And then there were three*

Some things take time, and there are certain things that seem to take forever. But finally, I made it! What the heck am I talking about?  It’s the refurbishment of my three Agfa Isolette folder cameras including bellows replacement and full CLA of all moveable parts. Apart from the focus rings, the range finders of the Mark III models gave me a hard time but eventually everything went well and all three cameras are in perfect working condition now.  To give you a short cutback:

Four years ago I purchased an Isolette II which I CLA-ed only to find out that the bellows had light leaks and needed replacement (see “The Isolette and I”). Falling in love with the overall form,  performance and haptics of these Agfa folders I started watching out for different models and about a year later I had another two of them in my collection (see “Isolette news”). While the first one has the 4.5 Apotar optics with three lenses, the other two have the more sophisticated Solinar optics (four-lens arrangement) with 4.5 and 3.5 max aperture, respectively. The latter ones had the same and common problems with a stuck focus, pinholes in the paper bellows and – being Mark III models – stuck range finders. After cleansing the bodies and lubricating all turning knobs and rings the most cumbersome work to do was replacing the bellows. However, this unexpectedly turned out to be rather straightforward, though a little time consuming. I used pre-manufactured bellows by Sandeha Lynch, which are of very high quality and easy to mount on the metal skeleton of a stripped Agfa folder. Additionally, they are available in different colors, which gives these old medium format light-weighters a little pop. The last bit to do was calibrating the focus and the (uncoupled) range finders, a job I only managed to do a few months ago! Almost four years to finish this tiny project…it’s unbelievable.

The three Agfa Isolettes in their full glory! From left to right: Mark III with Solinar 75/f3.5 (green bellows), Mark III with Solinar 85/f4.5 (black bellows), and Mark II with Apotar 85/f4.5 (blue bellows).

And what did not happen yet!? …   You guessed it already! So far, I did not find the time to shoot a single frame with either of these cameras, despite the fact that they are staring at me every day from their cabinet since I added the last drop of Ballistol to their metal framing to give them the last and shiny finish. The collector’s trap again as outlined in “Procrastinator’s corner” and “Photographer or collector”! But their time will come, I am sure.

* This album made me a fan of Genesis in the late 1970s. Can you believe that it took me some ten years to “discover” their older records, which I liked even better then?

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