-in-law, an enthusiastic photographer and now a retired bureaucrat, bought it from Calcutta (Kolkata) for a princely sum of 800 rupees in 1956. He chose it particularly for its pedigree Carl Zeiss lens which remains sharp to this day after 50 years. He took the camera along when he drove through rugged uncharted terrain in Mizoram on his Willys jeep and made many pictures, out of which at least two won him prize money (Rs 45) from a journal Indian Farming and the newspaper Hindustan Standard Times. He was happy when I told him over a crackling phone line that I still use his camera and that I was going to write about it.

The camera still works beautifully. I have spent some memorable moments using this beauty along with my as ancient Weston light meter (second picture). The gallery shows some of the efforts.

Ashwini Bhatia


About moonpeak

Moonpeak is an online and print magazine published in McLeodganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India. It features articles and interviews about travel, photography and books, with a focus on South Asia and Tibet. The magazine is based at Moonpeak cafe, restaurant and gallery on Temple Road, McLeodganj.


One thought on “Classic camera: mid-1950s Certo Six

  1. Excellent pictures, Ashwini…it’s fun how timeless they seem, even though I know some of the settings. And Zeiss lenses’ excellence doesn’t diminish by time, it seems.

    Maybe you remember me. Simon Villiger introduced me to you in your (now defunct, I hear) restaurant. A fellow photographer and traveller – right now I enjoy having found that blog and finding out what you’ve been up to. Best wishes from Austria to McLeodganj.

    Posted by Sebastian Buchner | 31 March, 2012, 5:02 am

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