Agilux Agifold

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
shutter: Agifold
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:
1950 001
And this is an advert from the Wallace Heaton catalogue of 1952:
Agifold 1952 005While writing this article, the bellows became detached from the camera body so it is now unusable – I will not be testing it.

Ica Icarette 1 (A)

This is an Icarette camera made by Ica in Dresden, Germany. It is a model 1 which was introduced in 1912 but I cannot tell if it is a type 495 (the original, model A in the USA) or type 496 (later version that can also take glass plates, model B in the USA).

Ica was a camera manufacturer based in Dresden and owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung.  Ica is an acronym for Internationale Camera Aktien Gesellschaft (the Aktien Gesellschaft part is the German equivalent of the British ‘PLC’ or USian ‘Inc’).  Ica is one of the companies that merged to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926.  After 1926, Zeiss Ikon continued to make Icarette cameras but this one is clearly marked ‘ICA Akl Ges’ (the usual abbreviation is AG rather than Akl Ges). This means it was made prior to 1926. I can date it more accurately (but not very accurately) by the Body Number (E42012). In 1926 when the merger to form Zeiss Ikon occurred, Ica were up to the letter ‘L’. For each letter, Ica made 100,000 cameras so the seven letter difference indicates 700,000 cameras.  After the merger into Zeiss Ikon, production by the much larger business only used two letters of the alphabet each year. The smaller Ica, which was also trading during a much tougher time, is unlikely to have used more than one letter each year which pushes the date of this camera back to 1919 at a best guess. I can also date the lens which was made in 1918. Lenses were made in batches and one batch could last serveral months and it is not unusual for manufacturers to use a lens in the year following the manufacture. The Icarette model was introduced in 1912 so a date of early 1919 (or perhaps late 1918) is more than reasonable.

Further research leads me to believe that the ‘E’ serial number is likely to be 1915 rather than 1919. My dating for the lens was based on my assumption that a Novar  lens with a serial number would have been made by Carl Zeiss and so that I could date this lens by the serial number. I no longer think that this is so. Other owners of Ica cameras have better dating due to their cameras having Tessar lenses and equating the Tessar serial number with well established dates with the Ica body number gives me a much earlier date for this camera. 2022: my most recent opinion on dating this camera is that it was made during WWI and probably nearer to 1918 than 1914.

I also have a later Icarette made in about 1930 by Zeiss Ikon.

Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Ica Icarette A (or B?)

lens: Novar
focal length:  75mm
apertures: f/6.8 – f/36
focus range: ? to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Derval(?)
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: No facility
film size: 117

My particular camera has been ‘well loved’. Although it has the signs of having been used well, it is in quite good condition for a camera that is 100-odd years old. The main defects are: someone has attempted to remove the rear element of the lens. The metal of the securing ring has gouge marks and there are significant scratches to the matt black paint in the area around the lens. The front two elements of the lens are also loose-ish – loose enough to remove by hand. The inside of the back has been repainted in places by hand and someone has added a home-made catch for the lens board.

Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Left-hand side view.
Wear and tear includes the leather (not leatherette) covering starting to peel and fray at the edges in places. The steel parts have some surface rusting. Someone has removed the wire frame from the viewfinder. The only other significant defect I can find is the locating pin for the lens standard. On opening the camera, it is necessary to pull the lens forward by squeezing the two plated lugs below the lens. The lens then pulls forward on plated rails until it locates on the pin mentioned above. This pin is visibly worn and no longer locates the lens standard properly.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Rear view of the inside.
I shall now give a general description of the camera.
It measures 125 mm by 80 mm by 30 mm when closed (by 90 mm when open). It weighs 370g. The lens board is central on the front and opens downwards. The outside of the camera is very plain. It is entirely covered in black leather which is minimally decorated with straight line tooling.
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Blog (c) John Margetts
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The top of the camera has the film advance knob on the left. While the back is on the camera, this is securely held in place. Once the back is removed, the advance knob pulls upwards to release the take-up spool. On my camera, the advance knob becomes completely detached but I am not sure this is as it should be. The knob locates with two pins – one short and one long (6 mm and 33 mm, respectively). The long pin has a flattened part half way along. Inside the camera, besides where the spool goes, is a small hole that aligns with the flattened part of the long pin. I suspect that this hole once contained a screw that allowed the long pin to move the length of the flattened part and no further – about 5 mm. The knob itself contains a ratchet so that the knob cannot turn the wrong way and loosen the film on the spool.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Front and right-hand view.
The back of the camera has a red window placed centrally. The camera takes 6 x 6 cm photographs and so uses the middle row of numbers on the film’s backing paper.  The film size is 117 (now obsolete) which is the same size film as 120 but on a smaller spool – a bit like 620 film. 117 has essentially the same size spool as 620 but uses the 120 size key-hole on the end of the spool, rather than the smaller 620 key-hole. I could (but won’t) rewind some 120 film onto the spool that came with this camera and use it. As this camera has a focussing issue, I shall not bother.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Camera closed
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
ready for winding on.
Ica Icarette A (or B?)
Ready to use.

