MF Folders Worth Having
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.
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.
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.
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.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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.:o
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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.
A G Studio
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.
Originally Posted by Alex Hawley
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!
B & D
Quiquid Latine dictum sit altum viditur
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.
Originally Posted by Alex Hawley
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.
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.
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.
Originally Posted by Elox