Ikoflex Coffee Can and Agfa Flexilette - Two Very Different TLR's

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by John Seaman, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. The Coffee Can was the first version of the Ikoflex, and was quite different from its successors. I'd only seen pictures, the decorative front making me think it was fairly delicately constructed, but no, it's built like a cast metal tank. I've never seen a coffee can which remotely resembles it, but I found some reference to it reminding German troops of cofffee cans they were issued with in the First World War.

    Unusually for a TLR, he film is transported horizontally, resulting in protruberances on either side. The lever at the bottom advances the film, frames being positioned by the user centering the number in either one of two frame counters, visible on the "shoulders" of the camera. That on the left as you hold the camera, is for metal 120 spools, the other is for wooden shafted spools which seem to have been somewhat fatter. A red window is used to position the first frame from the number 1 on the backing paper. The film is loaded into a rather intricate carrier attached to the camera base, which slides up into the body and is released by the silver button on the back. Removing the base resets the film counters, which can also be reset by operating the small lever below the main advance lever.

    Focusing - very stiff on mine - is by a lever at the side of the lens, the distance being indicated by a rotating wheel at the top. The film counters are driven by two shafts on the film carrier which engage with sockets in the body. One of the counters was jammed on mine but I freed it up by dripping in lubricant and turning it with a screwdriver.


    Otherwise the camera is reasonably conventional including the viewing hood and magnifier. Mine has a Novar lens and a Compur Rapid shutter with a full range of speeds. There is a removable hatch on the back, presumably for setting focus.

    The Flexilette is one of the few 35mm TLR's, including the pre-war Zeiss Ikon Contaflex and the Flexilette's successor, the pentaprism equipped Agfa Optima Reflex. However I found this site - which also lists surprisingly many Japanese models, some with side-by side lenses.

    LINK --- Twin lenses 35mm

    The Flexilette has Apotar triplet lenses, with the functions controlled by three rings around the large circular lens board. The front ring adjusts focus, the middle ring aperture, and the rear one, the fully speeded Prontor shutter. Viewing is by a fixed waist level finder, which reverses left for right. There is also a pop up magnifier and sports finder. Otherwise the layout is pretty conventional. Mine is fully operational except that the magnifier comes up too far, also one of the five aperture blades is lazy, resulting in a pear shaped aperture.

    I hope this has been of interest, and many thanks for looking.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
  2. A question: the Ikoflex view is horribly dim, does anyone know how to remove the viewing hood for cleaning and perhaps replacing the mirror? There are no visible screws. I daresay the silvering will just rub off if I try to clean it.
  3. I know nothin', 'bout removin' nothin',

    BUT on TLRs and SLRs of that vintage, it is usually the mirror that is dirty, oxidized, or otherwise 'worn out'. I just use the "sports finder" on my incredibly dim Pilot Super 6

    Yours are seriously cool.

    I always wanted one of those Ikoflexes, but only have a later version. also with a Novar, not the sharpest tack in the box, BTW, but some fascinating bokeh
    James Bryant likes this.
  4. There is an ebay seller marty1107 who seems to be specialized in (front silvered) mirror replacements for vintage cameras. I bought a replacement mirror for a Voigtlander Superb (focusing with Heliar lens), and it worked well. I hope he might be able to help you.

    On another note, I briefly owned the Agfa Flexilette and Bolsey C 35mm TLR. I have to say the Agfa is much more usable and the lens is better in my humble opinion. Although eventually I got rid of them both, and get back to the comfortable 6x6 TLR of Rolleis.
  5. Thanks for the comments. JDM, there's no sports finder. Bruce, thanks for the info, actually I have bought a mirror for a Rolleicord from that seller, he provides a very good service at reasonable cost. I had a similar problem getting the hood off my early model Kodak Reflex and came to the conclusion that there was no way of getting the top off, short of completely dismantling everything:

    LINK --- Kodak Reflex First Version - Hood Removal?

    Perhaps the designers of these early TLR's never designed them to be opened up, let alone 80 years later.
  6. John, the viewfinder CAN be removed. And yes, the surface reflector mirror is so fragile that cleaning it will wipe the reflective material right off. I have put off ordering a mirror from the fellow recommended above but I should.

    To remove the viewfinder, first, there are two brass "nails" that secure the facia on the front of the viewfinder. Gently get underneath them and pry them off. They are reusable. I found that a tool designed to pull watch hands off serves well to remove these once you loosen them slightly by prying under the head. Be careful because the facia is a thin tin piece that is easily deformed. Good news is as easily as it is bent, it can be straightened if need be. Removing this facia reveals two of the three screws that hold the viewfinder in place. After removing these two flat head screws, remove the two screws holding the depth of field scale plate and withdraw the plate. Then turn the camera around and on the back, there is a (nickel) plated screw just above the film transport release button. Withdraw this screw and the finder will lift out. This gives access to the mirror but as you mentioned, it is too fragile to be cleaned. I find the "coffee can" to be a very cool TLR and capable of great vintage images.Good Luck!

    John Seaman likes this.
  7. Many thanks Andy. I hadn't realised that the facia was separate and not an integral part of the casting. I will have a look later and decide if I want to proceed with it, and report back.
  8. Success. Following Andy's instructions, I removed the hood, the only difficult part being pulling out the two brass pins which secure the fascia. The mirror wasn't as bad as I'd expected, but I decided to replace it with a new one I'd ordered for a Rolleicord but never used. It needed trimming to fit. This is what's under the hood - thanks again Andy:

  9. That's a sweet mirror John. Glad it worked out.

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