Using the rear viewfinder window. When the viewfinder window is all the way down (in the closed position) it covers the red window and prevents any light getting into the camera and fogging the film.  To wind-on the film, you raise the viewfinder part-way to expose the red window.  When taking a photograph, you raise the viewfinder all the way, covering the red window again.  Ingenious!

In order to load the camera with film, the back must be completely removed. This is done by depressing two plated studs on the right-hand end of the camera.

The front of the camera opens downwards and fits into place with a definite click. In the face of the lens board is a tripod boss.  As I mentioned, the lens must be pulled forwards until it locates on a pin to keep it in the correct position. The lens is attached to the body with leatherette bellows. These seem to be in good condition with no visible holes or splits. Focussing is achieved by moving a lever on the lens board which moves the shutter/lens forwards and backwards. Focussing with this camera is not critical – the distance on the scale between infinity and one metre is about one cm.

The lens is a 75 mm Novar lens (inscribed as being 7.5 cm, as was the fashion pre-WWII). It has a maximum aperture of f/6.8 and a minimum aperture of f/36.  The sequence of apertures is not the modern one. It goes: 6.8, 9, 12.5, 18, 25, 36. These numbers are very hard to read as they are behind the mount for the Iconometer viewfinder.

The shutter has no name or other identifying marks but it is either a Gauthier Derval shutter or an Ica Automat X shutter I think it is probably an Ica Automat X Shutter. It has two blades only and offers 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 speeds as well as B and Z. Z (marked as T on export models) opens the shutter which then stays open until the release lever is pressed a second time. There is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

On the left side of the shutter housing is a Brilliant viewfinder. It was normal at this time to offer two finders – a brilliant and a frame finder. This Brilliant finder is in remarkable condition. the mirror in brilliant finders seem to be plated straight onto steel and in old cameras is usually corroded enough to make using the finder very hard to use. This one is quite usable.

The top of the shutter housing is supposed to mount the wire frame part of the other viewfinder (called an Iconometer by Ica). The mounting is still there but the frame is missing.

The shutter is made with a sideways movement of 8 mm either side of central – a total movement of 16 mm. I think that this is for when you use the camera in portrait format to photograph buildings. The vertical shifts of lenses reduces/removes perspective problems in architectural photography.

Voigtlander Perkeo I

This is a nice, medium format camera from Voigtlander. It is a direct competitor to Zeiss Ikon’s Nettar 518/16 – that is, at the lower end of the enthusiasts’ 120 cameras – and is a replacement for the Bessa 66. This is a folding camera which fits nicely in a (large-ish) pocket. It measures 125 mm wide x 85 mm high x 40 mm deep (closed) or x 95 mm deep (open). It weighs 483 g. In 1952, Wallace Heaton were advertising this camera at £22/11/6 for the model I have here (that is in old money and equates to £22.57 in new money. That is equivalent to about £1,400 in 2013 values).
Perkeo I
Voigtlander Perkeo I
lens: Vaskar
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/16
focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: pronto
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: F synch only
film size: 120
The lens is a Voigtlander Vaskar – 75 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/4.5. The Vaskar is Voigtlander’s cheaper lens (a more expensive Perkeo I came with a Color-Skopar lens) and has a triplet construction (again, comparable to Zeiss Ikon’s Nettar on the 518/16). I have yet to see the result of using this camera, but it has a reputation for having soft focus in the corners. This is not a fatal flaw for me as I have no need for sharp focus in the corners although I am aware that others find this unacceptable.
The shutter is a Gauthier Pronto – four speeds being available of which only 1/100 and 1/200 are of any interest. This shutter has a delayed timer (Vorlaufwerk) which, unusually for a camera of this age, works well. Flash synch is provided for fast flashbulbs – I intend to try this camera with electronic flash to see if this works as well.

