Folding 35 - suggestions?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rgeorge911, Feb 14, 2005.

  1. Hi everyone,

    After reading a recent post, I must agree that this is the most
    civil forum on I enjoy the Leica forum, but it can get
    really rough in there :).

    I'm thinking of getting a classic 35mm folder. Don't want to spend
    a ton of money (something less than ~$75). Any suggestions? I want
    one that is likely to be a good user.

    I was looking at a Retina IIa, but it sold already.

    Any specific models and approximate prices for good users would be

  2. Hello Reed, There always seems to be a load of Retina IIIc models on fleabay that see for under 80 bucks. It's finder has frame lines for 50mm and is a bit larger than the IIa.

    Another alternative is a poor man's Retina, an Ansco Super Speedex, a.k.a. an Agfa Super Solinette. These need a tiny bit of work with regards to cleaning and lubing their focus helical, but they are otherwise a nice compact shooter. Prices range from $15 to $50.
  3. What could be on your list:
    • Agfa Solinette or Super Solinette (Super has a rangefinder)
    • Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 35/Contina, Contina II or Contessa (Contina II might be out of your price range. Contessa is probably out of your price range)
    • Retina II, IIa, IIc/C, IIIc/C (IIC and IIIc/C are probably out of your price range)
    • Voigtlander Vito II or III (III has a rangefinder but probably is out of your price range)
    • Agfa Karat (some use special Agfa cassettes)
    • Welti and Baldas (most were zone focus)
    • Those are the ones that come to mind. I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten. Nearly all will need to be serviced.
  4. The Agfa Karomat that takes conventional 35mm film cartridges is a wonderful camera. Solid, ergonomic. Doesn't "cover up" like clamshell folders, but other than that is excellent. And did I say solid. It uses what I believe is called an opposed prism RF where the entire RF window is also the VF. Some Certo folders employ the same design. GOOD LUCK.
  5. PS-I guess you would call it a strut camera as opposed to a folder. Balda also made solid cameras.
  6. Like Mike said, whatever you get will probably need some servicing. To add to the recommendations, you might also look at a Vito IIa, Karat 36 or maybe one of the Certo's. I have a Dollina and its a great little shooter. Keepin my eye out for a Super.
  7. With some luck you may find a Voigtlaender Vitessa (L), the ones with the 3.5/50 Skopars can be found for less than USD 100, and maybe for USD 75. Very special in design, but a great camera.
  8. Wait for a Retina IIa with the Xenon in your price range. There's one at 50$ ending in 16 hours.
  9. For $30, a Vito II. Early ones have the weak spots of filter and viewfinder bump. Late IIas get expensive and have the snaggable lever and shoe. In between is an ocean of fun - smooth operating and young enough to actually work, for the most.
  10. You can also check Ritz Collectibles - they have a soft spot in their hearts for Retinas and usually have the spread from beater to museum quality with a few nice users in each model sprinkled in.
  11. Hi, Reed Yeah, mate, know what you mean about "civil forums". Some of them should be renamed "uncivil ego wars", the way they nitpick and flame each other! Luckily, we on the Classic Camera Forum generally try just to help each other out, which is the way it should be, of course. Anyway, regarding your classic 35mm folder choice, I'm always a bit biased towards AGFA/Ansco stuff, because it's generally a lot cheaper than similar-spec'd stuff from other German manufacturers like Voigtlander and Kodak AG. You'd want to be looking at post-war 50s models with coated lenses, CRF, and a minimum 4-element lens. So, that narrows things down to the Super Solinette/Regent, a special favourite of mine because of its light weight and pocketability. Its f3.5 Solinar lens is a tad slow although sharp as a tack. The other choice would be one of the 50s Karat/Karomats "36" models, ie which use standard Kodak cartridges, not the 12-shot special AGFA Karat/Rapid ones. These are much heavier and less pocketable than the S/Solinette but do have a choice of quality, fast lenses right up to 6-element F2. As one of the other guys has mentioned, the CRF is the total horizontal-split type, which takes a bit of getting used to if you're accustomed to the more usual central tinted window type. (On the last Karat IV model, AGFA reverted to the latter type CRF and abandoned the Synchro-Compur for the slower - and apparently cheaper! - Prontor-SVS.) However, especially for shooting in poor light, it's much more positive to focuss. I've picked up both S/Solinette and Karat models on Ebay for around $40 in really nice condition, although stuck or sticky focussing helixes are common. (It's usually not a difficult problem to fix though, as you'll see from previous threads.) When you consider that back in the early 50s these Karats sold for very similar prices to the Retina 11s, paying $40 for a nice one today is a real bargain. Some day the Collecting World is going to rediscover the Karat! Good luck, anyway - PN
    (PS - Just a thought, though - if you're looking for small dimensions in a full-frame 35mm CRF, consider the Yamato Pal/Pax/Rex/Etc M4 series from c.1960. These aren't folders, but they're so goddamn small they can easily fit in your pocket. They have around the quietest leaf shutters ever made, and with 4-element f2.8 lenses (avoid the earlier 3-element f3.5 ones) produce really sharp pix. Once again, you can find these at around the $40 mark sometimes. The styling is quasi-Leica M series, but in miniature, so that's another plus!)
  12. okay, here is my offbeat recomendation:

    a Welta Weltini Folder. Can be had with a unit focusing Uncoated Tessar or Xenar. Coupled RF. Downside: Uncoated lenses. As sturdy as the Zeiss Contessa, Unit Focusing and Half the price! Sometimes if you get lucky you can find ones with F2.0 lenses!
  13. I'll just pop out of lurk mode and suggest the Agfa Karat series as well. I have a Karat 36 with the 2.8 Solinar and Syncro-Compur shutter. It's a very nice handly camera, quite compact and takes excellent images. The horizontal split in the RF does take a bit of getting used to but once you are it's a fast to use as any other. I keep mine in my glove compartment with a roll of Tri-X loaded so that no matter what I always have a camera along.

