Advice needed on small 35mm folding cameras

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by troll, May 21, 2005.

  1. I'd like a compact 35mm folder from the 1950/60s. My present
    thoughts are Retina IIa, Zeiss Contessa, Voigtlander Vito III. What
    other similar cameras should I be looking for on Fleabuy?
  2. See if you can find a Kodak Bantam Special. It is very Art Deco, but requires 828 roll film, that must be especially wound. It has a Schneider or Rodenstock f/2 lens of good quality with Compur shutter (1-500th sec,I believe.) The lens collapses back into the rigid body.
    Perhaps an owner of this camera can amend or correct me.
  3. The Vito III is insanely expensive, often going for $400 or more.

    The Contessa is a heavy camera though excellent. Going price is about $150 for one that's clean. You can buy them cheaper but of course it probably will need serviced.

    Retina IIa is a good deal -- probably will also need to be serviced. Goes for between $50 and $125.

    The Retina II with coupled rangefinder. There were four models, but all are very nice cameras and worthy of consideration and priced between $65 and $125.

    Other choices: Agfa Super Solinette, often less than $75 but almost always needs serviced because the lens has seized up.

    Retina IIc or IIIc -- somewhat larger than the IIa but very nice cameras priced between $75 and $145. Probably will need serviced or at least have the viewfinder cleaned.

    The folding Contina/Contina II with the uncoupled rangefinders are nice. A bit fidgety with separate windows for focusing and composing plus the need to transfer the distance from the rangefinder scale to the lens. Available with either the Novar or the Tessar and priced between $50 and $115. Probably will need serviced.

    These are my thoughts on rangefinder folders. There are others. I don't have experience with them.
  4. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Don't over look the dandy little Voigtlander Vito II I have one that I really like don't use it much due to it really needing to have it's shutter cleaned, But as a small folder it is quite nice Zone focus (I have the matching rangefinder) camera very compact folded it would fit a windbreaker jacket pocket quite nicely.

    You might also consider one of the small 645 format folders like a Balda some of them aren't much bigger then their 35mm cousins
  5. I'd also take into consideration the Rollei 35
  6. Don't overlook the Retinette - I have the 017 and it's a lovely jobbie
  7. The Kodak Bantam Special I have is from before Pearl Harbor/WW2; and has a COATED F2 45mm Kodak Ektar lens; from 1941.The supermatic on mine goes to 1/400 second. The film frame is about 28x40mm. This is a very very cute camera; but film availablity is dicey or home done. The rangefinder is magnified about 2.5 X; the physical baseline 1 3/4 inches. It has an effective baseline larger than a Leica M3.<BR><BR><BR>The pre ww2 retina I's are very small; the lack of rangefinder makes a small package. I like the Retina 1a with asa 800 Fuji print films; the higher contrast of these consumer films helps with the uncoated lenses. <BR><BR>Kodaks have sometimes gummy film advance areas; gummy film counters; messed up cocking racks on post war models. some require repairs.<BR><BR>Retina IIa's are abit larger.
  8. Retina IIa with the 47mm Ektar lens. Easy to use rangefinder and sharp as a tack. It's the only 35mm I take with me anymore and slips easily into any pocket. Solid cast metal, will take a bit of abuse.

    tim in san jose
  9. I'd cast a vote for the Contessa 35 too. It is on my wish list!
  10. Agfa Solinette and its American clone, Ansco Regent, are shirt pocket size, if not weight, and are usually available. With or without rangefinder.
  11. I'm very fond of my Agfa Karat 36. Nice Solinar 2.8 with a Syncro-Compur shutter, very
    compact and solid. There is a wide range of models in the Karat line; you might find an
    inexpensive one.

  12. Retinas are good ... I think you should add these to you list: Voigtlander Vitessa, AGFA Karat IV / ANSCO Karomat. The Vitessa is slightly larger (wider) but is very good.
  13. My vote goes to the Retina IIa. I would never recommend a Bantam Special -- beautiful as
    they are, they are really just collector's pieces now. Prices start at $300. besides, which
    respooling 828 is a PITA and not worth the effort.
  14. Voigtlander Vito III well made and the Ultron lens is better than the contempory Summicron. Only 12000 where made most have the Compur rather than the Syncro Compur shutter. I have one and still use it there is a photo taken with it in my collection here. The camera might be hard to find. Perhaps look for a Braun Paxette its really very compact and reliable the best lens is the Steinheil Cassarit ( a Tessar design )
    You can use Leica SM lenses on it too. No rangefinder coupling with the Leica lenses , but there is a model with a non coupled range finder.
  15. There is also the Baldinette (zone focus) or Super Baldinette rnagefinder. Very compact.

