other Agfa cameras in my collection:
Agfa Solinette [1952 - 1954] & Solinette II [1954 - 1959*]
Since acquiring my Solinette II, I have searched for images of, and documents relating to the original Solinette, but unearthed absolutely nothing. I seriously wonder whether this model, supposedly made for two years, really ever existed? The evidence there was a
Solinette comes from Kadlubek's Kamera-Katalog (a sort of German Mckeown's), and Agfa: Geschichte eines deutschen Weltunternehmens von 1867 bis 1997 (Agfa: story of a German world company from 1867 to 1997), which both claim the Solinette was produced between 1952 and 1954.
Further details declare there were five variations of the original Solinette, each with a different lens/shutter combination, as detailed in the table below. If anyone reading this page has any further information, I'd be very pleased to receive it (email).
|Solinette Compur RMX||Solinar f/3.5 - 45mm||Synchro-Compur RMX|
|Solinette Prontor SV||Apotar f/3.5 - 50mm||Prontor SV|
|Solinette Compur RMXV||Solinar f/3.5 - 50mm||Compur RMXV|
|Solinette Prontor SVS||Apotar f/3.5 - 50mm||Prontor SVS|
|Solinette USA||Color Apotar f/3.5 - 45mm||Prontor SVS|
There were three versions, with each having a 50mm f/3.5 lens/shutter variation. These were:
• a three element Apotar in a Prontor SV shutter,
• a four element Solinar in a Prontor SVS, and
• a four element Solinar in a Synchro-Compur.
* Only the Solinar/Prontor SVS version seems to have been produced until 1959 (according to Kadlubek's).
There were three very minor variations of the Apotar/Prontor SV. These seem to be largely small differences to the flash sync socket, and position of the embossed Agfa logo, which was either on the camera body or the folding cover. Some eBay sellers are at pains to point-out this detail, but it's nothing significant (just a desperate attempt to make their camera more appealing).
Curiously, the instruction manual for this camera only details the Apotar/SV model, which was sold in the USA as the Ansco Regent, and according to that camera's instruction manual, it only came with the same Apotar/SV lens/shutter combination.
The 1955 British Journal Photographic Almanac specifies the Solinette II as a single model option comprising an Apotar lens in a Prontor SV shutter.
My camera is the less common Solinar/Compur specification. The Agfa Solinar lens is a
Tessa type where the arrangement has been turned-around so that the front two elements are a cemented pair, and the third and fourth are separate elements.
The Solinette's styling is pleasingly symmetrical, with matching wind and rewind knobs, and the mirrored placement of the shutter release button, and the baseboard release lock on the top plate. Quirky features include a frame counter setting button, which additionally functions as a rewind tension release switch. There is a second separate sliding switch that unlocks the counter setting/rewind button. Each click advances the counter by one, and the objective is to set the dial to
A before closing the camera back, when installing a film. The shutter has to be manually cocked via a separate lever on the shutter housing. A double exposure interlock system locks the shutter release button after tripping, until the film is advanced by one frame (so it is one of those cameras where testing requires winding the sprocket-roller in the film chamber manually to disarm the interlock). Focusing is unusual in that the lens as a whole moves, rather than just the front element.
A review in the
1955 British Journal Photographic Almanac said of the Solinette II - the whole appearance of the camera indicates that it is an instrument of high quality - and specified a price of £24 - 12s - 7d (£18 - 11s - 9d plus £6 - 0s - 10d purchase tax). In 1955, the average UK weekly wage was £14.03 (or £14 - 0s - 7d in old money).
There was a similar rangefinder equipped model, the
Super Solinette, which also had the Solinar lens and Compur shutter (sold in the USA with an Ansco badge and called the Super Regent).
Viewfinder: Newton-type with no frame lines or parallax markings. Image about 2/3rds of natural size.
Lens: 50 mm f/3.5 Agfa Solinar. Four-element lens.
Close Focus: 1m (metric scale).
Diaphragm: Ten blades, stopping down to f/22.
Shutter: Synchro-Compur leaf shutter. B (Bulb), 1, 1/2nd, 1/5th, 1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th, 1/250th and 1/500th. The shutter can be set at M or X sync. No delayed shooting.
Cable Release: Standard socket in shutter release button.
Filter Size: 30mm push fit.
Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal. M and X sync.
Film Advance: Wind knob.
Frame Counter: Incorporated in the centre of the top plate, in front of the cold shoe. Resetting switch with separate lock switch. Manually set - each press of the button increments the counter by 1 - with automatic count-up.
Rewind: Via crank and back of top plates release button (doubles as counter reset) with separate lock switch.
Back Opening: Sliding catch.
Size: 126 x 83 x 41/87 mm (W x H x D closed/open).
Weight: 490 g.
My first Agfa camera was a Super Silette, bought merely because it cost next to nothing. However, it's a camera that has grown on me. When I discovered the Super Solinette, I wanted one because it's even prettier. Unfortunately, they don't come up for sale very often, and can achieve high prices. The Solinette was therefore a second best option, but the better lens and shutter combination sweetened its appeal.
All this talk of cameras being pretty might sound a bit shallow, but 1950's equipment is not what I would chose to shoot with. It just looks cool in a display cabinet. I purchased the Solinette in May 2016 for £6.25, but got slightly screwed on postage, making the true cost £8.40 (i.e. £2.15 of the postage cost charged went into the seller's pocket). That's not so bad considering many sellers demand £50 upwards for a low spec., Solinette II, and this is only the second camera I have purchased this year.
I have been very pleasantly surprised to discover that this camera is in full working order. Everything operates smoothly, even the focus adjustment, which I expected to have become gummed-up and stiff. I can't see any light leaks in the plastic bellows. Cosmetically, the only flaw is some flaking of the chrome plating on one edge of the cold shoe. The camera didn't even need a lot of cleaning. It's a nice little thing, and my only criticism is the viewfinder is typically 1950's sized (very small), and the focus ring is aggressively toothed, making it slightly unpleasant to use.
Back in 1955, the UK address of Agfa Ltd was Wimbledon SW19 ... the area I lived in for most of my childhood. Me and this Agfa have a connection!