Recommendations on a folding 120 RF

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by stradibarrius, Jun 10, 2009.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Are there any of the folding MF RF's that are dependable, take great photos and available?

    I know there are tons of folders out there but I don't want to have to worry about it's dependability.
    And of course it goes with out saying image quality is paramount.
     
  2. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Iskra - Soviet folding RF with full-lens focusing (6x6 cm - sometimes masked to 4.5x6).

    Most have the original advance/frame counter mechanism broken, but have holes drilled into the back for manual advancement (reading the markings on the back of the film rolls).

    The (non-front-focussing) Tessar clones is quite good.

    Apart from the auto-film advance (which is probably dead anyway), they are, very reliable.
     
  3. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    I have a Super Ikonta 533/16 that works well after it had a service. The focus was very stiff and the meter didn't work. All fine now.
    Lots of info on the internet- try Certo 6 .com for some info. I'm wanting one of those Iskra's too.
     
  4. Anastigmatic

    Anastigmatic Member

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    a mind boggling array of answers could be expected from such a broad question..

    to narrow the long list of possible answers down a bit, it helps if you can comment on some other requirements/preferences,

    price range? if no limit then just buy the new Bessa III

    what format, 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9?

    coupled rangefinder or uncoupled?

    coated or uncoated lens (uncoated still produce excellent results and in some cases might be preferable, but you may loose a shot to flare on occasion-lens shade should be used on both)

    is flash sync important?

    unit focusing lens or is front element focusing acceptable?


    Do you require other features? other features like film double exposure prevention, auto film count/stop are nice features to have but in many of the old cameras is their weak point for reliability. getting one good to begin with, treat it well and it will usually continue without problem though. the words Iskra and reliable, mentioned in a positive light, arnt often found in the same sentence, value for money perhaps but quality and reliable, hmm.

    image quality is a matter of personal opinion, but almost all folders will have a 4 element Tessar type lens at best (your not going to find a Planar for instance-though you can get a Heliar), they give fine results though, the late 50's cameras such as the Super Isolette with Solinar or Mamiya 6 with Sekor (and few others as well) give about as modern a look as you can expect without going to the later or the new Fuji (Bessa III) folders. but even the old uncoated Xenar and Tessar f2.8 on the pre-war Weltur give very excellent results with its unit focusing lens in a pretty solid frame

    best image quality will come from the 4 or 5 element, unit focusing cameras, critical quality is less consistent for front lens focus cameras. triplet lenses; while some have an appealing look they dont generally stand up to the scrutiny that a Tessar type will..a couple of triplets are pretty horrible IMO too

    Also you should expect to have a folder CLAC, though it can and does happen often, you cant expect that a 50-70 year old camera isnt in need of a tune up
     
  5. nsurit

    nsurit Subscriber

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    I have both a Voigtlander Bessa RF and Bessa II which produce 6X9 images. Both are it tip top shape and neither is disappointing in the results they are capable of producing.The most like limitation is the guy behind the camera. Bill Barber
     
  6. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

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    Here's some suggestions for starters, assuming you'd like a 6x6 folder. Ranked in order of my preference.


    Iskra - my favourite folder, a very nice camera with a great lens, decent viewfinder and doesn't feel too vintage. You just need to check that the film advance is working properly (my two work fine), or you need to find one that has been modified to use a red window. Oh, and the shutter makes a lovely, mechanical "sssnnick" sound :smile:

    Certo Six - great lens, maybe even better than the Iskra, but the RF mirrors are often in need of replacing. This is fairly easy to check. It can be repaired - I swapped the half-silvered mirror on mine myself. The lens has a 40.5mm filter thread, so filters are easy to find and use. The focus is by a lever, the position of which is not the best - it can cause you problems when using the camera on a tripod, as the lever fouls the tripod head for distances other than infinity or thereabouts. Probably the best made and finished of all the folders I have

    Super Fujica Six - these are not readily available outside of Japan it seems, but they do pop up from time to time on the auction site. Like buses, usually there are none for ages, then several turn up at the same time. Nice lens, decent viewfinder and overall a nice camera to use. Feels lighter than any of the other folders I've listed. Way cheaper than the current Fuji folder !! :wink:

    Mamiya Six - there are various incarnations, with differing lens & shutter combinations. Make sure the slide in pressure plate is there - these cameras focus by moving the film plane, not the lens

    Super Ikonta - again, various incarnations. I prefer the SI III and IV, but the older models are more solid and substantial.

