Photo borrowed from my 365 Project blog
The Agfa Isola I is a camera I have had for nearly ten years now. I relayed my backstory with this camera in a post in 2009, but to give you an overview: I bought it in 2006 at a camera fair during my first trip to England. I believe I paid around £10 for it. The Isola I is a medium format camera that produces 6×6 cm photos. I don’t know exactly when my Isola I was produced, but the camera was manufactured from 1957-1963. It is a basic camera with zone focusing, two shutters speeds (Bulb and 1/35s) and two apertures (f/11 and f/16.) There’s also a built-in yellow filter you can use for contrast on black and white film. Through my recent usage of Lomography Diana cameras and my Holga 120N, I thought I’d try to show people what can be done with a vintage camera that’s less plasticky than its more modern counterparts and not as expensive as the toy cameras a lot of us use.
Heretofore, I had only shot two rolls in the Isola I, both of which were black and white films. I had always been reluctant to try color in it because some of these older cameras don’t handle color very well due to the fact that they were made for black and white film (it has to do with lens coatings or lack thereof.) I decided it was high time I changed that!
Color Roll #1 was Kodak Ektar 100
Usually I couldn’t get by with ISO 100 film on an overcast day while using a fixed shutter speed camera, but because the Agfa’s fixed shutter speed is a 1/35s, I had some leeway there. The Holga and Diana F+ take in about half that amount of light as the Agfa, for reference.
Most of this roll was taken at the Memphis Zoo when I visited there with my family. Given the age of the Agfa, I thought “Back in the late 50s and early 60s, a visitor to the zoo might have used a camera like this.” So I tried to take “touristy” photos while I was there. So maybe not the most exciting photos I’ve ever taken?
Iconic animal statues outside the zoo entrance
Two above photos from the China-themed area where the pandas live
My family, looking at the polar bears
Part of the Northwest Passage area of the zoo
King and Queen of the Jungle in Cat Country
<3 this one of my mom lovingly looking at the lions
The zoo has Egypt-inspired decor due to the connection with Memphis, Egypt
NOT the zoo, but a photo of fleabane daisies (with an Instax mini photo of the daisies in the middle)
I struggled as to whether or not to include this one, because I think it’s not very good
Color Roll #2 was Kodak Ektachrome 64T that expired in 1997, cross-processed
Frames overlapped because I tried to work around the double exposure prevention. Oops!
Viewfinder issues. See below for more about that problem.
1961 Impala that has previously been seen in my 365 Project
Motorcycle in the rain
Colorful Memorial day
Also previously seen on my 365 Project
This is actually my first proper attempt at reviewing the Isola I, though I have had it for nearly ten years. It’s got retro style (because it’s acutally vintage 😉 ), plus it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and capable of producing relatively sharp photos. But here’s what I don’t like about the Agfa:
- The shutter speed of 1/35s is great, since it allows you get a good amount of light onto the film if you’re shooting a slower film. BUT I have found it somewhat tough to handhold this shutter speed. Depressing the shutter button often jars the camera just enough to cause motion blur because the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to prevent that from happening. I included some “bad” shots that I wouldn’t normally post, just so you can see what I’m talking about.
- The viewfinder is not accurate, especially at the camera’s closest focusing distance, which is 5 feet. The photo from the zoo of the red door is a good example of this issue. Clearly I wouldn’t look through the viewfinder and compose that shot without including the entire door knocker in the composition! In the future, I’d probably compose my photo in the viewfinder, then physically take a step back to ensure the composition I want is closer to what I actually get.
- The Isola I has double exposure prevention. A lot of people would like this, but I don’t. I will put aside the issue of actually wanting to take the occasional multiple exposure photo (because I do) and shed a light on the real issue with this: sometimes the shutter button gets pressed when the camera is in my bag, and once that happens, I have to waste a frame by advancing the film because once that shutter button is pressed, you can’t fire the shutter again until the film is advanced. I don’t even know HOW the shutter is fired when the camera’s in my bag, because the shutter button isn’t supposed to work while the lens is collapsed, but it somehow keeps happening!
Yes, I listed some cons that make it sound as if I didn’t have a positive experience with the Agfa, but the toy cameras I mentioned during the intro of this post have their own flaws as well (if you only knew how much gaffers tape I have to use on my Lomography Diana cameras to prevent light leaks…) The way I see it, the Isola I is just a basic camera from nearly sixty years ago. It is in no way a camera with modern amenities. But if you’re someone who enjoys toy cameras like the Holga or Diana and you see an Agfa Isola I for $10 or $15, I say pick it up!