MF Folders Worth Having

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Alex Hawley, Sep 24, 2006.

  1. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Sadly, its time to retire the beloved Yashica TLR. After seeing Chris Pandino's very nice 6x6 Ansco rangefinder yesterday, I've decided to go with a folder. So, what are the opinions as to which one's are worth having? Not interested in anything pre-WWII. My general requirements are 6x6 folder, preferebly rangefinder but SLRs are OK too. I'm kind of shy about the Russian cameras but maybe that's being too cautious. I would like a good quality serviceable camera.
     
  2. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    I have no experience with them -- when I was in the mood for that sort of thing so was Kerry Thalmann and he always outbid me -- but folklore has it that the Voigtlaender Perkeo with Color-Skopar or better (Color Heliar, Apo-Lanthar) is in every way a marvel.

    If you want a camera that folds but won't go into a pocket, that opens up the world of 2x3 press cameras and interchangeable lenses. I'm very happy with my humble Century Graphic, other makes have their partisans too.
     
  3. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Thanks for your recommendation Dan. However, a press camera is not what I'm looking for this time. I should have said this in my original post. I've had experience them in the past and agree, they are top-rung. If one falls into my lap at the right price, I won't refuse it, that's for sure.
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've got several good MF folders, and two great ones (both 6x4.5): Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 621 (with coated Tessar 75/3.5), and a Daiichi Zenobia (with coated Neo-Hesper 75/3.5).

    None of them have rangefinders, they're strictly guess-focus. But with a little bit of practice (and a shoe-mount Voigtländer rangefinder for backup), I get 99% sharp pictures with these. That's better than I get with autofocus!

    My recommendation is to find just about any 6x6 folder with a coated lens. Zeiss Ikon, Voigtländer, Welta, Daiichi, Ansco, Kodak or whatever - that doesn't really make much difference. Most of them are very good and reliable. If the lens is coated, it's post-WWII. Look for Compur shutters - try to avoid Vebur or Cludor. Guess focus works, and keeps the camera smaller (and cheaper) than rangefinder models.
     
  5. Elox

    Elox Member

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    You might look at www.certo6.com. Jurgen has a neat site, gives good basic info on a number of cameras, and sells cleaned cameras on both ebay and at his site. He also has some sample photos from some of the cameras. I find the photo taken with a lens with a bug inside to be particularly interesting.:surprised:
     
  6. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Good afternoon Alex Hawley,

    There are plenty of AGFA/Ansco or similar Balda folding 6x9 cameras on the used market. While mostly front cell (lens element) focusing, the results can be quite good due to the large film area. Many of the later (post WWII) models had an accessory shoe for mounting an external rangefinder, which in practice is easy to guess focus.

    The downside to front cell focus cameras, especially many of the AGFA models, is that the grease has dried up making the focus no longer movable. I have seen some where the owner thought is was focusing, but instead the entire front group was moving. This is not super tough to fix, but could take some time to do, and involves handling small parts.

    I have a few of these already fixed up and in use. My idea was to get several bodies, then mix and match parts to get nicer versions. These are so low in initial cost compared to a Zeiss or Voigtländer folder that it is practical to own a few. The varieties are mostly number of shutter speeds, widest aperture, and in the rarer models more lens elements. There are also models with built-in rangefinder (not coupled to the lens), though they are approaching the prices of (potentially) better folder cameras.

    I managed to get some NOS bellows for Kodak folders, and trimmed them to fit. So now I have three fully functional and operational folders. My favourite is actually a pre-WWII Jsolette that does 6x4.5 and 6x6, though it is somewhat rare and probably not worth the effort to try finding one, then restoring it.

    I shoot colour transparency films in my folder cameras, just to give you an idea of what a restored or refurbished model is capable of achieving. The best shutters are the multi-speed Prontor or Compur variety, since they offer more speed choices than the simpler shutters; some of those include a flash sync post or even a self-timer mechanism.

    It can help to add on a Präzisa rangefinder, or a similar model. Once you calibrate the accessory rangefinder to the front cell focus scale, then focus error is a rare event. A lens shade is another nice accessory, though these can be tough to find.

