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Wirgin was a German company which is still known for its brands Wirgin and Edixa, and for its camera types like the Edina, the Edinex or the Gewirette. It was based in the Hessian capital Wiesbaden and made a line of quite inexpensive 35mm SLRs from the 1950s to the 1970s, including the Edixa Reflex and Edixa-Mat Reflex. Wirgin was West Germany's main producer of SLRs with focal plane shutters. It also produced some of the lenses for its cameras, among them several M42 screw mount lenses.

Wirgin was founded by the brothers Heinrich, Max and Josef Wirgin in 1920. In 1932[1] the company surprised the market with a very small viewfinder camera for type 127 film, the Gewirette. From the mid-1930s it also made Edinex 35mm viewfinder cameras, which they produced also as Adrette for Adox. These came equipped with a Wirgin Gewironar lens and a Compur shutter or a Steinheil Culminar lens (like a Tessar) in a Prontor shutter.

In 1938 circumstances in Germany had changed since the Nazi party had reached the peak of its success, pushed by the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 and the economic upswing. In their delusion of grandeur the political leaders decided to start making true all their only ideologically justified abhorrent menaces against minorities in Germany, especially against the Jews. Heinrich and Josef Wirgin still lead their company in Wiesbaden, but with the help of one of their clerks they managed to escape from Germany. Max might have been already in the US, his brothers followed. The Wirgin factory in Wiesbaden became incorporated into the Adox company.

After the war Heinrich Wirgin came back from America, now as Henry Wirgin, and refounded the Wirgin company in Wiesbaden. An administrative officer of the American occupied zone of Germany sent Heinz Waaske as promising aspirant to Wirgin. At that time Waaske had sold his prototype of a subminiature camera to the Americans. In 1951 the talented mechanician Waaske became a camera constructor. He constructed the company's first SLR, a model with focal plane shutter, the first camera like that in Western Germany. He also constructed a more elegant SLR prototype, and later a complicated electronically controlled SLR with Compur shutter, and a stereo rangefinder camera.

In 1962 Henry Wirgin bought Franka. Since then several Edixa 35mm viewfinder cameras had been made in the Franka-Kamerawerk in Bayreuth/Oberfranken.

Made in Bayreuth and Wiesbaden were the small Edixa 16 cameras for 16mm film with removable coupled or uncoupled selenium meter, all derived from an original model designed by Heinz Waaske in Wiesbaden and developed and produced in Wiesbaden and Bayreuth as Edixa 16, Franka 16, or, for the Karstadt warehouses, as alka 16.

Waaske left Wirgin since Henry Wirgin had decided to give up camera production sooner or later. Wirgin granted the rights on a new 35mm viewfinder camera to Waaske. This camera was none less than the prototype of what became the famous Rollei 35. Waaske had constructed it at Wirgin company.

In 1967 the Franka-Werk was closed. In 1968 Henry Wirgin closed his original company and continued the production of some camera models in a new smaller plant. In 1971, shortly before its closing, the company introduced a quite modern but heavy SLR camera.

Some cameras sold by Wirgin and its American sales branch Edixa were not made by Wirgin or Franka, mainly the Edixa 8mm movie camera which was made in Japan.

Henry Wirgin died in 1989, at the age of 90 years, in Wiesbaden. He had not only been one of the top entrepreneurs of the West German camera industry, he was also engaged in recovering normal friendly relationships of non-jewish Germans to jewish citizens as chairman of the Society for German-Jewish co-operation.

35mm film Edit

16mm film Edit

127 film Edit

120 film Edit

Notes Edit

  1. McKeown, p.1011.

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