The shutter release is standard for the early 1950s – primary release on the shutter housing and a secondary release button on the camera’s top plate, linked to the primary release by a lever.  There is also a cable release socket which is between the two – on the hinged door.  The secondary release has a double exposure prevention mechanism fitted requiring the film to be would on before the shutter can be released a second time. On my camera, this does not work very well at the moment. When I had a similar problem on my Franka Solida II, it sorted itself out after a few shots.

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Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

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Being a folding camera, there needs to be a mechanism to bring the shutter/lens forward, ending with the lens exactly parallel to the film. On my camera this is defective – a small strut has snapped half way along its length. When I received the camera, this folding mechanism barely worked and then very badly – the lens ended up at quite an angle to the film plane.  This needed attention with naphtha to flush out dust and dirt, lubricating with clock oil and repeated folding/unfolding to free up the many joints in the struts.
Perkeo I
Perkeo I – folded

It now unfolds easily and seems to put the lens parallel to the film plane, judging entirely by eye. The test film will tell me how parallel things actually are. The broken strut does not seem to matter here. What does not work too well is closing the camera. to close properly, the lens must remain parallel to the camera body otherwise it will not fit into the available space. I suspect that the broken strut is there is achieve this. Without this strut, my thumb has to do its duty.

As an aside, I have tried a new technique with this camera. When lubricating small parts, it is quite hard to apply a small enough amount of oil to exactly the right place. Getting that small amount of oil into the linkage is a matter of working the linkage and hoping. This time I have diluted the clock oil two parts of oil to one part of naphtha to produce a very runny oil. Because the oil is diluted, once the naphtha has evaporated I am left with 2/3 of the amount of oil I applied. Also, because the oil is now very runny I am hoping that the oil will run between the surfaces of the linkages more easily before the naphtha evaporates to leave a very small amount of oil in place. So far, the only downside I have seen is that the naphtha is very good at wetting surfaces and has carried a small amount of oil over all the surfaces around the linkages. I am not convinced that this is a bad thing.

Perkeo I
Perkeo I – showing top plate

Before loading the test film, there are two things I need to do. The first is to use compressed air to blow dust out of the inside. Moving film through a camera generates a small amount of static electricity and this will pull any dust onto the film. After that, I need to check the bellows for light leaks. To do this, I wait until dark (about five PM at the moment) and shine a torch onto the bellows at close quarters. Viewing inside the camera, any light leaks will clearly show.  I have found one very large one. That broken strut I mentioned earlier has scored the bellows material and created a line on pin-pricks. These will need sorting before I try the camera. Otherwise, the camera is good to go.

The following is an advert from the British Journal of Photography Almanac 0f 1953:

1953 007

And this is an advert from the Wallace Heaton catalogue from 1952:

Perkeo  1952 004.jpg

Adox Golf 63 S

At one time Adox were a major photographic force.  German in origin, they were bought by Dupont. The Dupont company was sold to Agfa (and so became German once again) and Agfa did not use the Adox brand name so their registration of the name lapsed.  Almost immediately, Canadian and German companies registered the name, neither of which have any connection with the original German company (although the modern German Adox make excellent films).  The Adox name is now used exclusively by Adox Fotowerke GmbH although two companies own the rights to the name in different countries.  The Adox that made this camera are the original Adox – the owner of the name being Dr C. Schleussner Fotowerke GmbH – and the camera was made between 1954 and 1959.  It is at the bottom of the range of Golf cameras.
Adox Golf S

lens: Adoxar (made by Will Wetzlar)
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f6.3 – f22
focus range: 1m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Gauthier Pronto
speeds: b, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: PC connector
film size: 120

 

The internal construction of the Golf resembles Agfa cameras of the period.  The visible parts of the body are made of pressed steel rather than the machined die-cast aluminium alloy used by the likes of Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander.
The bottom and top plates are pressed aluminium which has not been anodised – it is very prone to corrosion. Again, this is very different to the practice of Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander who used chrome plated brass.
That is the negative part over.  The design is good, even if basic. It is easier to load than my Zeiss Ikon medium format cameras of the period, with hinged spool holders (which is also reminiscent of Agfa).
The lens base board snaps fully open at the press of a button on the top plate and there is a double exposure interlock.
So, more specific details.  The outside of the camera first.  The size of the camera is basically dictated by the film size – 120 – and the frame size – 60 by 60 mm.  The camera measures 135 by 90 by 40 mm when closed and opens to 90 mm. It weighs 475 grams. This is very light compared to Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander models and is down to the use of pressed steel instead of die-cast aluminium.
Adox Golf S – closed

 