    Best of luck in your search.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
     
  7. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Subscriber

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    Most folders are appx. 40+ years old - so having one that has been restored if it is to be a daily user is a good idea. From what I understand most of the bellows will tend to leak light unless they have been services.

    I would avoid large auction sites and get something from someone who does repair and restoration. I hear good things about certo6.

    I hear you about FSU cameras - even the good ones have a huge heapful of "character" not all of it good - though good examples will certainly keep up with the best of the Germans!
     
  8. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I would recommend a 6X9 folder for the big negative . The best ones in this size are without question the Super Ikonta C and Bessa II. Unfortunately, both are very expensive if you can find them in very good condition.

    The Russian Moscow 4 and 5 are quite inexpensive and definitely worth a try in my opinon. I have two Moscow 4s and one Moscow 5 and all three are very good performers. I bought all three of them for less than $90 in Good to VG+ condition. No, they don't come close to the performance I get from my Fuji GW690III, but at about 1/12 the cost, and a much more compact package, they have a place for me.

    If you have one of these folders and optical performance is poor the most likely reason is rangefinder calibration, assuming the camera is in good condition. This can be adjusted. The Industar lenses used on these cameras are Tessar type lenses, coated, and give performance similar to what we expect from the design.

    Sandy King
     
  9. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Be careful in looking at the Kodak folders, as a bunch were made for 620 film, which is a bit of a hassle. I've been using a Moskva 5 for a few years now, and except for the left handed shutter release I am pretty happy with it.

    What's wrong with the Yashicamat? TLRs are getting pretty cheap if you want to replace it.
     
  10. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    Alex, I would like to second this recommendation. I bought a folding 6x9 camera from Jurgen a couple of years ago. It also has a mask so I can shoot 6x6 if I want to, though the decision has to be made when you load the film. The one I bought is an Adox Sport. It takes great pictures, and I've taken it to the baseball game quite a few times and even took it on a business trip once.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've had a few, and the keeper among them is the Voigtlander Perkeo II, which I use with a shoe mount rangefinder. I had a Bessa II 6x9 with Color Heliar--fantastic camera, but it just didn't work for me ergonomically, and like all 6x9 folders, it had film flatness problems. The Perkeo is really pocketable, and given the kind of construction these cameras have, it's easier to keep a 6x6 frame relatively flat.
     
  12. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    I still shoot a Zenobia made in the early 1950's It is a very good and overlooked camera.
     
  13. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Another issue, which can compound the problem if film flatness, is that the lenses of 6X9 cameras are quite long, 105mm to 120mm, and they have very limited depth of field. When you combine film flatness with limited depth of field the results can be very soft negatives when you use the camera at close distance and wide apertures. This is a recipe for bad results IMO.

    To make best use of 6X9 folders I would recommend a film of ASA of 400 or more that allows the use of small apertures and fast shutter speeds, and avoid anything closer than about ten feet unless you are sure the rangefinder is calibrated. And put the camera on a tripod if possible. Most of the old 6X9 folders, used this way, are capable of very good results.

    Sandy
     
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  15. colivet

    colivet Member

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    Alex, folder are kind of cool cameras.The problem for me is that I usually want to see the image in the ground glass before I commit. I feel very at home with a 6x6 bronica and it is the camera I do take out when I go out shooting. The 6x9 stays home. It just doesn't attract me a whole lot. I do think that folders make for great travel cameras. They let you make a great travel shot in a large piece film that you might one day feel like enlarging and hanging on your wall. Also it is a great camera having in the car for immediate reach, should the need arise.
     
  16. pschauss

    pschauss Member

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    I have had good luck with an Iskra and a Moskva 2. The view finder on the Moskva 2 is easier to use and more accurate because it it centered.
     
  17. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    i have a plaubel makina, great camera. Very sharp lens.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have and used a mamiya 6 .. one of the old ones not one that has interchangable lenses. while it is a good camera sharp lens and there are no issues with film flatness, i wouldn't suggest getting one if you come across one. i had one and used it very often since last december, then a part broke. (it was the bolt that goes from film compartment to the winder knob.) since ther aren't very many of these oddities around there are no parts buy 2 and use one as a parts camera ( like the v-dub in the back yard as your parts car ). i even sent it to jurgen who did his best to fix it, but after on roll of film i was back where i started -- broken. while it is a good camera, if you find one, the price it commands is not worth it if the camera breaks and can't be repaired ..

    this is the mamiya 6 with the roman numerals III, IV &C ...
     
