Folding MF cameras...

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Mark_S, May 22, 2007.

  1. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    In about a year I will be going on a trip to Guatemala. Due to the nature of the trip I will not be able to carry my usual camera with me (I shoot mostly LF, but also have a Hassy setup which I use for handheld shots). My wife has told me that I can bring a camera with me if it is small - such as something that would fit in a pocket. 35mm options abound, but I would really prefer a larger negative, so I have been thinking about geting a folding MF camera - perhaps an Agfa Isolette or a Zeiss Ikonta. I was just wondering if anybody in here had any experience with pocket size MF cameras (next I need to start looking for a vest with big pockets :smile: ) I shoot almost exclusively B&W if that makes a difference.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've experimented with a few of them, and I'm most satisfied with the Voigtlander Perkeo II with the Color-Skopar. It's really pocketable, has a nice tessar-type lens, and film flatness with the folding 6x6 cameras is generally better than with the 6x9 cameras. It doesn't have a built-in rangefinder, but I've gotten used to using a shoe-mount rangefinder, and it works quite well.
     
  3. Frank R

    Frank R Subscriber

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    I recommend a camera that has a built-in rangefinder, either coupled to the lens or uncoupled. It should also have a tessar-style lens, but there are many fine triplets out there. If you stick with B+W you can save money by getting an uncoated lens.

    Old Agfa bellows often need to be replaced. Shutters are often sticky and slow.

    Your first stop should always be www.certo6.com. Jurgen refurbs old folders and sells them. You have time to put in an order on a favorite camera and wait until he finds one and CLAs it for you.

    I like the small size of the Perkeo II but I wish it had a rangefinder. I currently use a Franka Solida II with a Schneider Xenar 3.5/80. A nice combination that is not too easy to find. I am currently testing a Moscow 5 but I cannot recommend it just yet.

    A pre-war Welta or a Voightlander for B+W might be ideal.
     
  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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  5. climbabout

    climbabout Member

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    I have a 6x9cm Zeiss Super Ikonta with the 3.8 Tessar lens. Very compact camera - I believe it weighs about 24oz. and it will fit into a large pocket. Super sharp lens. I'm very happy with it. There are alway some on ebay. The certo6 recommendation by Frank is also right on the money
    Tim
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I have an Agfa Isolette 1. It was given to me for nothing.It really is super slim, small and light. Completely manual of course.The problems are:
    1. No metering and its an uncoupled rangefinder
    2. Only three speeds 1/25th 1/50th and 1/200th

    Both these issues can be overcome of course. Agfa give you distance ranges for each aperture and if your built-in rangefinder in your head is reasonably good you can manage without a rangefinder erring on a bigger aperture for DoF. Even with three speeds, the latitude of B&W probably means that you'll get by.

    The biggest issue for me is that with the standard lens which is 50 yrs old, I don't find the bigger format is any real improvement in terms of neg quality on my 35mm. I suppose it might come into its own if I was printing say 12 inch square but I am not and even then I am not sure. The square format also wastes a lot of print paper. With 8x10 paper the best I can manage with a border is say 7.5 inches or severely crop. With 35mm I get two 5x8s from a 10x8 square.

    If its a one-off use due to lack of space I think I'd look at 35mm compacts. You might pick up this particular model for next to nothing but one that doesn't need a new bellows and a CLA is another matter and this adds to the price considerably. It becomes expensive for a one-off use.

    Best of luck with your search

    pentaxuser
     
  7. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    My wife Melanie shoots a 6x9 Agfa Record III we bought from Jurgen's site, www.certo6.com. It is a fantastic performer, with an uncoupled rangefinder -- the midrange Apotar lens on hers does fine work. I have a 6x6 Super Baldax, also purchased from Jurgen, that has a coupled rangefinder and I like it a lot -- the coupled rangefinder makes the camera a lot faster to use.

    Sanders
     
  8. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Small fold out 6x6 cameras abound on eBay. I picked up an old Wirgin german camera that takes divine pictures. S/S from B,25,50,100,150th and apertures from f3.5,4,5.6,8,11,to f16. Tripod screw, shutter cable port. But there are many available for very little quid. Whatever a quid is.
     
  9. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Assume that any camera you buy on eBay will need to be serviced, unless you buy from one of the resellers who sell cameras that have undergone CLAs.

    The risk of buying from eBay is that you might get junk or you might get a gem. Look closely at the photos.

    Among the folders, the Germans probably have the widest variety of models, lenses and shutters.

    At the top was Zeiss Ikon (not Zeiss), Voigtlander, Agfa and others.