The lens is an Adoxar 1:6.3 75 mm lens.  It seems to be have been quite the fashion to have a lens name end in ‘ar’.  This lens was made for Adox by Will Wetzlar (now a part of Helmut Hund GmbH). The lens is housed in a Gauthier Pronto shutter (which earns the camera the designation ‘S’) rather than the usual Vario shutter. This is a good, well made shutter which is unlikely to give trouble even after sixty-odd years.  Gauthier shutters were designed to run dry – that is, with no lubricant. This means there is no oil to dry out and become sticky and there is nothing to trap dust and foul the movement. I have yet to come across a Gauthier shutter that did not work right, even after sitting untouched in a drawer for forty years.
Adox Golf S – side view

 

The top plate is uncluttered. The only controls here are the shutter release and film advance.  The shutter release is a simple aluminium button, threaded for a standard cable release. The film advance is a knurled knob. Between the shutter release and the film advance is an indicator window for the double exposure interlock. The shutter release will only work if this indicator is red. When you press the shutter release, the indicator changes to white and the shutter is now locked. When you advance the film, the indicator will change back from white to red and the shutter is unlocked. It takes about a half turn of the film advance knob to achieve this.

In the centre of the top plate is a simple accessory shoe. There are no electrical contacts here and flash is connected via a PC connector on the top of the shutter housing. Flash is synchronised for fast flash bulbs.  As this camera has a leaf shutter, shutter speed is not so important as with a focal plane shutter. The manual (which I have!) says the camera will work fine with electronic flash as well.

The bottom plate is plain apart from a linear machining and a centre tripod boss (1/4 inch Whitworth).

The back of the camera has no features apart from a red window. The position of this window is dictated by the negative size which is 6 by 6 cm. 120 film has three sets of numbers on the backing paper – one for full frame (6×9),one for half frame (6×4.5) and one for square (6×6). The set of numbers for 6×6 runs down the middle of the length of film, so needs a central window.

Adox Golf S – front

When winding on a 120 film, you have to look through the window at the numbers on the backing paper. The numbers are typically preceded by a row of circles of increasing size to show the number is getting closer.  For those only experienced in 35 mm film (or digital), when the film is finished, there is no need to rewind. You wind on until all trace of the backing paper has disappeared from the red window – then you open the camera, carefully take out the film and stick the self-adhesive tab around the film to prevent it from rewinding.

Under the window, the legend ‘made in Germany’ is embossed in the leatherette and beneath that is ‘T-YD’

In use, the base board drops down vertically. This is how I prefer it to be as it leaves plenty of room on either side of the lens for my not so small hands. My Franka folder has the base board hinged on the side and this makes it hard to hold securely.

The viewfinder is very small and I find I need to put my eye very close to it to frame the picture. This means I have to take my glasses off and then I can no longer see the picture I am framing. The shutter release falls nicely to my finger.

Sample pictures.

I am quite impressed with these.  They all came out a bit on the dark side (Gimped to get brightness where it should be) but I am impressed with the quality.  Perhaps I should not be surprised.  The lens was made by Will Wetzlar who also made lenses for Leica.

Skidbrooke Church

 

Lincoln Stonebow

 

Jazz buskers, Lincoln

Ikonta 520

This is a medium format camera (i.e. takes 120 film) from Zeiss Ikon.  It is a half-frame camera – 6 x 4.5 cm negative – which is half of a standard 120 frame of 6 x 9 cm. The body serial  number tells me it was made in 1932.
 
Ikonta 520
Ikonta 520, front view
lens: Novar
focal length:  75mm
apertures: f/6.3 to f/32
focus range: 4’6″ to infinity (that is the scale, actually about 4 feet)
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Derval
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T
flash: n/a
film size: 120
 
 
The body is made from cast aluminium.  This body casting is shared between the Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515. It is quite hard to understand why Zeiss Ikon shared the body between three different camera lines instead of calling them all Ikonta (the oldest name) seeing as Bob, Ikonta and Nettar all come with a range of lenses and shutters and can be considered to be one range in effect if not in name.
 

So, this Ikonta.  It is an Ikonta 520 – more specifically, a 520E. The other variants are

520IT with a f4.5 Novar and a Telma shutter,

520F with a F3.5 Novar and a Compur Rapid shutter and

520L with a f3.5 Tessar and Compur Rapid shutter.

The lens is a Novar which is a triplet and performs surprisingly well once stopped down to f/8 or smaller.  Ikontas were also available with Tessars at a higher price and wider aperture Novars.  The Novar on this camera is quite a slow lens with a maximum aperture of f/6.3.  The focussing is front cell only, rather than the whole lens moving (giving not quite so good image quality) and the focussing scale is in feet indicating that the camera is an official import into the UK.

