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Agfa Isolette with Apotar lens
Old 09-24-2008   #1
Fuchs
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Agfa Isolette with Apotar lens

Well, I'm being offered ($35) a like new Agfa Isolette with an Apotar 4.5/85 lens instead of the more common Agnar. The shutter sounds accurate. I have already one with the Agnar, but never used it because the shutter is dead stuck. I have read somewhere else (photo.net maybe?) the CLA/repair procedure, but must confess I'm too lazy to do it.

So, what are the differences between the Agnar and Apotar lenses? Is one better than the other?


Thank you in advance,
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Old 09-24-2008   #2
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Yes, the Apotar is better than the Agnar. And $35 is a good price.
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Old 09-24-2008   #3
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Thanks Jerry,
Are they different optical designs?
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Old 09-25-2008   #4
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Quote:
Are they different optical designs?
the short answer they are the same... in as much as they are both triplets but thats where the simularity ends. Agnar was by the time the popular isolettes came to be in the (lets say so i dont have to look the dates up) 40-50s ,not including the pre war with some different lenses again, were there bottom of the range offering. actually since their inception i would hazard a guess and say they were agfa's bottom of the range lens, however i might add they were a mainstay for many years (decades?) and so one can in that regard consider them quite succesfull. vaule for money! remember agfa catered to ordinary everyday point and shoot market as well and mostly this lens falls into that catergory, the apotar is a step up

the apotar was and is a much better lens in many (nah all, all the lens aberations) respects. i would suspect without measuring them the air spacings are different between elements and more importantly the type a glass used is different. nothing wrong with playing around with old cameras and lenses and getting a feel of how it was once upon a time, but if your after better quality in that particular make and model you would try at least the apotar, of course then there is the solinar .
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Old 09-25-2008   #5
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Bunch of info on Isolettes here:

http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~yue/misc/AnscAgfa.html#Iso2
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Old 09-25-2008   #6
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Hi Chippy, thank you for your insights on the Apotar. I'd already given my yes (and $$$ of course) on the camera, so it would be arriving tomorrow or saturday. I plan to test it during the weekend. I have no previous experience with mf folders, as I said I have another Isolette with the Agnar lens, but it just stands unused with a badly stuck shutter on a shelf. So I will not be able to compare the two lenses performances.

I'm gonna give it a try with Fuji Reala... should I expect some fogging from the rear red window when advancing the film in full light or better advance in semidark?

thanks in advance again
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Old 09-25-2008   #7
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thank you Jerry, great deal of info on that page
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Old 09-25-2008   #8
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Before you use the Isolette, you may want to check the bellows. Some of them are notoriously prone to light leaks. The red window should have a sliding cover. Uncover only when advancing the film and fogging shouldn't be a problem.
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Old 09-25-2008   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Hi Chippy, thank you for your insights on the Apotar. I'd already given my yes (and $$$ of course) on the camera, so it would be arriving tomorrow or saturday. I plan to test it during the weekend. I have no previous experience with mf folders, as I said I have another Isolette with the Agnar lens, but it just stands unused with a badly stuck shutter on a shelf. So I will not be able to compare the two lenses performances.

I'm gonna give it a try with Fuji Reala... should I expect some fogging from the rear red window when advancing the film in full light or better advance in semidark?

thanks in advance again
the rear door/red window has a closure on it so be sure to close it after each wind on..fogging usually doesnt present itself as a problem due to that, all sorts of other light leaks might!. out of habit I usually turn my back to the sun while advancing

before you put film in it give the bellows a light test in a darkroom (at night if need be in a normal room but very black/dark) with a small torch (or like) carefully without causing any damage trying to reach inside the bellows with it to show any leaks. if the bellows havnt been replaced odds are they are going to need it, not many dont as you will find out. also check if the front lens turns (focuses) smoothly. if you do a search you will find a bunch of posts relating to common things that usually need doing on these before they are good to go
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Old 09-25-2008   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Thirsty View Post
For some reason - I recognize that web page. I'll try to break it into two or three web pages this winter.

By the way, I'm two days away from attempting to remove the original bellows from an Ansco Super Speedex that I have and have camerabellows.com make yet another for me.

After that all my folders with the exception of my Perkeo II will have had the bellows replaced.
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Old 09-25-2008   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
For some reason - I recognize that web page. I'll try to break it into two or three web pages this winter.

By the way, I'm two days away from attempting to remove the original bellows from an Ansco Super Speedex that I have and have camerabellows.com make yet another for me.

After that all my folders with the exception of my Perkeo II will have had the bellows replaced.
Solinar,

I have just had the bellows of my Super Isolette replaced. Mine also came from camerabellows in Birmingham, England. I think even if the original bellows in any isolette is still light tight, they won't be so for long. And the only solution would be to replace them.

