The Iloca Electric was introduced in 1958 and (along with the identical Graflex branded Graphic 35 Electric) was the company's most ambitious undertaking. Although it was the last production model manufactured by Iloca, it is acclaimed as the first camera on the market with an electric motor drive, the electric motor being built into the film take-up spool. Pressing the shutter button on this camera not only activates the shutter, but it also advances the film automatically to the next frame. Holding the button down provides continuous drive at around 1 frame per second. While these features are commonplace on virtually every camera these days, they would have been quite revolutionary in 1958.
However, the motor drive is only one aspect of the Iloca Electric. This was also the first Iloca model to feature interchangeable lenses. It was equipped with a DKL type bayonet mount, and a choice of at least seven lenses - a 35mm f4.5 Culmigon, a 50mm f1.9 Iloca Quinon and a 50mm f2.8 Iloca Culminar from Steinheil München, and from Rodenstock a 35mm f4 Iloca Eurygon, a 50mm f1.9 Iloca Heligon, a 50mm f2.8 Iloca Ysarex and a 135mm f4 Iloca Rotelar. These lenses are designed exclusively for the Synchro-Compur shutter and have depth-of-field indicators to display the range of focus on the lens scale. The DKL mount came in slightly modified form for the various camera manufacturers. Hence, the lenses in the range carried the Iloca name to differentiate them from other DKL versions (with the exception of the 35mm Culmigon).
The viewfinder display provides framing lines for the various focal lengths - the inner frame for the 135mm lens, and a larger frame for the 50mm lenses. The full viewfinder frame is used for the wide angle 35mm lens. The viewfinder also includes a bright rangefinder image for accurate focussing.
In keeping with the latest automatic camera trends of the day, the exposure settings on this model were designed for simplified operation. The first step is to select a suitable shutter speed using the shutter speed ring. Then, adjust the aperture by rotating the dial at the front base of the camera until the meter needle in the viewfinder (also visible on the top plate) is within the indicated range. The shutter speed and aperture are coupled, so that once an exposure combination is set, changing to a faster shutter speed for example will result in a corresponding larger aperture. The exposure control is in fact a shutter priority arrangement - you first select the shutter speed, then adjust the aperture for correct exposure.
There is no doubt that these automatic exposure aids would have appealed to new customers who were either intimidated by some of the 'manual only' cameras of the day, or those who simply couldn't be bothered with more complicated designs. However, the Electric still enabled photographers to manually override the suggested meter readings at any time, resulting in quite a versatile and functional camera.
On the downside, the camera is quite large and heavy, and was relatively expensive for its time. It was certainly the most expensive production camera produced by Iloca, with a price comparable to other more established camera brands. Reliability can also be an issue with this model. It seems that the added complexity of an electric motor along with the additional electrical wiring and components have increased the potential for faults to occur (not to mention the dreaded curse of all old battery powered equipment - leaking acid from forgotten batteries!).
All in all, this is a fascinating if somewhat enigmatic camera. In some ways, the simplified exposure settings and convenience of a motor drive seem a bit at odds with the introduction of interchageable lenses in a large and rather heavy body. Nonetheless, this is the camera which set the standard for all others when it comes to film advance mechanisms. And it seems that Iloca already had further plans in mind with the Iloca auto-electric, which unfortunately suffered a premature demise.
As usual for Iloca, releasing the camera back is a bit tricky - first step is to slide the small release lever sideways to allow the rewind crank to pop out. Then pull the rewind crank out slowly from the body. This will release the camera back (as long as you're not accidentally holding it shut with your other hand!!) Replacing the back is generally the reverse of the above procedure, but make sure you align the red dot on the camera body with the dot on the camera back. At least Iloca maintained its reputation for quirky camera back procedures with the Electric !!
A landmark camera from Iloca, with the first built-in electric motor drive. This model also offers a number of other advanced features such as interchangeable lenses and automated exposure aids for simplified operation. While the Electric is physically large and heavy, it is also a quality camera capable of producing pleasing results, especially with the extended range of interchangeable lenses. It feels solid and well built, and due to its ground-breaking design, rightfully deserves its place in history.
Specifications: Iloca Electric
Camera Type:35 mm Rangefinder Camera, Interchangeable Lenses, Electric Motor drive
Format:135 film format producing image sizes 24mm x 36mm
Shutter: Synchro-Compur with speeds: 'B', 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 sec with M, X Flash settings, and V (Delayed Action setting)
Lens Mount:DKL Bayonet
Lenses:Steinheil München 1:4.5 35mm Culmigon; 1:1.9 50 mm Quinon; 1:2.8 50 mm Culminar. Rodenstock 1:4 35mm Eurygon; 1:1.9 50mm Heligon, 1:2.8 50mm Ysarex; 1:4 135mm Rotelar
Delayed Action:Approx 10 seconds
Flash Capability: PC Flash Contact
Frame Counter: 0 to 36
Exposure:Match the needle type display, visible in viewfinder
Lightmeter:Built-in, coupled with viewfinder display
Other Features:Accessory Shoe, Tripod Mount, Leather Camera Case, Instruction Manual, Box