Folder 6x9 cameras wide open?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by andrew_c|2, Mar 29, 2004.

  1. Hi there,

    I'm intrigued with buying a folder as a cheap way of getting into
    6x9. Specifically, it would be nice if that folder could shoot
    really sharp pictures all the way to the largest apertures, à la the
    Planars or Xenotars in Rolleiflexes.

    I'm aware that Tessars, at least in Rolleiflexes, were best when
    stopped down to at least f/8 or greater.

    As for 6x9 folders, the Moskva-5 Industar lens is supposed to be very
    good, but only after stopping down to the same aperture, or even more.

    I presume that the qualities of the Tessars on the Super Ikonta Cs
    are similar to the those on the Rolleiflexes; is this true? How are
    the lenses wide open on other folders, like the Skopars and Heliars
    on Bessa IIs or the Solinors on Agfa Records?

    In short, is looking for a great wide-open lens on a folder
    unrealistic? I know depth of field would be incredibly shallow at
    that point; it's just that, for lenses like the Industar, large
    apertures don't just give shallow depth; they give near unusable

  2. This is a good article discussing the best 6x6-6x9 folders:
  3. "In short, is looking for a great wide-open lens on a folder unrealistic?"

    In short, yes.
    Lenses are sharper stoped down about 2 stops. I'm sure there is a physics/optics explanation for this.
    Remember 6x9 folders have potential issues with film flatness and keeping the front standard parallel to the film plane.
    If you want a sharp 6x9 camera, get a Fuji rangefinder.
    If you must have a folding 6x9, get a Zeiss Super Ikonta C with a Tessar lens. You could also get a 6x9 Horseman technical camera or a 6x9 Linhof. Each will fold up but neither will fit in your pocket.
  4. Welcome to the wonderful wacky search for possible un-obtainium. Tessar formula lenses can be quite good near full aperture. But the edges probably will go soft on you. The Kodak Ektar or Anastar 101mm f/4.5 and similar Zeiss and Voightlander lenses are optically quite fine. As you point out, they'll be similar to Rolleiflex.

    In my own experience I have been frustrated by folder cameras. There are several challenges. Parts that align the optics to the film plane can be problematic and are many times out of spec. Another challenge is determining the actual point of focus. The "focus by guess" distance gauges can easily be out of alignment. A third challenge is that film doesn't seem to lay very flat in folder cameras. So even if you did get things aligned properly, I've been left wondering where the film itself is moving to. Lastly, if there is an RF mechanism it can be out of alignment more often than not.

    After awhile I chucked the whole plot and bought a Mamiya 7. It's more like a giant Leica than a folder camera. But it's small enough that it goes everywhere with me (just like my folders were supposed to do, but were never up to snuff to actually wrangle with in the field).
  5. The most physically beautiful camera I ever owned was a Zeiss
    Super Ikonta C - the latest (early 1950's) rendition with the
    Tessar and X-sync. And it was unused!!! The original owner had
    dropped it right after purchasing resulting in a frozen shutter
    release, but no other damage.

    So I bought the camera for 50.00 (in the late 1970's) and fixed
    the shutter problem in five minutes, and then had fantasies of
    using it as my ultimate "carry-around" camera.

    Sadly, the Tessar on the Ikonta is a "front-element-focusser,"
    which means that its perfomance, at all f-stops (but especially
    wide open) is somewhat compromised when compared to that
    of a "fixed-cell" lens. This less-than-stellar was apparent to me
    right away, regardless of how careful I was in using it.

    But what a beautiful machine - and concept!

    I later owned a Plaubel 6X7 folder - the later rendition with the
    MC Nikkor (fixed-cell) lens, which was much more up to par
    optically, but not nearly as inspired design-wise.
  6. The Navy's WW2 Medalist I is a 620 format; eight shot' NON folder. It was made a non folder; to allow a more repeatable focus consistancy; than a folder. This is about a 6x9cm format; 3.25 x5.54= 8.3cm . The lens is a 5 element coated design; rangefinder coupled. Some of the post war Medalist II's are converted to 120; or used with milled down 120 rolls.
  7. Alright then,

    It sounds like the lens quality is the last issue to deal with when it comes to
    these old folders these days.

    Fair enough. One more question: the Super Ikonta C and Bessa IIs look
    really good to me; if you could have one or the other, assuming that they
    (somehow!) were in perfect working order, which would you take? If I'm not
    mistaken, the Bessa II does not use front element focusing, so would
    maintanance not be as much of an issue down the road?