 
The shutter is an everset Derval (everset means it does not need cocking before firing as a Klio or Compur would).  This is a fairly crude (and so cheap) shutter with two blades only and only offers three speeds: 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100.  With a slow lens like this camera has, faster shutter speeds would have been superfluous, particularly with the slow, by modern standards, films available in the 1930s.
 
Ikonta 520
Detail of rim-set shutter adjuster on Derval shutter
The shutter is a dial set shutter which means that the speed adjustment is by a dial set above the shutter housing.  More modern shutters have a rim set adjuster which is a ring around the shutter housing.  This shutter does not have a V (=Vorlaufwerk) setting for delayed action and as is usual with cameras made before the late 1940s, there is no flash connection or synchronisation.
 
Ikonta 520
Ikonta 520, side view
As I mentioned, the maximum aperture is rather small at f/6.3 but the minimum aperture is surprisingly small – f/32 – so the range of exposures possible is still respectably large.
 
A standard photograph with this camera (as with the Bob 510 and Nettar 515) is in portrait format and in this orientation the shutter release is underneath the camera and is uncomfortable to use.  To take landscape pictures, the camera must be used on its side and the shutter release is on the side and easy to use.
 
The viewfinder is the cheap two frame style of viewfinder – a Newtonian finder.
 
This was an expensive camera in its day – according to Tubbs (Zeiss Ikon Cameras 1926 -39, published by Hove Camera Foto Books), it cost £4/10/0 new in the early 1930s and advertised by Zeiss Ikon in the British Journal Almanac for 1936 at £4/17/6.  That is £4.50 in new money but a week’s wages for a working man would have been around £1/10/0 or £1.50. So this camera cost around a months income for a working man which is around £1,000 in today’s money.
 
The following is an advert for the Ikonta 520 from the British journal of Photography Almanac 0f 1936:
 
1936 003
 
 
19/07/2013:  I have now finished my test film for this camera and the results are not good.  The lens is susceptible to flare (as I would expect on a lens from 1930 – coating of lenses had not been invented yet) and some of the flare is very strange, suggesting something other than ordinary flare – a glass defect, perhaps.
 
Ikonta 520
Blues festival in Lincoln Arboretum
 
Ikonta 520
One of our many buskers in Lincoln – very young but quite accomplished
 
Ikonta 520
Lincoln Corn Exchange in the Cornhill
 
Comparison between Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515:
 
These three cameras from Zeiss Ikon share the same aluminium casting for their bodies.  This makes them very similar cameras.  They all take 120 film and they all produce half-frame negatives of 6 x 4.5 cm.  The details, however, are different.  I shall give the differences between them one model at a time, starting with the oldest.
b9d4b-_mg_1211
Ikonta 520
This camera was produced from 1931 and is using the old fashioned dial set shutter – the disc at the top with the word ‘Derval’ on it..  The adjuster for the aperture is at the bottom of the shutter housing and requires the user to turn the camera around so that the scale can be seen.  The lens is a Novar triplet lens.  There is also a leather hand strap on this camera and the catch to close the back is solid.
 
 
Bob 510
Next is the Bob 510 (sold in the UK as a Nettar 510).  This is a slightly later camera first produced in 1934 and has a more modern rim set shutter – the dial is now replaced with a ring around the shutter housing.  Shutter speeds and apertures are the same, but the aperture adjuster is now on top of the shutter housing, behind the speed selector.  This means that the user can adjust the aperture with the camera pointing at the subject.  Perhaps not a major advance  but will have been less frustrating to use.  The lens is now a Nettar rather than the Novar – still a triplet but a different design.  There is no hand strap on this camera and the catch for the back is less secure than on the Ikonta
 
57400-_mg_1209
Nettar 515
Last is the Nettar 515.  This is later again, 1937, and also has the rim set shutter.  The shutter is now a Klio (on non-Zeiss Ikon cameras known as Prontor) with more shutter speeds (up to 1/175 and a few slow speeds).  The aperture adjuster is still on top, behind the speed adjuster, and there is now a delay setting lever below the shutter housing.  As with the Ikonta, the lens is a Novar triplet.  This shutter requires cocking before use  and there is an ancillary shutter release button on the camera body.  There is also provision to fit an optional brilliant finder on this camera although mine does not have this.  This model also has no hand strap and it has the same catch as the Bob 510
 
 
d1a7c-_mg_1204
All three together, oldest on the left, newest on the right.

