Agiflite Aerial camera

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by john_dixon|5, Mar 29, 2003.

  1. Does anyone know anything about the Agiflite Aerial camera? Is it
    only suitable for aerial? what film format?
  2. It's my understanding that camera takes 70mm film and has two standard lenses: a 150mm and a 350mm both made by Zeiss.
  3. The Agiflite is a continuation of a Williamson design that A.G.I. Ltd., then of Croydon, Surrey, now of Poole, Dorset, picked up after Williamson failed. The most recent version is being sold off as surplus by the US Navy and Coast Guard.

    I recently asked AGI for information about their aerial cameras and was told that they sold that division around 15 years ago and that it ended up in the hands of Meggitts. AGI knows nothing about them now, and Meggitts' site offered so little hope that I didn't contact them.

    70 mm film. Fixed focus, therefore suitable for use only with distant subjects.

    Sold with a variety of lenses, originally from Taylor, Taylor, Hobson (4"/2.0, 12"/4.0) more recently from Zeiss (150/2.8 Sonnar, 350/5.6 Tele-Tessar). I understand there were other focal lengths as well, but have no specifics.

    I recently got the TTH lenses, am trying them on a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic. The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum speaks highly of them, but cautions they're hard to adapt to most cameras. Both make nice images on the ground glass, but so does nearly everything. Am waiting for film to come back from the lab. The 12" has very very short back focus, makes infinity with the front standard on the Graphic's inner rails. I doubt either could easily be adapted to anything but a Speed Graphic. Don't see a clean inexpensive way to put either in shutter, and the 12" is huge.

    A friend of mine recently got a 150 Agiflite Sonnar. Cute, but its not clear what can be done with it. I have me doubts about the 350/5.6 TeleTessar. The same lens was offered for Hasselblads, and every comment I've seen on it complained about color fringing. No visible fringing on the GG with the 12"/4 TTH.

    Short summary, if you need what an Agiflite can do its probably a very good tool, otherwise its a fine doorstop.


  4. I purchased an Agiflite last fall from the government. Most of the ones auctioned off over the past year are "kits" containing the 150 and 350 Zeiss lenses (Sonnar and Tele Tessar T* lenses), one or two film cassettes, camera body and filters. Recent sales (or not) of the units on Ebay seem to indicate that the market has been filled--that is, everyone who really wants one of these already bought one. I've run about 100 feet of film through mine and it is a pretty incredible unit--certainly a great tool if you do aerial work. I will give it a thorough workout this summer doing aerial archaeological survey. Because it is no longer manufactured the following issues face anyone purchasing an Agiflite:

    Power-I've made and sold a few external power packs. Other batteries made to spec. are available on Ebay.

    Film-I just returned from a show in Anchorage where I met with Agfa people and asked about the continued availability of their Aviphot 400N Film (70mm perforated, available in 100 foot rolls). This film, in my opinion, is perfect for the Agiflite as it is fast (400ASA) and the Agiflite has TTL metering that can accommodate this speed. I plan to but a case lot so if any Agiflite users are out there and want some fresh film, drop me a line.

    Repair-Well, get your screwdriver, allen wrenches and soldering gun out because many of the surplus Agiflites need work. (One of mine had a sheared tension pin on the shutter assembly, another body had a weak motor needing replacing, etc.).

    Parts-The viewfinders (or more appropriately "gun sites") most of the cameras come with allow you to center your shot but do not provide frame referecne. I've solved this problem by making a sighting device that frames the field for the 350 lens and have adapted a viewfinder from another aerial camera for the 150 lens. Other parts to keep on hand are: tension pin for shutter assembly, register glass replacement, cords and plugs for external power sources.

    To summarize: These cameras are not for the faint-of-heart or weak-of-arm. I have found the photos incredibly sharp--almost "scary" sharp. Color and detail with the Agfa film is extreme because it is made strictly for aerial work (a few of the photos on my web page were taken with the Agiflite). I have a real use for the camera and haven't found anything that can come close for price, quality and speed (2fps, 40 foot film capacity ~170 frames).

    As a final note, I have read that some folks have taken the Agiflite Zeiss lenses and converted them for use on other cameras with excellent results. Certainly not recommended, unless done by an expert. If my Agiflite bodies ever give up the ghost and I have no option, I would seriously consider having this done---I like the lenses that much. Well good luck to all of you using the Agiflite!

