other Agfa cameras in my collection:
Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic
Flash [1981 - 1983]
The Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic Flash was the fifth model in the Optima Sensor Electronic series, and as the name suggests, incorporated a flash gun, which when activated, provided automatic flash exposure.
The flash had a guide number of 12 (read about guide numbers, aperture and distance in my article Old school flash photography - part 1), giving it a short effective range of between 0.9 and 4m with a 100 ASA film (up to 8m with 400 ASA). The lens zone focus setting determined the appropriate aperture for correct flash exposure.
I've repeatedly read a load of rubbish when researching this camera, the biggest and most common error being descriptions of the Flash as
like a 1035. Apart from features common to the entire series of cameras (like the sensor button, step-less Paratronic shutter, auto exposure, the film loading and transport system), the only thing the
Flash has in common with the 1035 is a top shutter speed of 1/1000th sec.
The differences are; the
Flash has a slow shutter speed of 1/45th (compared to 15 seconds on the 1035), it has a Solitar rather than a Solitar S lens, it lacks the 1035's self timer and viewfinder display of focusing zones. Further more, unlike the 1035 and all the other series models, it doesn't have a lens aperture dial ... it doesn't need one as this control is only used in conjunction with a separate flash unit. It is a different size and shape to all the other Optima Sensor Electronic cameras, due to the flash housing and larger battery compartment - relocated to the user's right side of the body. A final difference between this camera and its relations is that it's got two swivelling body strap lugs.
Ah ... so it's not at all like a 1035 with a flash stuck-on!
Two other common errors in the description of these cameras refer to the
Paratronic lens and its leaf shutter. The name Paratronic, whilst appearing on the lens bezel is actually the name of the shutter.
It's not a leaf shutter, or a Paratronic lens ... it's a Paratronic shutter.
Many Internet accounts of this camera attribute a slow shutter speed of 1/30th. The user manual specifies 1/45th.
Agfa stopped producing cameras in 1983, but the Optima Sensor Electronic Flash design continued to be manufactured in China, re-badged as the Qingdao-6, which apparently had lenses made of lanthanum glass.
335s and "no number" cameras are in relatively abundant supply, followed by the 535 and
Flash, which are not quite as common. The 1035 and 1535 are less abundant and command higher prices.
A full page Agfa advertisement for the
Flash that appeared in a 1982 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine (shown below) said the cost of the camera was
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 Solitar 40mm f/2.8 (4 Elements in 3 Groups).
Close Focus: 3' (0.9m).
Diaphragm: Stopping down to about f/22.
Shutter: Agfa Paratronic, with electronically controlled step-less speeds from 1/45th to 1/1000th.
Cable Release: On users right side of the body.
Meter: CdS cell. Activated by a gentle press, or tap on the shutter release button.
Exposure: Fully automatic, continuous regulation of exposure times and f-stop settings, plus auto flash exposure.
Film Speed: 25 - 500 ASA (15 - 28 DIN).
Filter Size: 49mm screw fit.
Flash: Built-in flip-up flash. Guide No,. 12 at 100 ASA. No provision for connecting a separate flash unit.
Film Advance: Lever with film advance with check 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.
Size: 118 × 86 × 59mm (W x H x D).
Weight: 325 g.
Battery: Two 1.5 volt type AAA battery. Covering the CdS cell and tapping the sensor button also serves as a battery check.
I was drawn to this camera because it's weird and wonderful. I've often seen
Flashes for sale on eBay, but knew very little about them until the chance purchase of an Agfa Selectronic 3 SLR introduced me to Sensor button models. I like its styling: it's totally different. I also like its point and shoot simplicity, which is supported by an exposure system that's theoretically pretty accurate. It's made to deal with any light level photography, and offers the compact pocket-ability a point and shoot camera should have.
In the time I've been looking out for one of these cameras the typical asking price has been around £20 to £25 and above. It's often the way with uncommon cameras: their
value conforms to a specific price bracket, because person A picks a price, and person B copies, and so does the next. More recently, prices have fallen to £15 to £20 (the same unsold cameras getting relisted), but that's still too much money. Finally, in November 2015, a Flash was listed at 99p. There were a couple of bids, but I got it for £3.31. Awesome!
I popped some new batteries in my Flash, and gave it a quick try. Hoorah, everything seems to be in FWO, and the camera looks like it's had a careful owner. I may yet discover something that better deserves the title, but the Flash seems to be the ultimate point and shoot: it's adorable. I've said this of a few cameras, but this Agfa Optima Sensor Electronic Flash is now my new first choice travelling companion.