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©Stephanie Calabrese Roberts Caption: A young Koseli School student admires his teacher during a field trip to the Central Zoo in Kathmandu, Nepal. Koseli School is featured in Lens on Life:...


alex surrey , Dec 04, 2006; 09:35 p.m.




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Ralf J. , Dec 04, 2006; 09:59 p.m.

Alex - first of, caps lock key is found on the left hand side of a US keyboard. And now your question(s): there were several models of Agfa Isolette that came with various lenses. To the best of my knowledge all of them were front cell focusing. The 3 main lenses on the Isolettes were, Agfa Solinar(top of the line), Agfa Apotar(3-element design), and a cheaper lens called the Agfa Agnar. Shutter was usually a Compur or a Prontor. Which lens/shutter combination do you have? As far as focusing, the high end of these cameras came with the rangefinder on the top housing, but most of what's available on ebay have just a regular viewfinder. Without a rangefinder accessory, you would have to guess the distance from camera to subject of interest. These cameras afaik use only one film size, 120, which is still found in most camera stores (not walmart or walgreens). I have an Agfa Isolette I with an 4.5 Apotar/Prontor combination and it is a decent performer.

Jochen Schrey , Dec 04, 2006; 11:48 p.m.

I loved pushed TMY in mine. XP1 or 2 was also great. - Nothing against color. MF slides rock.

The lens focuses if it is still twistable. (Agfas are well known for becoming sticky. Luckily I could relube my Solinar's focusing helicoid from the camera inside, It does fine now.) To check the focusing put the shutter on B trigger it somehow direct at the lens and use a groundglass. The folding mechanism gives a rather solid impression.

Either you like zonefocusing or you should buy something else.

Pete Hobbis , Dec 05, 2006; 12:29 a.m.

I have read a lot on the web about old Isolettes (and Agfas generally) having bad bellows. If you have holes, there will be pale streaks at the edges of the pictures.

Scale focusing isn't difficult. You can easily judge distance down to something like three feet, six feet, twelve feet or more than that, and in good light, that'll do. If you have an SLR with manual focus, you can always use that to measure distances more precisely. Check the focus as Jochen describes; Put a ground glass screen, or something like it (I use translucent plastic, though it's not as rigid as glass) across the square where the film would be; set the lens to infinity, open the shutter on B, and look at someting at least 100 yards away - a telephone pole or a pylon. If that's nice and sharp, it's ok. It is possible for the focus scale to be loosened from the actual front element; so you could have a fault where the scale turns but the lens doesn't focus (perhaps because the lens grease went hard and someone forced it to turn).

I think the J is an I in German script, and the Jsolette is an early model, before they changed it to suit the export buyers. I have the later Isolette III, which has a rangefinder. I love it. It has the Apotar, same as Ralf's. A triplet, but coated, and not bad at all.

For black & white film, try Ilford FP4, or HP5 for low light. For colour negative, I like Fuji NPS 160, but I gather they stopped making it; the replacement is Pro 160 S.

Canal bridge, taken with my Isolette III

Winfried Buechsenschuetz , Dec 05, 2006; 02:23 a.m.

Scale focussing is not difficult provided it is still possible... on most Isolettes the focussing helicoid grease is gummed up. The best way to loosen the focussing ring is using a hot air gun. If you do not want to disassemble the focussing ring turn it to the closest distance and apply some lighter fluid and/or gun/watch oil (just a few drops).

Peter Naylor , Dec 05, 2006; 06:28 a.m.

Alex, there are 100,000 AGFA questions out there and yours has been yet another one of them ..... Seriously , mate, you're going to have to be a tad less coy aboout your Jsolette's Vital Statistics, if we're going to be of some help.

AGFA made their Jsorette/Jsolette/Isolette series of 6 X 6 cm MF folders from 1936 through to 1960. The Jsolette name was applied from late 1937 to 1952. Don't ask why the name was changed - it's probably not that important. However, if you have friends at AGFA HQ Archives in Munchen, I (and a few other thousand collectors) would like to know .....

Like the other guys have said, Jsolettes were made with lenses ranging from 4-element Solinars right down to basic 3-element Agnars and Igestars, with the surprisingly capable 3-element Apotar in between. Shutters ranged from basic Varios and Prontos, right up to the very capable Compur-Rapid. So, which is yours? All of 'em used 120 reel film in 6 X 6 cm format, with some prewar models having capability for 6 x 4.5 cm format also. You'll quickly be able to work out if yours has that dual-format - just look at whether there's a sliding mask at the front of the VF, and if there's a corresponding masking flap inside, near the film plane.

Fixing their problems? Hey, Alex, you don't have to scroll down very far onto previous posts about AGFAs to find they have two particular problems. One is solidified grease, AKA AGFA Green Goo, AKA AGFA Aralditis, etc - this means the focussing movement is either very stiff or totally stuck. With a bitta luck, it can be solved by dripping lighter fluid or squirting electronic aerosol cleaner around the affected bits. The other problem is pin-holed bellows, which is more common with the postwar cameraa than prewar ones. ~~GL from PN~~

Charles Stobbs , Dec 05, 2006; 09:28 a.m.

I had an Isolette for a while, finally sold it because commercial processing of 120 film is inconvenient in my area. All 3 available lenses are supposed to be quite good if stopped down to f8 (mine was the Apotar). They are much easier to carry around than the more available twin lens reflexes. You're better off without the rangefinder, it just slows you down. See the "classic camera repair forum" website for leaky bellows and other repair procedures. Learn to use their "key word search" fornavigating the repair procedures. I like Kodak Portra 160NC in that camera. Have fun.

Paul Shinkawa , Dec 05, 2006; 10:24 a.m.

Green Agfa goo also softens quite easily in high proof ethanol like Everclear. The set screws that hold the Agnar front element in place on the focusing helical can be quite brittle and thus break easily. I suggest putting a drop of ethanol on the heads and letting it soak in before trying to remove them.

Many of the Jsolettes also have bellows cracks. You may have to look for those and patch them.


Mark Wilson , Dec 05, 2006; 11:10 a.m.

Why do you guys love those things so much? There are so many excellent folders without the stuck focussing and with more solid build. I've never used the Isolette (Only a 6x9 Billy Compur with Solinar), so maybe if I tried it I'd discover the secret (?)


Harris Goldstein , Dec 05, 2006; 06:27 p.m.

I've "unstuck" one lens by soaking in lighter fluid then using 2 hose clamps per http://www.davidrichert.com/AGFA%20rebuild/agfa.htm.

One caution. I once purchased a Isolette via mail where the seller assured me the lens turned (but that he hadn't actually used it). What was turning was the ring, not the lens. For $6 plus postage it was still a fair deal.

So as you turn the ring, make sure it's actually focusing the lens.

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