Back to the main point of this thread. The Apotar is a very capable lens. I have got an Agnar but have not put it on any camera to test. But it should also be a respectable performer as it is a triplet and same design as the Apotar. I wouldn't say the quality of the glass is inferior to that of the Apotar as I did not think they had so many different grades of glass at the time.
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Old 09-25-2008   #12
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Quote:
Back to the main point of this thread. The Apotar is a very capable lens. I have got an Agnar but have not put it on any camera to test. But it should also be a respectable performer as it is a triplet and same design as the Apotar. I wouldn't say the quality of the glass is inferior to that of the Apotar as I did not think they had so many different grades of glass at the time.
i assure you they had different types of glass---the glass used in lenses varied widely from the vary earlist years in photography....

clearly the angar lens is of different quality and design to apotar or what would be the point of Agfa having both and selling the Anga cheaper, not to mention the results from the lenses speak for themselves. all triplets arnt exactly the same..in make up or performance

Last edited by chippy : 09-25-2008 at 07:44.
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Old 09-25-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chippy View Post
i assure you they had different types of glass---the glass used in lenses varied widely from the vary earlist years in photography....

clearly the angar lens is of different quality and design to apotar or what would be the point of Agfa having both and selling the Anga cheaper, not to mention the results from the lenses speak for themselves. all triplets arnt exactly the same..in make up or performance
I am sure you know what you are saying and are right. I will one day put up the agnar and try it out. I have seen some good pics by others using this lens. But as far as the Apotar is concerned I am sure it is a worthy performer. I use mine quite frequently.
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Old 09-25-2008   #14
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Originally Posted by Windscale View Post
I am sure you know what you are saying and are right. I will one day put up the agnar and try it out. I have seen some good pics by others using this lens. But as far as the Apotar is concerned I am sure it is a worthy performer. I use mine quite frequently.
no problem
many folk use the apotar and are very satified with the results, less so with the agnar....i prefer the solinar but thats not to say i dont apreaciate the apotar for what it is (its like comparing apples to oranges)..a fine triplet lens that produces very good results within its limitations....just like the solinar has its own limitations
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Old 09-25-2008   #15
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Thanks Victor, Chippy and Solinar, the seller says the bellows is ok, in like new condition. I asked him on the phone to test for lighttightness with the flash method I saw elsewhere. Shortly after he confirmed the bellows ok.
I have no reason to doubt him, but will obviously double check when the cam arrives.

He also said the red window sliding cover is in place and slides in and out, and stays put, correctly.

OK, it looks like if all the stars align, I'll be posting the results after this weekend.
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Old 09-25-2008   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chippy View Post
no problem
many folk use the apotar and are very satified with the results, less so with the agnar....i prefer the solinar but thats not to say i dont apreaciate the apotar for what it is (its like comparing apples to oranges)..a fine triplet lens that produces very good results within its limitations....just like the solinar has its own limitations
I like the Solinar as well, especially that one on the Super Isolette. I am convinced that it is better than those on the ordinary Isolettes. The Solinars are no doubt very sharp. But I like the Apotar for its more creamy effect and shadow details. They both have their pluses and minuses. I much prefer the Apotar to the Novar for the same reason.

Sorry for sidetracking from this thread. We all wait to see your pics, Fuchs.
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Old 09-25-2008   #17
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Sorry for sidetracking from this thread. We all wait to see your pics, Fuchs.
No sidetracking at all: pure learning for me!
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Old 09-25-2008   #18
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For $35 - a like new Isolette II with a 80/4.5 Apotar is an excellent starter camera.

The Agfa Super Isolette is a totally different build. It's totally top shelve and as such has quite a few modern features. So, the Super generally sells for $250 on up depending on condition.
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Old 09-25-2008   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Well, I'm being offered ($35) a like new Agfa Isolette with an Apotar 4.5/85 lens instead of the more common Agnar. The shutter sounds accurate. I have already one with the Agnar, but never used it because the shutter is dead stuck. I have read somewhere else (photo.net maybe?) the CLA/repair procedure, but must confess I'm too lazy to do it.

So, what are the differences between the Agnar and Apotar lenses? Is one better than the other?


Thank you in advance,
Frankly, the Agnar sucks, while the Apotar is comparable to some of the other manufacturer's better triplets -- let's say it's not as good as a Novar, but it's better than a Radionar. Agnars and Apotars are both triplets though.

