AGI, who made this camera, are an aeronautical instrument maker – still in business – rather than a camera maker and it shows. During WWII, AGI made military instruments and that pedigree is followed in this camera. It is large and heavy and has no small controls so easy to use with cold hands, with gloves on, when frightened . . .
lens: Agilux anastigmat
focal length: 9 cm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/32
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/125, B, T
flash: two pin connector
film size: 120 or 620
Outwardly, it is much like any other folding camera – Kodak, Zeiss Ikon, Voigtlander, Agfa all made similar. The main physical difference is the large double viewfinder. This consists of one large housing containing both an eye-level finder and a waist-level finder. The waist-level finder is pretty much a pre-war brilliant finder. This viewfinder housing also double as the catch for the lens board – it moves to one side to open the front. This housing is central on the top of the camera. Beside it is a shutter release button. This button links, via a series of links, to the shutter release on the shutter housing – again, standard fare for a mid-twentieth century folding camera. On the other side of the shutter housing is the film advance knob. This is nice and large and easy to use. Being a 120 format camera, there is no film rewind.
The shutter is made by AGI themselves but outwardly it looks much like a Compur or Prontor shutter. The adjustments are in the same place the main difference being the shutter cocking lever which is on the underside of the housing – rather inconveniently. The shutter release is also on the underside where it nicely links to the body release. The actual shutter itself is not in the same league as Compur or Prontor – it has only two leaves and is rather reminiscent of a box camera shutter. The speed selection is non-standard as well. 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 are much as I would expect from 1948 but the next speed is 1/125 – the increase in speed is so small as to be pointless. It is usual for the shutter speeds to double in speed from one setting to the other which is one stop reduction in exposure but this is a 25% reduction and it is hard to see a use for it.
The lens is also made by AGI themselves (at least as far as I can gather from information on the Interweb) and is a 9 cm focal length (or 90 mm in modern parlance). The negative size is 6×6 cm so a normal lens would have a focal length of 85 mm. That makes this lens slightly longer than normal for the negative format, but not seriously so. The lens is coated (not a given in 1948) but I suspect only on the front surface. This has the distinct blue cast of a coated lens but the rear element is clearly not coated – no blue cast.
Being a 120 format camera, there is a window on the back to allow the user to see the frame numbers when winding the film on. Traditionally, these are red – red because early film was orthochromatic and not sensitive to red light – but on this camera you get a choice of red or green. There is a slider to uncover one or the other of these two coloured windows. What there is not is a cover for both windows which would have gone further in preventing fogging of the film. I am not at all clear as to why both red and green are supplied but this is not the only camera I have where this is so.
I have been referring to this as a 120 camera but in fact it is a dual format camera – it will take either 120 or 620 film. The only difference between the two is the spool (the actual film being the same size with the same frame number spacing) and the spool holders here will take both sizes. The camera came to me with a 620 spool in place and I have now fitted a 120 spool to check the fit.
There is no accessory shoe so no way to fit either a rangefinder or a flash gun. However, there are flash contacts – not the industry standard PC socket but two metal posts on the side of the shutter housing. These can be seen in the photograph of the lens above on the top right of the shutter housing.
When I took delivery of this camera, it was in quite a sad state. It had obviously been in a smokers house – it was covered in a sticky brown deposit – and also stored somewhere damp. Diligent use of WD40 and cotton buds has brought the camera up nicely – not quite in showroom condition but just about presentable. The shutter is not quite as I would like. An hour or so of dry-firing the shutter has it firing reliably and it sounds to be in the right general area speed-wise. One fault it has is that when set to 1/100 seconds and fired a few times the shutter resets itself to 1/50 seconds.
The following is an advert from the British Journal of Photography Almanac of 1950:
And this is an advert from the Wallace Heaton catalogue of 1952:
While writing this article, the bellows became detached from the camera body so it is now unusable – I will not be testing it.