Alpa

35mm SLR system • Discontinued

Overview

For many years ALPA had a reputation for the precision of their products and the advanced concepts of their design. Pignons S.A. (Switzerland), the manufacturer of ALPA camera, had the advantage of being a small company, and this enabled them to pioneer significant improvements in the camera and put them into production without delay. Custom-ground optics, inimitable Swiss chronometric precision and extreme sturdiness - all of this became synonymous with the name ALPA.

THE CAMERAS:

ALPA BODY No. 2 - First and only solid, unbendable, completely diecast lightmetal body with quick-change bayonet mount:

  • 4 - a classical type of reflex camera equipped with a reflex hood, set at a 90° viewing angle;
  • 5 - model with 45° prism reflex viewing (standard for all subsequent models based on the ALPA BODY No. 2);
  • 7 - model that added a separate rangefinder with multifocal viewfinder;
  • 6 - model with optical rangefinder, but without a separate rangefinder;
  • 8 - model with both optical and separate rangefinders;
  • 4a, 5a - same as non-a models, but with a selftimer;
  • 4b, 5b, 7b, 6b, 8b - same as non-b models, but with a lightning reflex mirror* and a one-stroke rapid wind lever instead of a winding knob.

* In actual practice this means that the mirror not only flips up instantly, practically without image blackout, but returns into viewing position instantly after the exposure, even if the release button is kept depressed.

ALPA BODY No. 3. - Second, modernized and still the only solid, completely diecast body:

  • 6c - model with a straight 0° viewing and a built-in uncoupled window exposure meter;
  • 9d - as the 6c, but with an uncoupled TTL (Through-The-Lens) 3-cell CdS exposure meter and a release lock;
  • 9f - a stripped-down 9d without the exposure meter and the release lock.

ALPA BODY No. 4. - Third, streamlined and still the only solid, completely diecast body, now consisting of only 4 pieces, including the back:

  • 10 d - model with a cross-coupled TTL (Through-The-Lens) 3-cell CdS exposure meter;
  • 10 f - as the 10 d, but without the exposure meter;
  • 10 s - similar to the 10 d, but without the 3rd CdS cell that compensated for extraneous light entering the eyepiece, without a self-timer and M-sync;
  • 11 e - similar to the 10 d, but with the light matching meter;
  • 11 el - with shockproof, electronic meter, precise to 1/10 of an f/stop;
  • 11 f - same as 11 el, but without the exposure meter;
  • 11 es - same as 11 el, but less 3rd CdS cell, release lock, mirror lock, M-synch, selftimer;
  • 11 s - same as 11 es, but without the exposure meter;
  • 11 si - model that used 2 silicium cells and 1 CdS cell in the exposure meter plus one additional LED in the viewfinder.

By the late 1980s, production of the last model, the 11 si, had dropped to 4-5 units per month, and in 1990, unable to compete with the major camera manufacturers, Pignons S.A. filed for bankruptcy.

THE LENSES:

ALPA's optical system was more than a match for its cameras. ALPA offered a wide range of focal lengths plus unusually fine performance. Since these were all first-quality optics produced by Angenieux, Kern, Kinoptik, Schneider, Zoomar and other manufacturers, they weren't particularly cheap. This was a line of precision equipment designed for the man who needed top quality, top versatility, money no object.

NOTES:

1. The "Extensan" focusing mount which was part of several ALPA lenses of longer focal length (Xenar 75/3.5, Tele-Xenar 90/3.5, Altelar 90/2.8, Apochromat 100/2 preset, Algular 135/3.2 and Alefar 180/4.5) had a linear extension range of 20 mm and permitted continuous close-up focusing down to 0.46m with the Xenar 75/3.5 and still to 2m with the Alefar 180/4.5.

2. All ALPA cameras and lenses were produced in very small quantities and have a fairly high collector's value.

3. Because ALPA lenses have the shortest flange focal distance of any lens designed for SLR cameras at just 37.8mm, they can only be adapted to rangefinder or mirrorless cameras.

4. Rumors circulated that Super-Multi-Coated TAKUMAR lenses were also manufactured with the ALPA bayonet mount. This, however, is not true. Pignons S.A. kept almost the complete range of Super-Multi-Coated TAKUMAR lenses in stock and sold them to their customers with a special adapter for ALPA cameras. These lenses were marked "MULTI-COATED AUTO-ALPA LENS", and their serial numbers were 6-digit.

Camera list

35mm film SLR cameras with the Alpa mount (18):

Alpa mount lens list

Accessories list

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