5other Agfa cameras in my collection:

 

GermanyAgfa Optima Sensor Electronic 335 [1978 - 1982*]

 

Overview

Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic advertThe first Optima Sensor Electronic cameras were introduced in 1976, and by 1978 the family comprised three viewfinder cameras; the 335, 535 and 1035. The model numbers were indicative of the top shutter speed, as in 1/300th, 1/500th and 1/1000th (and presumably the 35 stood for 35mm).

A fourth camera - the 1535 - added rangefinder focusing.

A fifth camera - the Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic Flash - added a built-in in flash (no prizes for guessing that). In the closed position, the flash rested over the lens, making the camera look like it had a little lop-sided penta-prism (well that's what I think).

The sixth and final model was launched in 1982 and had no number: it was called the Optima Sensor Electronic, but was essentially a clone of the 535, and manufactured in Portugal rather than Germany. *I assume this camera to have been a one-size-fits-all that replaced its predecessors, hence the guessed end date of 1982 for my 335.

Obviously the 335 was the base model in the series. Differences between the models were not confined to top shutter speeds. The key features of each camera are shown in the table below.

 

  335 535 1035 1535 Flash No #
Produced 1978 1976 1979 1981 1982
Lens Agnatar f/3.5 Solitar f/2.8 Solitar S f/2.8 Solitar f/2.8
3 in 3 4 Elements in 3 Groups
Shutter Speeds 1/30th to
1/300th
15 sec. to
1/500th
15 sec. to
1/1000th
15 sec. to
1/1500th
1/45th to
1/1000th
15 sec. to
1/500th
Other Features None • Self-timer
• Distance symbols in viewfinder
• Rangefinder focusing • Built-in flash None
Made in Germany Portugal

 

The Optima Sensor 335 Electronic was functionally a slightly simplified variation of the earlier Agfa Selectronic Sensor. It shared the big red electromagnetic shutter release button (which is additionally two-stage on these cameras), step-less Paratronic shutter, film loading system, and reversible film crank (all these features are explained on the Agfa Selectronic Sensor page). The differences were that exposure was fully automatic, setting both the aperture and shutter speed (see the citation in the specifications below), as opposed to aperture priority used by the Selectronic Sensor, plus the camera was re-styled with the most obvious change being movement of the film advance lever from the bottom to the top of the camera and the size reduction to TINY! It's about the same size as a typical half-frame camera.

The viewfinder has a red LED low light exposure warning, which activates after a gentle tap on the shutter release, but it does not prevent the shutter from tripping.

The tripod bush is on the right side of the camera (facing), so it mounts in portrait format. These cameras may look like they are made of plastic, but they're not: there's a metal body under that plastic-looking skin.

I don't understand why these cameras appear to have two CdS cells side-by-side?

A full page advertisement in a 1979 edition of Amateur Photographer specified the price of these cameras as: £50 for the 335, £63 for the 535, and £73 for the 1035. These my not seem like high prices today, but the 535 camera was as expensive - or more than - a Canon Canonet 28, a Ricoh 500G, a Rollei 35 LED, and a Zenith EM or Praktica L2 (both with a lens).

 

 

Specifications

Viewfinder: Large Albada finder with fixed parallax correction marks and 0.78x magnification. Red under/over exposure warning LED.

Focus: Manual 3 zone focusing.

Lens: Agfa Agnatar 40mm f/3.5 (3 Elements in 3 Groups).

Close Focus: 3' (0.9m).

Diaphragm: Stopping down to f/22.

Shutter: Agfa ParaTronic, with electronically controlled step-less speeds from 1/30th to 1/300th.

Cable Release: On users right side of the body.

Meter: CdS cell.

Exposure: Exactly how exposure is set is a mystery, but the user manual states that it provides: fully automatic, continuous regulation of exposure times and f-stop settings. The aperture control is only relevant and effective when using flash.

Film Speed: 25 - 400 ASA (15 - 27 DIN).

Filter Size: 49mm screw fit.

Flash: Standard hot shoe with center contact.

Film Advance: Lever with film advance check comprising a silver knurled wheel on the bottom plate of the camera.

Frame Counter: Automatic count up and count down on rewind.

Rewind: A switch on the top plate reverses the wind gearing so the film advance lever also rewinds. It needs to be pressed and turned to align two marks.

Back Opening: Sliding latch. Bottom section also opens.

Size: 104 x 69 x 56mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 276g.

Battery: 3 x PX625. Battery compartment accessible only when camera back open. Covering the CdS cell and tapping the sensor button also serves as a battery check.

 

My Camera

I bought my Optima Sensor 335 Electronic in September 2015 for £3.99. My selection from the range of models available was made on the basis of the lowest price, and swayed by the inclusion of a user manual. I wasn't too bothered which model I added to my collection - they are all very similar in terms of their look and feel.

I can recall being slightly intrigued by these cameras when they were in production. Their styling stood-out from the other compacts of the time, and the high price point - for a point and shoot - created the expectation of good performance. Owning one was a case of scratching an itch (and represents the conclusion of my recent Agfa Sensor buying frenzy ... if buying three cameras for £11.20 counts as a frenzy?).

I didn't realise this at the time I bought the camera, but the seller was local, and supplied a copy of the original purchase receipt. My camera hasn't travelled very far. It was purchased new on 10th September 1980, for £49.95, from Turners in Pink Lane, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a few miles away from where I live.

The single most striking thing about this camera is that it's TINY, but the viewfinder is big and bright. It's like a tiny electronic Olympus Trip - in terms of operation. The user manual is also tiny ... 19 pages and not much bigger than the camera. My camera appears to be in full working order (so far as can be assessed with these cameras, without running a film through it). It looks and feels like a quality item, and being German - it doesn't have light seals in need of replacement!

The camera came with batteries installed, which was a bit of a bonus since it's given me a pool of three more working mercury cells.

The camera came with a little pouch, so it may yet get a film inserted, and go on an adventure with me (if I ever have one to go on). I think Agfa should have had a winner in this series: the 335 is a really nice little camera.

 

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Agfa optima sensor

↑ The Optima Sensor Electronic Series (image courtesy of http://www.edition-oldenburg.de/agfa_optima.html).

Agfa Optima Sensor 335 Electronic

The 335 with an Olympus Trip to show the size difference.

Agfa Optima Sensor 335 Electronic

Agfa Optima Sensor 335 Electronic

Agfa Optima Sensor 335 Electronic

Agfa Optima Sensor 335 Electronic

↑ Back door open, showing battery compartment, and exposed film protector.