Sunday, March 20, 2016

60 Year Old Camera Works Like a Charm - Agfa Isolette I

It's always a crap shoot when it comes to buying vintage cameras online. Even if the listing claims that everything is in working order, there's about a 20% chance that something on the camera is not, in fact, working. That's been my experience at least.

When I first started collecting vintage cameras, I would take receipt of the camera, shoot a roll of film, wait for the contact sheet to come back from the lab and then assess whether or not the camera was in need of repair. Quite a few of my vintage cameras arrived with a bad shutter curtain, still others had a non-working light meter or bad rangefinder etc.

So what I finally decided to do was to just go ahead and take all my newly acquired vintage cameras to my repair guy for a good CLA (clean, lubricate and adjust) regardless of whether they needed it or not. This provided me with piece of mind.

One camera, however, that I bought a long time ago and never got around to shooting with until just a couple weeks ago, was this fabulous Agfa Isolette from the 1950's. It's a medium format, fold out camera with bellows, that shoots big 6x6 negatives. It's rudimentary in it's features and I was rather worried about whether or not it was actually in working order. One of the interesting things about the camera, and what makes it a challenge to shoot with, is that there is no way to focus the camera other than simply measuring the distance between yourself and the subject, then setting the focus ring to that distance. There's no visual means of verifying the focus. It's a leap of faith.

I did, however, add a vintage range finder that mounts to the top of the camera on the flash mount. But it's also extremely rudimentary and only serves to verify your distance from the subject, it does not in any way verify the focus. The ONLY way to know if your picture is in focus is to get the pictures developed and see for yourself.

I finally loaded a roll of 120 Fuji Across ISO 100 film into the Agfa Isolette last week and kept it in my bag until I went through the roll. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of my pictures were not only exposed correctly but were also in focus! Some very nice results from a 60 plus year old camera!

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