Tag: folder

CCR Review 79 – Kodak Retina IIIC

CCR Review 79 – Kodak Retina IIIC

Before Apple picked up the name Retina, it attached itself to a line of folding German Kodak cameras. Wait, isn’t Kodak an American camera brand you may be asking. And yes, you’re right but their German branch, Kodak AG, had a rather strong reputation in bringing inexpensive but solid performance cameras to market, and their iconic line, Retina. And while the camera is classified as a folder, it lacks the distinctive bellows that prove to be a weak spot in these cameras. Armed with German rather than American optics the cameras are solid performers if a bit fickle in their operation. A note to the reader, this review is for the Retina IIIC, not the older IIIc; there is a difference. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning the camera out for review.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIc

The Dirt
Make: Kodak AG
Model: Retina IIIC (028)
Type: Rangefinder
Format: Miniature Format, 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable (Front Element), Retina Bayonet
Year of Manufacture: 1957-60

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Good
There are a couple of items that make the Retina IIIC a strong camera. First and most important is the lack of bellows. This fact right off the marks clears off a major weak point for many of these cameras a solid all-metal construction from top to bottom, front to back means that is one less thing you need to worry about when picking up the camera. The second is that the camera has German optics, while many during this time clamoured for Kodak Ektar lenses, Germany was started to show off its optical prowess outside of Zeiss and Leica. And the Rodenstock Heligon lens is no underachiever, sharp and a f/2 max aperture is no slouch on a camera aimed at the consumer market. I would have prefered something a bit wider (say 35mm or 45mm), but I can’t complain. In hand the camera is small, and while I’m not too impressed with the general layout, the one part that makes sense to me is the placement of the film advance. It’s on the bottom of the body and if you hold the camera properly the placement makes a lot of sense. Not to mention it’s a short throw that also cocks the shutter, just be careful in managing the film counter, one wrong press and you’ll jam the whole thing up, but it’s easily fixed. You have a bright viewfinder with an integrated rangefinder and the all-important framing guide, so composing images is a no-brainer.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Bad
Despite all the praise, the Retina IIIC is a camera well past it’s prime even when it was new. First, the style, making this camera a folder was a mistake in my view, the giant side open front door and folding option on the camera takes away from the compact design. Sure when you fold it up it’s sleek and compact, but when you open it up, you’re no longer a compact camera. The Retina could have maintained a compact design without folding up. Also, you have to put the lens back to infinity focus to close up the front section. As I mentioned this camera is small, everything is small on it from the exposure controls on the front of the lens, the shutter release, the exposure counter release, and even trying to find the focus knob is fairly tough. I mean I’d take the size and controls of the Olympus XA over those of the Retina IIIC. It’s just a rather cramped experience overall, and not in a good way, in an I’ve been stuck on a German U-Boat at the bottom of the ocean for several weeks. Watch Das Boot, and you’ll get it.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Lowdown
I had high hopes for the Retina, I honestly did. I found a cramped camera that really should have been designed differently. The small size and finicky nature of the camera made for a rather unpleasant shooting experience. Despite so many things going for this camera, you really should try it first before you go out and buy it. I believe much of this has to do with the fact it was built by the German branch rather than Rochester (North America), the design philosophies are different and seen. I think the Retina would have been a stronger camera that lasted far longer had Rochester taken a heavier hand in its design. If you like one, you’ll get a nearly indestructible camera with a strong optical performance that will last you until the cows come home.

All Photos Taken at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario
Kodak Retina IIIc – Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 1:2/50mm – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-800
Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 70 – Voigtländer Bessa

CCR Review 70 – Voigtländer Bessa

When it comes to folding cameras, not all cameras are created equal. Many are simply box cameras dressed up with some bellows, while others have full on rangefinders and exposure control. While the Voigtländer Bessa is not top dog, it certainly is a little more usable than a simple box. The Bessa is a step up from a simple box but lacks a rangefinder to couple the manual focus. Couple this with a solid lens, with a full range of aperture and shutter speeds, makes this a solid choice if you’re looking for a folder. The Bessa is a long line of folding cameras that began in 1929 and lasted until 1949 with several changes over the course of product manufacture. This particular model dates between 1935 and 1937. It came into my collection through my Uncle Harvey, brother-in-law to my mother, it belonged to his father who used it well into the 1950s before switching to motion picture film to capture family memories. Special thanks to Uncle Harvey for trusting me with a family camera.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

  • Make: Voigtländer
  • Model: Bessa
  • Type: Folder
  • Format: Medium, 120/620, 6×4.5/6×9
  • Lens: Fixed, Voigtländer Anastigmat Voigtar 1:4,5 F=11cm
  • Year of Manufacture: 1935-1937

