View Full Version : 120 Folder: Which one should I get?

08-01-2005, 05:56
I'm thinking of trying my hand out at medium format, but I can't afford the expense of a whole kit and I also don't want to deal with the bulk, either. So, I'm thinking of going the folder route. But, which one to get? That's the question!

I've looked at the Isolette, the Super Ikonta, and the Iskra, but I know next to nothing about any of these or about folders in general. So, here I am looking to be enlightened. What should I look for in a folder and which model would be best?

08-01-2005, 06:19
You may have been here before, but it seems to be the best site for info on 120 folders.


He also sells on ebay and seems to do top notch work,


08-01-2005, 06:55
For even more info, look at these:

08-01-2005, 07:07
It depends first of all on your budget, and then, on your preferences: square or rectangular, coupled rangefinder or not, top of the line lens or lower, coated (post-WW2) lens or not, etc. But, as long as it is in good shape, you can't go wrong with it. And keep in mind, a top folder in excellent shape can cost you as much as a good MF SLR basic setup (like Mamiya)

I personally have a 6x6 super ikonta with a coated novar-anastigmat 75/3.5 lens and synchro compur shutter - very happy with it.

back alley
08-01-2005, 07:07
i have a balda, folding camera, it has 75/4.5 rigonar lens on it.
it says baldix on the side.
never used it.

is this worth anything?
is anyone interested?

i should add that i know nothing about folders.


08-01-2005, 07:32

Sounds like a nice basic 6x6 folder. Scale focus, decent triplet lens, and I'd guess a Prontor shutter of some variety (SVS?). Good cameras, not much demand for them that I can see. If I had a twenty spot to spare plus the postage, I'd be PMing you already :bang: :D

info here: http://homepage.mac.com/mattdenton/photo/cameras/balda_baldix.html


back alley
08-01-2005, 07:37
thanks william, i did a quick search but came up empty handed.
that looks like mine except for the lens.

if i had a scanner that handled medium format i might be tempted to use it.


08-01-2005, 09:05
Another cheap entry into 120 film is to go for a Voigtlander Brillant (TLR) or a Russian Lubitel. My 120 folders are an Isolette II 85mm F4.5 Apotar, Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517 75mm f 3.5 Novar. Both of these are 6x6cm format. I also use an Ensign Selfix 16-20, 75mm f3.5 Rosstar which is a 6x4.5 format and lastly a Voigtlander Bessa 1 105mm f 4.5 Vaskar giving a whopping 9x6cm neg. All these cameras are capable of quite staggering results and can be picked up on ebay for quite small money.

08-01-2005, 09:11
Moskva 5 is a fun folder, too. I've got one that I'm considering gettin' rid of... :-)

P C Headland
08-01-2005, 09:18
There are a few others too, such as the (old) Mamiya 6, some Frankas and Baldas with coupled RF, and also one or two English cameras.

The Super Ikontas, & top of the line Isolettes etc are good, but you are also competing with collectors, and this pushes the prices up. Some have better viewfinders than others, and some of the Ikontas are quite heavy

The Iskra is easily the best value for money, and IMHO has the best viewfinder of any of the old folders. It has a wonderful lens too. The only real weakspot is the film advance, so you need to check that this is working (and that the camera hasn't be converted to a red-window wind) Note that you can only test this with a film.

For something a little cheaper to start with, you could consider one of the folders with an uncoupled RF. Obviously a bit slower shooting with these, but the prices are a lot lower. You can pick up the Ikonta with the UCRF for well under $100, and they are usually a bit lighter too.

My recommendation is to find a decent Iskra (go for the Iskra I, they are cheaper and more plentiful than the II, plus you can always get a II later :) , either from a reputable seller on one of the auction sites, or through someone like Soviet Camera, Fedka or OK Vintage.


08-01-2005, 10:45
I'd prefer one with a coupled rangefinder, since I don't know if trust myself to scale focus properly. Until I have enough spare $$ for one, it's a moot point, though.

What exactly is the problem with the Iskra's film advance and what is a red-window advance?

08-01-2005, 11:10
The Iskra has an automatic film advance mechanism. You put in your roll of film, replace the cover and start winding. The camera senses when the the film starts because the paper back and film together is significantly thicker than the paper alone. Once it senses the start of the film, it then winds on enough to position the first frame and stops automatically. This mechanism has a reputation for fragility. In my experiance, the biggest problem with it is that different films are on different thickness emulsion bases which can cause the spacing between frames to differ.

