Agfa Super Isolette
Agfa Super Isolette (75mm f/3.5 Solinar lens, 29.5mm screw-in or 32mm slip-on filters, twelve exposures on 120 film, 29.5 oz./837g with film, 3.3'/1 m close focus, about $400 used). enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to all the Isolettes at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.
Top, Agfa Super Isolette. enlarge.
I've been getting my film directly from B&H and Adorama ever since the 1970s; you've never been able to get pro film at local retail stores. I use NCPS to process and scan all my film direct to digital files. If you're reading this, you have a mailbox and can get all the film and processing you need; B&H and Adorama ship worldwide, and NCPS does mail-order work from around the world every day.
Sample Images top
More Sample Images: Route 66, 2015.
The Agfa Super Isolette (also sold as the Agfa Super Speedex) is among the world's best folding cameras. It was Agfa's top-of-the-line camera for the man who deserved the best of everything. It was advertised as the finest of all folding 2¼" cameras, and it is. The only fancier Agfa camera was the Agfa Automatic 66 introduced in 1956 with a built-in meter and automatic exposure!
Unlike many of the cheaper and more popular Isolettes and Speedex cameras, the Super is made with the quiet precision of a fine wristwatch and has a super-sharp Solinar (Tessar) lens.
When new, it had a list price of $150 back when $2,500 bought you a Corvette and $18,000 bought a new house. $150 back then is the equivalent of $1,500 today considering inflation.
Much better than any LEICA, it has an even quieter leaf shutter and shoots medium-format film with resolution that LEICA people merely dream of.
It is a jewel of silent precision, making a LEICA feel lumpy and unrefined by comparison.
Better than other medium format cameras, it has a unique automatic loading feature: simply thread, close the back, wind and go. You don't have to line up any arrows or look in any red windows; a special pointy gear feels for the presence of film as you advance and starts the counter at just the right place all by itself. You can load and wind film with your eyes closed.
Folded for carrying, Agfa Super Isolette.
Ultra-premium cloth with leather covering.
My original 1950s bellows still work great.
Lens System, Agfa Super Isolette.
4-element, 3-group anastigmat Agfa Solinar (same as a TESSAR).
Single coated in blue and amber.
Agfa Super Isolette with 29.5mm Orange filter photographing at Barstow, 07 February 2015.
29.5mm screw-in or 32mm push-on.
Same as many Kodak Retinas.
10-bladed diaphragm marked to f/22, but stops down to about f/45.
Unit focus with helicoid.
3.3 feet (1 meter) close focus.
Simple reverse-Galilean without any framelines; the dark frame defines your photo.
No parallax correction.
Rangefinder spot in center.
5-blade Synchro Compur leaf shutter.
1~1/500 seconds and Bulb.
Double exposure prevention.
Only fires with film loaded.
Some versions have LVS markings.
Standard 3mm ∅ PC terminal.
Synchronizes with flash at all speeds.
X (electronic flash) or M (flashbulb) sync.
Later cameras (not this one) also have a V (self timer) setting.
Twelve 2¼" (6 x 6 cm) square pictures per roll.
Frame counter on top.
29.530 oz. (837.2g) loaded with film with plastic spools.
28.750 oz. (815.1g) with plastic take-up spool only.
MADE IN GERMANY.
Oddly it's not marked East or West.
It is made in Berlin, and the sad part is that Berlin was still so destroyed from the war in the 1950s that you had to walk a few miles just to see a single living tree.
Back, Agfa Super Isolette.
The Super Isolette feels great; it has its focus and shutter releases in the right places.
The Solinar lens is super-sharp from edge-to-edge, even wide open.
It has an automatic feeler to detect the film start so we don't have to waste time lining up arrows or looking through a red hole in the back. The frame counter is fully automatic and resets automatically.
This pointy wheel pokes through the paper backing, and rides-up over the film when it starts to start advancing the counter:
Agfa Super Isolette Film Start Detector.
Look at this camera's precision: it uses helicoids to lock and unlock the spools:
Agfa Super Isolette Spool Holder.
The film advance feels like it runs on ball bearings.
The dark-frame viewfinder is crisp and sharp and the rangefinder is always easy to see.
This camera is completely unlike the ordinary Isolettes and Speedex you'll find at garage sales and at eBay for $10. Those cameras are made of stamped steel and their cheaper three-element lenses focus simply by unscrewing the front element.
The cheaper cameras work well stopped down, but aren't as ultrasharp as the Solinar lens at the sides at larger apertures. The cheaper cameras lack coupled rangefinders; you measure or guess at the distance and set it on the focus scale with the cheaper cameras.
Back, Agfa Super Isolette. enlarge.
Open the back by pulling down on the catch on the lower left as you look at the rear.
Rotate the two knobs under the camera to retract the two precision helicoid spool holders.
Put the empty spool on the right and turn the lower right knob in to hold the spool.
Put a roll of 120 on the left and turn its knob in to hold the spool.
The helicoid spool holders lock when the back is closed. If you forget to lock one before closing the back, you'll have to open the back to move the spool holder knob.
Draw the leader to the right and poke it in the slot of the empty spool. Turn the advance wheel a bit so the leader is firmly caught.
Set the film type reminder on the top left dial; lift and turn. The reminder letters mean R for reversal (slides) and N for negatives (prints). The D is for daylight, and T for tungsten (indoor) color film.
There are no arrows to line up, just close the back and wind until the film counter says 1 and the advance wheel stops.
To pop--out the lens, press the small button on the top left.
Set the exposure time, and then cock the shutter manually for each exposure. Especially at 1/500, set the time before cocking the shutter. You can see if it's cocked through the finder. You cannot release the shutter if you don't have film in the camera, thank goodness.
The top shutter release locks after each exposure to prevent double exposures. If you want a double exposure, try pressing the shutter release directly on the shutter on the front of the camera.
The red dot at f/9.5 is simply for people without exposure meters: for negative film, set f/9.5 and set the shutter to you film's speed. The red 9 feet and 35 feet marks are for people too lazy to focus; at f/9.5 at 9 feet everything from 7 to 14 feet is in focus, and set to 35 feet, everything from 14 feet to infinity is in focus.
There's no parallax marks or correction. If closer than six feet, tilt the camera up a bit after composing.
I use 29.5mm screw-in filters, however I have to remove them to close the camera. I have not tried 32mm push-on filters. You can cut a gel filter to insert in front of the lens and then cannibalize a 29.5mm glass filter retaining ring to hold the gel, and if you do, you can close the camera with the gel filter in place.
To close the camera, focus to infinity and only then press the center of both chrome struts down as you fold the bed into the body.
See also the Agfa Super Isolette Instruction Manual.
I bought mine for $300 used in 1991 and thought I got ripped off. Actually not; turns out it has provided me with decades of fantastic images and is worth more today than I paid for it.
If you buy one, it probably will need service. I send all my classic cameras to Gus Lazzari for repair.
If you've found all the time, effort and expense I put into researching and sharing all this, this ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to all kinds of Isolettes at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
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