    Kodak also had folding cameras, but most of the ones that you would take on vacation used 620 film, which isn't practical for travel. Some will disagree, but you will need a collection of 620 spools so that you can respool film. Or you will need to prespool a bunch before you leave, but then you run the risk of running out of film because you didn't prespool enough.

    Some are zone focus. Some have rangefinders -- uncoupled and coupled.

    Zeiss Ikon had Ikonta, Super Ikonta, Nettax and the Nettar.

    The Voigtlander models have good to excellent lenses. The weak point is the lens standard, which I think is made of metal that is too thin and susceptible to damage. Otherwise, they're great cameras.

    The Agfas almost universally have two common problems: holes in the bellows and hardened grease in the lens helical. Not all Agfas have this problem, but a sizable number do.

    Just keep this in mind while scanning eBay for potential deals. I love the folding cameras.
     
  10. elekm

    elekm Member

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    First, think if you want 6x4.5, 6x6 or 6x9. Among the classic folding cameras, there are few or no 6x7 cameras.

    The Voigtlander Perkeo gets many nice remarks.

    A serviced Agfa Isolette III (6x6) with either the Apotar (triplet) or Solinar (Tessar variant) is a nice camera. Other Zeiss Ikon cameras: the Ikonta (zone focus), Mess Ikonta (uncoupled rangefinder) and Super Ikonta (coupled rangefinder) are nice cameras. The earlier model Super Ikontas (530/16 and 532/16 series) are heavy cameras and possibly not what you want for travel. The postwar Mess Ikonta with a coated Tessar is a nice camera and the lens is very sharp!

    In 6x4.5, you have the plain Ikonta (zone focus) with either a Tessar or Novar (triplet) or a Super Ikonta with coupled rangefinder and a Tessar lens.

    With 6x9, you have plenty of choices: Agfa, Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon, plus Balda, Wirgin and many others.

    Also, Agfa cameras were sold under the Ansco name. The same cautions about the bellows and lens helicals apply. Prewar Agfas seemed to use leather bellows, but have the helicals issue.

    You could write a book on folding cameras. Come to think of it, check out Ivor Mantanle's "Collecting and Using Classic Cameras." It's often a bible and/or guide for many classic camera users.
     
  11. Werner B.

    Werner B. Member

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    Mark, I own two folders, The agfa which Jurgen rebuilt for me was my Fathers and I love using it. In particular I love taking shots of family and friends and watching their jaws drop when they see the results. (this was taken WITH THAT?). My main cameras are mamiya AFD and RZ. On the best of days when everything works my folder simply does not match my RZ for quality. Multicoating and computer generated designs go a Looooong way for lenses. As a LF user you know better than anyone what the term SLOW means. Using a folder is only one step up, at least you don't have to switch film backs. Every thing else is just about the same. Judge distance, take a light reading(you will need your light meter), cock shutter, shoot. I say all this because for me a trip to Guatemala would probably be a one time shot, as, unless relatives are involved I tend to only visit a place once. While I agree with you that I would want to take my medium format I would not take my folder if it were the only camera I could bring.(OK everybody you can start throwing stones). I would seriously look at a Mamiya 7 or 6 for their stunning resolution and compact size, something you would scrutinize as a LF shooter. The other option I would "SERIOUSLY" consider is Nicks suggestion about the Fuji645. The ZI has a zoom lense (sort of) fast shutter speeds, flash, auto focus, etc. etc. I say all this because Quality images are meaningless if only one in six shots work. The folder works great if you have lots of time but when your on the move with candids your hit rate decreases rapidly. Especially if you don't use it every day. Even if you sell the Fuji or Mamiya at a $100.00 -$150.00 loss when you get back, all that is forgotten 10 years from now when your looking at the 11x14 on your wall remembering the places you've been. My two cents.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2007
  12. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Werner's suggestions mirror my own thoughts, but they don't really address the question of a 120 folder.
    I have, and use, three Zeiss Ikonta folders (520/2, 521/2, and III) all of which are relatively light and compact. There's much to be said for a post-WW2 Zeiss Ikonta B or C.
    However, in addition to a MF camera, you'd going to need to carry a light meter with you, and lots of film, since 120 will not be available locally. I'd like to suggest that you re-think the MF option, and consider a pocketable mechanical 35mm such as a Retina, Leica with collapable lens, or Rollei 35S.
     
  13. Dug

    Dug Member

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    Ikonta believe the picture quality

    Another vote for the Zeiss Ikonta. I bought a Super Ikonta 534/16 in March to take to Cambodia. Had it CLA'd before I left, brought the new 400 ISO Portra film, old Fuji NPH from the freezer, and a backup Gossen Pilot II to confirm the meter readings and shot mid- aperature mid-shutter speed. Wear a pair of pants with a cargo pocket and prepare for FUN!
     

