Folding camera expectations

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Brian Legge, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    I really like carrying a MF and 35mm camera around together. Both serve different purposes for me and work nicely together. My main kit has been a compact fixed lens rangefinder an a beat up Rolleicord.

    Long story short, I'd like something even more compact to pair with other 35mm cameras. After briefly playing with a Wirgin Auto, I'm on the fence about adding a folding camera.

    The thing is, I'm really happy with the shots I get out of the Rolleicord. Part of that is its ability to resolve detail and be consistently sharp edge to edge (compared to the Auta).

    I'm thinking about a Zenobia primarily due to price. Coming from the Rollei, would I be disappointed about the shots like I have been with the Auta? Granted, one is 6x4.5 and the other 6x9 so hopefully the Zenobia will be better, but want to be sure my expectations aren't totally in the weeds before looking around for one.
     
  2. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    The lens on the Zenobia is a Tessar type, right?---which should buy you a lot of improvement over the Auta (I'm assuming it has a triplet). The smaller negative will also make a real difference, I think; a lot of 6x9 folders are really pushing the coverage limits of their lenses, although my Wirgin Auta (with a Rodenstock Trinar) seems to be pretty reasonable in that respect.

    Really, no folder is going to have the rigidity of a TLR, and you'll always pay *some* price for that in sharpness. But a smaller negative and better lens should bring the results closer to what you're used to, and ultimately only your eye can decide whether they're close enough.

    -NT
     
  3. R gould

    R gould Member

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    I have a Ensign selfix 12/20 with an ross express lens,which Is in regular use, and I also have a rolleiflef automat 4 with a tessar lens, and to be honest you would be very hardpressed to tell the differance betweeRichardn the two, if the Zenobia has a tessar type lens then it should work, but if, as I suspect, a triplet then you would be able to see a differance,If you want a folder get one with a tessar or tessar type lens and the differance between the rollei and the folder would be minimal,you would, in my experience with both tlr's and folders, find it very hard to see a difference providing the folder is in reasonable condition,
     
  4. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I have a Voigtländer Perkeo II, a 6x6 with an 80mm f3.5 Color Skopar (a 4-element Tessar type) that is pretty impressive, but it lacks the ability of close-in focus (without diopter lens assistance) and accuracy of aim compared with a MF SLR like my Bronica SQ-A. That said, I find I use it more in casual shooting because of its compact size. In general, a folder is more fiddly to use than more recent cameras, but probably no worse than TLRs of similar vintage (except for folding/unfolding). I've used it quite a bit and enjoy having it.

    I have occasionally wondered if a lot of opening and closing of a folder may noticeably hasten the failure of the bellows. I do have a "never ready" leather case for mine that does permit carrying it around open when desired.
     
  5. macrorie

    macrorie Member

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    One thing to understand about the Zenobia, and it may well make no difference, is that the shutter release is on the left side. That felt rather strange to me.
     
  6. moki

    moki Member

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    Folding cameras are great. They need some time to get used to, especially if it's one without a rangefinder (I forgot to focus at all a few times in the beginning), but once you got the right workflow and a good feeling for distances, the quality's great for such a little package.

    I currently have a Weltax (6x6 and 4,5x6) with a Tessar 75/3,5 and it's sharp enough for 40x40cm (16x16") prints, probably even bigger, though I didn't try yet. I don't know, if it is available in the US, but I can really recommend it, if you happen to find one. I really love the bright (once it's cleaned) viewfinder for both formats with a little switch for parallax correction. It also comes with a very well-built compur shutter with integrated self timer and electronic flash-synch.
     
  7. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    Thank you all for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I'm definitely fine with the slower pace and style of shooting. It sounds like there are options out there that are likely to meet my goals. I need to spend some time researching lenses in general to build a better intuition about this sort of thing. A rangefinder camera would be awesome but are well out of my price range. The Moskva-5 is a possibility but I haven't heard great things about it.

    I am leaning towards the Zenobia primarily due to price and availability. I've seen unknown condition ones go for $15 and tested cameras for closer to $50. I don't mind experimenting at all when I can get cameras in that price range. Once it hits $100 or so, it isn't really a casual purchase for me any more. I'll probably take my time and either see if something shows up here or at RFF.

