Grahame N's Web Pages


by Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc. MIEE

Karl Rudolf Ditmar

The Ditmar company was founded around 1840 in Vienna, Austria by Karl Rudolf Ditmar (born 3rd May 1818). With his brother Frederick, they produced painted tinware and oil lamps; there was also a workshop for the repair of lighting fittings. Based in a suburb at Erdberg, there were various addresses as the business expanded. I notice UK patents for oil lamp wicks and burners seem to date from the early 1920s through to 1940, with a vapour motor (steam engine) patent dated 1938. Certainly in the mid. 1930s Ditmar turned their attention to the up and coming world of home movies. Ditmar home movie products were imported into the UK by Actina Ltd, in the late 1930s located at 19 Woodstock Street, New Bond Street, Lonsdon, W1 and after the second world war, certainly in the 1950s, based at 10 Dane Street, High Holburn, London, WC1.

Around 1935 the Ditmar company launched a rather interesting design dual-gauge projector, made available in 8mm/9.5mm; 8mm/16mm and 9.5mm/16mm versions. A range of cine cameras in 16mm, 9.5mm and soon 8mm, followed a year or so later.


From contemporary UK cine magazine adverts and sales leaflets, it appears the first Ditmar cine cameras were announced in the UK around 1936. The first model for 9.5mm featured 'P' charger (approx 28 foot) film loading, a metal body with filming speeds of 16 and 32 frames/second by twin release buttons, lens aperture and footage visible in the optical viewfinder and a separate detachable handle for stills. The film gate opens by sliding upwards, then it can be hinged right back for cleaning, image checking etc. The camera was reviewed in the July 1936 Amateur Cine World magazine. A similar specification model was also announced taking 50ft spools, this was available in both 9.5mm and 16mm versions. In France Pathé-Baby marketed the 9.5mm 'P' charger version as the Pathé Royal cine camera. A typical serial number for the 'P' charger loading model is K3271.

The original Ditmar 9.5mm 'P' charger loading cine camera

- also sold in France by Pathé-Baby as the Pathé Royal.

By 1937 updated versions were available with an optical 'extinction' type exposure meter. Other features remained much as before and a 25ft double-run 8mm spool loading model also appeared, with a similar body style to the 9.5mm charger loading version. Much was made of the 'instant slow motion' there being two filming buttons, one for 16fps, the other for 32fps. The lens on the example below is a fixed focus f2.8 Steinheil Cassar 20mm focal length.

9.5mm Ditmar charger loading cine camera with extinction type exposure meter

This model was reviewed in the June 1938 Amateur Cine World magazine. Typical serial numbes for the 9.5mm 'P' charger loading extinction exposure model are: K2229; K2523.

The UK 1938 catalogue (printed in Austria) had dropped the basic camera but added a new model with built-in photo-electric exposure meter. These were again available in 9.5mm 'P' charger; 25ft double run 8mm, and 50ft spool loading 9.5mm and 16mm versions.

By 1939 the UK catalogue sadly stated 'printed in Germany' - the start of the Nazi invasion of Europe, they had first invaded Austria claiming back their 'homelands'. By now the range of cameras boasted reference numbers - 2390 was the 9.5mm 'P' charger version with optical exposure meter; 2387 the similar std 8mm model; 2395 the 9.5mm 50ft spool loading version and 2365 the 16mm 50ft spool loading version. Models with the photo-electric exposure meter were numbered 2290 (9.5mm charger loading); 2287 (8mm 25ft double-run); 2295 (9.5mm 50ft spool loading) and 2265 (16mm 50ft spool loading). Prefixes A, B, C, D signified the particular lens fitted - sadly not in an interchangeable mount. A was the cheaper Steinheil Cassar f2.9 20mm (9.5mm & 16mm) and 12.5mm (8mm) focal length fixed focus; whilst B was the similar Berthiot fixed focus. Prefixes C & D featured 20mm focussing lenses from Berthiot with f2.8 or f1.9 apertures. I guess with such a choice of camera types and lens variations, customers needed to order specific models from their dealer.

