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Category: camera review

Camera Review: Agfa Optima 335

Agfa Optima 335 Sensor (Taken with a Nikon F4 + Ilford Delta 100)

I can’t quite remember where I saw this camera mentioned but I do remember being struck so much by its design that I put a £10 bid on eBay almost immediately for this camera during summer of last year. I put a roll through it in 2016 and it didn’t come out very good. I’d mainly been taking pictures of mates at a party and I was clearly being too optimistic about the light levels. That roll at least proved the camera worked and the few shots that came out well did show nice rendering of colour. 

Fast forward a year during which this camera has been sat on my shelf collecting dust I decided to take it with me to a recent trip to the Big Apple to try my hand at some street photography.

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

It was a bright sunny and incredibly hot day as I walked down from Columbus Circle to 34th street. The camera is so compact and light I just had it held in my hand all the time. This is pretty much the simplest camera possible; the focus is via 3 zones that snap into place (although it is possible to leave the focus in between if you want, and there is a distance scale underneath the lens barrel  – but in reality you’re not likely to use that), the aperture and shutter speed are automatically selected by the camera with no manual override. On the top of the camera there is a huge red button to fire the shutter on the top of the wind on crank thats just asking to be pressed and a small knob to change the crank from advance to return.

I was pretty snap happy, but the light was brilliant, and the shadows promising for some good contrast out of the TMax film. I was interested how the little f3.5 lens would hold up and how good the camera would be at getting a decent exposure. After developing the roll – wow  – I was completely surprised. Most shots were correctly exposed and the lens was really sharp. Sure black and white film has tons of latitude and the availability of light meant the aperture was probably f16 for most of these shots, but still, I was still surprised.

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

This isn’t a 100% positive review however. Upon finishing the roll I went to rewind the film. You do this by rotating a knob to change the crank lever from advance to rewind. After a while the crank seemed to become ineffective. Without really thinking I presumed the film as completely rewound so opened the back. Error. It turns out the gear on the crank must have disengaged somehow. I closed the back on the camera as quickly as I could, then decided to put the camera in a darkbag and then manually wind back the film there by hand.  Luckily the design of the camera came to the rescue. The exposed film is wound on into a little covered section in the camera, so opening the back only ruined 2 images. It seems like great design to alleviate the issue of prematurely opening the back. We’ll see with my next roll how the rewind goes.

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (London, 2017)

Agfa Optima 335 + Kodak TMax 400 (NYC, 2017)

So to sum up – this camera not only looks incredible, but is very well designed from a functional perspective, and appears to perform very well to my eye. For street photography I think its great in looking inconspicuous. Finally, with some P&S film camera’s valuations soaring, this seems to be a really good cheap option to consider. If you’re looking for more control like aperture selection then keep a look out for the higher spec models in this line from AGFA like the 1535 (although I’ve never seen one on eBay UK). You can read more about this camera on the links below:

http://www.camera.portraits.srv2.com/optimasensor.htm 

http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Agfa_Optima_335_Electronic_Sensor 

Ricoh 35FM Camera Review

Specifications

Lens: Ricoh 40mm f2.8 Color Rikenon
Focus: 3 Zones with clicks, but does also have a distance scale in metres.
Shutter Speed: Auto only – not displayed in finder
Aperture: Auto only – displayed in finder via a needle
Meter: CDS sensor on the lens
ISO: 25 – 400
Price Paid: £2.50

Review

I picked up this little compact camera, presumably from the 1970s, from a flea market in Christchurch NZ for the princely sum of $5NZ (~£2.50 at the time). It was completely covered in dust and the light seals were decrepit but it seemed the shutter fired. The needle didn’t move in the finder, but I thought I’d take the risk anyway. It looked pretty cool though and I was intrigued if the f2.8 lens would be a hidden gem. So on my return to the UK I bought some light seal material and had a go at fixing it up. I’d never done this before but its really easy (although more on this later). It took me the best part of a year to actually get through the expired roll of Ilford Delta 100 I put in there, mainly because I kept forgetting to take it with me. There wasn’t much excuse for this – its relatively compact (it’ll fit easily in a coat pocket) and not all that heavy, even though its construction is mainly metal. 

