View Full Version : Should I or shouldn't I?

08-01-2004, 15:33
Just wondering what, if anything, anyone can tell me about the camera or vender in this auction - http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3830221356

It looks like it would be a very interesting camera, but it would be my first Russian and first folder.

Thanks for any input.


08-01-2004, 16:15
I've seen some good things done with the Iskra from a guy on photo.net.

This sellers looks to be legit. However, in the description, I don't understand "Blocking of film is not work."

He also describes it as a TLR, which it obviously isn't. Probably using a template and typed in the wrong thing. No big deal -- we all do that.

Cost seems to be reasonable. The only thing I would say (as with all older cameras) is to expect the worst and hope for the best. I've yet to buy a pre-1970 camera that didn't need some type of work.

Rich Silfver
08-01-2004, 16:18
I can just give you my persnal opinion so take it for what it's worth.

Personally I would not get it. I would bet that those bellows have some light leaks in them and unless you're real handy you would be looking at 80-100 dollars to replace them.

The camera may also need a CLA when it gets to you which would be another chunk of money.

The comment 'blocking of film does not work' would worry me as well.

08-01-2004, 16:47
Ok. Thanks for the tips, I appreciate it.

Any tips on what would be a relativly safe/good MF folder for me to look for?


08-01-2004, 19:43
There are plenty of choices, but most come down to three categories: Size of image, type of focus and cost.

Image: 6x4.5, 6x6 and 6x9 are the most common. Some have masks that are either built into the camera or that you insert to allow you to shoot two formats, though generally not on the same roll.

Focusing: There are plenty of zone focus cameras out there and just as many with rangefinders. Some are coupled; some are uncoupled. If you're shooting mostly landscapes, zone focus is fine. If you're going to be photographing people and things around the yard and the house, you'll want a camera equipped with a rangefinder.

I just sold two Franka Solida folders. Wasn't going to use them, and I need the shelf space for cameras I use.

Cost: Much is determined by camera maker, lens and features.


-- Agfa Isolette III with the Solinar lens. Nice camera, uncoupled rangefinders but check the bellows carefully, as Agfa bellows seem prone to pinholes.

-- Zeiss-Ikon Super Ikonta B: Great lens, coupled rangefinder. Will almost always need serviced.

-- Nagel Duo Six-20: Comes with either a sharp Xenar or Tessar lens. You'll need to respool 120 film onto 620 spools.

--Voigtlander Bessa (the real Voigtlander): The Heliar and Skopar lenses are highly regarded. Lens standard susceptible to wear.

--Ikonta 521/16: Look for the Tessar lens. This is an underrated camera. It's zone focus, but it has a very nice lens. Simple to operate. Nearly dumbass-proof.

There definitely are others, such as Balda, Ross and Kodak, though I haven't had any experience with them.

The Zeiss-Ikons seem to be the most popular, because the quality of construction was generally very high.

If possible, try to actually hold the camera. Check for physical damage. Make sure the camera opens and closes smoothly and that the lens bed firmly locks into position. There shouldn't be any play with the lens when it's locked into position.

Check the bellows for pinholes. Look for mold or fungus on the lens. Check the slow speeds on the shutter -- they should whirrr smoothly and not stutter.

See what I mean? Lots to check, and it's why I say, "Expect the worst and hope for the best."

Rich Silfver
08-01-2004, 20:16
Mike brings up some excellent options.

So to sum it up William what's;
a) your budget,
b) format preference (6x6, etc), and
c) primary photo subjects (portrait, landscape, etc)?

Personally I really like the Agfa Isolette III and the Agfa Super Isolette.

08-01-2004, 20:28
Interesting information. The proverbial learning something new - thank you for taking the time to post all of that for me.

I guess what I am interested in is an inexpensive (yeah, I know...) compact MF camera that I can keep in the car or throw in my backpack and not really have to worry about. I want MF because I love the negatives and prints I get out of Tmax 400 in my Yashica-Mat 124G - this is also why I have come to love the 6x6 format. 6x4.5 is fine too, but larger than square begins to make for too big a camera for what I'd like to do. I'm using my GSN for this purpose now and it's a very nice camera; if it were 6x6 instead of 35mm I'd probably not be pondering this.

Thanks again,


08-01-2004, 21:10
I'd definitely PASS on this one. Main reason: The seller wants money transfer or cash. Bad, Bad!

He's also rather sloppy in his description, saying it's a TLR. And that "everything works" but "blocking of film is not work" whatever that means. Certainly it does not have 1/2500 of a second shutter speed. It is not "60x60", more like 56x56mm. But also reasonable to call it "6x6" instead.

Better to go with one of the known-reliable sellers. Here's a decent place to shop: http://www.fedka.com/Frames/Main_Frame.htm

08-02-2004, 05:42
Have a look at this seller's offerings.


He doesn't have a lot of folders for bid right now, but he regularly lists cameras that have been fully CLA'd, including the replacement of the bellows if necessary. They may cost a little more, but it may be worth the piece of mind. I believe there are links to an article about him if you scroll down one of his auctions.

08-02-2004, 06:03
Originally posted by ZeissFan
This sellers looks to be legit. However, in the description, I don't understand "Blocking of film is not work."

Mike, I guess he means the 'auto' film advance system doesn't work and has been replaced with a red ruby window.

That seems to be the weak point of Iskras, very prone to breaking (around 2/3 or all the Iskras I've found online have the retrofitted red window) so especially with this camera I'd only get one from a reputated seller who has actually tried it with film and checked that all was ok.