CMF Comet S

CMF Comet S
CMF Comet S
This is a cheap Italian camera which uses 127 film.  The makers is Bencini which is an Italian firm.  At the time this particular camera was made, the firm was called CMF Bencini.  They were made in Milan.
lens:
apertures:
focus range: 3 feet – infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: simple
speeds: 1/50
flash: PC connector, M synch
film size: 127
The camera is small and light.  it is made from an aluminium alloy which is nicely polished.  It is small, measuring 10.5 x 7 x  6.5 cm.  It is a very simple camera with only two controls.  You can focus the camera – the range is from 3 feet (circa one metre) to infinity – and you can set the shutter to 1/50 seconds or B.
It is a half frame camera using 127 film.  The negative size is 3 x 4 cm which is approximately twice the size of 35mm.  You get 16 negatives on a roll of 127 film.
CMF Comet S
Lens barrel detail
The speed selector is unusual in that it is a tab that is pulled out from the lens barrel; see photograph.  The speed selector is on the right of the picture – also visible is the PC connector for flash.  This is synchronised for bulbs only so not too much now.
The viewfinder is very small – the eye piece only measures three millimetres across.  It is the smallest viewfinder I have ever seen.  However, it is still usable once I take my spectacles off.
CMF Comet S
Comet S – rear view
As a roll film camera, it is necessary to look at the red window on the back when winding on to set the next number in the red window.  As this is a half-frame camera, each number is used twice – there are two red windows – first in the left hand window and then in the right hand one.  the picture shows the two red windows, one either side of the maker’s name.
Again as is always the case with roll film  (120 and 127 size) you do not need to rewind the film.  At the end of the roll, you wind the film on until all the backing paper is on the take-up spool and remove the film and spool together and stick the end of the film down with the sticky tab provided.  The spool the film came on is then used as the new take-up spool.
CMF Comet S
127 film spool
As 127 film is now quite expensive and not too easy to get hold off, I doubt I will ever use this camera.  So, no test pictures from this camera, I’m afraid, but samples can be seen here.

 

Six-20 Brownie D

 

Kodak SIX-20 brownie D

This must be the simplest camera that I have.  It is a box camera from Kodak made between 1953 and 1957 in London.  It was also made in the USA.  It comes with two controls besides the shutter release.  First control is a choice between “I” (instantaneous) and “B” (bulb).  I would guess that Instantaneous is about 1/30 seconds – bulb is for as long as you hold the shutter release in.  The second control is a close up lens which allows focussing between three feet and six feet.

Side view showing both control options

The camera has two viewfinders, both ‘brilliant’ finders, one on the top for portraits and one on the side for landscapes.  Given that the close-up lens allows focussing up to six feet, it is fair to assume that normal focussing range is six feet to infinity.

This camera takes 620 film which is no longer available.  However, it is the same as 120 film but on a different spool – so if I wanted to use this camera, I could re-spool some 120 film onto one of my 620 spools.  I shall not be bothering.

To load the film, the back is opened, the winder knob pulled out, and the insides of the camera come away in one piece.   The film is wound onto the inset and the inset replaced into the camera and the back closed.  Now the film needs to be wound on until the number “1” appears in the red window.  Negative size is 6 x 9 cm so this camera will take eight photographs on one roll of film.

I can date this camera to within five years by the plastic winder knob and plastic shutter release.  These were introduced on the Six-20 Brownie D in 1953 and production ceased in 1957.  Kodak also offer flash contacts on the Six-20 Brownie D but these are not present on my specimen.  I can refine the date a bit by the fact that the catch for the back was also changed – from a more-or-less rectangular shape to a triangular shape.  My specimen still has the rectangular catch so will date from nearer to 1953 than to 1957.

As tiis is such a simple camera, there is not really any thing I can add other than to say that the camera still works well – the shutter mechanism (which is very simple) is as free as the day it was made.  For sixty years old that is more than I can say for myself.

