Agfa Isolette II focus-please help!

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Surly, Nov 25, 2005.

  1. Surly

    Surly Member

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    I have an Agfa Isolette II that will not produce sharp pictures. I put a ground glass on the film plane, had the camera a given distance from a well lit object and focused the lens and nothing happens!. It stays slightly out of focus. I moved the gg back off the film plane and about an 1/8" and it comes into focus. The camera, is in almost mint condition and does not appear to be damaged. The front standard looks as if it is square and it snaps tightly into position. The camera has a 3-element Apotar lens and a Pronto shutter. An exapmle with a Prontor shutter can be seen here
    http://homepage.mac.com/mattdenton/photo/cameras/agfa_isolette_ii.html

    There are shims behind the lens/shutter that appear to be factory and I would assume it was adjusted at the factory. There is not enough room to put another shim 1/8" thick back there. These cameras are quite popular and are are known to have produced(relatively) sharp pictures. How can the focus distance be off by such a great amount? One other thing, the front two elements are housed in what appears to be an adjustable carrier. Could the distance between the front two elements account for such a big discrepancy? I'm stumped.
     
  2. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

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    I don't know how the front configures exactly, but I have a Super Speedex Special "R" (Isolette III) that Jurgen Kreckel CLA'd and put a new bellows on. He's kinda pricey but he really knows these cameras...

    www.certo6.com

    You may also try inquiring with "our" own Carol Miller at
    www.flutotscamerarepair.com
     
  3. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Have you had the lens serviced? I would guess that you've read about the green Agfa grease polymerizing and seizing the focus threads, but if you haven't, that's something to investigate.

    You can take the focus ring off by loosening (you don't need to back them all the way out) the three set screws around its perimeter. After that, you can set the focus to infinity on your GG, then reinstall the focusing ring with the infinity mark at the focus reference mark. If you can't move the focus threads, you'll need to clean up the grease and re-lube.

    I've seen Isolettes that appear to focus with the external focusing bezel ring, but it's just been slippage against the frozen internal focusing mechanism, which is not moving.

    Lee
     
  4. Surly

    Surly Member

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    I cleaned the focus threads and they operate smoothly. The focus is out of the range of the threads. By that I mean you can adjust it all day long and you dont get close to the actual point of focus. Still baffled.
     
  5. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Any chance that someone had removed the lens and loosened or did not reseat the lens elements?

    --John
     
  6. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I'm not clear what you've done on the front elements, so I'll throw this out. I apologize if you've done all this correctly, but I can't be certain of that from your description, and it's probably best not to assume.

    There are two elements in the front, and two sets of threads. The outer set of threads seats the lens in the shutter, and that contains the rear element in the front pair. That needs to be screwed in firmly and stay put. Moving the front element relative to the second element using the smaller internal threads is how you focus. Is that how you are set up?

    If so, then you should be able to set focus at infinity by moving only the smaller cell with the single front element, then reinstall the focusing bezel. If not, you need to loosen the threads between the two front elements and re-lube so that you can focus.

    BTW, you look remarkably like a young Chuck Close. Isn't that painting in the Minneapolis Institute of Art?

    Lee
     
  7. Surly

    Surly Member

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    Lee you are the man! (assuming you are a man, my apologies if your a woman).
    This makes all the sense in the world. Yes, I am screwing both elements in and out and not moving them respective to each other. I knew someone here would have the answer. I will loosen the other set of threads, and reset the focus. I'll check back when I get it.
    As for point #2 I do not look like Chuck but my avatar plays one on the internet. Yes, that's an early Chuck Close. I love the irony of how small that photo is compared to the original. Chuck's work is awesome. I've seen some in Chicago but never been to MIA.
    Thanks for the help.
     
  8. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Glad to help.

    IIRC, that original painting is somewhere close to 8 or 10 feet tall. You can easily see how he copied the shallow DOF from the original photo.

    Good luck getting the Isolette going, you'll like it a lot. The photos I get from my Agnar are really very sharp. I was so happy with my first $7 Isolette that I bought a Franka Rolfix 6x9/6x6 with a Schneider Radionar and an Agfa Record III with Solinar at the next local camera show for $25 each.

    Lee

    (BTW, not that it matters much except to my wife, I'm male.)
     
  9. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    I guess my suggestion was not that far off......Glad it is solved.
     
  10. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    The super-adhesive, otherwise known as Agfa Green Grease, strikes again...
     
  11. Surly

    Surly Member

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    The lens is currently soaking. I may need to make a special spanner. That green stuff is awesome. It's like red Loctite. Holy crap is it tight.
     
  12. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I tried every soak I could and had very little success. A drop of Liquid Wrench, a few taps on the lens to set up vibrations, repeated three times over 12 hours, and then a steady pressure with rubber gloves for about three minutes (seemed like forever) finaly got some movement. After disassembly, a little naptha took the residual Liquid Wrench off and I put one drop of a teflon based lubricant back into the threads with a small brush. Seems to have worked.

    Mine is a Solinar. Once I got it working it showed itself to be worth every one of the $25 bucks it cost me at the junk shop.
     
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Tom Hoskinson recommends 99% isopropyl alcohol applied only to the threads, and often enough to keep them wet until it soaks through enough for some pressure to release the threads. There are specialty metal and synthetic material friction wrenches that you could find and use from a supplier of camera repair tools, but that's probably a bit over budget unless you're going to do this repeatedly.

    I soaked one of my folder lenses in lighter fluid, not recommended by more experienced people than I, as it can deteriorate the coatings and cause cemented elements to release. I got lucky with mine, but it still took over 2 days of soaking to get the green cement, I mean grease, to release, and it took some of the black finish off the lens cells.

    Patience is a virtue. I've heard from people who have used too much force and cracked lenses.

    I haven't tried Liquid Wrench, but it sounds promising.

    Lee
     
  14. Surly

    Surly Member

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    I've already done some mechanical damage. I truly know better- but used channel locks and beat the crap out of the parts. And they are still locked. They are salvageable but this has been a true learning experience. An exercise in patience.
    To redeem myself, I dug my old Foldex out and cleaned and adjusted it the correct way. I had written that camera off due to it scratching the film during transport. As a sort of penance for damaging the Agfa, I am determined to get them both in shape. Yeah, I'm nuts. I'll keep you posted.
     
  15. Surly

    Surly Member

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    Well, I got the parts apart. The elements are o.k. but the outer piece is a bit out of round. I got all the green grease off. It will all go back together fine after a little tweaking. Thanks very much for all the advice! I promise I won't be so hamfisted next time.
     
  16. claidemore

    claidemore Member

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    I did the same to a 'cemented' Isolette just a couple weeks ago. I used 99% Isopropyl alcohol and it turned the hard green stuff into rubbery green stuff and I was able to unscrew the front element by hand.
    Used wax paper to reset the infinity focus, checked it at a couple measured distances close up, and will get the first roll of film back in a couple days. Fingers crossed. :smile: