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Thread: classic folders

  1. #1

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    classic folders

    I had a Zeiss Super Ikonta III but sold it because I didn't like the IQ or the ergonomics.

    I sometimes contemplate getting another folder hoping that I can improve in the IQ and ergonomics but I'm wondering if this is wishful thinking. I know the Tessar is no slouch because the ones fitted on my Rolleiflex is superb so I'd go with the Solinar and Skopar (over the Heliar).

    The two classic folders that come to mind are:
    -Agfa Super Isolette
    -Voigtlander Bessa II

    Then ofcourse there are some modern folders/compacts (Makina, GF670, GS645) but I'm interested in exploring the classic ones. The classic folders should be cheaper, smaller, sleeker, but less ergonomic. The modern folders should be more expensive, larger (but small for MF), and more ergonomic. Image quality depends on taste but I think that all of these should be an improvement to the Ikonta because of the inherent flaw (front cell focusing). The Ikonta wasn't too bad at a distance but up close it left me wanting more.

    I'm not so concerned about the IQ because that is very dependent on condition but more the reliability and ergonomics.

    Reliability:
    Is one of these cameras more reliable than the other? The S. Isolette has a film advance issue, does the Bessa have relibility problems?
    Ergonomics:
    Is the aperture ring and shutter speed clickless and do you cock the shutter on the lens? I really hated that.

    I think that I'd opt for something more modern but I just didn't want to dismiss these cameras right away.

  2. #2
    Aristotle80's Avatar
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    I dunno about the Super Isolette, but my "plain Jane" Isolette has been tops. Compared to my other folding cameras it has the weakest bellows fabric. That Agfa bellows material is probably the same between their models of the same era. I've read that this is a problem for Agfa folders generally compared to other makes. As far as the shutter and lens, no complaints
    I confess I'm a gear nut within my price range. ;)
    Nikon FM2n, FG, FG20, N2000, Nikkormat, Olympus Stylus Epic
    Minox 35EL, Voigtlander Bessa-L
    Yashica-D TLR 6x6, Seagull TLR 6x6
    Agfa Isolette 6x6, Welmy 6x6
    Kodak Tourist 6x9 Anaston lens
    http://www.wendelstout.com/

  3. #3
    cliveh's Avatar
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    The Ikonta is a classic folder and you should not have sold it.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  4. #4
    Klainmeister's Avatar
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    IQ issues? What the heck? Some of the best photos I ever took were from a copy of that camera made by the Soviets.

    I think the Bessa II with either the Color Skopar or the Heliar would be wonderful.
    K.S. Klain

  5. #5
    Peltigera's Avatar
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    With German cameras it much depends on when they were made. I have a Zeiss Ikon Tenax made in 1942 and the lens is so milky it is unusable. Same applies to some lenses made in the early 1930s. My three Zeiss Ikon cameras made in the mid 1930s have excellent lenses (one Tessar, two Novars).

    EDIT: the Super Ikonta III was made in the late 1950s and should have excellent lenses - unless someone has "repaired" them.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Klainmeister View Post
    IQ issues? What the heck? Some of the best photos I ever took were from a copy of that camera made by the Soviets.

    I think the Bessa II with either the Color Skopar or the Heliar would be wonderful.
    If you are talking about the Iskra then that is a copy of the Super Isolette which is one of the best.

    IQ issues because of the inherent design flaw of front cell focusing vs unit cell focusing. I know that the lenses are first-rate, even the cheapy Tessar, but sometimes the designs are just problematic. Thinking about it, I'm just going to stick with TLRs atm...

  7. #7

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    The image quality may have been a result of what Cert06 calls "Tessar disease". Apparently in the old Tessars, the inside glass can become loose and cause what appears in the image to be lens misalignment.
    “You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.” - John Galt

  8. #8

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    If you opt for an older camera, I recommend one that uses the red window on the back for film advance and counting. I've owned Super Ikontas (III & IV), Ansco Super Speedex, Super Isolettes, and Iskras, which all have very complicated film advance/frame counting mechanisms. They are prone to acting up and needing repair. Bessa II is a good choice but they tend to be over-priced. Usually the cheaper versions of the classics without coupled rangefinder, will be easier to maintain. ---john.

  9. #9
    Klainmeister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by puketronic View Post
    If you are talking about the Iskra then that is a copy of the Super Isolette which is one of the best.

    IQ issues because of the inherent design flaw of front cell focusing vs unit cell focusing. I know that the lenses are first-rate, even the cheapy Tessar, but sometimes the designs are just problematic. Thinking about it, I'm just going to stick with TLRs atm...
    Had one them too, good call, but I was referring to a Moskva 5. Took some re-lubing and re-alignment by me and some beer, but after that, a surprisingly excellent performer. Cannot get enough of the 6x9 negs.
    K.S. Klain

  10. #10

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    Some like Dante Stella make a case for giving up on old folders. And as usual he is quite persuasive, and always entertaining to read. But still, I think there is potential for lots of fun with old folders. I picked up an old Mamiya 6 (not the New Mamiya 6) and found the initial results to be rather unimpressive. The contrast was very poor and the edges were washed out. See here But then I bought another broken one in the junk bin and combined elements from the two lenses, picking the cleaner looking ones. I also redid the light seals and finally I found a lens hood for it. The resulting improvement was quite dramatic. See here. Altogether I spent less than $75 on this project, thoroughly enjoyed myself, and added a nice camera to my bag. How can you go wrong there?
    Pentax 67ii, Fuji GF670, Mamiya 6, Pentax 645N
    Chemical Cameras
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