5 Frames… On my father-in-law’s 80 year-old Agfa Billy Record I (120 Format / EI 125 / ILFORD FP4 PLUS) – by Barry Altman

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I recently found my father-in-law’s 80 year-old Agfa Billy Record camera in a drawer. He bought in Germany in 1942 and it was last used about 70 years ago.

This model was manufactured between 1936 and 1942. It shoots eight 6×9 cm photos on a roll of 120 film. Fortunately, I had a roll of ILFORD FP4 PLUS film in the fridge and a bright, warm, sunny day so I headed out for a walk around town.


My father-in-law's 80 year-old Agfa Billy Record I, Barry Altman
My father-in-law’s 80 year-old Agfa Billy Record I, Barry Altman

Operating the camera is pretty basic with only 2 zones for focusing, 3 options for shutter speed (from 1/25 to 1/100) and 3 apertures on its Agfa Aanastigmat-Jgestar 10.5cm lens, from f/8.8 to f/16. It’s best for photographing things that don’t ever move. I made a couple of mistakes until I learned to wind the film right after taking a picture. This resulted in one double exposure and a couple of overlapping frames but the camera worked just fine.

It felt a little odd using the light meter app on my phone to calculate exposure. On such a sunny day I could have just as well guessed f/11 or f/16.

I had no idea what to expect when I pulled the film out of the developing tank and was very pleased to find 8 useable negatives. The photos are a bit soft and not razor sharp but I expect that I’ll be just like that too when I’m 80 years old. The only adjustments I made after scanning the negatives were a bit of cropping and straightening and a slight increase in contrast.

I had a ton of fun taking pictures with this simple camera. There’s something magical about pulling it out of the leather case, unfolding it and cradling it in your hand. I’m definitely going to run some more film through it. On the next sunny day …

A final note: I discovered that using an old film camera in public attracts a lot of attention. People start reminiscing about the old cameras that they last used years ago. Some get particularly nostalgic and want to gift them to a good home. Like mine. I acquired a Pentax SP1000 and a ME Super before I had even finished that first roll of film.

~ Barry


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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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3 thoughts on “5 Frames… On my father-in-law’s 80 year-old Agfa Billy Record I (120 Format / EI 125 / ILFORD FP4 PLUS) – by Barry Altman”

  1. Coincidentally, just yesterday I was shooting 35mm film in my late grandfather’s Agfa Record II (beautiful 85mm wide panoramic negs with sprocket holes). The Record II is considerably more advanced: apertures from f4.5 to f32, shutter speeds from 1 to 1/250 sec

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  2. Coincidentally, just yesterday I was shooting 35mm film in my late grandfather’s Agfa Record II (beautiful 85mm wide panoramic negs with sprocket holes). The Record II is more advanced: apertures from f4.5 to f32, and shutter speeds from 1 to 1/250 sec. It also has a double-exposure prevention mechanism, which, going by what you said about your mistakes, maybe the earlier model didn’t have? The Record III, which I’ve never used, also has an uncoupled rangefinder.

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