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How to buy a folder camera
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:15 pm    Post subject: How to buy a folder camera Reply with quote

Please share your thoughts , advices here for beginners who never used before folder cameras , but love to have or more Wink

Here is my guide:

These cameras are minimum 50 yrs old ones without proper maintenance background risk to get a non-working non usable one is high even if you pay $$$ and seller say shutter sound is accurate Laughing Laughing and looks works.

Not the brand is most important for well know brand you need to pay lot more than lower respected one and quality is not automatically better than lover respected ones. MOST IMPORTANT THING: Buy from a photographer who able to show you samples taken with actual camera and seller declare he did try it with film and result was excellent at infinity and closer distance too.

If you can't follow above lines about several reasons, here is a quick guide what should you look for.

1) Smell it Smile if camera has nasty smell this means it was stored in damp environment and even if not yet fungus on lens (because it was cleaned) it will come again.

2) Check with Led torch in B setting lenses are how clear , some scratch are fine , but big haze makes pictures to unusable.

3) Check shutter at B and 1 sec if 1 sec works you can measure it with stop watch all other speeds usually works at least on half speed.
Which is pretty much okay to use camera for every purposes.

4) In a dark room check holes on bellow with a led torch .

If all above tests is positive you can pay it and take home.

At home measure real speeds with shutter tester make a table with real speed and you can use in field to compensate slowness.
For example none of my camera reach 1/400 even after cla'd by best professional they reach only 1/220 which is no big deal with print film , but makes trouble with slides.


Last edited by Attila on Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:08 am; edited 2 times in total


PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent idea, Attila!

I would add: break these rules only if a) the price is very low and b) you don't mind taking on a project or doing vintage/holga type of photos, or you just like the looks for display or play.

Lenses - like Attila says, clarity is important, though often a lens will clean up very easily, it's not always apparent whether the end result will remain cloudy or not. Don't be afraid of triplets, especially if they are non coated - for folder style photograpy you'll want to shoot stopped down most of the time, and triplets are cheaper and often better than 4 element lenses, after all these years. Also, remember that with vintage glass, a slower lens often is the contrastier and sharper one.

Shutters - a basic cleaning can get a shutter running though never as well as one that's already in good shape, or one that's been CLAd. On the other hand, if it works though not necessarily accurately, you can still make pictures. It depends on what you are willing to use.

Bellows - small pinholes are fixable, though you may need to fix the holes every couple of years. If a bellows is shot, you need to find a replacement etc. which may or may not be more than you want to do.

Age - on average, folders from the '50s are the most usable in modern terms. Do some research on each brand's problems - e.g. Agfa frozen front elements and bad bellows - so you know what to look for. These cameras have coated lenses - you tend to pay more for 4 element lenses, which may or may not be better than triplets in actual use.

Pre-war folders are getting old, and the overall condition is important, the lens may be cloudy (and isn't coated), the shutter speeds may be limited, etc. In general, though, I've found that late 30's cameras fitted with a good quality lens are excellent picture takers... earlier ones, and those with lesser lenses, will give you a vintage look - again, on average, there are always exceptions.

Basically, my experience is that as long as the bellows is OK and the lens is of good quality and clear, everything else can be compensated.

Built in range finders etc - these tend to jack up the price, and while useful (when correctly adjusted) they tend to be squinty, and with a little practice and cojones you can get by just fine without them.

Adjustments to do: there are several guides online on adjusting your lens to correct infinity. Do so, especially if you take the elements out to clean them. Correct infinity makes everything else work better. I like the 'bringing infinity indoors' method of putting a target on the film rail, and then looking through a good SLR with a long fast lens to do the infinity setting, but the ground glass method is good as well.


PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Jussi for improvments!


PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Notes on shutters -

Almost every pre-WWII folder I have bought (it must be more than thirty of them so far) has a shutter problem.

Most shutters on old folders are not worn out, because they were almost never used enough for that. Most shutters are actually like new as far as wear. The real problem almost always is that they are just corroded or dirty.

Easy or hard to fix ?

Easy -

Vario, Pronto, Prontor - all versions of Prontor -
Wollensak Rapax
Kodak Kodamatic later rim-set version, Synchromatic

Almost always - Take the lenses out, soak the shutter in lighter fluid, and let it dry. This usually fixes everything. A little bit of oil on the gear teeth you can reach will also help. Its not even usually necessary to open the American shutters, most of the mechanism can be reached when the lenses are removed.