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  15. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    I've shot the Super Ikontas. My only complaint about them is that most have frame spacing issues. At best they leave almost no space between frames. At worst, there is substantial overlap. It's not a big deal if you crop your images but if you print full-frame it's a nightmare. That's what ultimately drove me to settle on the Super Baldax. Sanders
     
  16. bennoj

    bennoj Member

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    I have a drawer-full of folders and would recommend a refurbished Agfa/Ansco, Voigtlander or Z-I with one of the better lenses (I've had good results with both Apotars and Solinars on Agfas, Skopars and Heliars on Voigtlander and Tessars on Zeiss, the main issue with sharpness on an old folder is whether the lens is actually focusing correctly and is parallel with the film plane). I've also had good success with both the Iskra and Moskow 5 ex-Soviet cameras.

    As to whether it has a rangefinder or not, I don't agree with those saying you need one. I found that when using a scale-focusing camera and no light meter I very quickly became very good at judging both distance and light conditions very well, skills I think any photographer would benefit from even when the tools to do so are available.
     
  17. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    I have a Moskva-2. It really isn't that compact, it folds flat but it's heavy and fairly large. I wouldn't want to carry it in a pocket unless I was wearing a large overcoat. I just bought, and am amazed by, a Retina IIC which is so much smaller.

    On the other hand, it (the Moskva) does take pretty good pictures, focuses accurately and has a pretty decent lens. The only problem I've found is that the bellows very slightly obscures the edge of the frame [not really a huge problem].
     

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  18. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    That previous comment should have read Retina IIc (small c).
     
  19. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I had several older folders that were nice for what they were, then I got a Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta BX and was blown away with the images. Regardless, folders are fun to shoot with and I like the larger negatives.
     
  20. Silverhead

    Silverhead Member

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  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I have a Mamyia 6, the 50s version, which I feel is compact, rugged, has good optics, and not too expensive. I have a S VI lens hood and basic filters, my meter is as bulky as the camera.
     
  22. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    Thank you all for so much good input. The logical side of me says to look more seriously at the Fuji GA645Zi - but I have never owned a camera with auto-focus, my most recent camera that I now own is the 'blad which was built in 1980. I just feel more comfortable with a camera which does not need batteries or have an LCD display, but that may be a prejudice that I should get over. 35mm is another thing which makes sense, and what drove me to get the 'blad was an excellent image that I shot of my son with 35mm, but the tiny negative drives me crazy in the darkroom.

    I have time, and will definitely be contacting Jurgen aka certo6 to see what he says....
     
  23. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    If you are thinking of Fujis, I have a GS645S which, I think, has the sharpest lens I've ever used. Quite amazing images, consistently.

    The rangefinder isn't the best, though. It can be a bit dim and hard to focus in low.
     
  24. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    I use several AGFA/Ansco folding cameras, all of which I have refurbished myself. While not easy to work on, someone with reasonable skills could probably fix one. Worst thing, as many mentioned, is the focus often being frozen.

    I have been lucky enough to find NOS (New - Old Stock) bellows on EBAY through a couple sellers. On pre-WWII cameras, some of the leather bellows can be repaired using a combination of T-Shirt (screen printing) ink and sunlight curing. My oldest 1937 AGFA Jsolette (6x4.5 and 6x6) has a repaired leather bellows, which has worked great for the last four years. My larger 6x9 cameras all have replacement NOS bellows.

    One thing I added was an accessory rangefinder. I found several Präzisz rangefinders after many separate searches through EBAY, and they have been reliable, easy to calibrate, and easy to use. The downside is that they might run more than an AGFA folder.

    I almost exclusively use transparency films in my folder cameras. The results from an old uncoated triplet lens are quite amazing. I have a few of the hard to find lens hoods for my old folder cameras, though I don't know if that really helps much. One thing to avoid is shooting into the sun, since flare can be a huge issue.

    My suggestion is to get two of whatever you want to take along. Basically either load a different film in each, or use one as a backup camera for the other. Maybe one has a flash sync post, and the other might not, which is another way to do this.

    Be careful to open and close these folder cameras slowly. If you let it spring open with film in it (especially on a 6x9) the bellows suction can actually pull the film slightly into the rails area, which ruins film flatness. When closing the camera, make sure that nothing is snagged or blocked, which can help avoid damaging a shutter release arm, or damaging the folding parts. These are very strong cameras, but you don't want to force anything.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
     
  25. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    The Fuji GA645Zi is unfortunately NOT a FOLDER, and will not meet SWMBO's directive about a pocket camera. It IS a real honey, though.
     
  26. Frank R

    Frank R Subscriber

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    I just had a Fuji GA645Zi. I found it too heavy and too large to carry around.

    It did take nice pictures though.