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Good
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past reviews is that age doesn’t always mean poor performance. In fact, I’ve had successfully quality images from cameras far older than the Bessa. And the Bessa certainly delivers, the Voigtar lens, based on the Anastigmat design, provides quality sharp images at any aperture, I mostly shot these at f/11 or f/8, the reason will come in the next paragraph. While not exactly the fastest lens on the block at only f/4.5 I only found this to be a problem once and only because I was shooting the film at ASA-50. When it comes to handling, the Bessa is a decent shooter. Probably top on my list is that there’s a shutter release on the lens door, makes it nice and easy to shoot either landscape or portrait. By default the camera shoots in the big and beautiful 6×9 format and produces fantastic images as such, the 11cm (110mm) lens is perfect for the format with no vignetting or fall-off in any corner. But you will only get eight frames per roll. However, you can add a mask to the camera and use the second frame counter window and produce 6×4.5 format images that double the number of exposures per roll to 16. Of course, you need to add a mask to the camera, a mask I don’t have but can be produced I have yet to create such a mask. And finally, the camera is designed to accept both 120 and 620 film rolls, while less of an issue today such compatibility between Kodak Films and everyone else certainly helped the average photographer.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Bad
The Bessas are old cameras, with the earliest models being 88 years old and the youngest dating to 68, not exactly spring chickens. I was lucky that this particular camera is in great working shape. The first thing is that the bellows can get damaged. While some might let in just a bit of light and give a distressed look to the images, others might leak like a sieve and ruin any film run through the camera. Lenses haze over, shutter stick, so if you are looking at one, try and sort out the general shooting capacity of the camera before purchase. Let’s move on, there are two serious issues and two minor issues I have with this particular camera. The first and most severe in my mind is the film winder. Being a dual 120/620, it’s a pretty substantial piece of metal, and I found that it chewed through the plastic take up reel. Thankfully I was able to run through the eight frames before it stopped advancing and I was able to extract the film with a change bag. But for future use, I’ll probably want to stick to either a 120 or 620 spool that is metal. The second issue I have with the camera I eluded to in the previous paragraph, and that has to do with focus. The camera is a manual focus lens without a rangefinder, so you have to give a rough guess on the focus or use an external rangefinder, realising this I made a point to shoot mostly to infinity and stop it down to at least f/11 to get a decent depth of field. The only shot I made at f/8, I missed focus by a touch. If I take this camera out again, I’ll be sure to pack the external rangefinder; it worked great with the Pony 135. The two remaining issues are minor, first is that the lens is uncoated, so you only want to shoot black & white film through the camera to get decent results. And secondly, the shutter speed maxes out at 1/125 of a second. So you don’t want to go shooting Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5+ through the camera unless you plan on seriously pulling the film in development and exposure.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Lowdown
When it comes to folding cameras this one, despite the issue with focusing, is a real winner. Certainly would be a good choice if you frequent World War II reenactments, even if it’s just a prop but kudos if you use it to shoot. And if you do find a camera in good working order, it certainly won’t let you down. If you do shoot with the camera, remember when this camera came out Ilford had just released HP (the great-grand daddy of HP5+) and rated at ASA-160. You’ll mostly want to stick to Ilford FP4+, Kodak TMax 100, Ilford Pan F+, Fomapan 100, Ultrafine Xtreme 100, or Rollei RPX 25 to get the best results out of this camera. And the best part is shutter speeds are perfect for Sunny-16 style metering (1/125 to 1/25) and if you’re lucky enough you might even find one with an original metal reel inside. Just remember to save the reel or simply remind you lab to return it.

All Photos Taken In The Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Voigtländer Bessa – Voigtländer Anastigmat Voigtar 1:4,5 F=11cm – Ultrafine Xtreme 100 @ ASA-50
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 52 – Agfa Ventura Deluxe

CCR Review 52 – Agfa Ventura Deluxe

If there is one type of cameras that I have little experience with its folders. Back in the summer, I did have a chance to review one; nothing could prepare me for the Ventura. It’s a camera with a bit of an identity issue, in addition to the Ventura Deluxe it could also be the Ventura 66 or the Isolette II, and while this camera did not perform how I thought it would it did give me a pleasant surprise. The history nerd in me also digs the fact that the camera was made in the “US Zone” part of the occupation of Germany after World War II.

