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120 film RF Folders 120/220 Format Folding Rangefinders, including the various classic Zeiss Ikontas, Voigtlander Bessas, and their Ruskie copies.

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Agfa Billy Compur
Old 10-05-2007   #1
manfromh
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Agfa Billy Compur

Okay Its not a rangefinder, but yesterday I bought an Agfa Billy Compur. The lens (Anistagmat Apotar 10.5cm 4,5) is clean without scratches and the shutter works. But one of the film holder things is broken (anyone got one to spare?). Oh, and how do I close the camera? I havent figured that out yet. Its my first folder and im looking forward to those 6x9 negs.
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Old 10-05-2007   #2
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Okay, the camera doesnt seem to focus at all. The lens is focused on infinity, and cant be focused closer, even though the focusing ring moves (quite loosely).
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Old 10-08-2007   #3
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Any success? It sounds like the front-cell focusing is frozen on your camera, leaving the focus ring to just spin in place. I have a Billy Compur with exactly the same problem; apparently it happens a lot with this model.

I've tried lighter fluid without any success. Someone over on photo.net suggested using a hot air gun to soften the old grease. I'm going to try a nice warm blow drier and see if that helps.
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Old 10-08-2007   #4
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'Frozen' focus rings on Agfa folders are very well known. Here's instructions for fixing it: http://www.davidrichert.com/AGFA%20rebuild/agfa.htm When Richert says remove all the old grease, he means all of it. Even a little residue can re-glue the focus!

The other problem with most Agfa folders made just after WWII is holey bellows. In a dim room, put a small flash inside the camera. Pop the flash and notice the 'stars' at the corners of the bellows. I replaced the bellows on my Agfa 6X9 with those from a Zeiss Nettar.
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Old 10-10-2007   #5
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I have tried soaking it in alcohol and I have tried heating it in the oven. Nothing has worked so far. I will try the heating again once I find something to get a good grip on the lens to twist it with. Hose clamps mentioned on that site sound good.
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Old 10-10-2007   #6
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I have not worked on a Agfa Billy but I have freed a few lenses.

The heat idea is very good, keep working with that. As well I have drilled a hole in a piece of fairly hard wood, as close to the size of the lens as I could (I used a piece of mahogony). I then cut the hole in two and used this with a vise to grip the lens. I found that if the body of the lens was distorted, even a little, it would bind against the other component.
Micro tools also has some very nice lens spanners that may work for you as well.

Good luck!
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Old 10-10-2007   #7
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Soaking in alcohol won't affect the solidified grease. Try lighter fluid, then nail polish remover, then "Goof-Off". If you get to the "Goof-Off" stage, use it outdoors. It's the worst solvent I've ever inhaled.
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Old 10-11-2007   #8
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immerse the lens assembly in lighter fluid in a small metal pan with a lamp under it to warm it. Leave it there (monitored) until you see green grease
oozing out of it. then you can loosen it.
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Old 10-13-2007   #9
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Okay I got them loose yesterday. I heated it in the oven again, at about 200 Celsius. I used a fake-leather strap to get a better grip on the lens. At first they moved very slowly, and about quarter (or less) of a turn at a time. Then I needed to re-heat, because the grease started to turn more solid again. They started to turn more easily once I got to the last few turns. The whole process took about 45 minutes. Now I gotta scrape out all the grease thats left on the threads. Looks like fun.
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Old 10-15-2007   #10
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I have a focusing assembly off an Ansco Speedex with a nice Solinar on it that is also glued solid.

I have asked in the past but never get a straight answer, do I immerse the whole focusing assembly in the lighter fluid? Glass elements, and all?
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Old 10-15-2007   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox
I have a focusing assembly off an Ansco Speedex with a nice Solinar on it that is also glued solid.

I have asked in the past but never get a straight answer, do I immerse the whole focusing assembly in the lighter fluid? Glass elements, and all?
I personally, would not immerse the whole element in anything. Some elements will be damaged because of the liquid dissolving or affecting the glue (usually Canada Balsam) holding the elements together. It can be very difficult to loosen frozen lenses. Heat, (an even, controlled heat, not hot enough to melt plastic) in conjuction with "flexiclamps" or similar tool is the only way. Try these guys for the Flexiclamps:

http://www.micro-tools.com/store/home.aspx


I have made similar clamps from wood, brass and aluminum myself.

Once the lenses have been disassembled the gunk can be cleaned with whatever, just be careful of the glass.
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Old 10-16-2007   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox
I have a focusing assembly off an Ansco Speedex with a nice Solinar on it that is also glued solid.

I have asked in the past but never get a straight answer, do I immerse the whole focusing assembly in the lighter fluid? Glass elements, and all?
Yes, the whole thing goes into the lighter fluid. This assembly is the one that screws into the front of the shutter and consists of two single element lenses in threaded metal mounts. The rear lens assembly is either another single piece of glass (Novar, Apotar designs) or two elements cemented (Tessar, Solinar) with balsam.

Don't forget to clean ALL of the old grease out of the threads.
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Old 10-16-2007   #13
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See what I mean

Two completely opposite answers and both could be right
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Old 10-16-2007   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox
See what I mean

Two completely opposite answers and both could be right
My answer is based on experience; I've soaked both Apotars and Solinars, coated and uncoated, in various solvents from lighter fluid to gasoline. Neither the paint nor the glass was damaged. Keep in mind the 'adhesive' is grease and will eventually dissolve in a petroleum based solvent. Start with the gentle solvent and then escalate as needed.
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Old 10-16-2007   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VictorM.
My answer is based on experience; I've soaked both Apotars and Solinars, coated and uncoated, in various solvents from lighter fluid to gasoline. Neither the paint nor the glass was damaged. Keep in mind the 'adhesive' is grease and will eventually dissolve in a petroleum based solvent. Start with the gentle solvent and then escalate as needed.
I have soaked a Tessar a Moskva, and a Xenar. The Tessar and the Xenar had an intrusion of the liquid into the interior of the lenses at the edges. There may have been an issue already, to be sure, but it was made worse. The Moskva seemed to tolerate this. This was quite a few years ago.

