Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Agilux Agifold

AGI, who made this camera, are an aeronautical instrument maker - still in business - rather than a camera maker and it shows. During WWII, AGI made military instruments and that pedigree is followed in this camera. It is large and heavy and has no small controls so easy to use with cold hands, with gloves on, when frightened . . . 

lens: Agilux anastigmat
focal length:  9 cm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/32
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Agifold
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/125, B, T
flash: two pin connector
film size: 120 or 620

Outwardly it is much like any other folding camera - Kodak, Zeiss Ikon, Voigtlander, Agfa all made similar. The main physical difference is the large double viewfinder. This consists of one large housing containing both an eye-level finder and a waist-level finder. The waist-level finder is pretty much a pre-war brilliant finder. This viewfinder housing also double as the catch for the lens board - it moves to one side to open the front. This housing is central on the top of the camera. Beside it is a shutter release button. This button links, via a series of links, to the shutter release on the shutter housing - again, standard fare for a mid-twentieth century folding camera. On the other side of the shutter housing is the film advance knob. this is nice and large and easy to use. Being a 120 format camera, there is no film rewind.

The shutter is made by AGI themselves but outwardly it looks much like a Compur or Prontor shutter. The adjustments are in the same place the main difference being the shutter cocking lever which is on the underside of the housing - rather inconveniently. The shutter release is also on the underside where it nicely links to the body release. The actual shutter itself is not in the same league as Compur or Prontor - it has only two leaves and is rather reminiscent of a box camera shutter. The speed selection is non-standard as well. 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 are much as I would expect from 1948 but the next speed is 1/125 - the increase in speed is so small as to be pointless. It is usual for the shutter speeds to double in speed from one setting to the other which is one stop reduction in exposure but this is a 25% reduction and it is hard to see a use for it.

The lens is also made by AGI themselves (at least as far as I can gather from information on the Interweb) and is a 9 cm focal length (or 90 mm in modern parlance). The negative size is 6x6 cm so a normal lens would have a focal length of 85 mm. That makes this lens slightly longer than normal for the negative format, but not seriously so. The lens is coated (not a given in 1948) but I suspect only on the front surface. This has the distinct blue cast of a coated lens but the rear element is clearly not coated - no blue cast.

Being a 120 format camera, there is a window on the back to allow the user to see the frame numbers when winding the film on. Traditionally, these are red - red because early film was orthochromatic and not sensitive to red light - but on this camera you get a choice of red or green. There is a slider to uncover one or the other of these two coloured windows. What there is not is a cover for both windows which would have gone further in preventing fogging of the film.

I have been referring to this as a 120 camera but in fact it is a dual format camera - it will take either 120 or 620 film. The only difference between the two is the spool (the actual film being the same size with the same frame number spacing) and the spool holders here will take both sizes. The camera came to me with a 620 spool in place and I have now fitted a 120 spool to check the fit.

There is no accessory shoe so no way to fit either a rangefinder or a flash gun.  However, there are flash contacts - not the industry standard PC socket but two metal posts on the side of the shutter housing. These can be seen in the photograph of the lens above on the top right of the shutter housing.

When I took delivery of this camera, it was in quite a sad state. It had obviously been in a smokers house - it was covered in a sticky brown deposit - and also stored somewhere damp. Diligent use of WD40 and cotton buds has brought the camera up nicely - not quite in showroom condition but just about presentable. The shutter is not quite as I would like. An hour or so of dry-firing the shutter has it firing reliably and it sounds to be in the right general area speed-wise. One fault it has is that when set to 1/100 seconds and fired a few times the shutter resets itself to 1/50 seconds.

I am still in two minds as to whether I am going to try a film in this camera but if I do I will post the results here in due course.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Mamiya EE Super merit (AKA Mansfield Eye-tronic)

Mamiya made cameras both for themselves and for re-badging by other companies.  This camera is re-badged by the USA company of Mansfield. It is badged as a Mansfield Eye-tronic but is actually a Mamiya EE Super Merit. This model was also available in the USA as a Honeywell Electric Eye 35 and in the UK as the Vulcan.  The camera is well designed and well made as I would expect from the Japanese in 1962 (the year of this model's introduction, in September).  That makes this camera 50 years old (give or take a year) - and it is in very good condition. It all functions as it should, the only real deterioration being the foam light seals - as is usual on Japanese cameras of any age, these are reduced to a sticky goo and I have partially replaced them. The seals I have replaced are the two ends: around the hinge and around the catch. The long seals top and bottom of the back look to be recessed enough not to cause any trouble - I shall see for sure when my test film is completed (12 exposures of Fomapan 200 Creative).

lens: Mamiya-Kominar badged as Mantinar
focal length:  40 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Seikosha
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm

Front view - lens with a Petri UV filter in place

This camera is about the standard size and weight for a fixed-lens Japanese rangefinder camera of the period. it measures 130 x 60 x 80 mm and weighs xxxg. Of the three Japanese rangefinders I own, this is the most thoughtfully designed. 