  19. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Well Alex, don't do like I did...I have a complete Bessa I (but with a Vaskar lens, not one of the sexier ones). Camera, case,straps, 645 mask, instructions and box (though the box is a bit beat up) and never use it. For some reason it just does not work for me - oh and Ilford films are almost impossible for me to see the numbers thru the red window. I should get rid of it (if your interested Alex, send me a PM).
     
  20. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    PM sent Mike.

    Thanks for all the good info everyone. Learned a lot. What a great website this is!
     
  21. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

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    I had Jurgen rehab my Ansco Super Speedex Special "R" (6x6) a year or so ago...CLA, new bellows, etc. The camera cost me $30 on the bay and he was another $140. The rangefinder is smooth, lens focuses well and overall, I've got some good, sharp images from it. Both mine (got another) have the Apotar lens, which is a fine performer. Not their high end lens, but more than adequate. For more info, see certo6's website.

    These are (except for name) practically identical to the Agfa Isollette II's (or is it III's?). But, they are less expensive.

    There's a guy in Europe who sells excellent folders, usually CLA'd, his bay name begins with "P" but that's all I know. Another guy in Hawaii on the bay also sells some that he CLA's...don't remember his seller name.
     
  22. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Alex, I'll cast another vote for Jurgen Kreckel. He Cla'd and made new bellows for all of these folding cameras for me - excellent work!

    1. Voigtlander Bessa II with coated Color-Skopar 105/3.5 lens in Synchro-Compur shutter. 6 X 9 cm images on 120 rollfilm.

    2. Voigtlander Perkeo 6x6 with coated Color-Skopar in Prontor Shutter.

    3. Ansco Super Speedex 6x6 with 75mm Solinar lens.

    4. Certo Six 6x6 with f2.8 80mm Tessar (this camera is a favorite of mine).
     
  23. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Thanks Tom and Matt for adding to the recommendation for Jurgen. I've been looking at his website; looks like he's on the ball with these cameras.
     
  24. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Another vote for Jurgen. I've bought several cameras from him. He sells great cameras,he fixes them when they need more work, and he ridiculously underprices his work.

    As for specific recommendations, let me speak up for the 6x6 Balda Super Baldax. Folders are nice in theory but they can be cumbersome to use. Most lack features like a coupled rangefinder or a reliable film advance/frame counter. Their absence, I think, is the reason why many are enchanted by the idea of a folder, but far fewer end up shooting one on a regular basis.

    If you want those features, that knocks out a wide range of cameras -- the Perkeos, most Isolettes, and many others recommended above. At first glance, the Zeiss Super Ikonta would seem to fill the bill. But beware! The frame spacing on those Ikontas is a mess with modern films, and frames often touch upon and even overlap each other.

    Then there is the Balda. It sports a great lens and shutter. The lens is coupled to the rangefinder. The entire lens moves to focus the camera. (Most folders rely on an adjustable front element in a fixed lens mount.) The camera has an automatic frame advance and counter that works well. It has everything and it works like a dream.

    As for 6x9s, my girlfriend shoots 95 percent of her work with an Agfa Record III and will not be separated from it. She does not seem to have film flatness problems others have mentioned. Her Record has the midlevel Apotar lens, not the fancier Solinar. It was fine enough to win her second place in Ilford's just-concluded postcard competition here on APUG.

    Sanders
     
  25. richard littlewood

    richard littlewood Member

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    Ensign Selfix 820. 6x9, 105mm lens, solid build, compact and goes for round about £40 for a good one. I got one off e-bay, have a look at the equipment page at http://www.richard-littlewood.com to see what I went through so I could use this camera with Delta 3200.
     
  26. André E.C.

    André E.C. Member

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    Hi Alex,

    I can recommend what I own, a 6x9 Zeiss Ercona with a Jena Tessar 105mm f/3.5 T* on a East German Tempor shutter.

    Cheers

    André
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2006