Agfa’s production of the Isolette series spans several decades. Multiple models were made from pre-WWII 1936 up to 1958. The Isolette I is a simple German-made 120 folder that was sold from 1952 to 1960. The camera features an 85mm coated f/4.5 – 32 Agnar lens and a synchronized Vario leaf shutter. Focus is scale-focusing, measured on the lens from 3 feet to infinity.
I purchased the Isolette I for $20 after listening to Episode 143 of the Film Photography Project Podcast. Host Mark O’Brien details many of the features. He also describes the common issues with sticky, or dried lubricant. When I received the Isolette, sure enough, the lens would not focus because the original lubricant had cemented the focus in place. Utah Film Photography friend, Maurice Greeson, put the camera on his workbench, cleaned, lubricated and freed the focus.
My experience with the Isolette was just so-so. I like having a 120 folder that has such a small footprint. However, I found that ultimately I wanted better control over the focus. My ideal 120 folder would have a rangefinder focus. The Isolette I doesn’t have a light meter. For some photographers that might be a deal breaker, but for me it wasn’t an issue. Now that I’ve said that, the majority of my shots were under or over-exposed. I don’t believe this was my fault or the cameras. I think it was the expired Kodak T-Max 100 I was using. I’m not sure how it was stored before it was donated. Will I shoot with the Isolette again? Sure, but with some fresh Kodak Tri-X or Illford HP5.
6 thoughts on “Agfa Isolette I”
I lean the same way you do: gimme a rangefinder, but I’m okay with figuring my own exposure. The big reason I want a rangefinder is so that I don’t forget to focus. I do that all the time with guess-focus cameras. The rangefinder patch being “off” reminds me to focus.
I have an Isolette of some stripe around here somewhere and I shot it twice, but I just can’t warm up to it. I can’t put my finger on why.
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Agree. I’m okay pulling out a light meter, but I think most people want to focus out of habit, or least have more control. On the FPP Podcast, Mark mentions a Super Isolette that is rangefinder focus. That might be a fun camera to try, depending on the price.
Most Agfa models that feature rangefinder focusing have the word “Super” in the model name, if you want to hunt for them on eBay. Rangefinder models are much less plentiful but aren’t too expensive, usually hovering around the $100 area in good shape. Learning to scale focus is useful for using any more sophisticated camera though because it helps you get a sense of distance and lens settings before lifting a camera to your eye. I don’t have an Isolate but I do enjoy some other scale focus Agfas.
I should have posted this link along with the blog.
Agfa and Ansco Medium Format Folders, a practical view
A great resource for all things Agfa/Ansco.
Thiss is awesome
I have one which I bought in 2019 in Germany, but its rear hatch is leaking light.
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