  8. I like the Franka Solida camera with the Schneider lens.
  9. I don't know, maybe I've had unusually good experiences w/folders or have particularly low standards. IMHO, the Tesssar-type lenses on the Super Ikontas & Super Isolettes I own perform very well wide open (if you consider f/2.8 or f/3.5 "wide"), albeit not clinically sharp (if that's what you mean by "really sharp" or "great") like good modern glass & not as well as they do stopped down. The Ektar on the Kodak Medalist II mentioned by Kelly performs similarly. I've also had more problems w/the things like film advance, etc. than lens alignment on my folders.
  10. Andre, if you click on my name you'll find a file entitled "Folding Cameras". There's a shot in there from a 6x9 Voigtlander Bessa II with a Colour Heliar lens.

    On it's day, and at moderate apertures, this camera produces shots that for all practical purposes are as good as any I get from any modern medium format equipment. The catch is "on it's day", despite being in virtually mint condition and regularly serviced it's simply not consistent, something I've found with several folders. Maybe it's intermittent alignment accuracy of the front standard, but I'll get one frame with excellent quality and then another that's just okay. This is a characteristic it shares with a Super Ikonta and several Zeiss folders that I've owned. And wide open all of them are indifferent performers at best.

    Folders are great fun, and provide tremendous satisfaction when everything comes right, but I wouldn't regard them as a substitute for a modern MF camera if you need to rely on the results.
  11. What you are looking for is a Voigtlander Bessa II with an Apolanthar (I probably spelled that wrong) it will make pretty good snap shots wide open, but you are going to pay for it. On e-bay they go around 2000-2500.
  12. - One more question: the Super Ikonta C and Bessa IIs look really good to me; if you could have one or the other, assuming that they (somehow!) were in perfect working order, which would you take? If I'm not mistaken, the Bessa II does not use front element focusing, so would maintanance not be as much of an issue down the road? -

    But the Bessa II has a much less rigid lens standard than the Zeiss Ikon design. Even the much cheaper Ikontas and Nettars have a better chance of supporting the lens accurately compared with the Bessas, Ensigns, Agfas and Kodaks of the period.

    Out of about 10 or more folders I have owned, I kept five that produced good results and they are all Zeiss Ikon. The best performing is an Ikonta 521/16 with tessar lens. This one beats all the 6x9 ikontas I owned, maybe due to film flatness problems with the 6x9 models?

  13. I went nuts loking for a good folder, studying them all on ebay and seeing them in photo stores - my experience left me cold - the range finders - if the camera has one - are usually very dim and small - and you're lucky to find one with decent contrast. If there is no range finder, you can buy one as an accesory - but that kind of takes away from the compact design and also, old rangefindeer accesories also are also very small and dim. There's a reason these cameras passed into obscurity, though I'm sure many take excellent photos.
  14. Andre, per the article I cited above, the most revered 6x9 folder is the Agfa Record III with the Solinar lens:

    The thing about 6x9 folders- as opposed to 6x6 folders- is that they are a bit large for a coat pocket. I paid a premium to get the best refurbished Agfa Super Isolette (6x6 folder) I have ever seen from Jurgen Kreckel. It is a beautiful camera and is much more pocketable than a 6x9 camera. It also has a coupled rangefinder, shutter speeds to 1/500th, a coated lens, etc.:

    The Tessar-design 75mm f/3.5 Solinar on my Super Isolette is about identical two stops down to my Mamiya 6 bayonet 75mm f/3.5 lens. However, as has been noted, wide open, the modern Mamiya 6 lens is somewhat better.

    For a meter, I use a new, retro-styled Voigtlander VC meter from CameraQuest:
  15. Okay, here's the thing no one else has mentioned. You're going to hand hold this 6x9 folder most of the time, right? Otherwise, if you're lugging a tripod, you wouldn't worry so much about compactness of the camera and you'd have gone with a rigid camera, which has less problems with both film flatness and lens/film plane alignment.

    That being the case, a Tessar class lens is better than your ability to hand hold at anything below 1/200, even wide open at f/3.5 (and very, very few 6x9 folders were sold with lenses faster than that). My Moskva is better than I am even at f/3.5 and 1/250 -- but with the 3/8" tripod mount, I haven't yet got it mounted on a tripod (need $28 at the same time I can get to the shop that has the adapting tilt head). If you routinely shoot from a tripod, you might notice the softness in these lenses at f/5.6 or wider, but scanning the negatives at 1200 ppi, I see more focus errors and motion blur than anything I can identify as related to the lens itself; you'll probably find film flatness more of an issue than the quality of the lens, in any medium format folder above 6x4.5 size.