    Matt Ganley
  5. Managed to spend the last week shooting out of a Hughes 500D helicopter with my Agiflite. I wired the camera directly to the auxillary power plug in the back seat, removed the front door, and rode 'shotgun' on the right side. Camera worked flawlessly, and it really loved the fact that it was getting a ful 28 volts! Shutter popped away and the film advance was strong. I ran quantities of Agfa P400N aerial color film as well as some "Big K" aerochrome III infrared (1443). I'll have a wait for the film, but will post another update when it comes back.
  6. Received film from latest adventure with the Agiflite. All shots are great!! If you're interested, I've posted an IR photo of an archaeological site on the map-alaska web page. ( The cityscape from Anchorage is also an Agi shot made last winter (it scanned a little dark). If there are any Agiflite folks out there with equipment for sale, or interested in pooling for some film orders, let me know. Happy shooting.
  7. Hello AGIFLITE people! I got my Agiflite (european set with 100mm f 2 planar & 250mm 5,6 Sonnar lenses) early this year planning to use it in original form for aerial shots (doing quite a lot of aerial work for the departement of the environment). For preliminary testing I have used som "surplus" 70mm film, including the old VPS III and the newer & far better Portra NC 160 as my reserve of Avichrome currently were depleted. The first session - using 100mm lens from a small Hughes (smallest chopper - 2 seats - door off) was dissapointing - low contrast & something very wrong!. I blaimed the film for being so bad (expecting it to have far from the resolution of the modern 35mm emulsions) so that even the much bigger format could not keep up with top-notch 35mm primes & Fuji Superia Reala (which is the film I use for 35mm aerial work - veeery high resoultion). However, investigating the matter (25 x loupe on negatives + making test-negs w & w/o filter on lens) showed that the circular pola-filter (brand new - but clearly NOT Zeiss - not mentioning the brand) that I had mounted to the Agi 100mm lens worked as a weak softar: resolution & contrast markedly reduced - ony getting acceptable at f 16 (on test negs) - which is unrealistic up in the air - only 2-2,8 & f4 in use. The effect of the filter were not noticable before scanning for high resolution images (or investigation of negs using a strong loupe). Fortunately only about 120 frames were made during this first in-fligt test - resulting pictures being of 35mm resolution and thus useful but unexciting. Finding & testing a new pola-filter befor next flight, the Agi went up with me on a 3 hour photo-session this of august. Using a bigger Bell helicopter this time - giving a more stable platform. Shooting approx 300 frames in two magazines, as well as 35 rolls/1200 frames on 35mm. Just got the 70mm films back, and now the results are as expected very good. Resolution of minimal targets as power-lines in a distance shows very good resolution of the film/lens/camera/mag-combination even when scanned on my unexciting Epson 2450 Perfection. The photo sessions both in may and in august is for mapping of vegetation & substrate in river-systems, thus the pola-filter is needed for getting image of the water plants & substrate. The 35mm cameras being used on most of the river when this is comparatively narrow, the 70mm being used for the wider riverbeds & for the lakes. In the latest photo-session, the chopper had to make 35 retards from 60 mph. & turns for me to change film (using the very fast Minolta Dynax 9 w/105mm lens). With the agi & full magazines, only 5 turns would be necessary, og changing the mag. on the Agi is a matter of a few seconds. Thus, I would advice anyone buying an Agi and having anything to do up in the air to keep the camera & lenses unmodified - it is a totally excellent & capable machine. The easily accessible Portra 160 NC worked good (god resolution), but I look forward to buy some of the Agfa Avicolor 70mm film for next session for better color-saturation & contrast. Matt - could You mail me a few wors about the Avicolor film - having bought anything & at what price, In addition: I know that in US the 350mm & 150mm's is most common and the 100mm/250mm less. Having access to extra 100mm Planar & 250mm Sonnar, I would be happy to discuss a swapping of lenses to obtain a complete set if anyone is interested.

    Good luck with the AGI!
  8. I now have some 70mm AGFA aviphot 400. It's out of date but has been stored on ice since production. Contact me if you'd like to purchase a spool for your agiflite. Great film, guaranteed.

    Matt Ganley
  9. For those that need film for the agiflite, Surplus shed now has some for $90.00/roll. I was informed this spring that there is no moreof the N400PE being manufactured and this seems to be the last source for it:
  10. 100' rolls of 70mm Agfa N400PE1 Aviphot available on eBAY NOW (10/06/04).

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