Choosing between two 6x9 folders

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by escuta, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. Hi forum,

    I sent a similar question to another forum, but I've not yet got a response and I'd like to make a decision quickly:

    I'm choosing between a very new looking Agfa Record I with an Agnar 105mm f/4.5 and an older looking Agfa Billy with a Solinar 105mm f/4.5 and with a much more sophisticated looking shutter mechanism. Both are the same price. Nothing is cheap here, around US$85. Both cameras are said to work and both sellers have excellent reputations. I'm leaning towards the Billy, even though I'm sure it will need a service.

    What you think?

    Here are photos of the two:

    The Record I Agnar:


    and the Billy Solinar:


    All the best!
  2. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire, mostly on film.

    The Agnar is often the cheapest lens Agfa offered on a camera, and the Solinar the best; and as you say, the Compur shutter on the second camera is better. So of the two, I'd definitely go for the Billy. I have the 127-film version of that. It's good, though it grips a modern film spool too tightly (shouldn't be a problem with a 120 spool, I think) and it's a little stiff to focus.
    I don't like buying in a hurry though. I guess you've done your work narrowing down to what you want. I always worry about the bellows on a folder; read what the sellers say about that.
    Good luck!
    escuta likes this.
  3. Major concern with old bellows is holes/pinholes/tears in the old fabric.
    My 4x5 is younger and had pinholes that I had to cover.
    I used liquid electrical tape. It is BLACK so would look ugly on the brown leather, unless you can do it on the inside.
    escuta likes this.
  4. Thanks Gary and Dustin, I just bought the oldie. The seller assured me that it has no leaks, but said the the mechanism would need some lubrication having sat unused for so many years. I'm probably going to take it for revision. The technician here is very competent.
  5. Great find, Escuta! The Agfa Billy with the Solinar lens and Compur shutter is a great shooter, and yours appears to have the later Compur with speeds up to 1/400th. I don't see too many with these specifications coming onto the market. Here's hoping your technician finds no major issues. I'm looking forward to seeing some of your work with it.

    There's a bit of information on the camera here:

    It's a Pretty Thing...
    escuta likes this.
  6. Thanks a lot Rick. It was an excellent photo on Flickr of a lamp post, taken by a Kiwi photographer, that clinched it for me to get the Billy. I think the photographer is probably you. Thanks also for the link with the servicing tips. Nice looking camera! It may be some time before I get some scans done. My more immediate project is to make contact prints using some frames that my mother used back in the 40s and 50s. She had a similar folding camera which seems to have been lost. It may have been an Agfa. I took a snap of the frames. The smaller is a strange (to me) 3"x2" format. The larger, which I plan to use, is 2.5"x3.5" and should be good for 6X9 negatives.
    All the best,


    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
  7. Yes, I can recall the image... Thanks for the compliment. Just love the old contact printing frames, and I'm sure you'll have a great time with them. I feel a tinge of nostalgia coming on...The Solinar is a wonderful lens. Here's a recent photograph taken in poor light, but the quality of the lens shines through.

    Winter Parking

    Winter Parking Pnet.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
    escuta likes this.
  8. These old 6x9 folders are usually surprisingly good. I have an Zeiss Ikonta in the East German "Ercona" version.

    I used to have a 5x7 printing frame, but it wandered off during one move or another.

    I'd still like to try some Printing-out-Paper (Kodak used to have one that was called 'proof paper'). Anybody got any idea where to look?
  9. The camera arrived yesterday. I think the seller was using the word "functioning" a bit loosely, however was correct in saying that it will need some lubrication if it is to be used. It's a in nice condition though. The folding door snaps open and closed with a confident noise as does the viewfinder. The brilliant finder is usable and the film-loading and winding mechanism is in good order. The bellows also look in good condition. Aperture adjustment works. The focal ring however is completely seized up as was the case with Rick's machine and those of many others online. The shutter velocity ring moves and the shutter mechanism does work, but at a snail's pace. Good that it works though. It also has a timer, which also works.

    In case anyone has any information on dates of production, the camera is stamped with the Agfa logo on one shoulder and with "Billy Compur" on the other. The Agfa Solinar lens is rated in centimetres rather than millimetres (10.5cm f/4.5). The film winding knob and door release button are situated on the bottom plate making it unstable to rest on a table in the landscape orientation. An odd design feature this! And since I'm really into details: Serial number of the Solinar is 568585 and inside the camera is etched 4R 0505. And on a more personal note, the camera was posted from my wife's home town in central Brazil, so that's nice.

    From reading Rick's link, I'll advise the camera tech to try denatured alcohol to separate the frontal lens elements before cooking in the oven! Any other tips I can pass on to the tech?

    All the best, thanks!
  10. That is a camera worth recovering. Take a good hard look at the bellows in a darkened room with a flashlight inside the camera, with special attention to the corners of the folds. The frozen focus ring will be easily loosed by your tech. The hard problem would be the bellows.

    I also have a Billy with Solinar and Compur, but a more recent model. Lens sharpness is impressive. If you get the Billy to work, please share some results here.
    escuta likes this.
  11. Thanks Julio, I'll certainly post pictures once I get it working. I tried shining a light inside the bellows just now, in the dark, no little spots of light appeared. So that's good news
  12. Back again, as is the Billy Compur, from service. It looks good, with all features working and the shutter speeds seem OK to me, the slow ones anyway. I plan to take photos with the camera tomorrow (of city monuments and with a tripod) and have a few questions on these two points:

    1. I've heard that f/11 is generally a good aperture to use for folders. Does anyone have experience using smaller apertures (16 - 32)? Am I likely to loose sharpness? How small is still good? The lens is the Solinar.

    2. Any tips on focusing? To photograph the monuments from a reasonable distance I was thinking of setting the focus at infinity and pulling back a fraction and let the small aperture catch everything imporatnt. I'll take an SLR with me to check distances, but can the distance markers on the lens be trusted? Do the markers refer to distances of the film to the subject or from the lens itself?

  13. You won't lose sharpness until you reach f/22 or beyond. The loss of sharpness with small apertures depends on the relationship of the physical size of the diaphragm aperture to the wavelength of light. On the other hand, aperture is just focal length divided by physical aperture. When we speak of f/11, it means that focal length divided into 11 will give the aperture diameter.

    In 6x9 with a 105mm lens, f/11 corresponds to a physical aperture of about f/8 with a 50mm lens in 35mm. You should not lose sharpness at f/16 with your Solinar.

    Distances on the lens scale are film plane to subject, and usually they can be trusted if focus at infinity is correct. Be careful with parallax if you get really close to the subject. Don't ask me how I learned this.

    On DOF, shooting a 6x9 folder with a 105mm lens is just like a 35mm with a 105. You really need to use a DOF scale.
    escuta likes this.
  14. Thanks Julio, very helpful!

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