    Honestly, unless you always shoot from a tripod and you're routinely enlarging to 16x20 or larger and expecting people to view the result from arm's length or closer (unlikely with a print that size), a Tessar on a Super Ikonta C or the Industar-24 on the Moskva-5 is better than it needs to be. And my Moskva-5 with 6x6 format mask, seemingly in freshly serviced condition (it's missing one screw of four in the lens bezel and one on the bed attachment, IIRC, the back latch is a little iffy, and there's a small vertical misalignment in the RF that makes it interesting to focus on some subjects, but clean, shiny, and 100% functional) was $72 shipped from the Ukraine.
  16. This is a nice discussion regarding 6 by 9 folders. I'll second the comment regarding hand-held photography and using the intermediate shutter speeds. I have a Billy Record II and may have brought my monopod with me on two occasions. It does make for a better photo when using the 1/25th and 1/50th shutter speeds. A tripod is a sure fire way to get the maximum image quality out these cameras.
    Film Flatness: It takes a bit of effor to keep the film as flat as possible. Don't wind the film to the next frame until just before the exposure. The reason for is that the film is sucked inward a bit when the bellows are extended.
    Given a choice between the Bessa II and Super Ikonta C., I'd have to lean towards the Zeiss Ikon as its front standard seems to be a bit more solid, even though in theory the Voigtländer's "unit focus" design is very appealing. Agfa's Record III also has uses a very solid design for locking the front standard, plus its more compact than the above cameras, but most will definitely need a new pair of bellows installed and a full CLA.
    The use of a folder not about blowing the film doors off any of the Fuji 690 series rangefinders, it's about having a little fun with a rudimentary camera that will yield an amazing 11 by 14. Just keep the film wound tight, aim a little high or to the right depending on the orientation of the camera for parallax correction, include a little more of the subject in the frame than you would with a thru-the-lens SLR and have some fun.
  17. We are all members of the "6x9 Folder Heart-break Club." I am
    61 and have been involved in phtography for 50 years. I have
    used every 6x9 fold I could lay my hands on and in the
    end......they all proved OK but never delivered that something
    special in sharpness that makes a really good 11x14. Everyone
    has mentioned film flatness, front element focusing etc and all
    these factors are important. These are also "age degraded"
    cameras in that they are old and sometimes were not built to the
    most exacting standards. Sometimes they were assembled with
    indifferent care, esp. in refrence to lens centering, which is
    expensive. And lens sharpness is important because so often
    we crop the very large negative and use only a portion of it. In the
    end, perhaps, out of desperation, I purchased three used
    cameras that were very good deals and I think they prove my
    point. First, a Fuji rangefinder, in this case a 6x7, which is a very
    very fine camera. Yes, Fuji optics are terrific. But the camera is
    just so large, even if it is not too heavy. A great camera but it
    reminds you of why you wanted a folder. And then I also got a
    user condition Plaubel 67. This is an amazing camera. The
    Nikkor lens is excellent and the camera is fun to use. It folds flat
    and I have taken many many really fine pictures with it. Mine is in
    rough cosmetic condition so it was not expensive and I had the
    WIZ do a CLA and it is just excellent. Then someone offered me
    a terrific deal on a Plaubel IIIs with three lenses. I figured, worst
    comes to worse, I could sell the package because the camera
    was in wonderful condition. Well, it produces trully excellent
    photos. The wideangle lens is first rate as is the late 100mm
    standard lens and the tele is very very good. The camera folds
    flat enough, even with the film black (which are terrific fun and
    useful too) but the camera is very very slow to use....and I used to
    forget to remove the film blind until I got used to the camera.
    ------What I found was simply that the old folders (sigh.......) just
    will not deliver results that come close to the standard 6x9
    cameras such as the Fuji or the Plaubel. You blow up central
    details in huge enlargements and you can see the difference. I
    do landscape and scenics and I can see the difference in detail.
    I remember the first time I saw this in an enlargement; it broke
    my heart to realize, once and for all, that folders just will not do it.

    But.....the old folders are really small when folded, light weight,
    fun to I kept one in my car for "that time" when I did not
    have a camera. You know what I found? Everytime I saw
    something I wanted to photograph, rather than take out the old
    folder, I wrote down the location and the time of day and lighting
    and then returned with the Plaubel. So, even when I thought I
    had opportunity to use an old folder to benefit, when I could, I
    came back later with a camera in which I had more confidence.

    The worst part of it is that every now and then I see a 6x9 folder
    on ebay going for a really low price and I wonder if........but i think
    my heart has been broken once too often. (Anybody need any old
    folder parts?)

    If you look for some rough looking Fuji/Plaubel equipment, the
    prices are often low. But these cameras, esp. the Fuji are
    reliable and built like tanks. The shutter and other mechanisms
    are simple to fix if they need it, and service is not expensive. If
    you demand great cosmetics, the costs are going to be very high
    and the cameras may or may not be in better condition. So rather
    than buying a rough folder that will certainly need a CLA and a
    prayer or two, get a more expensive Fuji or old Plaubel (keep to
    the post-war III series).

    No, I do not use the large Fuji 67 anymore because the Plaubels
    are just so much more compact. On the other hand, the Fuji will
    be working long after I have gone back to nature.


  18. Thanks for the comments, folks. A Moskva-4 is on its way; if it works out well, I might be able to slide a Super Ikonta C below the watchful gaze of my fiancée (losing the Moskva-4, of course!) and act like nothing happened.

    Take care,

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