So here came the moment of truth, I decided to start home developing B&W again recently and picked this test roll to be the first. Not great scientific method (testing my B&W developing skills and also a camera I didn’t know if was working in one shot). It became clear quite quickly after removing the film from the Patterson tank after development that something had gone wrong. After inspecting the negatives I deduced there must have been a light leak on one side of the camera. How could that be? Hadn’t I replaced the seals well enough? So I picked up the camera and realised that I’d missed adding a strip by the film door. I guess because all of this had pretty much perished, I’d not noticed that there should be foam here. Furthermore on inspecting the camera I also saw that there was a weird oily looking reflection from inside the lens. This certainly had appeared recently and after some quick searching online for the symtoms the results seemed to imply that the glue in the lens had come unstuck. So in summary, not a great test of this camera, but it does look like they have alot of potential (see a review below with some good image samples) and are going cheap on eBay so why not try one out?

Ricoh 35FM + Ilford Delta 100 (Paris, 2017)

Ricoh 35FM + Ilford Delta 100 (London, 2017)

More information from external sites:

http://beacon225.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/ricoh-35-fm.html

Buy one on eBay

Olympus 35RD Camera Review

This classic Olympus 70s rangefinder is a camera I thought I’d love. After all, it looks stunning, its compact, and on paper has a great fast sharp lens. I’d only ever used SLRs at the point when I bought it and wanted to try a rangefinder with a view that it might get me to try out street photography. Unfortunately it never really lived upto my expectations and despite running quite a few rolls of film through it, I never ended up really enjoying using the camera. 

On paper this camera has some excellent features – a 40mm f1.7 lens and full manual mode (not requiring a battery). To use the meter and auto mode you need a mercury battery which isn’t so bad because you can pick up replacement ‘wien cell’ batteries easily. The downside is that the lens cap is the on/off switch for the meter, and it’ll be wasting power if you leave it without the lens cap on when not in use. I’d always forget and needless to say that meant the batteries didn’t last very long. As for the lens, f1.7 wasn’t really an advantage for me, as the rangefinder patch was pretty dim, and it was a struggle to focus accurately.

I picked this up off eBay winning an auction for something like £35 in 2011. After it fell out of use between the latter half of 2012 and early 2013 oil got on the aperture blades and they got stuck up. So I had to sell it on as spares/repair, which was a shame as I think these go for decent money in working order.

Its funny though that I do still find myself drawn to the Olympus cameras of this era. Maybe I’d have enjoyed the camera more if I’d properly tried street photography and relied more on zone focus. Whilst I wouldn’t buy one of these again, I do find myself tempted to try out the smaller Olympus 35RC.

Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520/2 – First Impressions


So I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to try out a 6×9 camera for a while now, and given how much I’ve enjoyed the folding Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517, I set my sights on another folder. I almost pulled the trigger on one at the Vanves flea market when visiting Paris during my last visit, but upon inspecting it I couldn’t quite figure out if I was doing something wrong or the focus was jammed. Probably the latter so I left it where it was, and did something illogical a couple of weeks later by taking a risk by buying one on eBay that looked very old and tattered. It was only 11 quid though, so what the hell, buying an processing the film costs more than that.

The unboxing was an unceremonious affair and a quick inspection shows that the glass was clean, the shuttered fired nicely on all speeds and the bellows didn’t have any obvious holes. I will admit though prior to this it had taken me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to open the case, back and bellows. The bellows seemed to sag a bit and they didn’t fold neatly in one place, but I guessed that wouldn’t affect the image.

As far as I can tell the camera is a Ikonta 520/2 model which puts it at somewhere between 1929-1937, so over 80 years old. It has a Telma shutter with B,25,100 speeds and a 110mm Novar lens and can take 8 photos on normal 120 film. I missed the first frame because for some reason the backing on my Kodak Ektar was unclear where to start as it didn’t show a 1. The viewfinder if the little circular mirror arrangement on the top right of the front bellows. I must admit it took me the first 4 pictures with the camera to actually realise what this was. Then it dawned on me and I felt a bit stupid for not realising sooner. I felt even more stupid shortly thereafter when I realised the focus scale was in metres and not feet (like the Nettar 517). It was also apparent that the field of view for this lens was much wider than I’d anticipated. Ah well, thats why one does a test roll. 

I got the photos back from being developed today and scanned them in with my Epson v500. The pictures were snapped away at my parents farm in Shropshire the weekend before last as if the roll was successful I planned to pack it to take with my to Zion National Park this week. Alas it was not to be. On the back of the camera is the red film counter window. On the Nettar this has a built in metal cover that goes over it, but on this camera it has none. I almost put something over it and it seems I should have from the red light leak you can see from the below. The other small light leak in the corner doesn’t bother me too much, so if the red patch can be fixed with a simple bit of tape then that’ll do! However I’ll try that out at home instead of in the national parks.

Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520/2 + Kodak Ektar + Epson v500 Scanner (Shropshire, 2017)

Zeiss Ikon Ikona 520/2 + Kodak Ektar + Epson v500 Scanner (Shropshire, 2017)

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517

Summary

Zeiss Ikon, a German camera legend, operated between 1926 and 1972.  Among others, they produced a vast array of folding camera models, many of which can be picked up on places like eBay for next to nothing, whilst some are very collectable still fetching (relatively) premium prices. The Nettar line was the lower tier of cameras produced by Zeiss Ikon, whilst the Ikonta were the premium line. This specific model, the 517, was produced in 1949 has a Novar Anastigmat 75mm f6.3  lens and a Vario Leaf shutter (with Bulb, 1/25, 1/75 and 1/200 speeds). It takes 6×6 photos on normal paper backed 120 film, and there is a little window on the back to show the frame number to help you with winding it on correctly. There is no double exposure prevention mechanism, which may be a useful or annoying thing depending on how consistent you are at winding on the film after a shot.

The pros for this camera: it is so light and small that it can fit in a large pocket. Its also so inexpensive that there is no reason that if you have any desire to try one out, you should just go ahead and buy one. The lens is also surprisingly sharp, when you get it in focus.

The negatives would be the limited shutter speeds and slow aperture on this model, meaning fast film, lots of sunlight or tripod mounting is generally the way to go. 

My Story with this Camera

This camera was given to me by my Great Grandma, who came by it in a roundabout way. It looks barely used and is in fantastic condition. The bellows look pristine, which is the first thing you should check when buying one of these. This was my first medium format camera, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised after the first roll that I got any photos I liked at all. Its a camera thats easy to make mistakes with, either by misjudging exposure, not paying close enough attention to the focus scale or forgetting if you’ve wound it on. In fact when I first used the camera I mainly used it to try double exposures, however now looking back many of those have lost their novelty.

Medium Format film is great and this camera was my first exposure to it. However I did start getting frustrated with the number of wasted shots I made with it, and finally got a Bronica SLR which led to me using this much less. In the future I’m going to revisit this camera, particularly when I want to take an MF camera but can’t deal with the bulk of the Bronica.

Photos

Conclusion

This camera can be a great inexpensive way to experience medium format film photography. It can also be really fun for double exposures, if thats your thing. However its easy to misjudge the focus and exposure, so its worth slowing down when using it. I doubt I’ll ever sell it; I find it remarkable that a camera 68 years old can still produce great images!

Cosina CT1a + Cosinon 50mm f2

Summary

I think this is a fun and capable camera, especially suited to someone who is looking an inexpensive camera to try out film. Its pretty light and small (weighing something like 700 grams with the 50mm F2 lens) so good for travel. It also uses the Pentax K mount so I think there are plenty of lenses you could use at reasonable prices. The functions it has are simple, just manual mode and a self timer, which are good in keeping you focussed on the image. Negatives are that the meter didn’t seem all the greatest and the film advance lever broke off mine and was not easily fixable (I sold the camera as spares/repairs for almost nothing on eBay after this happened). The shutter speed is also limited to 1/1000, although I doubt this is a big drawback to most people (it wasn’t for me). The ergonomics and look of the camera are quite standard and simple, but I do think it looks pretty cool.

My Story with this Camera

This was almost the camera that started my passion for photography. However the first roll I put through it came out with a black line across the top of alot of frames, and the rest were pretty badly exposed. Thinking the camera was broken, I didn’t use it again until 4 years later, when I infact realised it worked fine! So it ended up being the purchase of a digital DSLR (a Nikon D40) that set me on the photography path, and not this. Which is a shame, because this was a fun and capable camera. I think what had happened was me not realising there was such a thing as a max shutter speed for flash sync, and so all of the pictures taken with the flash had that black band at the top of the frame. This is one of the few cameras thats broken during normal usage for me, with the film advance lever coming off and not wanting to go back on. It was sold in 2011 as spares/repairs for almost nothing on eBay.

Photos

Conclusion

Its a decent camera for a film beginner, especially as its so inexpensive. Its simple to use, and can get some excellent pictures with the sharp and fast 50mm F2 lens, but I wouldn’t be too reliant on the meter.

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