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura 66

The Dirt
Make: Agfa Camerawerk
Model: Ventura 66/Ventura Deluxe/Isolette II
Type: Point & Shoot
Format: 120, 6×6
Lens: Fixed, Agfa Apotar 1:4,5 F=8,5cm
Year of Manufacture: 1952-1955

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

The Good
There are two things the Ventura Deluxe has going for it if you’re looking for a toy camera that isn’t anything that is more common on the market. You have a glass lens, the Apotar is sharp in the middle and has some fall off at the edges with the vignette. And you have a lens that can stop all the way down to f/32 so if your focus is seized at the top end or near the middle of the focus scale you can still pull out images that has most of the scene in focus.

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

The Bad
The Ventura is an old camera and such there will be a lot of age related issues with them. The first and the biggest is that the focus helical can seize and in the case of mine it already has. It can be fixed, but not without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on my part. Thankfully for my camera, it is set at the infinity focus point so I just make sure to stop it down to get the depth of field. Another problem that could plague this camera are the bellows. When looking at these cameras get out a flashlight to check for pinpricks both outside and inside. But then again if you’re buying one to rock them as a toy camera some light leaks might be a welcome!

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

CCR Review 52 - Agfa Ventura Deluxe

The Lowdown
While the Holga system is no longer being produced finding a decent 6×6 toy camera can be an expensive proposal, but the Ventura 66 certainly fits that bill at least for me. You have a fixed focus camera, with exposure control, a decent lens that while glass gives a nice soft low-contrast look and vignettes your edges. While the camera wasn’t built like a toy camera, age has certainly made it that way, and I’m okay with that.

All Photos Taken in Oakville, Ontario
Agfa Ventura Deluxe – Agfa Apotar 1:4,5 f=8,5cm – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-400 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 42 – Zeiss-Ikon Super-Ikonta 531/2

CCR Review 42 – Zeiss-Ikon Super-Ikonta 531/2

Indiana Jones, style, class and a taste for adventure. The 1930s were a great time save the crippling economic depression and Nazis but who needs to worry about those when you have a slick looking camera that can turn heads and take find photos as well? Two things that make the folding style of camera special. The first is that they don’t take up a lot of space, second, they look fantastic! And while I don’t use this style camera much, in fact, I don’t even own one; the Super-Ikonta is a beautiful camera and fun to operate. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning this camera out for this review!

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Dirt
Make: Zeiss-Ikon
Model: Super-Ikonta 531/2
Type: Rangefinder
Format: Medium Format (120), 6×9
Lens: Fixed, Novar-Anastigmat 1:3,5 f=10,5cm
Year of Manufacture: 1938

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Good
I like this camera, it’s fun to use and looks fantastic! Plus the images it produces are wonderful, aside from a bit of camera shake, the image’s optical quality is spot on. Plus who can complain when you have a nice big 6×9 negative. But one of the best parts of this size, despite producing such a large negative the camera itself, when folded, is actually fairly compact. It doesn’t take up a lot of space in your kit when it is folded up. The final key to this camera being far better than many other folders out there is right in the name, ‘super.’ Most German cameras in the era would add the “Super” in front of the name to indicate that the camera is a rangefinder. That’s right, this camera from the thirties has a complete coupled rangefinder that when you’re composing the shot makes it really handy to ensure you’re in focus. And speaking of compostion, the viewfinder on this camera, while it lacks any sort of optical qualities other than two metal frames you look through, it actually pretty easy to use and you get minimal error due to offset from the viewfinder to the lens which is a big deal!

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Bad
Now despite actually being an excellent camera, there are some issues that I have with it. And those issues are mostly around usability. The Super Ikonta is not the fastest or simplest camera to operate. While the rangefinder is handy, the focusing window is pretty small, and unless you have superb contrast in the scene the image overlay is pretty dim, that could be due to the age of course. And don’t expect to be rapid firing this beast, not that you should, with 6×9. You’re looking at a three step process, advance the film first to disengage the double-exposure prevention lock, then advance to the next frame then cock the shutter. Trust me; I forgot this at least fifty percent of the time. Of course being a first time user it may just be due to not having the practice for the camera.

CCR Review 42 - Zeiss Ikon Super-Ikonta 53 1/2

The Lowdown
If you want more shots for your roll, this certainly is not your camera, but if you’re looking for quality over quantity than this is certainly a camera for you. But if you are looking for such a camera you have to watch out for a few things. The first being these are for the most part all timeworn cameras. The first thing to check for is the bellows, make sure they’re still light-tight. Use a flashlight inspection both on the inside and outside of the bellows will do the trick. Then check the shutter and make sure it’s working well and consistently. You may notice that there were several images included here that had a lot of camera shake, I think the shutter on this one is off slightly.

All photos taken in Marquette, MI
Zeiss-Ikon Super-Ikonta C 531/2 – Novar-Anastigmat 1:3,5 f=10,5cm – Kodak Technical Pan @ ASA-25 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. F 12:00 @ 20C