Mostly Easy -

Dial-set Compur

Almost always - The slow speed clockwork is stuck and does not engage. Remove the lenses, the dial mechanism and the front plate. Use lighter fluid on the left-side clockwork, use a probe to make the mechanism run, and let dry. When dry, if there are still problems, use a little sewing-machine oil (very little, you don't want oil on the shutter blades) on the clockwork. Try to get it under the moving patten (the counterweight that goes back and forth) and on all the gear teeth.

The disassembly is quite easy - I follow these instructions and they always work - http://www.davidrichert.com/dial_set_compur.htm

Harder -

Deckel Compound,
Wollensak Optimo and Auto

These are air-regulated shutters. Note that many of the Kodak "Specials" have Compound shutters, I believe manufactured under license by Bausch&Lomb.

Disassembly for the Compounds is almost exactly the same as for the Dial Compurs. Warning - old Compund shutters often have paper disphragm blades, especially the ones used by Kodak. Its a safe policy to never use lighter fluid on Compound shutters.

The usual problems of the Compounds is the mechanism for selecting B, T, and timed speeds can be unreliable due to lack of lubrication, which is easy to fix, plus the air piston and cylinder get tarnished and do not move properly. This problem requires removal of the cylinder and piston, which is easy once the faceplate is taken off as with the Compur. The cylinder and piston then need to be polished and then carefully cleaned so no oil or polish compound is left. I use Mothers Magnesium and Aluminum polish, but I expect any silverware polish will also work.

Wollensak Optimo shutters usually are working, no matter their age ! Its a very long-lasting design I believe, as they are all at least 80 years old. I have had three out of four just work. I have had one that needed to be disassembled, and the piston and cylinder polished like the Compound.

Wollensak Auto is just a simpler form of the Optimo.

Hard

Rim Set Compur and Compur-Rapid

Disassembly is not hard - Dan Mitchell's site (massively useful!) has excellent instructions -
http://daniel.mitchell.name/cameras/index.php?page=compurearly

The real problem is figuring out the required repair. These shutters have many internal interlocks, and it can be difficult to figure out which bit is stuck and is holding everything up. Its also necessary to remove the plate that holds the mechanism in place, so parts of the mechanism want to pop out of position when you are working on it. There is a lot of trial and error required, and sometimes some real disassembly.

Hardest

Synchro-Compur
Any Japanese shutter
I have never successfully repaired any of these.


PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EXCELLENT! Thank you!


PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Thank you for so much details about shutters!


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another consideration is structural integrity. It is more likely that the buyer would be looking at a rollfilm folding camera with self-erecting front, and there have been innumerable designs, some very stable, and some are less so.

If the design is less than ideal, the lens would not be held at the right distance and perpendicularly to the film plane, and that would degrade image quality significantly.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All the many folders I have bought were in need of some repair: pinholes in bellows, seized or not accurate shutters, and so on. In my experience is better to buy folders declared as having issues, because they will do have issues anyway (perhaps there are some exceptions), and you can get better prices.

The critical matter is the lens, in my opinion. If the lens is good, usually the camera can be restored to working condition. Specially Compur shutters are (almost) always reparable if they have not been abused. I would advice to not buy such old cameras if you are not ready to repair them yourself or know someone who can do it.

Javier


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wupdigoj wrote:
In my experience is better to buy folders declared as having issues, because they will do have issues anyway (perhaps there are some exceptions), and you can get better prices.


Amen.

Cameras with 50-80 years of age are never in "near mint", "excellent" or "very good" condition - I laugh every time I see them for sale on eBay.

Every single folder I have acquired over the years has had something that needed attention. Even my late grandfather's Zeiss Ikonta which was used only by strict owner with very clean house and stored in dry cabinet needed CLA.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting reading and such a helpful topic...great idea Attila.I have often looked at the folders but never knew where to begin with trying to understand what may be wrong or right with them.
Can you enlighten me as to the film that is used in them?and is there film still available for all folders sold or do you have to be careful?


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mo wrote:
Very interesting reading and such a helpful topic...great idea Attila.I have often looked at the folders but never knew where to begin with trying to understand what may be wrong or right with them.
Can you enlighten me as to the film that is used in them?and is there film still available for all folders sold or do you have to be careful?


Most folder use 120 roll film , some not. Look those what use 120 roll film.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great idea for a post and already very comprehensive. So nothing much to add...
As for the really old ones and beaters:
I haven't come across a folder yet that couldn't be put into working order. It just depends on how much work you want, or can, put into it, and how many spares you'll need. And such fun! And so satisfying to be using something you've rescued from oblivion and brought back to life.
So if your not a collector, and have some time....


PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good reading stuff, thanks for all the information.
Quote:

Cameras with 50-80 years of age are never in "near mint", "excellent" or "very good" condition


This one comes close to 'near' Smile Shot with my ERKO 9x12cm from 1928 with Foma 100 developed in D76 & first scan with Epson V700.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77846450@N00/5454354186/

I love to do this with 'portrait' but that won't do: the DOF is every time somewere else and not on the spot I intended!


PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience, most Zeiss Ikon and other non-Agfa German folders from the 1930s to the 1950s have good bellows if the overall condition seems to be OK. The one real killer is a cloudy lens. Condition is no guide to how good the shutter speeds are, not does it indicate how good the overall performance will be. Several of my best users have been rather rough looking cameras from the 1930s. So buying them really is a lottery.

The effectiveness of the pressure plate in keeping film flat against the film gate is important but (as far as I know) impossible to judge except from results. However, designs with more robust plates may be better.

Buying from "it seems to work but I don't know how" auctions on e-bay has been surprisingly successful for me when the vendor's shop shows that they wouldn't know anything about old cameras, less successful when the claim of ignorance is from camera dealers.


PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would make one other suggestion. If you're buying at a flea market, estate sale, etc., take look at the way in which the camera is presented and the other cameras around it. Is it piled in a box or set neatly on a shelf? Are there a dozen cameras along with it that are missing bellows or have visible damage? Even if the camera you're looking at is in great shape, if the other ones are neglected or in bad shape that could indicate a higher risk of issues for a camera that seems fine on the surface. Of course, it could also mean that this one camera held significant emotional value for the owner.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incorporate the cost of CLA into your budget.

I was lucky with my Isolette; no light leaks and a shutter that fires (seemingly) acurate at all speeds.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What nobody has mentioned is that because these shut up into what is pretty much a bomb-proof metal shell, many of these cameras are still in exceptional condition.

With ordinary family 1940s or 50s usage of maybe half-a-dozen films a year, it's quite possible that the bellows, shutter and lens might only have been open and exposed to the elements for a few hours in the many decades since the camera was made. If the camera was always stored in the closed position, there is no reason for the bellows and shutter to look anything other than pristine - and very often that is how they are.

Of course, time, temperature and humidity can still do damage, particularly if the initial materials were not completely stable (Agfa bellows are said to decay, possibly they contained chemically unstable plastics).


PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PaulC wrote:
(Agfa bellows are said to decay, possibly they contained chemically unstable plastics).

Indeed. It's quite disappointing (but not entirely unexpected) to open up an Agfa Record and see what looks like pristine bellows, still shiny and gleaming as if the camera was new yesterday. Then, when you do a lightbulb test inside the bellows, you see all the pinholes in the corners...


PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got replacement bellows for my Agfa Record III from Sandeha Lynch. He supplies full instructions - they fitted nicely Smile .


PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have seen a few folders that have got bent folding mechanisms where people have tried to close them without knowing how to use the proper release lever / button. Sometimes the damage is slight and difficult to spot, but probably very difficult to repair.


PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a few folders including a couple of Agfa's. Most are in remarkably good condition for their age. I've not put film thru any of them yet though, preferring the 'tube' type like the Braun Paxina 29.

This is useful information. Thanks


PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lately GAS has been tugging me in the folder direction now that I have a couple rangefinders - which I haven't used yet Smile .

Back to this thread . . .
Is there a simple listing of which folders take 120 film? I ask this even though Attila has said most do take 120 because many that I have looked at were marked inside NOT 120. This has left me a little "gun shy" - if its not marked 120 or NOT 120, if I don't know I won't take the risk.

Thanks in advance for any help.
Jim


PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the camera says 'not 120' it is probably 620. The 620 spool has a narrower flange, smaller winder slots and a thinner core. Designed originally to make folders thinner, and probably Kodak more money in royalties as film manufacturers and camera manufacturers would have to pay Kodak to use it.



If you can obtain a second 620 spool (assuming the camera already has one) you can re-spool your 120 film onto the spare one. I did it recently and its not as hard as I thought. Wind the film onto the new spool then wind it back onto the spare one. The end of the film is not attached to the paper so you must be careful to catch it and wind it tightly.

Alternatively there is this solution:



more details here: http://mconnealy.com/vintagecameras/120in620/


good luck!!