5other Agfa cameras in my collection:

 

GermanyAgfa Selectronic Sensor [1970 - 1976*]

 

Background

Agfa introduced its red sensor point shutter release system in 1968. This was a round membrane made of red foil framed with a metal ring. Depending on the camera type, either a mechanical or an electromechanical shutter release button was hidden under the membrane. From that time onwards, most of the company's models had this distinctive feature.

Agfa Optima Sensor 500Amongst the first cameras to have these big red buttons were the 1969 Optima Sensors (the 200 and 500), where Optima was a name given to previous Agfa cameras, and Sensor referred to the shutter release system (another was the Silette LK Sensor).

In 1970, Agfa introduced the Selectronic Sensor range, comprising this camera and an S model. Both cameras were very similarly styled, and replicated some unique design features first seen in the Optima Sensors, but had an all black finish. The Selectronic Sensor was a viewfinder camera, while the Selectronic Sensor S was a rangefinder camera, and enjoyed a better quality - Tessa type - Solinar lens.

Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic 535From about 1976, Agfa produced a series of cameras called the Optima Sensor Electronic (e.g. Optima Sensor Electronic 335, 535, 1035, 1535, etc.), which continued some of the features of the Selectronic in a slightly a more conventional design.

The distinctions between the three types of camera appear to be commonly confused in much of the information published on the Internet. The correct story is that the Optima Sensor came first and strongly influenced the design of the Selectronic Sensor, while the later Optima Sensor Electronics, although continuing the common features of the set, were a separate family of cameras.

 

Overview

The target market for the Selectronic Sensor cameras seems to have been that of a second camera for a serious enthusiast. Briefly, it's an aperture priority auto exposure camera, with no shutter speeds being directly selectable. The Selectronic Sensors have some fairly unique features.

  • The shutter is a Paratronic, which comprises two blades. The blades open times are electronically determined by the amount of light collected by the CdS cell, which in turn is converted to an exposure time by the camera's auto exposure circuitry.
  • Shutter speeds are continuously variable between a massive 15 seconds and 1/500th of a second: the camera selects the appropriate speed based on the user set aperture size.
  • There are two circular windows on the front of the camera: the right-hand window is a CdS cell, while the left is a luminous indicator with the duel function of showing the battery condition when a test button on the back of the camera is pressed, plus it flashes during delayed exposure shots.
  • The meter switches on when the film is advanced, and off when the shutter is tripped.
  • The large viewfinder displays both the shutter speed and aperture, via projected scales. Speeds below 1/30th are indicated by a tripod symbol.
  • The film loading mechanism comprises a closed receptacle with a slit, through which the film leader is inserted and gripped by a sprocket wheel (no slots in spools or their variations), such that exposed film disappears behind a door and is (apparently) protected against accidental opening of the back cover.
  • The film transport mechanism is unusual in as much as a small lever marked R (located on the users right side of the lens) reverses the transport gearing so that the film advance lever rewinds the film, with the exposure dial counting down and thus showing when the film is fully rewound. The counter does not therefore automatically reset when the camera back is opened. The film advance lever is on the user's left side of the bottom plate, and the film is effectively exposed up-side-down.

I have been unable to establish the UK cost of a new Selectronic Sensor, other than it was a little more than a Canonet QL 19 ... according to a French magazine advertisement. It was not a great success, mainly - it seems - due to the high price point, but Agfa nevertheless retained certain functional elements in their subsequent range of cameras. * I assume that the Selectronic Sensor models were produce until superseded by the new Optima Sensor Electronic range, since they appear in a list of cameras available in 1975, which was published by Camera User magazine.

 

 

Specifications

viewfinder viewViewfinder: Large bright-frame reverse-Galilean finder, 0.78x magnification (at a guess), with selected aperture and shutter speed displayed on two separate scales across the top and down the right side of the viewfinder respectively (the symbol under "30" is a tripod).

Focus: Manual.

Lens: Agfa Color Apotar f/2.8 45mm (3 Elements in 3 Groups).

Close Focus: 3' (0.9m).

Diaphragm: Four blade, stopping down to f/22.

Shutter: Agfa Paratronic, with speeds of 15 sec. (yes that's correct - 15 whole sec!) to 1/500 continuously variable. Mechanical timer for 10 sec delay.

Cable Release:On the back-side of the top plate (above the battery test button).

Meter: CdS cell.

Exposure: Aperture priority auto exposure.

Film Speed: 25 - 400 ASA (15 - 27 DIN). Selection is coin-operated.

Filter Size: 49mm screw fit.

Flash: Standard hot shoe with center contact, automatic switchover from time to flash mode by touch probe in the hot shoe, which is automatically activated by the inserted flash.

Film Advance: Lever.

Frame Counter: Manually zeroed, then counts up and counts down on rewind.

Rewind: A lever reverses the winder gearing, so the film advance lever rewinds the film.

Back Opening: Sliding catch. When the back is opened, a film retaining spindle on the base of the camera also pops out.

Size: 117 x 83 x 66 mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 470g.

Battery: 2 PX625, although I have read that camera does NOT need mercury cells, and it will work properly with alkaline 625 size cells: if the test light illuminates, then the meter will operate. The batteries fit in a neat little pullout drawer on the side of the camera.

 

 

My Camera

I bought my Selectronic Sensor from a seller in Germany in September 2015, and paid €9.90 (£7.21) for it, plus a modestly higher postage cost than UK prices. I bought the camera because of it's unusual specification, plus I'm sort of into later Agfa cameras at the moment. I would have preferred the rangefinder equipped model, but these Agfas are a bit thin on the ground, and can be expensive when in working condition.

Information on these models is scarce, and much of it incorrect. Not surprisingly, most accounts are written in German, but the technical stuff doesn't translate very well. Those nice people at Photo.net helped me fill-in some of the blanks.

My camera was advertised as having a broken viewfinder glass, but it's in an unimportant area. It's otherwise in nice condition and appears to be fully working, but for the self-timer, which - in the absence of an instruction manual - I may be attempting to operate incorrectly. The camera is quite compact, has a feel of solid quality to it, and being German there are no light seals to replace.

 

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