Folding MF cameras...
In about a year I will be going on a trip to Guatemala. Due to the nature of the trip I will not be able to carry my usual camera with me (I shoot mostly LF, but also have a Hassy setup which I use for handheld shots). My wife has told me that I can bring a camera with me if it is small - such as something that would fit in a pocket. 35mm options abound, but I would really prefer a larger negative, so I have been thinking about geting a folding MF camera - perhaps an Agfa Isolette or a Zeiss Ikonta. I was just wondering if anybody in here had any experience with pocket size MF cameras (next I need to start looking for a vest with big pockets ) I shoot almost exclusively B&W if that makes a difference.
I've experimented with a few of them, and I'm most satisfied with the Voigtlander Perkeo II with the Color-Skopar. It's really pocketable, has a nice tessar-type lens, and film flatness with the folding 6x6 cameras is generally better than with the 6x9 cameras. It doesn't have a built-in rangefinder, but I've gotten used to using a shoe-mount rangefinder, and it works quite well.
I recommend a camera that has a built-in rangefinder, either coupled to the lens or uncoupled. It should also have a tessar-style lens, but there are many fine triplets out there. If you stick with B+W you can save money by getting an uncoated lens.
Old Agfa bellows often need to be replaced. Shutters are often sticky and slow.
Your first stop should always be www.certo6.com. Jurgen refurbs old folders and sells them. You have time to put in an order on a favorite camera and wait until he finds one and CLAs it for you.
I like the small size of the Perkeo II but I wish it had a rangefinder. I currently use a Franka Solida II with a Schneider Xenar 3.5/80. A nice combination that is not too easy to find. I am currently testing a Moscow 5 but I cannot recommend it just yet.
A pre-war Welta or a Voightlander for B+W might be ideal.
"There are two ways to avoid most trouble in life: live below your means... and within your seams."
Fuji made a whole bunch. Ranging from basic to full auto everything including focus. They'll be newer then the oldies. Hopefully in better shape. At the very least the lenses will be more modern. The 645 models seem to have dropped in priced.
Okay not all of them fold -)
I have a 6x9cm Zeiss Super Ikonta with the 3.8 Tessar lens. Very compact camera - I believe it weighs about 24oz. and it will fit into a large pocket. Super sharp lens. I'm very happy with it. There are alway some on ebay. The certo6 recommendation by Frank is also right on the money
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I have an Agfa Isolette 1. It was given to me for nothing.It really is super slim, small and light. Completely manual of course.The problems are:
1. No metering and its an uncoupled rangefinder
2. Only three speeds 1/25th 1/50th and 1/200th
Both these issues can be overcome of course. Agfa give you distance ranges for each aperture and if your built-in rangefinder in your head is reasonably good you can manage without a rangefinder erring on a bigger aperture for DoF. Even with three speeds, the latitude of B&W probably means that you'll get by.
The biggest issue for me is that with the standard lens which is 50 yrs old, I don't find the bigger format is any real improvement in terms of neg quality on my 35mm. I suppose it might come into its own if I was printing say 12 inch square but I am not and even then I am not sure. The square format also wastes a lot of print paper. With 8x10 paper the best I can manage with a border is say 7.5 inches or severely crop. With 35mm I get two 5x8s from a 10x8 square.
If its a one-off use due to lack of space I think I'd look at 35mm compacts. You might pick up this particular model for next to nothing but one that doesn't need a new bellows and a CLA is another matter and this adds to the price considerably. It becomes expensive for a one-off use.
Best of luck with your search
My wife Melanie shoots a 6x9 Agfa Record III we bought from Jurgen's site, www.certo6.com. It is a fantastic performer, with an uncoupled rangefinder -- the midrange Apotar lens on hers does fine work. I have a 6x6 Super Baldax, also purchased from Jurgen, that has a coupled rangefinder and I like it a lot -- the coupled rangefinder makes the camera a lot faster to use.
Small fold out 6x6 cameras abound on eBay. I picked up an old Wirgin german camera that takes divine pictures. S/S from B,25,50,100,150th and apertures from f3.5,4,5.6,8,11,to f16. Tripod screw, shutter cable port. But there are many available for very little quid. Whatever a quid is.
Assume that any camera you buy on eBay will need to be serviced, unless you buy from one of the resellers who sell cameras that have undergone CLAs.
The risk of buying from eBay is that you might get junk or you might get a gem. Look closely at the photos.
Among the folders, the Germans probably have the widest variety of models, lenses and shutters.
At the top was Zeiss Ikon (not Zeiss), Voigtlander, Agfa and others.
Kodak also had folding cameras, but most of the ones that you would take on vacation used 620 film, which isn't practical for travel. Some will disagree, but you will need a collection of 620 spools so that you can respool film. Or you will need to prespool a bunch before you leave, but then you run the risk of running out of film because you didn't prespool enough.
Some are zone focus. Some have rangefinders -- uncoupled and coupled.
Zeiss Ikon had Ikonta, Super Ikonta, Nettax and the Nettar.
The Voigtlander models have good to excellent lenses. The weak point is the lens standard, which I think is made of metal that is too thin and susceptible to damage. Otherwise, they're great cameras.
The Agfas almost universally have two common problems: holes in the bellows and hardened grease in the lens helical. Not all Agfas have this problem, but a sizable number do.
Just keep this in mind while scanning eBay for potential deals. I love the folding cameras.
First, think if you want 6x4.5, 6x6 or 6x9. Among the classic folding cameras, there are few or no 6x7 cameras.
The Voigtlander Perkeo gets many nice remarks.
A serviced Agfa Isolette III (6x6) with either the Apotar (triplet) or Solinar (Tessar variant) is a nice camera. Other Zeiss Ikon cameras: the Ikonta (zone focus), Mess Ikonta (uncoupled rangefinder) and Super Ikonta (coupled rangefinder) are nice cameras. The earlier model Super Ikontas (530/16 and 532/16 series) are heavy cameras and possibly not what you want for travel. The postwar Mess Ikonta with a coated Tessar is a nice camera and the lens is very sharp!
In 6x4.5, you have the plain Ikonta (zone focus) with either a Tessar or Novar (triplet) or a Super Ikonta with coupled rangefinder and a Tessar lens.
With 6x9, you have plenty of choices: Agfa, Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon, plus Balda, Wirgin and many others.
Also, Agfa cameras were sold under the Ansco name. The same cautions about the bellows and lens helicals apply. Prewar Agfas seemed to use leather bellows, but have the helicals issue.
You could write a book on folding cameras. Come to think of it, check out Ivor Mantanle's "Collecting and Using Classic Cameras." It's often a bible and/or guide for many classic camera users.