The Pajtás


Background

The Pajtás camera was designed to be used by children, hence the name, which refers to the way young people were addressed (or were supposed to be addressed) in the Pioneer organisation of socialist Hungary.   (In reality no-one bothered to use the word pajtás when talking to another, except during formal events, such as the celebration of a socialist victory.   (Pajtás can be seen as the young people's equivalent of comrade.)

The camera was, however, immensely successful.   Production lasted longer than its designers originally expected.


Description

This simple box camera is made of bakelite.   It is surprisingly large, considering that it was intended for small hands.   Nevertheless, it can be easily grabbed and held by someone with limited dexterity.

The no. 120 roll film is advanced with the large knob on the top and the frame number can be checked through the circular red window on the back of the camera.   The longish column near the viewfinder window is the shutter release button.   The simple shutter works in two modes: M(oment) and T(ime).   These can be set with the left dial near the bottom of the lens.   The other dial on the right is for setting the aperture.   Turning this dial will result in rotating a metal plate behind the lens with three holes of different diameter drilled in it - one for each aperture setting.   (It can't get much simpler than this.)   The lens is a f/8 80 mm Achromat.

The shutter release button can be locked to prevent accidental exposure.   When the white spot shows, the shutter can be fired. If the red spot shows, the shutter is locked.


These images show the manufacturers' logo on two Pajtás cameras.   One was made at the Gamma Optical Works, the other by a different manufacturer - I still have to find out what FFV stands for.

Opening the camera to change the film is a bit tricky.   You will not find a lock; the camera back has to be simply pried off leveraging the semicircular protrusion on the top edge of the back plate.   Not a very ingenious solution, but it works.


Availability

The Pajtás is possibly the most common among the Hungarian cameras.   This is not to say, that it is ignored by collectors.   Many Hungarians are fond of it, as it reminds them of their childhood years - perhaps it was the first camera they got from their parents, perhaps this camera provided the initial nudge that later led to a successful photographic career.
You would find at least one Pajtás for sale at a flee market or in a good second hand shop.   However, if you wanted to acquire a Pajtás in mint condition, complete with box and manual...well, that would require quite a bit of search.

The camera on the fist picture above was made in 1956 - the year of the uprising against Soviet occupation.   Below is the documentation that came with the camera.

These cameras were also sold in blue boxes.


Further reading:




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