I’ve recently (well, several weeks ago) reacquired the 6×6 folder bug. Picked up several Ansco/Agfa folders, fettled them, played with them, and ended up selling them. It was fun, but reminded me that I have little tolerance for uncoupled rangefinders, and no tolerance for scale focus cameras. I was stuck.
For a brief time, I pondered giving up on large format for the time being (long story…) and thought to myself that I’d really need a decent carry-around camera for snapshots and grab shooting. Checked PayPal and had some extra money there; got to thinking about an Agfa Super Isolette, or the American version, the Ansco Super Speedex. Truly a pinnacle of folding camera design, I started trolling for one. Posted WTB ads here and there, but nothing substantial came up.
Fast forward a week. A “FT” ad was posted on APUG, listing an Ansco Super Speedex. I PM’d the seller, and an accord was reached. The camera arrived promptly.
For those not familiar with this camera, it’s an amazing piece of engineering. Truly the top-of-the line for Agfa/Ansco, and arguably for the design as a whole at the time. Unit focus, coupled rangefinder, automatic film loading and frame counting. Equipped with a reportedly reformulated, coated 75/3.5 Solinar lens. It’s a wonderful camera. There are interlocks galore: Shutter and counter don’t operate without film loaded; door won’t fold with the lens extended; twisting film lock knobs on the bottom of the camera won’t twist unless the camera back is open.
The camera was aces. Shutter worked flawlessly, and I had the seller run a roll of film through it ahead of time to check the automatic film loading and frame counting. Everything checked out, except for the focus mechanism. Stuck like cement. I’ve dealt with this before on other Ansco unit-focus cameras, and usually can free the focus with heat from a hair dryer. But this one was stuck. Wouldn’t budge. Tried repeated applications of heat, solvents, you name it. Nothing worked. And, in the end, I decided that – for once – this was a camera too valuable for me to booger up with my inexperience. I sent the camera off to Jurgen Kreckle of certo6.com fame. He gave me a very reasonable quote, and because he was currently working on a Super Isolette, he worked mine at the same time. Turn around was amazing, and he did a top-notch job. The camera returned with the focus CLA’d, smooth and buttery. So now, the camera is in completely optimal working order.
I initially shot nothing but 400 speed film in it, mainly to allow faster shutter speeds so my inadequate hand-holding didn’t induce blur. And I’ve gotta say – I hate 400 speed films. There’s enough grain inherent (at least in the films and developers I’ve been using) that true sharpness is elusive. I was getting pretty decent results from Ilford Delta 400 in HC-110 dilution H, but still not as blistering-sharp as I’d hoped for. Then I loaded a roll of Acros…
The difference was night and day. No perceptible grain, incredible sharpness, wonderful tones. Amazing. I’ve shot mostly just snapshots of the kids with the Super so far, but here’s a test shot from a recent photo walk with my son:
A crop from that image shows the detail in the negative:
I am happy.
So, the Super is now my travel camera. I’ve accumulated a bunch of 100, 160, and 400 films in B&W and color to feed it. And I’m looking for excuses to shoot it.
Oh, and I dragged out the 4×5 to shoot a proper portrait of it:
This camera’s a keeper. And I think I’ve satisfied my folder Jonesing…