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Compact 35mm RF cameras
Old 11-29-2003   #1
Rich Silfver
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Compact 35mm RF cameras

When discussing compact 35mm RF cameras from the 60's and 70's the main ones Olympus, Canonet and Minolta are always brought up and seems to be well known by everyone.

But..there is a slew of excellent cameras out there that falls into this category that seems to go un-noticed and often sell on eBay for 10-30 dollars a pop.

Here are three cameras that I personally find both capable as well as attractive:

1. Miranda Sensoret (Soligor Sensoret)
Mranda info
This one is a real cute camera on the wide side (38mm) with both good glass as well as shutter.
Ebay Example

2. Zeiss Ikon S 312 (Voigtlander VF101)
VF101 / S312 Info

Ok, these ones you may have to pay 80-150 for depending on where you look and the quality of the camera - BUT it is one good looking camera that sports the very capable color-skopar lens.

3. Agfa Optima 500/500S/500SN
These ones you can pick up for 10-30 dollars in great condition. I would recommend the 500S/SN with the color-solinar lens and a coupled rangefinder.
Ebay example
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Old 11-29-2003   #2
bmattock
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I'd like to add a couple, if I may:

Agfa Karat IV - The Agfa Karat's mostly used proprietary and strange film cassettes, but the models IV and 36 (NOT 6.3, that's different) used standard 35mm film. I am most familiar with the Agfa Karat IV. I have managed to find some information that I have not found elsewhere on the net, so for what it is worth, there were four lenses available for the Karat IV. Xenar 50mm 2.8, Xenar 50mm 2.0, Solinar 50mm 2.8 and Solagon 50mm 2.0. Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest says that there was an Apotar 50mm 3.5, but I have never seen one of these, and he leaves off the Xenar 50mm 2.8, which I *do* have one of.

The Karat IV is, to my mind, one of the most lovely, well-made cameras I've ever had the experience to hold in my hands. It exudes quality manufacture. The shutter is nearly silent. The rangefinders I've seen are bright and easy to focus. I would prefer the Solagon 50mm 2.0, but currently, I have only the Xenon 2.8, which is quite sharp, but dang...

One quirk about the Karat IV which not everyone likes - the winder is a small knob on the left side of the camera that one pulls toward themselves to wind. In practice, this is easy to use, and I got used to it very quickly, but it is strange at first.

I also have an Agfa Karat 36, which comes with the same range of lenses (again, minus the reported Apotar 3.5, which I have never seen on this model, either). I find it unusual in the extreme! While physically pretty much like the Karat IV, it uses the entire viewfinder as the rangefinder - the whole thing is a split-image. You literally line up the entire scene, not a rangefinder patch. I've not gotten used to this yet, and have yet to shoot a roll of film with this camera. However, my example has the Xenar 2.0, which certainly looks like nice glass. Hmmm.

Here's a nice link to Stephen's excellent website:

CameraQuest - Agfa Karat IV

Ricoh Five One Nine - This is a simply outstanding camera that is being overlooked, probably because of the reported lack-luster performance of it's little brother, the Ricoh 500 (no, not the 500G tiny rangefinder of the '70s, which is another under-appreciated classic that I don't have one of yet).

The entire 500 series are odd little beasts - the winder is on the bottom of the camera, arranged in such a fashion that you have a trigger-shaped device under your left index finger that you pull like the trigger of a pistol, and this advances the film and cocks the shutter. The lens has an 'ear' on both sides of the lens, focussing is simple, and I've found the rangefinder patch to be both bright and clear. Again, the shutter is very quiet, very reliable. The lens is a "Riken Optical Rikenon 45mm 1.9, and my experience thus far has shown it to be a very sharp performer.

One quirk that this camera has (I have three of them) is that the shutter release buttons do not have any provision for a cable release, there is no self-timer, and on mine, the shutter button kind of mushes down and does not pop up immediately when you let go of it. It does come up, just a bit slowly. All of mine probably need a nice CLA.