    If you go for a Regent/Solinette or one of the Supers of the same models, and the focus is stuck, it's not a hard fix, if you're a bit handy. The models with the Solinar are Tessar types. Apotars are triplets. Soligons are six element lenses, if I remember correctly.

    The Karats and Karomats (clones) are nice, but are not really folders. The lens collapses into the body but the element is still out in the open. If you get a Karat, look for the "36" model. Other Karats took a special 12 exposure cassette that are not readily available, (but you can find them on ebay at a premium). Karomats all take regular 35mm cassettes, as far as I know.
  16. Lots of great models already mentioned but I would also add the Zeiss Ikonta 35 from the early 50's.
  17. The Welta Welti is another good one - no rangefinder, but folds up very small. And the coated Tessar lens doesn't hurt, either.
  18. So the other day I'm walking around my house, looking at all my framed photos from various era's of my life. I started to wonder what I shot them with--because my memory is going<g>.

    Was it my YashicaMat 124G era (it wasn't quite Hasselblad quality)? Maybe my Canon EF era? My Nikon SP era (wish I hadn't sold that one so cheap)? Maybe my Nikon FM or FE and 45GN?

    So I dug up my negs and notes and realized most were with my dad's Zeiss Icon Contessa with 45mm f/2.8 Tessar Opton. Can't for the life of me figure out what I did with the camera, but it got a lot of use and turned out some of my best work.

    Aside from a meter that never worked, it was a joy to use with that smooth knurled short focus lens!
  19. My word of praise goes to the Voigtlander IIa because I still have the one I bought new in 1958. It is flatter than the Retina when folded so fits well in pocket (but then I could not afford a Retina anyway). In the UK it costs now about 30 GB pounds say $50. If the Vito III is the rangefinder version then that is probably even better. One point though, you must manually cock the shutter, it is not connected to the rapid wind lever. The same applies I think to one or two other folders so worth checking.
  20. Does the Contessa have a green viewfinder with pink rangefinder patch, like the Contax of that era?
  21. I had a look at my Contessa... on mine it looks to me like a faintly green viewfinder with a golden-yellow patch...
  22. Hi, Bill The problem here is that some of the cameras you've mentioned are definately in the "classic collectable" area, so you're going to have to pay dearly to acquire one as a nice working user.

    You have to remember that lots of guys are quite happy to just acquire old cameras, to stick on the shelf and just collect dust. I'm probably as guilty as the rest of them, here. The yardstick is often that the more valuable the camera is, the less likely it is to be used.

    So, with that in mind, I'd have to go along with the various guys who've suggested the AGFA Karat 36 and Super Solinette folders. For whatever reason, these usually go for much less than the competition in quality 35mm folders from the 50s. You'll get a better choice of lenses with the Karat, right up to F2 Xenon and occasionally Helagon, compared to the more pedestrian f3.5 Solinar on the S/Solinette. Like everything in life, it's a swings and roundabouts situation, because the S/Solinette is a damn sight more pocketable than the Karat.

    By the way, if "small and pocketable" is the yardstick, what about the Zorki-1 or FED copy of the Leica 11? Clearly these are not folders, but their lens retracts very conveniently making them a nice and slim camera to cart around. They don't fetch as much as they maybe ought to on Fleabay, but then again the Russians and Ukrainians only made umpteen millions of them. The problem is that the lens is only a relatively slow f3.5, just like the S/Solinette. Then again, they're light to carry and fit easily - and unnoticed - in the pocket. Decision, decisions ....... LOL from PN
  23. Thanks, folks. After considering the features, prices, and what is available on FleaBuy, I decided on an AGFA KARAT 36. I picked one and let it slip through my fingers by not paying attention to the closing auction time. I am now the owner of a near-mint RETINA IIA, (except the rear lens element may be just a teeny bit cloudy when I shine a light through it). Thanks again for your interest and help.
  24. Congrats... the Retina IIa is good. I've had 3 (and still have 2), and all 3 of them were similarly slightly cloudy on the rear element (inner surface). After a owning them for a while I got more brave/ambitious and removed the rear elements and cleaned them. They actually cleaned up fairly well.

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