Kodak Brownie Vecta

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Kodak had a long series of Brownie cameras.  These were the cheap and cheerful range and varied greatly over time.
This article is about the Brownie Vecta which was made in the UK and presumably only available here.  I was given one of these for a birthday present when I was was eleven or twelve years old when it was a strikingly modern looking camera.  It was designed for Kodak by the British industrial designer Kenneth Grange and its ‘natural’ format is portrait as that is what Kenneth Grange assumed it would mostly be used for. The price in 1965 was £1-9-1 in old British money or £1.46 in modern British money which equates to £47 in 2020 prices.
The Vecta was only in production for three years (from 1963 to 1966).  It is basically a grey plastic cuboid with a central lens and a viewfinder in one corner.  The shutter release is a white bar underneath the lens.  It takes 127 film which is hard to find nowadays but is still available (see Ag-photographic for supplies).
The lens is a simple meniscus lens with no focussing.  I have not been able to find out what the focal length of this lens is but it is significantly wide-angle for 127 film. It works by having a very small aperture – f14 – which gives a large depth of field. The big downside of this is that the camera has to have a slow shutter speed to compensate.  Kodak colour film produced at the time that this cameras was current had a speed of ASA 64 so we probably looking at a shutter speed of around 1/30 second.  My test film for this camera shows reasonable image quality at a print size of 4″ by 6″ (100mm by 150 mm) which is as large as they would have been printed in 1963.  In fact, the surviving pictures that I have from August 1968 were printed at 21/2 by 4 inches at which resolution the quality is fine.
Kodak also produced a ‘supplementary’ lens that fitted over the fixed lens that allowed close-ups to be taken.  I had one of these which had to be used with the printed instructions to get acceptable focussing distances.  This did not work too well as distances became critical and the viewfinder produced parallax errors so I never had a real idea of what I was actually photographing.  I gave up on using the close-up lens fairly quickly.

This camera was easy for a child to use – I certainly do not remember any problems in using it at age eleven or twelve.  There are indentations in the cube to facilitate holding the camera steady – and with a shutter speed of 1/30(ish) a steady hand is essential. I really enjoyed this camera as a child and still found it nice to use. The position of the shutter release and the fact that it is a bar rather than a button takes a bit of getting used to but nothing untoward. It was probably easier for me at age eleven as I had not then become used to using more sophisticated cameras and a bottom shutter release was all that I knew.

Test pictures from this camera:

Kodak Brownie Vecta
Baggholm Road, Lincoln
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln
 At this size they look OK but when enlarged (to beyond the size that was anticipated by the designers) the defects show up.  When putting the first roll of film through a “new” old camera, it is usual for the film to attract dirt from the recesses of the camera.  This shows up as black specs on the final print.  These pictures have instead white specs and very pronounced grain which suggests a film or processing fault.  I cannot tell which, but I am sure it is not the camera.
Kodak Brownie Vecta
Busker, High Street, Lincoln – enlarged to show marks

Dacora Digna

Dacora Digna
Dacora Digna
This is a very cheap camera from the mid 1950s.  It takes 120 film (12 negatives to a roll) which was more-or-less standard for amateur photographers at the time.  The Digna came in several versions and my example is, apparently, close to the top of the range.  The camera is fairly small for a medium format camera – 130mm wide, 90 mm tall and 70mm thick when closed – and also relatively light.
The camera has to be opened before use, but not by extending bellows.  You turn the lens very slightly clockwise and the lens pops out on a spring.  The shutter on my example is a Gauthier Vario leaf shutter – 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200 seconds and B.  As I say, this is the upmarket version so I dread to think what the lower end of the range had for a shutter.  The lens is a Subito f4.5 75mm lens – a make I have never heard of before.  As I have no intention of putting a roll of film through this camera, I shall never know how good the lens is (or not).  The lens focusses from 3.5 to infinity (I assume that is in feet as 3.5 meters would not be very usable as a near focus.  There are two Happy Snapper settings both at f10 – nine feet and around thirty feet.  At the nine feet setting, the depth of field is from seven feet to fifteen feet, and and the thirty feet setting the depth of field is fifteen feet to infinity.  Those two happy snapper settings are going to be quite useful.  The snap-shotter can keep the focus at the near Happy Snapper setting continually if he usually takes shots of people and at the far setting if he usually takes shots of landscapes.
To open the camera, the back comes away completely – no expensive hinge on the side away from the catch!  There seems to be very little holding the back in place, but it is quite secure.  The spool carrier for the new film hinges out for ease of loading, and the take-up spool carrier is partially hinged.  For a cheap camera, this is very good and easy to use.  When the back is removed, the mechanism for the pop-out lens is exposed – it is not at all sophisticated or complex so no worries about damaging it.  In fact, I was easily able to apply a few drops of clock oil to the moving parts and thus allowed the mechanism to work as if new
The finish is very poor.  It would seem to be nickel plated mild steel and aluminium. The main body seems to be die-cast aluminium with just the top plate and back being mild steel.  There is rust coming through the nickel plated portions and there is no evidence of anodising on the aluminium and it was rather corroded on my example.  There is the normal red window on the back to view the frame numbers and there is no blanking mechanism so the film could become fogged eventually if the camera is left in the light.
I am unable to say how the camera feels in use as I am not going to actually use it.   However, it fits in the hand very well and is ergonomically designed – the viewfinder and shutter release are both where you would want them to be.  In fact, the basic design is fine, it is just the poor standard of manufacture that lets this camera down.