A pity, 'cos when working properly, seems to be one of the best things in FSU equipment. But it's not a straightforward purchase.

08-02-2004, 06:09
The gentleman that Doug mentioned has a Iskra for sale right now that is a bit more expensive but is called in excellent condition. I have a couple of questions emailed to him, but that looks as if it might be the best way to go.

Thanks to everyone here - it's good to have found a place where questions like this can get good helpful answers.


08-02-2004, 06:19
I have looked at some of these with interest also, but always declined to purchase one, not knowing anything about them. I don't really know anything about these cameras in general and don't know any more than anyone else what blocking of the film means. If I had to guess, I think he might be referring to the film counter window. I recently purchased a Welta Weltax which is a little rough, and one of the things missing is the button to open and close the two film counter windows (it is both 645 and 6x6).

As an aside, you might want to consider one of these with or without the mask. I had used a Welta Welti camera many years ago and purchased one again a few months ago. I like them. The Weltax I wanted for the MF negatives. I just purchased one with a good case and seems mostly good. I am putting it though its paces now so I don't know if it really works as well as it seems to.

There are oil like spots of the rear lens element. Hopefully that won't be a problem, or if so, and I can't clean them, the first Weltax will be a parts camera.

Welta isn't a well known German camera, but as I said, I have always liked them. They even had both 35mm and MF formats with coupled rangefinders iirc.

One last thing, many of the older folders were 6x9, which is a little big. Some were 6x7 and of course, there are many 6x6 and some convertible from 6x6 to 645. I wanted one for the same reason as you. A larger negative without a larger camera. I already have a Super Press 23. Nice for what it does, but I just didn't always want to have to carry that around for MF. Good luck on your decision.

08-02-2004, 06:32
I bought a Zorki-4 from this Seller a few months ago. He shipped quickly, but the camera was not as good as the pictures or his description showed, and I typically have very low expectations for auction purchases. The vulcanite body had been brushpainted with glossy black paint, the camera was heavily worn, the take-up spool rim was broken and the lens had plier marks on the filter ring.

Of course had he been 100% descriptive, no one would have bought it at all. Nonetheless it was cheap, $45.00 after the S&H included.

The camera is undergoing major refurbishment now, but it will always have a few rough spots.


08-05-2004, 19:05
Well, I went with an Iskra from www.fedka.com. Thank you all fou comments and advice.


back alley
08-05-2004, 19:33
congrats on your purchase!
i've looked at that site on occasion and thought it looked like a safe place to buy from.
keep us posted as to how the transaction goes and what the camera looks like when it arrives. and of course, some pics taken with it too.


08-05-2004, 19:58
Yeah, I was impressed when he told me he needed to test the camera by running a roll of film through it before I ordered the camera. That made me feel safe spending a fair bit more than I might otherwise have for a FSU camera. It'll be fun to see what it's like wandering around downtown with it. Well, early next week I should be able to post something here. We'll see! :D


08-06-2004, 06:59
Willliam -- let me add congrats as well. I hope you get a good one.

08-06-2004, 08:20
Thanks. I hope so as well. This pretty much depletes the camera fund for a while - in the past week I've been on a buying spree. I've ebayed or ordered:
1) a second Yashica GSN for spares
2) a Canon QL-17 GIII
3) the Iskra
4) and I'd been promising myself this for awhile - a used Mamiya 645E kit. (body, insert, 80mm/2.8 and grip and have high bid on a 110mm./2.8 on ebay)

Pretty serious damage to the fun budget, but it's going to keep me learning for awhile and that's a very good thing. Whoo! :D


08-15-2004, 14:20
That looks almost identical to my Ikonta:


If its anywhere near as good as the Ikonta, I think its a bargain...

P C Headland
08-23-2004, 04:05
The Iskra is a great camera, if you can find one that hasn't been butchered.

Many have ruby window conversions as their auto film count and "blocking" ceased functioning. Some have been modded to a 6x4.5. Generally though, they seem to be quite well made, and seem to have been a pro camera in the FSU.

I got lucky, mine works properly and I'm really enjoying using it. Nice bright RF, not too big, lens doesn't seem to flare much, and it's a real buzz to see a roll of slides :-)

The only real problem seems to be finding filters.....

(http://pch.fotopic.net/c150836.html for some Iskra (and others) shots)

08-23-2004, 04:18
Welcome to the forum PC, I browsed through your pictures and read your posts regarding the Iskra on that other forum :) That door in Prague is one of my all time favorites.

I think you're right, an Ukranian seller and photographer told me the Iskra was a professional oriented camera in the FSU, that may explain why so many of them are found in so sad condition...

I got an Iskra myself from [email protected], looked to be very good and with the proper film counter mechanism, unfortunately the seller sent me the wrong camera :bang: Returned it and got a full refund and with time the Iskra idea vanished.

I remember liking the finder a lot though, but even the whole film chamber was souped in WD40 which was leaking from the lens assembly... :eek:

09-07-2004, 10:15
Finally had a chance to get some shots from it scanned. Most were test exposures around the neighborhood and nothing special. This one was somewhat interesting though.

The Iskra handles well and certainly will force me to have to shoot up to it. I think this one is going to be the one I always have with me, though probably with bw film so that I can develope it myself.



09-07-2004, 10:17
Yoikes that's bigger than I thought! Time to go futz with the scanner...