    I was actually watching for Weltas but they seem to command a higher premium. I'm still trying to sort out which folders I should look for as I am not terribly familiar with models. I'm sure there are other cameras similar to the Zenobia - small, decent lens, cheap. The Ikonta A seems like an option but seems to go for a bit more. I'm okay paying a bit more as long I am buying more than prestige/brand.
     
  8. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I just acquired a Kodak Tourist II, and though its on the heavy side, its fun to lug around. I just shot a roll of Adox CHS 25 in it, and the negs look super. I'll be printing later this evenng. I also have an Ansco Speedex Jr B2, but I have a bit of rehab before I can use it. I like the size and weight of the Ansco, I only wish it was 6x9 like the Kodak, and had a better lens/shutter as well.
     
  9. moki

    moki Member

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    As I thought, the Weltas are probably a little more expensive in the US... here, where they were originally made, they're really common and around 20€, or 50€ if it's tested and in very good condition with the factory seal for exceptional quality.

    The folders are all very similar and there's a giant selection of different brands. If you're not in a hurry, just look around at flea markets and garage sales and see if there's one you like. Tessar type lens, working shutter, easy focusing and light tightness are basically everything you need to look for. I found a few nice cameras that way, because people didn't know how precious they were ("old camera? Oh well, I'm happy when someone takes it, no matter how cheap...")

    Ikontas are not bad either. They often have problems with broken bellows, but are somewhat common and pretty good quality when you find one that works.
     
  10. BradS

    BradS Member

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    I picked up an old 6x9 format folder a while ago. The lens is completely unspectacular but, certainly good enough. The beauty of this thing is that it folds up to such a compact and light weight package...and makes these big beautiful negatives (or slides).

    There are compromises. If you need perfect focus with narrow DOF and quick handling....I think you should look elsewhere. A folder will only frustrate. But, if you want a really compact, light weight camera that makes big negatives (that are easier to print)....a folder is definitely the way to go.
     
  11. BobD

    BobD Member

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    I have a Zenobia. Love it. Nicely made and takes great pics.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. JPD

    JPD Member

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    I have bought four Welta Weltax cameras, and all of them had problems. Bad shutters (Prontors and Tempors), lenses out of focus, flimsy folding mechanism, light leaks...

    The Triotar on my pre-war Rolleicords are sharper than the front cell focusing Jena Tessars on the Weltax cameras.

    I'm happy with my Ercona II, but it's a bigger 6x9 camera. It's 3,5/105 Tessar is very sharp, folding mechanism the same as the Ikontas. The Tempor shutter works nicely, but I've read that they are made of cheap stamped materials and difficult to repair if needed.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Folding MF cameras are a lot of fun. It's great to have something compact that you can take anywhere and that also shoots medium format. Even at the highest level, though, with the exception of the new Fuji/Voigtlaender 667, these are tourist cameras, so they don't have the build quality of a camera designed for professional use, so they often need to be handled with some delicacy, and they won't have the film flatness of, say, a Linhof rollfilm back. For the latter reason, I think 6x6 works well for a folder, but 6x9 folders tend to be more problematic in terms of film flatness.

    The MF folders I've used extensively have been the Voigtlaender Bessa II/Color-Heliar and the Perkeo II/Color-Skopar, and the one I continue to use is the Perkeo II.
     
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  15. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I decided early on that if I was going to spend my money on a camera, I was going to buy a good one. Bottom feeding only gets you so far, and for me I felt that it was a waste of money to buy five crappy cameras when I could spend more money and buy one good camera one time.

    Regarding brand: There are plenty of good cameras out there, and each has its advantages and drawbacks.

    I would simply urge caution on using price as the No. 1 factor.
     
  16. JDP

    JDP Member

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    Hi,
    Someone mentioned film flatness. I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before on this forum, but heres a tip:

    Always open up your bellows first BEFORE winding on. This will ensure you have some film tension and maximise the chance of flat film. If you wind on first, then open the bellows, you risk the vacuum which temporarilly forms in front of the film sucking it off the film plate...

    Also if you wear glasses, then the older 'flip-up' viewfinders are generally much easier to use than the later 'built-in' ones which have a really small aperture which makes it difficult to get your eye close enough to see the whole frame with glasses.

    I second all the positive comments on folders. You may be surprised how good optically, some of them can be.
     