Basically if you use the camera as befits a 40-something year old machine and aren't ham-fisted with it, you should be fine.

However over the years, some have been broken or worn out. Because the RF/VF and lens are so magnificent for a folder, people who owned unrepairable cameras had the advance mechanism replaced with a simple winder and the back modified to have a red window put in to use the numbers on the backing paper to position the film. Most folks here prefer to find an Iskra with the advance working correctly, but OTOH, an otherwise clean camera with a well done conversion would be an inexpensive way into a very nice folding camera.

The Iskra is an excellent camera and a fully functional one is well worth the premium that has become attached to them. I paid ~$180 for mine and consider every penny well spent. Fedka currently has one that isn't quite as nice, but is still a good user example for $159.00: http://www.fedka.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=376&osCsid=eadcf938c9c998a6c957ef3afa16b1f3 If your budget permits, that's as good as it gets without getting into the silly money that nice Zeiss folders go for.


08-01-2005, 11:13
I happen to have an Iskra which I purchased from Fedka in decent but not perfect condtion which I think I am going to inspect then list for sale. It is perfectly functional, including the film advance. Just thought that if you are interested in an Iskra I may be able to offer you one.

08-01-2005, 11:14
Several months ago my daughter brought me a Kodak Vigilant folder she bought at an antique shop in London. I was touched by the thoughtful gesture, but figured the camera wasnít anything special. But I ran a couple of rolls through it and was every pleased with the results. Give a little care to focus distance and depth of field and it will produce very nice pictures. Also, thereís that special sense of accomplishment in getting the good out of a camera considered by most folks to be obsolete. Iíve attached an example shot last week on Acros.

Now, Iím in the process of getting to know an Agfa Isolette I that I received last week. And thereís a nice-looking Zeiss Nettar 6x4.5 on the way. I fear these folders are going to be just as addictive as the FSU cameras. HmmmÖI sense a Moskva and/or Iskra in my future.

Anyway, my advice is to start with something inexpensive and work your way up.


08-01-2005, 11:39
I have only owned one, a Super Ikonta 530/16, but I absolutely love it every time I take it out. It's a mystery why I don't use it more often than I do.

08-01-2005, 11:56
because you 'absolutely love' all the zeiss stuff you have, Honu, and since you have plenty of these, the love is well distributed :)

08-01-2005, 12:01
I have a Ikon Nettar like Pherdi's. Picked it up for 35 CDN. Bellows in awesome shape. Some coating of the lens has run a bit though. I shot a couple of rolls through and liked them. I'd recommend it, but its my only folder so I don't have much to compare to.

08-01-2005, 12:06
A post-war Zeiss Super Ikonta 531/2 (aka "C"). Next, a pre-war one. I have a pre-war so its lens isn't coated. It is beautifully built and fun to use. I got it because of what Steve Gandy wrote about this model on his web-site. It's all true. I've made Ilfochrome prints from 6x9 transparencies (in low contrast light of course) made with this camera and they're stunning. The rangefinder is spot-on, probably because of how well built they were way back then. The albada finder is only a rough approximation of what your photo will be of, but with 6x9 you've got plenty to work with anyway. This is an old folder that, unlike some other models, you can trust to use quite a bit.

08-01-2005, 12:08
It's amazing how the fifty+ y old leather bellows on most zeiss folders resist everything. So far I've handled 3 zeiss folders, all had excellent bellows (one had a completely rusted body). While the somewhat younger Agfa i had with the vinyl(?) covered bellows was already cracking in the corners.

08-01-2005, 12:12
because you 'absolutely love' all the zeiss stuff you have, Honu, and since you have plenty of these, the love is well distributed :)
:D I haven't met many cameras of any brand I didn't like...it is somewhat comfortable to grab a IIa and head out the door, though.

I like folders because they are compact to carry (perfect for travel), luscious MF negs, and the nature of the beast forces me to slow down and compose (even if I still get it wrong :)). Also great for conversations with strangers -- you might want to consider this if you're shy. I can not recall using it around people that someone doesn't come over and want to talk about it.

