Ansco Super Speedex and a PA mill town...

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by bliorg, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Hi, all -

    I live near a dying mill town, not unlike hundreds in Pennsylvania. Having only shot 400 speed film in the Super Speedex, and wanting to see what it does with a slower film like Acros, I took my son for a walk through Birdsboro this afternoon.

    It's an old town with a lot of history dating back to pre-Revolutionary times. But the steel mill shut down thirty-odd years ago, and there's nothing left to keep it running.

    Lots of street chaff all about:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And a grain mill at the end of the dead-end main street:
    [​IMG]

    The former Birdsboro Corporation (google it) is a presence seen from everywhere:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Plenty of small detail hints at a better time, when people had more pride in the town:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lots of buildings are showing their age:
    [​IMG]

    The newest shop in town:
    [​IMG]

    Finally, my son posed for a snapshot to commemorate his first stroll through Birdsboro with me:
    [​IMG]

    The town is a sad story, not a unique one, but is a fascinating place to me nonetheless. I've spent hours strolling the streets with old cameras I've fixed up, and I never seem to get tired of the place. This walk was superlative, due to the companionship and the Super Speedex.

    Thanks for looking.
    Scott
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,289
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    Location:
    northern Pa.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Outstanding photos. Nothing I like more than taking walks with a member of the family and an old camera. Does your son shoot yet?
     
  3. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Thanks, Rick. He's just getting started in film cameras. He's been using an old HP digicam for years, but the camera's recently given up the ghost. Think I'm putting the Rollei in his hands for a while...
     
  4. pentaxpete

    pentaxpete Subscriber

    Messages:
    248
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2010
    Location:
    Brentwood, E
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Is that the same as an AGFA Isolette camera -- I have the 1956 Isolette III with the Solinar lens -- why not post these photos in the 'Folders' Group ?
     
  5. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Not quite the same - more of an Isolette on steroids. Coupled rangefinder, automatic film transport and counter, unit cell focusing, and the Solinar is reformulated.

    Where's the folders group?
     
  6. Towermax

    Towermax Member

    Messages:
    56
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2008
    Location:
    U.S. Pacific
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ansco Super Speedex = Agfa Super Isolette

    It's the identical camera, made by Agfa, but labeled and sold by Ansco. "Badge Engineering", as they say.
     
  7. Towermax

    Towermax Member

    Messages:
    56
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2008
    Location:
    U.S. Pacific
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Scott--very nice, indeed. I got an Ansco Super Speedex a few months ago, and just got it back from a CLA. Your photos make me very eager to start using it.
     
  8. Neanderman

    Neanderman Member

    Messages:
    575
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2004
    Location:
    Ohio River V
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Nice photos from a great camera. I have an 'assortment' of Isolette/Speedex models, but nothing 'Super'. My icon image was made with a folder -- can't recall if it was one of these or the Ikonta.
     
  9. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,698
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    Location:
    SE Pennsylva
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Nice work!

    What's perhaps more mind boggling at Birdsboro, just south/east of town, sharing its driveway with the Schuylkill River Trail, is the defunct Armorcast corporation. There are four tall smokestacks sticking up along one side. I think it was a spin-off from the Birdsboro Steel Foundry, etc., but at any rate, they apparently made Sherman and Patton tanks during WWII and the Korean war. But like so many things, eventually they failed to win a contract in the 1980s and shut down. I did a little Googling on this stuff after bicycling by there a week or two back. Supposedly the Armorcast building has multiple bays 70 feet wide and over 1400 feet long -- could make some hellacious loft condos!

    (I'd show some pix, but I only had my P&S bit electrocuter on my rides by there.)

    Alas, most of the Schuylkill Valley is in various stages of those downward industrial life cycles. I fear sales associate at MalWart doesn't quite replace the sorts of jobs lost out of those plants. Phoenixville seems to be once again rising from the ashes at least a little; Pottstown is trying but has a ways to go.

    DaveT
     
  10. rrankin

    rrankin Member

    Messages:
    866
    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    Location:
    La Plata, Mi
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Terrific series, Scott.
     
  11. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

    Messages:
    744
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Nice pictures, but sad too.

    With the quality of modern films, the old folders (at least the better ones) can deliver pretty decent results.
     
  12. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

    Messages:
    2,266
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Location:
    Metro DC are
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Nice work/story.
    I know it a bit.
    My old man escaped the coal mine that employed his father and claimed his grandfather.
    The town is a shadow now.

    I've often thought what a good subject for an in depth docu series.
    Thanks for posting.
     
  13. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Thanks, everyone! The Super is indeed super - it's a simple joy to use.

    Dave, I'm familiar with Armorcast. You should search for it on flickr - there are a lot of people who've snuck in to shoot. I've read the police are cracking down on that, and defunct industrial sites are inherently dangerous, so I'll leave that to those more foolhardy. I've also read that the site is being developed, but those stories are dated by a few years now, so it may never happen. Why it would in Birdsboro, in the first place, kind of eludes me. But it's a neat town with a lot of history. And it's nearby.

    Phoenixville is becoming a nice little town again. Pottstown does indeed have a way to go, though.

    Scott
     
  14. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
  15. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

    Messages:
    6,932
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2007
    Location:
    Richmond VA.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Love those cameras and pictures!

    Jeff
     
  16. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

    Messages:
    540
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Location:
    Bothell, WA
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Beautiful work.

    I wish I had the cash to make an offer on that camera when it came up. :sad: In the unlikely work that you should you ever decide to part with it, shoot me a message. Haha!
     
  17. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2006
    Location:
    NW Philly, P
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Thanks, guys! :smile:

    Brian, I don't think the Super will be going anywhere anytime soon... :wink:
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,311
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    great work scott!

    i hope you continue with this sort of thing and do a lulu book ( with your son too ! )

    john