Agfa Karat 36.

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by tony_lockerbie, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. Today I took out one of my Karat cameras for a bit of a workout. Agfa were prolific makers of cameras, mostly cheap and cheerful, but they did make some quite memorable and high performing hardware, with the Karat high of my list.
    Most here will be familiar with the Karat series, which was branded as Ansco in the home of the free. They started out with Agfas' Karat cassettes, which wound the film from the full cassette to an identical empty one. This saved on rewinding, but the idea was not entirely successful so Agfa moved on to normal film cassettes with the introduction of the 36.
    The one I have here is an early example, from around 1950, with the staggered RF windows and hinged winder tab. The RF deserves a mention here as it used an unusual system where the entire image is split, takes some getting used to, but effective when you do.
    Like most Agfa cameras the Karat is well constructed, but the chrome they used was a bit dull and was prone to corrosion, so you will often see these older cameras with pitted or discloured casings.
    This doesn't effect the performance of course, and all Karat's were fitted with quality optics from Rodenstock, Schneider and their own Solinar. My camera has an F2 Heliogon, and I'm sure all the different optics will perform much the same.
    The Karat is a delight to use, with it's folding lazy tong focusing unit to the delightful snick of the Compur shutter. The camera is quick to load and quite pocket-able when folded.
    I took a few shots on Frog's Hollow creek a few Kilometers from home.
  2. Another view showing the winder.
    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  3. First pic.
    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  4. Lucky last.
  5. Thanks for looking. Film was Tmax400 in Pyrocat HD. I found the Heliogon to have nice soft quality, a bit like my uncoated Leitz Summar...very nice.
  6. Nice place you have there Tony. The lens have an amazing tone clarity in the pics....................thanks for sharing.
  7. Great looking camera and nice shots. I especially like the Creek and Rocks image. Thanks for sharing.
  8. Lovely cameras, Tony. I've always admired the Karats from a design pespective, and they are a joy to use. I have the Solinar f/2.8 version and have always been happy with it's performance, and your Heligon has produced similarly great results. #'s 2 and 5 are particularly appealing. I might just have to try Tmax 400 in Pyrocat HD...
  9. Nice work Tony. I especially like #5.
    This camera has such a clean purposeful design.
  10. Nice camera and very nice pics. That Pyrocat you guys use sure brings out the best in film.. gonna have to get some of that =].
    -I often wondered why the karats had that odd configuration of the viewfinder windows.
    And separately, I wondered why rangefinders all had those partial-mirror configurations what are a pain to use in anything but bright gemoteric objects. Couldnt they use a full mirror spot or completely split the mirror into an upper and lower half.
    WOW, both my questions were answered at once! How do you like using that rangefinder? Is it any better than the squinty rangefinders of most other cameras of that vintage?
  11. Nice photos, especially #5 already seems a classic!
    The camera is a beauty too. The Agfa Karat range is one of my favourites. Personally I don't find the split mirror rangefinder particularly easy to use. I suppose Agfa must have gotten complaints, because after the Karat 36 above they released the Karat IV with a 'normal' coincidence rangefinder, much like the one on the Super Silette. That would my favourite Karat to use although I am rather smitten with the cigar-shaped pre-war viewfinder Karats.
  12. I have had both the Karat 36 and the Karat IV. I was perfectly happy with the split rangefinder of the 36, in fact, if anything, I preferred it. That's just me :) . Like others, I found the Solinar, Solagon, (and Xenon) lenses all excellent.
    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  13. Nice soft quality? Seems sharp enough in these samples. I agree with others that #5 is probably the best of the lot in my opinion, but they"re all good.
    Your description of the rangefinder makes it seem like it's similar in operation to those in my C3 and Ciro 35. Having two halves of an image come together, like a split image screen in an SLR, does make things easier to see, as opposed to a spot that can get harder to see over the years. Wonder why more manufacturers didn't use this set up.
    Thanks for sharing Tony.
  14. The camera is just another of those astonishing RF cameras of the period, astonishing in how well they can do.
    But the pictures would be super, regardless of the camera they were taken with. Thanks.
  15. I have (and use) the Ansco Karomat branded version, with the Schneider Xenon 50mm/f2. It's a very well built camera, and I find the split image rangefinder super easy to use. Also, can't beat the simplicity and reliability of the Compur shutter mechanism.
    stephen_morris|3 likes this.
  16. Thank you all for the positives. Rick, I still prefer Tri-X to TMax400 for most things, but the TMax has much finer grain.
    Darin, you did answer your question! Yes, the full split image is much easier to focus than the spot, especially given the age of some of these cameras with foggy optics.
    While the focus is easy, the viewfinder image is a bit tricky with that line down the middle. If you want to see how a RF patch is supposed to be, get a good clean Leica M2, M3, or one of the new CV Bessas.
    I do have a Super Solinette with the RF spot and it is tricky to see at times, probably the same setup as the Karat 1V.
    As you sat JDM, that period did spawn some wonderful RF cameras and I have a few still in the cupboard that need an airing.
  17. Late to the party ... really fine images Tony. You would have done equally well on most decent cameras, but what an interesting specimen. The alternate lens selection was nice. The RF I would like to compare, but I think it's build quality that speaks for itself.
  18. Nearly missed this thread.. ... here goes: My user Karat's both sport a similar lens and shutter the 50/2.8 with the one having a synchro-compur shutter system and a prontor-system the other. Like the one in the picture one has the Karat 36 mark on top with a staggered set of windows for the viewfinder and it's staggered (split)view-finder adjustment. Now the other is a bit different: above the lens is a Agfa diamond with the word 'Karat' underneath it. Another difference is the viewfinder windows are the same size a patch being used in place of the split image of the '36'. The accessory shoe is offset on the '36' the cold shoe on the other is centered on top. Both operate the same giving great results in spite of the operator. Fun and accurate these older cameras don't stay on my shelf for long.
  19. My faithful old, wonderful repair person, who serviced and fixed dozens of cameras for me over 40 years, failed me only once -- he never could get the rangefinder of my late model Karat to work without sticking.

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