  17. R gould

    R gould Member

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    I was given a tip a long time ago by a photographer who never used anything but folders, and that was if you are going to wind the film on to No 1 with the camera folded to wind on to JUST BEFORE the No appears in the red window, and to finish the winding with the camera unfolded,and that will counter act the effect of opening the camera on film flatness, I have always done it and the film seems to stay perfectly flat, Richard
     
  18. Necator

    Necator Member

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    I have an Agfa Isolette V. It is very easy to carry, and the image quality is good. You are without a meter (which I can live with), and without a range finder (which I find a little harder to cope with). Still, on a sunny day at f/11, with a reasonable distance to your subject, it is hard to miss :smile:
     
  19. BradS

    BradS Member

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    With regard to film flatness....or, lack of. Yup. The neither of the two 6x9 folders I have come anywhere near keeping the film optimally flat. That is part of the beauty of shooting an old folder.
     
  20. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    My Bellows Camera of choice is a Kodak Brownie Autographic #2. I don't worry about Film flatness. it leaks like a sieve, although I think I found the problem now. The viewfinder is dim, and lousy and only provides general information, focus is by guess. The shutter and aperture settings are sort of close to right, and I sometimes forget to adjust them before taking a photo. I have two of these cameras. Why do I put up with these things? Some of the best photographs I have ever taken were with these cameras, I don't know if people relax more with the look of them or what, but I tend to get good shots with them.

    I say that if you already have a Medium format camera that you can do really quality work with when you want or need to, then get yourself a budget folder and enjoy it, they can be a lot of fun, and attract a lot of attention as well.
     
  21. chris00nj

    chris00nj Member

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    They are appropriate and good if you know the limitaitons. I recently jumped into the world of MF folders. I wanted a MF camera to complement my 35mm when I traveled and my Rollei is too heavy (and I prefer the 6x9 format for travel shots).

    I picked up a late model Ikonta 6x9 for $75, but no rangefinder and 75/3.5 Novar (3 element lens). Collectors will drive up the price of 4-element lens models or ones with Compur-Rapid shutters, but depending on your intended use, a 3 element lens and a Prontor shutter will likely work well. Honestly, there is often a huge premium for the 4 elements, which will likely only help with corner sharpness at wider apertures.

    Make sure the lens is calibrated to infiniti well. It will help with sharpness. I have a blog post here on how to.

    Some other possible 6x9 choices include:
    Franka Rolfix
    Welta Weltur
    Agfa Record
    Voigtlander Bessa I
    Zeiss Nettar
     
  22. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I have an isolette II and it's great. I always use fast film with fast developers so I can shoot at f/22 or f/32 in the daylight, and still have f/11 in the evening. I also had to draw completely new distance markings on the focusing ring, calibrating it by holding ground glass on the film gate. The original markings were off quite a bit.
     
  23. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Interesting. Could be that a previous owner disassembled the lens and didn't put the front cell back at the correct angle.

    Folders, like TLRs, are just plain *fun* to shoot with, and it's only partly because other people think they look cool. Based on what I've read here at APUG, I think there are a lot of us who find them naturally complementary.

    My two Rolleis, Wirgin Auta, and Nettar all sit more or less together in a single cabinet; if I get up for a glass of water at night, I sometimes hear them muttering familiarly to one another in German. :smile:

    -NT
     
  24. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    Great info all around!

    I like the comments on winding and film flatness. I hadn't thought about those points.
     
  25. elekm

    elekm Member

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    My favorites are the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta and Super Ikonta. I've not encountered any film flatness issues with them. Or at least none that I've noticed.

    But I'm not a bokeh FREAK, so I tend to shoot these stopped down.

    And my two favorites are from 1936 and 1937.
     
  26. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    No; it was literally impossible to align the standard marks. The marked numbers were spaced with the wrong scale, so you could set it to be accurate at low distances, but then it was off near infinity, or vice versa. I initially set it so that the infinity mark was lined up when the camera was actually infinity focused (by looking at the ground glass) but then the close distances were way off. I think that the manufacturer set it up so that when adjusted to "infinity" at the factory ithe camera was actually set up to some hyperfocal distance, but of course, hyperfocal distance varies with aperture, so there's no telling which aperture they chose to represent their hyperfocal distance. I would rather be able to know what the focus really is and set it myself. I covered the marks with a ring I made out of a standard white sticky label and made my own marks which are exactly correct. Much better.