    Any of the above, especially if subjected to a CLA before you start using it, should be dependable. All except the Super Ikontas are unit focusing rather than front-cell focusing. The Certo Six is parallax corrected too.
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Agfa Isolette III (also known as Ansco Speedex Special R which I have) has an un-coupled rangefinder.

    To describe its use would make it sound complex. In reality it is simple to use.



    Steve.
     
  8. arealitystudios

    arealitystudios Member

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    I'd have to second this one. I have an Agfa Issolette III and it serves as my standard street shooter most of the time. It's very fast to operate, incredibly sharp, small, and reliable.
     
  9. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Can you explain coupled vs. uncoupled RF? I can make some inference but coupled sounds better for some reason.
     
  10. aparat

    aparat Member

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    I only have one folder and I really like it. It's the Ansco Super Speedex, which is a re-branded Agfa Super Isolette. It was expensive, but I got it in excellent condition. The camera is old but has modern features, such as a coupled rangefinder, a reliable film advance, and a great lens. As with most vintage cameras, it is important to find one in good condition or factor in the price of a CLA.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Coupled means that when the range finder is adjusted, the lens is focused. Therefore the rangefinder is coupled to the lens.

    Uncoupled means that the user takes the range from the rangefinder and manually sets the lens.

    Steve
     
  12. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    A coupled rangefinder moves the rangfinder mirror as you focus the camera, however the focusing works on a particular model it is "coupled" to the rangefinder, while an uncoupled rangefind simply tells you the distance to subject and you must set the lens focus seperatley.

    Both work fine; they're just different. Which is best depends on how you use the camera and what you like personally. My Ikonta super has a coupled rangefinder, and it works well. But I find that often I use an auxilliary rangefinder and zone focus instead of focusing on each shot.

    The uncoupled viewfinder is usually brighter than a rangefinder and viewfinder combined, but many cameras have one sighting hole for the rangefinder only and a second one to compose the shot. If they are seperate the composing finder is usually much brighter than the focusing finder.

    If you are really serious about getting into a folder, let me sugest a strategy before you drop any real money in it.

    First, get an old beater coupled RF from the big auction site, and don't pay much. Then get another folder, either with an uncoupled rangefinder or no rangefinder (and use an auxilliary rangefinder - my person a preferences since it's not atached to the camera) and try them both out. (Or just use the coupled RF and zone focus like I do.)

    Even if these are junk cameras, you can probably get them working well enough to shoot a handful of rolls to try the two techniques. Like I said, neither is better - they are different.

    Once you have a better idea which style *YOU* like, then start looking for a keeper camera. My personal favorite folder is a postwar Zeiss Super with a coupled rangefinder I bought from Certo6 with the lens replaced by a prewar uncoated lens so I can make those old style creamy-dreamy low contrast pics on Ilford Pan-F (which is kind of contrasty to begin with). If he's got the parts laying around he'll assemble whatever you'll pay for.
     
  13. luvcameras

    luvcameras Advertiser Advertiser

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  14. Anastigmatic

    Anastigmatic Member

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    If choosing a camera with a built in RF (not comparing to a camera without any rangefinder)then a coupled RF is better, no question; as mentioned by Sirius Glass, when looking through the RF and adjusting the duel image to become one image, the lens is set to the correct distance (in focus) in the same simple step.

    With an uncoupled RF you have to read the distance scale on the dial, then tip the camera and read the scale on the lens, then turn the lens to the same distance, then recompose your shot again.

    advantage of a coupled RF is; it saves time by eliminating those steps of transferring the distance and composing twice; more consistent and accurate, particularly when aperture is set wide open (portrait for example); more likely to find a camera that has unit focusing lens (not Zeiss Ikonta though), most (may as well say ALL) un-coupled RF folding cameras have front lens cell focusing only.

    reasons to have an un-coupled RF camera vary; but most of all, because they are cheaper than their coupled RF siblings (i.e.Isolette III is good bang for your buck); wider range of cameras available; the extra step doesnt bother you and you have saved some money; or if you happen to like the 'zone'* focusing method as someone is more inclined to use on a folding camera with no RF at all, which is basically point and shoot. if you prefer to shoot this way but like to have the option to gain some accuracy on occasion (when using the lens on wider apertures or close distance) then its handy step up to have an on board RF, compared to a camera without any RF, of course if the camera is without then you can carry an auxiliary RF. I can see no reason at all to carry an auxiliary RF if the camera already has one built in (coupled or not), unless its not working or image brightness or clarity is not what it should be (in other words needs fixing), that just defeats the purpose.