If you're interested in this one, search eBoy for "Ricoh 519" as well as "Ricoh Five One Nine." The 500 was spelled "500" on the top of the camera, but the Five One Nine was spelled "Five One Nine" on top. I also have a 519M (same as Five One Nine, but with BEWI light meter - alas, DOA), and they went back to "519M" for the nomenclature. Funny folks.

Here's a link to some information on the 500 - there is NO information I can find on the Five One Nine online:

Karen Nakamura's PhotoEthnography - Ricoh 500

See the trigger on the bottom of this one? It folds down with the flick of a finger, then you pull it to wind and cock, again to repeat. You fold it back up to set the camera down or to put it away - it stays down on its own until you fold it up again.

This is a sleeper, kiddies! There are a few from time to time on eBoy, and nobody knows what they are, so they go for very little. Like I said, I've got three now (don't need any more), and I got 'em cheap. Again, don't get the 500, get the Five One Nine.

Well, I've got a flight to NYC tomorrow morning early, so I've gotta go. If anyone is interested, I've been buying, trying, and culling lots of pre-1970's rangefinders over the last six months or so, and I have definitely come up with some favorites. Happy to pass the info along, if anyone cares at all.

These two are definitely two of my favorites so far, though. Great cameras, both of 'em.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
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Re: Compact 35mm RF cameras
Old 11-29-2003   #3
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Re: Compact 35mm RF cameras

Quote:
Originally posted by rsilfverberg
When discussing compact 35mm RF cameras from the 60's and 70's the main ones Olympus, Canonet and Minolta are always brought up and seems to be well known by everyone.

But..there is a slew of excellent cameras out there that falls into this category that seems to go un-noticed and often sell on eBay for 10-30 dollars a pop.
I was playing a little mental game the other night, while playing around on eBoy. What camera company did NOT make a really fine little rangefinder at one time or another? So far, I've only come up with one - Pentax. And I'm a Pentax fan!

Anybody else?

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Bill Mattocks
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Old 11-29-2003   #4
Rich Silfver
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Deardorff, Toyo and Sinar? ;-)
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One question
Old 11-30-2003   #5
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Question One question

Regarding compact RFs. Some weeks ago I saw an interesting auction on *bay. The camera was a Petri 7S 2, auctioned by someone from UK who reported knowing absolutely nothing about cameras. There was no picture at all, and the seller had almost unexisting feedback, the camera went finally for about $5, and I still wonder sometimes how a good deal it was for the buyer.

I've found lots of pictures and info about the Petri 7s, but... for the 7s 2... no picture at all.

Was it some substantial improve about the previous 7s or only a more modern designation... ?

Any hint about the quality of these Petri 7s RF cameras ? They seem to go for next to nothing...
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Old 11-30-2003   #6
bmattock
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Quote:
Originally posted by rsilfverberg
Deardorff, Toyo and Sinar? ;-)
Yeah, good ones! I have to admit, I hadn't thought of the various LF manufacturers. Had to go awhile to find those, though, huh?

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
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Re: One question
Old 11-30-2003   #7
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Re: One question

Quote:
Originally posted by taffer
Any hint about the quality of these Petri 7s RF cameras ? They seem to go for next to nothing...
I own a Petri 2.8 Color, and it is pretty much stamped-metal junk that is not work restoring. I have handled the 7s at a camera show, and was not impressed by build quality.

My overall impression of Petris to date has not been good, but that's just based on a couple of experiences.

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Bill Mattocks
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Old 11-30-2003   #8
Rich Silfver
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Taffer, it's a fuzzy picture - but atleast it's something...

Petri 7s ii

And to show image quality, here's two photos apparently taken with the 7s ii: photo examples
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Old 11-30-2003   #9
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Bill, Richard, thanks. It seems both cameras (7s and 7s II) are pretty much the same, and in fact they don't trigger that "ding!" that sounds in my mind when I look at some camera that feel I really need to try.
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