Another 50th Anniversary - The AGFA Optima

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by peter_naylor|1, Jun 20, 2009.

  1. There's been a few posts about the Nikon F of late, pointing out that it's now 50 years since it hit the camera shops. I also thought we should perhaps give a little thought to the more humble AGFA Optima, which also hit the shops 50 years ago. In some ways it was more of a watershed design than the Nikon F, which didn't really break much new ground but was just a fine example of existing design and gizmology. The Optima did break new ground, being the World's First fully-automatic 35mm camera. Finally, you could get excellent colour results both in slides and prints without having to know an F stop or shutter speed from your er, elbow. The camera's selenium meter linked to the lens and shutter did it all for you, leaving only the need to set the correct 3-zone focus.
    So, in memory of the strangely often-forgotten original AGFA Optima of 1959, I've done a feature on it in my Flickr Portfolio here. With Perth now experiencing some cold and wet weather, I may be adding some more stuff over the next few weeks. Anything to keep away from that dreaded, mind-numbing day-time television ....
  2. Entertaining, thanks.
  3. Peter
    Learn a lot in your informative pages. Thanks
  4. Nice page, I have the Optima IIs, not quite fifty yet. It was my dad's, and I still use it.
  5. What's especially interesting about the Optima is how they achieve automatic setting of the aperture and shutter speed without a battery or motors. That big lever on the side of the lens supplies the necessary force. A clever separation of what we would now call the calculation from the mechanical action. (The selenium cell supplies enough energy to operate a cam; the lever push takes it the rest of the way.)
    Thanks for this post, Peter.
    I found a review of the Optima in the Sept. 1959 issue of Popular Photography, and a pro's take on using it in the field in the same issue. When I get a chance I'll scan these and post them here.
  6. Thanks, guys, for the nice comments. Plenty of cold weather and rain is forecast for the next week, so stand by for some additions to the Naylor Flickr Portfolio. TLRs, early Kodak folders, maybe Agiflex 120 SLRs - who knows what the Trophy Cupboard may cough up .....
    Marc, thanks for that - if you could post scans of those 1959 test reports on the original Optima's capabilities, I reckon a lot of folks would be interested. It was totally untested ground back then for a camera to have an electronic brain to do the hard work of exposure calculation, even if it was a miniscule voltage selenium-powered one with a lot of help from that mechanical lever. Strangely, although my original Optima's selenium cell is kaput, the one on my slightly later (1964?) Optima 111 still works fine and gives green or red warnings in the VF quite accurately. (Pete In Perth)
  7. I've posted those articles. The links are here:

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