    *(using the hyperfocal distance scale on the front lens e.g. set aperture between f8-11 and setting distance to either 3m for close subjects or 10m for further away will get most things in focus, same principle as a point and shoot camera, of course you still can use this method on a CRF camera if you wish).
     
  15. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I have bought half a dozen folding roll film cameras on eBay in the last week :smile:

    One thing I have noticed is that everyone wants the coupled rangefinder versions. There is a massive leap in price from the versions without rangefinders to the ones with RF, especially coupled,, even with the same lens / shutter combinations. (I'm thinking Isolettes and Ikontas, for example).

    Obviously, they are the bees knees for convenience - but rather than buy an uncoupled rangefinder version, better I think to buy a rangefinderless model and pick up a seprate rangefinder for the flash shoe. These are very cheap. A really good folder with an excellent lens can be had at about a quarter of the price or less than the equivalent coupled RF version...
     
  16. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    I have three cameras I can comment on from hands on experience:

    1) Certo Six.

    -For best image this is up there with my Hasselblad. Good wide open.
    -The thing was repaired by acquiring a new 1/2 silver mirror for the beamsplitter and fixing a few shortcomings that weren't too difficult.
    -Has, absolutely, the best lens in my group.
    -Unusual focus mechanism, has parallax correction.
    -Cannot be closed with shutter cocked.
    -Frame spacing just OK. -
    -Quite hard to find and expensive when you do.

    2)Super Ikonta 532/16 with coated Opton Tessar.

    -This is my favorite folder, perhaps my favorite camera overall.
    -Lens softer than the Certo Six. (front cell focusing)
    -Easy to use
    -Frame spacing just OK.
    -Looks magnificent.
    -Not too expensive when all things considered, and relatively easy to find.

    3) Super Ikonta IV

    -More compact than the Certo or Super Ikonta 532/16
    -Front cell focus lens. Sharpness no better than 532/16, not as good as Certo Six.
    -Focus a little easier than my other two cameras.
    -Light weight.
    -Good handling
     
  17. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Steven's suggestion that if you are not going to get a coupled RF then why get any RF at all just get a shoe mount RF??? Opinions please. I do have two fixed lens, coupled RF's, A Konica Auto S2 and a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. The Konica is currently having a CLA performed on it and I hope to get it back next week. I think a RF would be a great camera to use for IR photography. I love the Med. format...I have an RB67 that is super. So that leads me to my interest in medium format RF's. Plus I have always loved old stuff that really works well! I don't like old or new stuff that is temperamental and undependable.
     
  18. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Maybe we should fill you in on some of the drawbacks of older folders and possible solutions. In no particular order:

    1. The bellows may have to be replaced. Some brands tend to need this more than others.

    2. After all these decades, the shutter may need a CLA to be accurate.

    3. There is more limited depth of field with longer focal length lenses used in medium format cameras to cover errors in rangefinder focusing, particularly with close subjects. It helps to back off, distance-wise, and to stop down.

    4. With repeated use the front standard may get sloppy and out of parallel with the film plane.

    5. Some users report film flatness problems with folders, especially 6x9's. Supposedly it helps not to wind the film until one is ready to take the picture, so that there is more tension on the film. This also helps avoid the problem of sucking the film forward when unfolding the camera.

    6. Rangefinders seem to get dimmer with age. I don't have much success with using them indoors in dimmer light.

    7. Some people report that using the self-timer screws up an older shutter. I believe that I might have created such a problem by accidentally setting off the self-timer on my Ercona II. External self-timers are available and are probably safer.

    8. The springs holding the rear pressure plate in place may get less springy with age, again contributing to film flatness problems. Some people report that gently pulling on the pressure plate helps firm up the tension. I wouldn't do this unless you think that you are having a problem.

    I hope that there is something there that might prove useful to you. I love my folders, but they do have their weaknesses.
     
  19. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Thanks Charles, that is all very useful info!