    I got mine as for only shipping as I had to clean the shutter and relube the helical, but nice examples are found easily enough at all the usual places.

  14. I have a number of 35 mm folders. It's for you to decide first whether you want a rangefinder or interchangeable lenses. If you want both, there is no choice, you have to stick with Retinas. If you don't need either, a Vito IIa may be a good choice. If it has a Prontor shutter that hasn't been used fo a while be prepared to have the shutter cla'd, Prontors don't age as well as Compurs do. My favourite 35mm folder is an early Vitessa with Ultron lens and Synchro-Compur shutter, but that may be out of your price range. I also love my pre-war Welta Weltini II with an uncoated 2,0 Xenon, but this is more kind of a collectible. A Certo Super Dollina II with Zeiss Jena Tessar will be capable of very nice results. My Agfa Super Solinette has a very sharp Solinar Lens, but rigidity is not so good and it has trouble keeping the lens parallel with the film. Stephen Gandy of Cameraquest seems to love the Retina IIa - I can't tell from my own experience, I don't have a Retina. For a user, I't try to find a Vitessa or a Retina IIa. Have you thought about a Rollei 35 with collapsible Sonnar or Tessar lens? More compact, better quality then all folders.
  15. I own my 2nd Vito folder now and don't like the trigger at all. The way is to long to catch the right moment and it is located in a way to cause camera shake. But well, the thing is extremely pocketable.
  16. I can second Peter Naylor's choice of the Agfa Solinette/Ansco Regent cameras. They will easily fit in a pants or shirt pocket, and the usual Apotar lens produces good results, although I haven'tr tried closer than 6 feet. The Solinar lens is supposed to be better for close ups although I haven't tried mine yet. The only downside is that there are no lugs for a neckstrap so you need at least a half case if you are not going to pocket them. Happy hun ting.
  17. I'd save up and buy a Vitessa. There's no finer 35mm folder in the world..
  18. Instead of a floder, can I suggest a Russian Fed 2 with collapsing Elmar-style (and design) lens? This gives you as much portability, and lens interchangeability should you want it. There are a ton of LTM lenses available, Russian, German, and Japanese.
  19. I'll second Frank's recomendation for the FED 2 with a collapsible Industar 22. The FED 2, type D would be my preference. It uses modern shutter speed increments, still has the 67mm range finder base and has a better hand-hold than most folders. Oh yeah, they are cheap, too.
  20. I agree wuith Gene, just read the begining of the Vitessa manual :

    "Your Vitessa is a 35mm camera made on new constructive principles which has been built into your hands. You will very quickly realize just how much be simplified handling will help you in obtaining better pictures"
  21. If you can find one with the better Tessar-type lens (instead of the triplet Baltar, which still isn't too bad as long as you forget about the f/2.9 and consider it an f/4.5 lens), the Balda Jubilette should compete with anything else around, and it's very nice to hold and carry -- small, not to heavy, and real leather covering. The follow-on Baldixette was a little more cheaply made and probably less likely to have the better lens. All of them, however, are prone to film advance problems due to wear or breakage in the counter and stop mechanisms. Mine routinely overlaps frames or gives almost no gap, though occasionally the stop will skip a tooth and I'll get a big gap between frames instead. I've taken it out of service until I can open it up and try to repair it -- but after almost 70 years, the bellows are still good, the tiny Compur ticks away as it should on all speeds from 1 to 300, and it's got a T as well as B.

    The bottom knob film advance takes little more getting used to than the wrong-side bottom advance on a Rollei 35, though it's easy to accidentally trip the release and skip a frame if your camera doesn't have the release block on the premium version. The film counter winds backward when rewinding -- I only have to reset it when (as I did recently for a push processing test) I open the camera in the changing bag and cut the film rather than rewinding.

    Overall, if you can find one that advances reliably and has the better lens, I'd recommend the Jubilette as a good alternate to a Retina, and it's likely to be a bit less expensive -- it's not known as a desirable collector camera the way the Retina family is.
  22. If you could raise your budget to about US $200, you would have a much broader range of cameras in which to make your decision. Assuming good condition, it would be hard to go wrong with any of the Retinas (IIa, IIc, IIIc), Vitessa's, or Contessa 35s. They are all of comparable photo output; the difference would be your preferences as to handling.
  23. I would insist for a Retina IIa. The lens is better than a Tessar and it open at f/2 and I think you can get one for around 100$ including shipping on "the great auction site".
  24. If you get to read all the way to the bottom here is my suggestion. Find a good Voigtlander Vito II. Doen't cost much money and it's a lot smaller than the Retinas (thinner so it fits in your pocket)
  25. The IIa fit in the pocket it's much smaller than the later Retina and it has a rangefinder !
  26. Thanks so much everyone. Now I have a good list to check out! I'll let ya know if I find one.

  27. The Vito II is really nice and so is the Retina IIc. I've owned them both. I don't like the Agfa Karat, it has a weird focussing system. Another nice choice is the Ricoh FF1 or FF1s, its retractable rather than folding.
  28. A Minox EL, GL, etc one of them. Very light, compact and sharp lens.
    Looks like the picture of the Ricoh above.
  29. A Olympus XA, not realy a folding...
  30. What about the Retina Ib? It seems that only other Retina models have been mentioned above as noteworthy. My Ib was soaked three times in a river, and it still is working properly. How many cameras can manage the same ?

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