The Agfa Super Isolette with its Agfa Solinar 75 mm f/3.5 lens is considered by many to be the finest 120 folding camera ever made so my expectations of this camera were very high when I purchased it from the well know folder repairman Certo6 in the US. This 1955 German-made camera has excellent build quality unlike many of the cheaper and more popular Isolettes, and its 4 element Solinar (Tessar) lens is very sharp from edge-to-edge, even wide open.
I took this camera on a day trip to the Blue Mountains near Katoomba on its first serious outing, loading it with Kodak T-MAX 400 film, my stock 120 film, which I always rate at 200 ASA. The Agfa folded, slipped easily into a small shoulder bag making it the perfect carry around 120 camera much more compact than a bulky TLR eg It is easy to handhold so I did not take a tripod with me as I walked around the National Park and Katoomba.
Out of the 12 frames I shot that day, at least 6 were keepers and I think the reason for that is the camera was with me all the time allowing me to shoot when I saw something worth shooting.
The camera was easy to load and the film advance has the smooth precision of a fine wristwatch. After setting the aperture and shutter speed, the latter must be cocked manually which is typical of cameras of this vintage. Focusing is via a knurled knob, not that easy to operate, but the rangefinder patch was bright and the image snaps clearly into focus.
Back home, I developed the film in my normal developer, Kodak D-23, which I make up as needed from 2 simple ingredients (metol and sodium sulphite). The resulting scans had superb tonal graduation and had the “look” I was after. For me, German glass does this whereas more modern Japanese glass aka Mamiya 7, tends to be clinically sharp and lacking some character.
I made three 16 by 16 inch prints from these negatives and was very impressed with them. This camera is a keeper.
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This series is being 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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