Recommendations on a folding 120 RF
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.
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.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
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.
a mind boggling array of answers could be expected from such a broad question..
Originally Posted by stradibarrius
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
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
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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
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 !!
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.
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.
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
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.
Originally Posted by Steve Smith
Can you explain coupled vs. uncoupled RF? I can make some inference but coupled sounds better for some reason.
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.