This is only my experience. I would definitely defer to the wisdom of age and experience however.

Good luck. I'm outta here.
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Old 10-17-2007   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VictorM.
'Frozen' focus rings on Agfa folders are very well known. Here's instructions for fixing it: http://www.davidrichert.com/AGFA%20rebuild/agfa.htm When Richert says remove all the old grease, he means all of it. Even a little residue can re-glue the focus!

The other problem with most Agfa folders made just after WWII is holey bellows. In a dim room, put a small flash inside the camera. Pop the flash and notice the 'stars' at the corners of the bellows. I replaced the bellows on my Agfa 6X9 with those from a Zeiss Nettar.

Interesting link. Thanks. Good tips there for other camera repair I should think.
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Old 11-07-2007   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox
I have a focusing assembly off an Ansco Speedex with a nice Solinar on it that is also glued solid.

I have asked in the past but never get a straight answer, do I immerse the whole focusing assembly in the lighter fluid? Glass elements, and all?
You can do that, but unless you are prepared to let it soak for about a month it isn't going to do much good.

I've been doing Agfas and Anscos for a while now. The traditional immersion in lighter fluid, Liquid Wrench, acetone, alcohol and etcetera doesn't really work until you have the lens out and taken apart. Then it works for cleaning the gunk out, but it won't really penetrate and help you get the lens out. Only heat will soften it at all. I use improvised friction wrenches, made of rubber, because the lenses are going to be seriously stiff even when heated. The rubber cups that fit over the ends of canes work well for small lenses (like the Super Memars and Super Silettes) and the rubber cups that fit on the ends of table legs work pretty well for larger lenses (like the Isolettes and Records).

Be sure to mark the position of the lens elements in relation to one another, and make a note of where the index mark falls on the distance scale if you want to get it back together without having to recalibrate it. If you have already taken it apart, you are going to have to do that too.

To recalibrate it, you first screw the center element back into the shutter and tighten it down hard. Stretch "invisible" tape over the film plane (acts as ground glass for focusing), set it on a tripod, point it at the moon and adjust the front element until the moon looks sharp. Your lens is now set for infinity. Put the ring on, being sure not to move the lens, with the index mark pointing to infinity, and tighten the set screws. Don't tighten them too hard, because they are made of aluminum (what were they thinking?) and the slotted heads will break off pretty easily.

Last edited by FallisPhoto : 11-07-2007 at 07:19.
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Old 11-07-2007   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfox
See what I mean

Two completely opposite answers and both could be right
Both are right. The front element can be safely submerged in any solvent you can clean off of the glass afterward and that won't etch it (lighter fluid, alcohol, Liquid Wrench, and etcetera). The rear element, which consistes of two elements that might or might not be glued together) should not be submerged. However, it is the first two elements that need to move in relation to one another in order to focus the camera, so these are the ones that are involved in the problem that occurs when the grease hardens and freezes the focus. If you can get the front and middle elements out (they usually come out as a unit, welded together by that grease), then you can submerge them safely.

The thing is that it isn't going to do much good unless you wait a LONG time (we could be talking about weeks here). That grease isn't good for much, but it is really good at blocking penetration by solvents. Heat works a lot faster, so if you don't want to wait, you might try putting a hair drier on it for a while instead.
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Old 11-07-2007   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manfromh
Okay Its not a rangefinder, but yesterday I bought an Agfa Billy Compur. The lens (Anistagmat Apotar 10.5cm 4,5) is clean without scratches and the shutter works. But one of the film holder things is broken (anyone got one to spare?). Oh, and how do I close the camera? I havent figured that out yet. Its my first folder and im looking forward to those 6x9 negs.
You close the camera by pinching together two tabs under the lens.

Film holder things? There are a few parts there, including the spools; which one are you talking about? Takeup side or supply side?

"Okay, the camera doesnt seem to focus at all. The lens is focused on infinity, and cant be focused closer, even though the focusing ring moves (quite loosely)."

The focusing ring on the front of the camera is held in place by three set screws -- yours is loose. You could tighten the set screws, but I doubt it will help; they probably got loose because the focus is frozen and someone tried to force it. Here's what you do:
http://www.rolandandcaroline.co.uk/apotar.html Do pretty much everything he says but ignore the part about using pliers. Use rubber friction wrenches or a small strap wrench instead. If you use pliers, I'll give 10 to 1 odds that the camera will be ruined or scarred.
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Old 11-08-2007   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FallisPhoto
You close the camera by pinching together two tabs under the lens.

Film holder things? There are a few parts there, including the spools; which one are you talking about? Takeup side or supply side?

"Okay, the camera doesnt seem to focus at all. The lens is focused on infinity, and cant be focused closer, even though the focusing ring moves (quite loosely)."

The focusing ring on the front of the camera is held in place by three set screws -- yours is loose. You could tighten the set screws, but I doubt it will help; they probably got loose because the focus is frozen and someone tried to force it. Here's what you do:
http://www.rolandandcaroline.co.uk/apotar.html Do pretty much everything he says but ignore the part about using pliers. Use rubber friction wrenches or a small strap wrench instead. If you use pliers, I'll give 10 to 1 odds that the camera will be ruined or scarred.
Thanks for the info, but I've already got it done
I've even shot a few rolls with it already.
Some scans from overly contrasty lab prints:



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