A large part of my spare time is dedicated to camera rehabilitation. I like working on old folders and rangefinders – I find it calming, and I can always use some of that. I like to troll around for old Agfa/Ansco 6×6 folders to repair. I’ll shoot them a few times, but always end up selling them to support my repair habit.
Such is the case with this Ansco Speedex. It’s not a “Special R”, but does have an uncoupled rangefinder (technically, it’s the “Speedex 4.5 Special With Uncoupled Rangefinder” model which predated the Special R). As is the case with just about every single Agfa/Ansco folder, it suffered from three predictable maladies: Frozen unit cell focus, frozen rangefinder, and shredded bellows. The first two problems are due to the lubricant Agfa used in their cameras, which, after 50-some-odd years, congeals into a sort of green cement. The last problem – the shredded bellows – is due to the extremely cheap materials used as a cost-cutting measure.
For years, the best bet on fixing these cameras was to find a suitable donor camera on eBay. Early models had better materials, and sometimes the bellows could be harvested to replace the ones on the project camera. There are problems with this, though: The donor may or may not have leaks in the bellows, the camera may not be easily disassembled for harvesting (many older cameras were riveted together, and disassembly would damage the bellows), and the donor camera is lost. So, you’re trashing a camera to fix a camera. Expensive, and not very good conservation. Replacement with new bellows was almost always cost-prohibitive, costing as much as twice the initial cost of the camera or more.
Now, however, there’s a good, and economical, alternative. Sandeha Lynch is a photographer/technician located in Wales, and he’s become an artisan when it comes to bellows fabrication for the Agfa/Speedex range. I’ve personally used many of his bellows, and they’re top-rate, beautfully made and folded, and use premium materials.
Case in point, the subject Speedex. I’m in a holding pattern on the Seneca 8×10 rehab, so I wanted to replace the bellows on this Speedex today. The old bellows come out after pulling the film gate, and separating the old glue from the housing.
The brass mounting plate for the shutter is installed first, using some contact cement to adhere the front of the bellows to the plate. The bellows are then installed from the rear of the housing, taking special care to securely fit the folds to the gate. Excess material is trimmed, and the flaps cemented in place. The film gate is then reinstalled, and the shutter installed.
The final repair? Looks nice, and should be ready for decades more use:
Information about Sandeha’s bellows can be found on his “Visual Records” webpage, and his contact information is there.