Ditmar cine cameras seem to be quite rare in the UK, prices were not cheap - starting at £14 for the simplest fixed focus version, up to around £26 for the best focussing lens models. (At the time, I think a Pathescope 'H' started from around £7, with the fancy 'Dekko' still around £10). My own examples have both the cheaper 20mm f2.8 fixed focus and f1.8 focussing lenses.

There was a range of camera accessories including 2x and 3x Ampli-Cinor telephoto and Hyper-Cinor wide angle attachments; close-up lenses and filters. There is also a 'film viewer' listed, each model for two film sizes. There is no illustration in the catalogue and as the price is only 6 shillings and sixpence (about 32p these days), I guess it was just some sort of magnifying device.

Ditmar also supplied a tri-gauge (8mm / 9.5mm / 16mm ) film cement type splicer, (model 2230), reviewed in the January 1939 Amatuer Cine World magazine.


The Austrian Ditmar company introduced a range of dual gauge cine projectors from around 1935. They were unique in that instead of exchangeable parts for each film size, these machines were designed with a dual film path. This meant that there were two sets of feed sprockets (mounted side by side), two film gates, two take-up sprockets, plus twin sets of guide rollers. The lamp and optical system was arranged to slide from side to side to match the film size in use and the lens mount (a standard 32.5mm diameter) could be pulled forward away from the projector and swivelled across to whichever film gate was in use. The 400ft spool arms had reversible spool fittings to suit the different film gauges. A knob was rotated to set the claw mechanism for the gauge required.

Initially there were three machines offered : model 2960 for 9.5mm and 16mm; model 2890 for 8mm and 9.5mm; and model 2860 for 8mm and 16mm. All these were designed for silent films only - the16mm running double perf. 16mm prints only. Incidentally a special film gate was available to run the special Ozaphane (Agfa) 16mm prints.

The machine was reviewed in the February 1939 Amateur Cine World, now modified to avoid setting the claw mechanism for gauge change and with improved condenser lens and f1.5 projection lens claiming a 50% improvement in light output..

Pre-war models were finished in a black crackle with metal parts like film gates and sprockets nickel plated. The standard projection lamp was a pre-focus 250watt mains voltage type although a 500watt 110volt version could be supplied via a separate plug-in resistance or transformer. The variable speed motor was adjustable for mains voltages from 110 volts to 240 volts via a plug in the base. Two pilot lamps were fitted, these were 0.1 amp MES types, wired in series and fed via a dropper resistance. These were switched out once the projection lamp was on. The machines featured optical framing, still picture and reverse running with power driven film rewind. Spool arms were 400feet / 120 metres capacity, folding for storage. A carry handle was incorporated in the top of the main casting and four adjustable screwed feet were fitted to the base. The three bladed shutter had a 50 degree open / 70 degree closed angle, giving a fairly slow film pulldown and approx. 42% light transmission. Motor drive was via two rubber belts accessible after removal of two back plates External spring belts provided the take-up and feed spool drives.

Production seems to have ceased during the second world war, but the 9.5mm/16mm and 8mm/16mm models were relaunched in the early 1950's. There were a number of improvements including better film guides and a different condenser lens for 8mm. Soon they were finished in a very attractive blue/green crackle finish. The 8mm/9.5mm model was not relaunched, making this quite a rare machine.

An Amateur Cine World review after the war gave a the machine a very good report, although the 8mm picture was naturally not nearly as bright as the 9.5mm or 16mm one and really needed the optional short focus lens for a decent size picture. Berthiot f1.5 lenses of 50mm or 35mm were normally supplied with an optional 20mm lens for 8mm.

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04Aug2014 - ACW review date and mod details added / 05Jan2016 - Extinction exposure meter camera photo added
Last updated: 05 January 2016 ....................... 95geardit.htm .................. Grahame Newnham's web pages