This is a small, light and simple camera. Superficially, it resembles a Kodak Instamatic – I suspect intentionally. The camera sports some basic controls. There are two shutter speeds 1) sunny (1/80) and 2) cloudy or flash (1/40). In addition, there are three apertures available: f/8, f/11 and f/16. f/11 is marked with a sunny icon and I think Agfa’s intention would have been for you to use shutter speed sunny and f/11 in good, sunny weather, f/16 being reserved for head-and-shoulder portraits with flash (more later). The apertures take the form of Waterhouse stops – moving the aperture lever rotates a disc behind the lens with different size holes in it.
focal length: 42 mm
apertures: f/8, f/11, f/16
focus range: fixed
lens fitting: fixed
speeds: two, unknown
flash: built in for bulbs
film size: 35 mm in rapid cassettes
Both the shutter speed lever and the aperture lever are on the lens mount in time honoured manner as is the shutter release which is a relatively large lever actuated by the right hand. The lens itself is an Agfa Isinar lens – according to Sylvain Halgand on his Collection Appareils site, this is a 42 mm lens. I have tried to angle the lens in the light to get a reflection off each glass surface so I can count the number of elements (no. of reflections divided by two) but I can see three reflections so either a single element plus a spurious reflection or two elements with a missing element. I am thinking that it is a single element lens.
The shutter is an Agfa Parator shutter and is a very simple everset shutter such as you would find on an old box camera. The film advance is a wheel on the back which is coupled to the shutter. The film must be wound on to set the shutter.
The Agfa cassettes hold 16 shots (you get no choice here) and once all 16 shots have been taken the shutter is disabled. The cassettes are Agfa’s Rapid cassettes which are an updated version of the Karat cassette of the 1930s. These can only hold a short length of film – enough for 12 standard 24 by 36 mm frames or 16 off 24 by 24 mm frames as in this camera.
There is a frame counter on the top of the camera which is reset to A when the camera back is opened. The counter counts down from 16 to 1 (there are two frames between A and 16 to allow for the fogged film leader). Once the counter reaches 1, the shutter mechanism is disabled. At this point, you need to wind the film advance wheel a few times to get the exposed film into the take-up cassette – it is not possible to over do this part.
These cassettes are not the usual cassettes introduced by Kodak in 1934 but Agfa’s own design – the Rapid cassette (and hence the name of this camera) of 1964. These Rapid cassettes were Agfa’s answer to Kodak’s 126 Instamatic cartridges and were virtually identical to Agfa’s Karat cassettes of 1936. Film is no longer available in Agfa Rapid cassettes but can easily be decanted from a modern cassette.
The film in Rapid cassettes only came in one length. This was 12 ‘standard’ pictures of 24 by 36 mm. This camera produces square images of 24 by 24 mm so you get 16 photographs rather than 12. This makes this camera produce the same results as Kodak Instamatic cameras with the benefit of potentially higher image quality as Instamatic images were subject to the quality of the injection moulded cartridge.
Loading film is easy with Rapid cassettes. You put the new full cassette in the camera on the right, an empty Rapid cassette on the left, make sure the film leader is over the sprocket shaft and close the back. There is no need to fix the film to anything. Once the back is closed, take two dummy photographs until the frame counter points to ’16’. This pushes the film leader into the empty cassette. When the film counter reaches ‘1’, the shutter release no longer works and you need to wind the film advance a couple of times to get the last of the exposed film into the take-up cassette. The exposed film in the left hand cassette can then be removed for developing.
The top of the camera, as well as the frame counter, sports a built-in flash gun. This takes individual flash bulbs. this flash gun is raised by turning a vertical wheel on the left side of the back. This raises a reflector (and presumably turns on the electronic circuit). The flash is powered by a battery held in the base of the camera. On the back of the camera, beside the eyepiece, is a chart giving distances vertically and film speeds horizontally allowing the user to read off the appropriate aperture. Film speeds offered are 50 ASA and 100 ASA. These were normal film speeds at the time this camera was made.
There is not a lot to using this camera. You either select sun or cloud/flash on the right side of the lens and either f/8, f/11 or f/16 on the left side – f/8 is indicated for sunshine. There is no focus to worry about. My test film was Agfa Vista+ 200 ISO film so I used the shutter speed at cloudy/flash for most of the test film. This is 1/40 seconds so I might have a bit of camera shake – we will see. I used all the combinations of shutter speed and aperture in the course of the test shoot.
Test film is back from Snappy Snaps – the photos are dreadful! First, the scratches – I decanted new film into old Rapid cassettes. These are not easy to clean and I suspect that the light seals had enough debris in them to cause these scratches. It certainly was not the camera. There are also a lot of dust on the film. Again, part of this is down to the old Rapid cassettes and part of it is down to the film having a slight static electricity charge which will have attracted all and any dust inside the old camera. I did clean this as best I could but I generally find that the first film through an old camera has a lot of dust on it.
The lens is very susceptible to flare – see the first photo. Definition is poor in all images which is down to the cheap lens. Most of the images were rather over exposed giving dark negatives, the rest were under exposed. None of them were exposed well.
I have run these images through Affinity after scanning them and some are not too bad regarding exposure and colour cast. But some are very bad. I have not tried to do anything about the dust marks or the scratches as these are a part of the test.
Back in the day, these would be presented to the owner as smallish prints – something like 75 mm square where the defects would be much less visible. These images here are about four times that size. There is an example of a smaller image further down.