I was turning twelve when my uncle presented me with a new camera for my birthday. Taking photographs with my Kodak Instamatic 104 was frustrating: I needed faster shutter speeds and more flexible control over aperture and focusing. So it really was exciting to open my wrapped gift and find a serious-looking camera, full of tiny numbers and clicky rings and dials. Moreover, it sported a big (compared to the Instamatic) viewfinder an had the look of a "real", "adult" camera.
The HALINA PAULETTE was a 35mm viewfinder camera made in Hong Kong by Haking, an almost unknown camera and binocular manufacturer who has survived the switch to digital and still exists. It was introduced around 1965, with a 45mm/f2.8 Halinar Anastigmat fixed lens and a 4-speed (1/30-1/250) + B shutter. Unlike its richer sister, the Halina Paulette Electric (my uncle had bought one himself one year earlier), the Paulette was devoid of exposure meter. So I started dealing with the 16-rule and learned about film sensitivity. Not bad for a twelve year boy, after all. But guessing the right speed/aperture couple, especially in cloudy weather, was a difficult task sometimes, and burned-out or dark photographs were more frequent than I hoped. This moved my father to pity, and I could borrow his exposure meter.
Made by the German manufacturer Gossen, the SIXTOMAT was shaped like an electric shaver but in fact it was one of the best selenium exposure meters ever made. Using the Sixtomat meant going up to the next level for my photography. The joy of 36 properly exposed shots over 36 encouraged me to frame my photographs more accurately, better framing meant more keepers and more photos to be printed meant more money to be spent. Briefly, I made my first attempts in the black&white darkroom, and I enjoyed it a lot. Then the first (second hand) photo magazines started appearing next to the schoolbooks and homeworks on my desk. I was definitely crossing a line. Stay tuned.