The top plate is spare. On the left is the rewind crank which is slightly proud of the top plate when not in use. In the centre is the accessory shoe - a cold shoe as it has no flash contacts. In front of then accessory shoe is stamped the name "Mansfield" - this would say "Mamiya" on a non-re-badged version or "Honeywell" or "Vulcan" for the other brands of re-badged Mamiyas. On the right of the top plate is the frame counter - this counts down to zero so needs to be set at the film length when you load the film. I don't usually bother with frame counters - I just keep using the camera until the increased tension in the film advance tells me the end has come. With this camera it is, if not essential, then very useful to set the frame counter as when the film is finished the film advance lever keeps moving with no change in tension. What this camera does is when the frame counter reaches zero the word "END" appears in the viewfinder. You can keep winding the film and pressing the shutter release but the film is not moving and you are repeatedly exposing the same last frame.
Top view
The front has no surprises. The viewfinder bezel is at the top. This is black plastic with a very worn (on my camera) chrome outline. The viewfinder is slightly to the left of the lens and the rangefinder window is slightly to the right (both as when using the camera).

The viewfinder has bright-lines and the display for the light meter. There are no parallax markings for close-ups as the viewfinder physically moves as you focus the lens. This is quite a sophisticated facility for a mid-range camera. The viewfinder also includes the word "END" when the frame counter reaches zero.

The rangefinder spot is yellow (as is usual) but is an undefined blob which makes using the rangefinder harder than it should be. Having said that, it does work in good light - test photos will tell me how well. Both the light meter and the rangefinder are coupled.
Below the viewfinder bezel is the shutter assembly. The shutter is made by Seikosha and is a leaf shutter. the camera offers a choice between automatic and manual exposure control. In auto, the required shutter speed is set and the diaphragm set to auto - the camera selecting the aperture. See the notes on the test film to see how well this works. If you want manual control of the exposure, you can set the aperture as well as the shutter speed. the light meter display in the viewfinder will tell you the required aperture for the set shutter speed (the only time you need to look at the light meter display) or you can use a hand-held light meter to gauge exposure (see below where I have tried all three methods on one picture).

On the bottom of the shutter housing is the selector for the film speed. this shows the camera's age as it goes as low a 10ASA/11DIN but only as high as 200ASA/24DIN. The lens itself is surrounded in common Japanese fashion with a circular selenium light sensor. This means it is always pointing the same way as the lens and gets covered by any filter used. In turn, this means that no exposure compensation is needed with filters - as good as you can get without TTL metering. Incidentally, selenium means that no battery is required for the light meter to work.
Underside of lens showing DIN/ASA selector
To the right of the shutter housing is the shutter release button. Personally, I do not like face mounted shutter releases but I have to admit that this one is fine in use. There is a screw socket for a cable release but this is on the top plate. On the opposite side of the shutter housing is a PC socket for flash. There is no means of synchronising  the flash so I assume it is intended for FP bulbs or electronic flash.

The back of the camera is very plain - just the viewfinder eyepiece and the film advance lever. Inside, film attachment is very simple and is about the easiest I have ever come across. There is a generously wide slot with a prominent tang to fit into a sprocket hole. Most 35mm cameras have a shaft with top and bottom sprocket wheels. Not here. There is a single large sprocket wheel below the film gate. This does nothing with the back open making it easy to secure the film to the take-up spool - the film advance will keep moving the film without the user having to repeatedly press the shutter release. Once the back is shut, this sprocket wheel will only allow one frame to advance at a time.
Shutter set to shutter priority automatic exposure
The base of the camera is also bare - just the tripod boss (1/4 inch) and the rewind button.
Shutter set to manual exposure.

Test film results.

The results are good. In the pictures, the horizontal bars to be seen in the sky in some pictures are a scanning artefact due to the negatives being a bit thin (i.e. under-exposed). Overall, both focus and exposure are as they should be producing usable negatives. Although not all the negatives have scanned well, they would produce reasonable silver -prints.
Derelict factory, Stamp End, Lincoln

Social housing estate, Lincoln

River Witham, Lincoln

 This next photograph is a test of the rangefinder. I focussed on the nearest pale ball on top of the black steel fence. It is not quite in focus - focus being just a bit closer than it should be (look at the black top rail of the fence just this side of the pale ball).
Rangefinder test

Stamp End lock, Lincoln

River Witham, Lincoln

 This is what happens if you continue to take pictures after the film has ended. The camera does nothing to stop you (apart from displaying the word "END" in the viewfinder) and you end up with multiple exposures on one frame.
The last frame of test film - multiple exposure
 These last three show the effects of 1) using automatic exposure, 2) manual exposure using the built-in meter and 3) manual exposure using a separate hand held meter. All three are exposed well enough to be usable with the automatic exposure perhaps being the best exposure. it is a bit surprising that using the built-in meter automatically differs from using the same meter manually, but the difference is there.  This is possibly due the the camera being able to select in-between aperture values while with manual exposure you have to use one of the marked aperture values. The last exposure, using my trusty (and trusted) Ikophot meter is of more concern as it is clearly rather underexposed.
Child's bike - auto exposure

Child's bike - manual exposure using built-in meter

Child's bike - manual exposure using Zeiss Ikon Ikophot hand held meter.