Monday, August 16, 2010

Isolettes in any flavour

I have a soft spot for folding cameras, especially the Isolettes from Agfa

Isolettes by RaúlM.

The Isolettes were made by Agfa from 1938 to 1960.
They are very simple folding bellows cameras, shooting 120 film, usually in the 6x6cm format.

With an amazing build quality, there are still lots of them shooting today. Of all of mine I only had to change the bellows of the III, all the others are perfectly light proof. 

The chronology is something like this:

The Jsolette
Agfa Jsolette
Agfa Jsolette by RaúlM.

This is one of the oldest models, with trolitan top, a kind of bakelite, an Agnar 85mm 1:4,5 in a Compur shutter. I think it's a pre-war model from late 1938 or early 1939.
There were variations of this model with the top in an aluminium alloy.

In the middle forties came the Isolete 4,5

Isollette 4,5

Here with an Apotar 85mm 1:4,5 in a Prontor shutter

A little after came the Isolette V

Isolette V
Agfa Isolette V by RaúlM.

this one also with an Apotar 85mm 1:4,5 in a Vario shutter

Starting around 1950, the Isolette I. Are you puzzled enough?

Agfa Isolette I
Agfa Isolette I by RaúlM.

Again the same Agnar and Vario shutter.

Then the Isolette II. Now this is better, at least we have a coherent sequence of Roman numerals.

Isolette II
Agfa Isolette II by RaúlM.
 Another Apotar, this time, on a Prontor-S shutter

Then came the top of the line of the Isolettes, the III, it came along with the other models, from 1950 to 1960

Isolette III
Agfa Isolette III by RaúlM. 

The main difference was the uncoupled rangefinder.
This one has an Apotar in a Prontor shutter

The Isolette L was built in the period of 1957-1960.

Agfa Isolette L on Display (01)
Agfa Isolette L by Hans Kerensky

The main difference is the uncoupled selenium light meter.
This one has a Color-Apotar lens on a Pronto shutter.
Another distinctive feature is the internal mask, used to take 3x6cm exposures.

"The 3x6cm mask was thought for 24x36 diapositives in 5x5 frames. The larger dimensions of 3x6 (there were also marks on 4 cm in the length as you see) let you decide yourself about the final crop.

Agfa even produced two color reversal rollfilms with special marks for 24 frames only for this camera: the CUT 18 (daylight) and the CUK 16 (artificial light)."

Alf Sigaro contribution to this article 

So as you can see there are three types of lens:
  • Agnar
  • Apotar
  • Solinar (not yet in my collection)
Then there were a variety of shutters.
The main problem with the typology relies on the possibility of exchanging parts between different models, what I believe started in the factory and continued with the camera repairmen.
Not only the lens and shutters but also some of the tops were interchangeable or, at least adaptable.

I was told that nobody knows exactly how many variations there are.

To confuse a little more the typology, there were some models shooting 6x6 and 6x4,5cm, like this one:

Agfa Jsolette 6x6 4,5x6

or 6x6 and 3x6 like this one:

Agfa Isolette L on Display (05)
Agfa Isolette L 3x6 mask by Hans Kerensky

And out of this league but for sure a close relative is the Super Isolette

Agfa Super Isolette
Agfa Super Isolette by Alf Sigaro

This was the most sofisticated of these kind of cameras, made by Agfa,.
With a coupled rangefinder and an automatic film loading, just drop the roll secure the tip and close the back.
The camera detects the start of the film.
Agfa Solinar 75mm 1:3,5 on a Compur shutter.

There is much to say about this subject. Maybe someday I'll know more and share it with you.

Stay tuned (o;