Franka Solida III camera

The first Vintage camera that I bought was a Franka Solida II.  The Solida III is basically the same camera, as you would expect, with a different lens and the addition of a non-coupled rangefinder.

Franka Solida III camera

The Solida III takes 120 film and produces a 6 cm by 6 cm negative – twelve frames to a roll of film.

lens: Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar
focal length:  80 mm
apertures: f/2.9 to f/22
focus range: 3 ft to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor S
speeds: 1 second to 1/250 + B
flash:  PC socket, no X/M switch
film size: 120

The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 80 mm, f/2.9 lens.  This is a bit unusual as the aperture sequence usually goes to f/2.8 rather than f/2.9.  The minimum aperture is f/22 which is more than small enough coupled with the 1/250 shutter speed.  It is probably worth noting that the physical size of the aperture at f/22 on a medium format camera is much larger than f/22 on a 35 mm camera and so diffraction effects are negligible and so give sharper images than an equivalent lens/aperture would with 35mm.  With an APS C format digital camera, the difference will be even sharper.  The test film showed this lens to be better than adequate, at the least.

Franka Solida III camera
The shutter is a Prontor S leaf shutter by Gauthier, offering shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/250 plus B.

Happy Snapper settings are indicated in red and are around f/9 and twenty five feet, giving a depth of field from twelve feet to infinity.  There is also a secondary Happy Snapper setting of f/9 and eight feet which gives you a depth of field from six feet to twelve feet – presumably for portraits.

There is the usual delayed action lever giving  a delay of around eight to ten seconds.  A PC socket is provided but no synchronisation lever so the flash synch could be either for bulb or electronic flash. Given the camera’s age, I suspect it is synced for bulbs but whether for M or F bulbs I do not know.

The rangefinder works well and the two images are nice and clear.  There is enough separation between the two rangefinder windows (43 mm) and there is enough movement on the adjusting wheel to make the device effective.  Unfortunately, as a non-coupled rangefinder, it is necessary to read the distance off the rangefinder and set it on the lens focussing scale.  I find guessing the distance and using a smallish aperture to be fine and I don’t think I would use this rangefinder very much.

The other niggle with the rangefinder is that it uses a separate eyepiece to the viewfinder making focussing and composing totally separate activities and further reduces the utility of the rangefinder.

There is a safety interlock between the film winder and the shutter release meaning it is impossible to make a double exposure.  There is a (very) small window beside the film winder which shows red when the film has been wound on.  In fact, it is only necessary to turn the film winder 3/4 of a turn to reset the shutter which is not enough to wind on to the next frame.  Not having a manual for the camera, I had thought the shutter faulty before I finally twigged the purpose of the small window.

The red window on the back which allows you to read the frame numbers has a sliding cover to prevent the fogging of panchromatic film.  Loading is easy.  Both the film spool and the take up spool are contained in hinged housings which hold the film securely until the back is closed.

The pressure plate is significantly larger than the frame size (80 mm wide) which means that the film is kept nicely flat – not always the case with medium format cameras.  The lens standard pops out nicely when the button on the base is pressed – this camera is fully self-erecting.

In use, this is not anywhere as easy as the Franka Solida II.  That camera opens vertically with the baseboard at the bottom under the lens. This Solida III opens sideways so that the baseboard is to the right of the lens when you are using the camera.  This leaves very little camera for the right hand to hold on to which is rather awkward. With the fingers of the right hand curled, it is quite usable and the forefinger drops quite nicely onto the shutter release.

Small items – there is an accessory shoe – cold shoe in flash terms – and a single tripod socket on the base which is to UK/USA standard.  Lastly, the film winder has a film speed reminder on its top, with DIN/ASA numbers from DIN 12/ASA 12 to DIN 24/ASA 200.  On a camera of this age, it is worth noting that the ASA numbers are the “new” ASA scale

Franka Solida III camera
Medieval troubadours, Stonebow, Lincoln
Franka Solida III camera
Medieval guildhall, Lincoln
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