James's Light Meter Collection: Dorn Dornlei (Photrix)
Dorn Lei (aka Photrix) exposure meter West Germany
Maker: Dorn
Model: Dornlei (also Photrix in the USA)
Circa: 1937
Cell type: Selenium
Measure type: reflecting/averaging

I was looking through an old copy of Minicam Photography magazine and came across an ad for a Photrix meter that I did not recognize. I have a Photrix S.S. meter, which was actually a rebranded HIckok meter. I also have an ad for a Photrix Model A, which was a desktop type that appears to be the same as a Photovolt 200. This advertisement was a new (to me) meter entirely.

Dorn Lei (aka Photrix) exposure meter advertisementAfter some digging I finally found it; it's a rebadged Dornlei, made by the German Dorn Neustadt company in the late 1930s; I assume it was rebadged as a Photrix for US import. I have a photo here with the case opened to show the movement and the face. The nameplate here is loose, so you can see how easy it would be to replace it with whatever name their customers wanted. I assume this meter may have other names as well, possibly house brands.

Dorn Dornlei exposure meter (cover off)Dorn made a fair number of meters over the years. As I type this I only have one, a Prixcolor, but they survived World War II and made some interesting meters, including one that I have my eye on, a Prix. More about that if and when I actually acquire one.

This is a small meter; not quite as wide as a Weston Master IV or V and about 2/3rds the length. Mine came in a leather never-ready case that's still in decent shape.

All of the Dorns seem to have a unique visual design and this Dornlei is a good example: the meter face is set at a bias across the the meter case, even though the cell is placed across the flat side of the front of the meter. I'm not sure why they did it: it might make the face a little larger and easier to read, but it's a bit counter-intuitive to hold the meter pointing pointing at the subject and read the face without turning the meter to straighten out the face. It seems to me that it would cause a lot of incorrect readings as the cell would be unintentionally twisted off-target.

How to use it — I haven't figured it out yet, and I like to think I am good at this. There is no calculator dial nor adjustable rule. There are two film speed rows, (American, I presume) Scheiner and DIN; below that are the apertures and shutter speeds. The needle moves from left to right as it sees more light, which accounts for the shutter speed scale. How you equate that to an ƒ/number and film speed stumps me. I can't think of another meter that's designed this way.

Purchased for $10 on eBay paired with yet another Weston Master V. I don't know how many Vs I have; I'm afraid to count.

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