P. S. I think I'll sell everything and keep my folder...

Richard Black
08-01-2005, 13:21
I have an Agfa Isolette I, Fuji GS645 Professional, and a Moskva V on the way. I have had a Zeiss Nettar 512 and a Moskva 2. I like them. My 2 cents, get a good Isolette I or II and an auxillary rangefinder, one that fits in the cold shoe. Use it or hyperfocal focusing and you will be amazed at the negatives.

08-01-2005, 13:46
Hello there from a new member.

I have and use when possible quite a few folding 120 cameras as hand held location alternatives to my studio gear.
All of them are of the cheap and cheerful variety (no Super Ikontas), but some have lenses that when stopped down are very sharp.
When used outdoors they are not prone to attracting thieves.
Keep a bagful loaded up, (light and portable), and you don't have to reload.
Pick up a few cheap flash brackets , whether using flash or not ,they are easier to hold with one attached.
I shoot live music, mostly jazz. Some laugh at my vintage cameras, not at the 10x8 prints though.
Above all great fun.

Best to all.


08-02-2005, 04:54
I have a few old folders, so I guess I can give some advice.

The best of what I have, and also the easiest to use is the Moskva 2. 6x9 negs, coupled rangefinder, compact when folded and not too expensive. What is not to love about this camera.

I also have an Ensign Commando, which is alsoa coupled rangefinder toting beasty, but is significantly heavier and a bit harder to use. The focusing mechanism on the Commando is of the film plain focusing and is rather heavy/stiff to use due to the strong spring behind the film plate.

Of the non rangefinder folders I have, the Ensigns, Kodaks, Kershaw, Franka and Coronet are easy to use, with some of them being fixed focus and with minimal shutter speed and apurture options.

Don't count out some of the non folding 120 cameras out there. Some of the TLR's are great cameras and can be bought for very little. Yashica and Lubitel are 2 names that come to mind. I personally have a Yashica A TLR and I love it. Nice 6x6 negs and the lens is quite sharp.

Good luck with your research on this subject and let us know what you decide. Any questions, just PM me and I will be glad to help.


08-02-2005, 06:24
Let me put in a pitch for the Moskva. I use a Moskva-5.

It is ergonomically clunky and not a speedy snapshooter. However, once you see the results from the 6X9 negative it is hard to leave it at home.


08-02-2005, 12:10
Hey Cappy ~ I think we're on the same page again. I've been daydreaming about a Moskva to get ready for Fall color. (a Moskva, of course, until I see Honu's Super. eeeyowza! that's nice.) Thanks Sr. Slack for starting this thread and thanks to all for the great info. Any more examples of negs is greatly appreciated.

Bill Ely
08-02-2005, 23:41
I have a "Mint" Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 532/16 and love it! Try to find one from a reputable seller, and be sure that the bellows are perfect. You have to cock the shutter yourself, but that is part of the fun. The Tessar lens is terrific. On E-Bay, there is a wonderful Seller from The Netherlands whose name is Peter. His E-Bay selling name is: petrakla You can find that selling name under the "Community" tab. He is a great guy, and has really nice folders, from time to time. Take a look! They tend to be in the higher range of cameras, both in quality and condition. The ZI Super Ikonta 532/16 is a "hoot", and produces "killer" images! Good luck! Bill Ely

08-06-2005, 18:15
I lucked up (maybe) today at the flea market and found a Welmy 6 in a box of stuff. Picked it up for $5! Looks to me like a Japanese knock-off of the Zeiss Ikon Nettar. Scale focus (guess gonna learn this anyhow!), 75mm f/4.5 Terionar lens, shutter speeds 25-200 + B.

Seems to be in fairly good condition cosmetically. Shutter still fires, but the blades were a little slow to close at first. After being excerised a few times, that cleared up. Can't get the aperture or focus rings to turn though. They're stuck pretty tight and I'm afraid to use too much brute force to try and move them. Any advice on getting them unstuck?

It was made by a company called Taisei Koki, which didn't make any bones about ripping off Zeiss designs. The camera looks like the Nettar, as does the case. In fact, when I picked it up out of the box, my heart skipped a beat because I thought was a Zeiss camera. Their company logo even looks like the ZI logo. I'm sure a Cease & Desist order was issued at some point. :)