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  1. #1

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    Voigtländer Avus - is it any good?

    So I just won an auction on a fully functional Voigtländer Avus Anastigmat 9X12 135/6.8 with Compur shutter.

    According to the ad it seems to be slightly battered with part of the ground glass missing in one corner, but otherwise fully functional.

    Now my experience with film is mostly 35mm and some medium format with a Mamiya ProTL set as well as having used a few 6X6 Voigtländer folding cameras, but no large format.

    So I ask, as rookie in large format photography - how is the Voigtländer Avus?

    According to camerapedia it seems to be a mid-range camera from sometime between 1915 and 1930, but do anyone here have any experience using it or anything similar? Is it anything like the Speed Graphic for example? Is it like something in between the Graphic and Linhof? Or is it more like just using a large format version of the Perkeo?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    tony lockerbie's Avatar
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    Never laid hands on an Avus, but Voigtlander didn't make bad cameras, especially in the old days. Condition will be the killer, so look carefully at the bellows and also check the lens for cloudiness and fungus. The lens will give quite acceptable results, but low in contrast...may be a bit of a project!

  3. #3

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    I love mine. I have a roll film back so I can shoot anything from 2X2 to 6x9. I also shoot 9x12 fomapan 100 with it. The manual is online so you can read about it. Supposedly the lenses that fit the bergheil will also fit the avus but without the adapter used on the bergheil. You can also do macro with it and you might also try macro with the front element removed.
    greg

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregW View Post
    I love mine. I have a roll film back so I can shoot anything from 2X2 to 6x9. I also shoot 9x12 fomapan 100 with it. The manual is online so you can read about it. Supposedly the lenses that fit the bergheil will also fit the avus but without the adapter used on the bergheil. You can also do macro with it and you might also try macro with the front element removed.
    greg
    Same here. I have a Rada 6x9 adapter - I didn't know about 2x2. The sheet film holders are not easy to come by. Enjoy.

  5. #5

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    Renato,
    Sorry, I meant 2 1/4 x 2 1/4, My Suydam adapter came with three "masks" that drop in under the film carriage. 2 1/4 x 2 1/4, 6 x 9cm and 2 1/4 x 1 5/8.
    greg

  6. #6

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    What lens do you have? The Voigtlander tessar version is the Solinar. I'm not sure what lens is f6.8. I use the Zeiss Maximar. It can definitely produce very good prints to 11x14. And I'm sure bigger but never tried. All my cameras came with lenses that were hazy. The Zeiss tessar is easy to take apart and clean. My only Voigtlander experience is with a Solinar on a cheaper 9x12 Vag. The lens was cloudy but I couldn't get it apart with the tools on hand. Zeiss tessar was much easier. You can still get 9x12 film but you will need the proper holders with film inserts. These can be hard to find and costly. I would recommend not buying a 9x12 camera to use with sheet film unless it's sold with holders (including film inserts) or the proper roll back. If you are looking for a display camera that's another matter. I use my cameras off and on and like the look of the uncoated lenses in contrasty light.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckP View Post
    What lens do you have? The Voigtlander tessar version is the Solinar.
    I think that's a typo for "Skopar", right? (Not sure, but I think "Solinar" was an Agfa lens.) All the Avi I've seen have had Skopar lenses---I'm not sure if they ever came with the triplet lenses or if that was just for the lower-end, and in hindsight unfortunately-named, Vag.

    You can still get 9x12 film but you will need the proper holders with film inserts. These can be hard to find and costly. I would recommend not buying a 9x12 camera to use with sheet film unless it's sold with holders (including film inserts) or the proper roll back.
    Fortunately, the Voigtlaender holder proportions seem to be the most common ones. Kodak/Nagel holders will also work (their combination film/plate holders, which have a built-in spring-loaded pressure plate instead of a separate film sheath, are the best holders of the plate-camera era IMHO). I've been gradually accumulating 9x12 holders in that standard for some years and haven't really had too much trouble finding them. Sometimes they come with a camera attached, and that's how you end up with a cabinet full of plate cameras.

    The Avus itself is a perfectly good camera---it's a dark box and you stick a lens on one side and a film holder on the other, and as long as the bellows is intact all should be well. The Skopar lens is a good design, they were quite well made, but they're around 90 years old at this point and have had lots of time to get scratched or foggy, for the shutter to get broken or sticky, and so on. But I've never heard of an f/6.8 Skopar, and I wonder if the lens has been replaced with something else. When you get the camera, post the fine print around the lens and someone will undoubtedly know what it is.

    It shoots basically like any other large-format camera---focus on the ground glass, swap in the film holder, pull the darkslide, cock and shoot, then realize you forgot to stop down and have to start over---but has some of the feel of a medium-format folder, in a vague way that I can't really put my finger on. You could scale focus instead of using the ground glass, but there's no DOF scale and the focus scale is kind of a fiddly little thing, so I think it would take some getting used to (I've never done much of it).

    It will come with a pack-film back; they always do. It should be possible to convert these into ground-glass backs or something, but I don't know anyone who's actually done it; everyone in the plate-camera world has a million pack holders piled in the back of a cupboard somewhere, convinced that someday a use for them will turn up. Anyway, that's what the strange hinged back with no ground glass in it is, and you might as well choose your cupboard now and put it in there. (No one ever throws them away, including me; I don't know why.)

    9x12 is actually a pretty convenient format. The cameras are fairly small, the film is cheap as sheets go (albeit with a limited choice of emulsions; Fomapan is by far the most common, though Ilford does cut 9x12, I think only for the European market), and you can contact print for a 3.5x5 frame. It's a good way to enter large format, I think. The only real unknown is the lens; if it's a dog, you'll find that out quickly.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  8. #8

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    Whoops. You're right Skopar not Solinar. I must have Agfa on the mind. Thanks.

  9. #9

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    Greg and Nathan - thanks for posting the additional information - very useful.

  10. #10
    johnnyh's Avatar
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    I had an Avus (105mm lens model, the Skopar if I remember), with 6x9 rollfilm back, in the early '70s. Some photos from it are here for example.

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