A common problem with Apotars (and pretty much all of Agfa's other lens offerings, come to think of it) is directly attributable to the horrible choice of lubricant that Agfa used. The lube hardens and polymerizes, forming chains of plastic and freezing the focus adjustment dead. Any Agfa that is still in operating condition can fairly safely be assumed to have been disassembled at some point and the grease has been cleaned out of the focusing threads. This means it has been reassembled and the front (focusing) lens element has been adjusted for focus at infinity. Only God knows how good a job the previous owner did at that. Anyway, this is why you read so many differences of opinion on Apotars, some people really liking them while others are disappointed. I'm convinced that it's due to varying degrees of success in collimating the lenses upon reassembly. Any time I get an Agfa, provided the focus is working, the first thing I do is readjust the focus, using a piece of ground glass.

Next problem is the bellows material. If yours has the original bellows, the odds are nearly 100% that it has light leaks. You can patch the leaks, but this is at best a temporary measure. You'll still have the original vinyl material, it will still suck, and sooner or later it is going to leak again. The only serious option is to replace the bellows. You used to be able to get "new old stock" replacement bellows that were cheap, but those disappeared years ago. These days, you will have to have a set of bellows made, make them yourself, or harvest a bellows from another camera (if you go that last route, I'd go for a Kodak 66, since they are cheap, the bellows is the only really well-made part of that particular camera, and it is relatively easy to get them out intact).

However, once you have the bellows problem taken care of, the focus is adjusted, the shutter has been cleaned and the green grease has been replaced, an Isolette with an Apotar is a pretty darned good shooter. The Solinars are better, but not by a whole lot.

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Old 09-25-2008   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
By the way, I'm two days away from attempting to remove the original bellows from an Ansco Super Speedex that I have and have camerabellows.com make yet another for me.

After that all my folders with the exception of my Perkeo II will have had the bellows replaced.
be sure to take a few pics along the way Andrew, it will be interesting to see whats involved with these guys, not that i am planning to change mine anytime soon *fingers crossed*

so does that mean you have changed the bellows in your Bessa II ? how did that go.

hey also is that a stock photo of the Agfa Auto 66 from somewhere or do you have one..i'm guessing not or we would have heard you talking about it hehe
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Bellow replacement
Old 09-25-2008   #21
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Bellow replacement

The bellows replacement on a Bessa II is very straight forward, except that the bellows are glued to the inner body, in front of the film gate.

I just received a very well made shutter wrench from Fotoman. It doesn't flex and is super compact. I'll definitely take photos of the Super Speedex bellow replacement for posting on the web.
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Old 09-25-2008   #22
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Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
I just received a very well made shutter wrench from Fotoman. It doesn't flex and is super compact. I'll definitely take photos of the Super Speedex bellow replacement for posting on the web.
shutter wrench? what sort? have you got a link? is that specific to use with the S/isolette? or do you just mean the the normal wrench to remove the retaining flange/nut inside the bellows.

just not those cheap black ones that are a bit like using spagetti haha--they work but i like the stainless steel ones better-once you use those there's no going back lol
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Old 09-25-2008   #23
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Frankly, the Agnar sucks, .
ROTFL..well i was trying not to be that frank! didnt want to offend anyone (seemed to fail anyway),,and besides if thats all someone has its better than nothing (box brownies can make nice pictures too and thier 6x9!) and as we have mentioned before when people post the results on the net they may look ok but the prints in your hand compared ,,are a different story
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Old 09-25-2008   #24
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I guess my expectations are kind of low, but my Isollette I with Agnar is pretty ok stopped down... and while I did have to attend to the grean cement grease, the original bellows are still fine for 400 speed film (cross my fingers)... but they sound pretty dry... lowish contrast, but decent flare resistance and sharpness... but as I said, this isn't a camera that I expect Zeiss results out of...
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Old 09-26-2008   #25
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Quote:
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ROTFL..well i was trying not to be that frank! didnt want to offend anyone (seemed to fail anyway),,and besides if thats all someone has its better than nothing (box brownies can make nice pictures too and thier 6x9!) and as we have mentioned before when people post the results on the net they may look ok but the prints in your hand compared ,,are a different story
Speaking frankly again, I'd almost rather have the Box Brownie. I really like the Apotars and Solinars, but I seriously dislike Agnars. I will never again buy a camera with an Agnar -- unless I can swap out the lens. Yeah, it's better than nothing, but not by that much.

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I guess my expectations are kind of low, but my Isollette I with Agnar is pretty ok stopped down... and while I did have to attend to the grean cement grease, the original bellows are still fine for 400 speed film (cross my fingers)... but they sound pretty dry... lowish contrast, but decent flare resistance and sharpness... but as I said, this isn't a camera that I expect Zeiss results out of...
I have one with an Agnar too. I won't get another one though -- well, maybe a Billy, but I'd swap out the Agnar with an Apotar.

Last edited by FallisPhoto : 09-26-2008 at 09:13.
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Old 09-26-2008   #26
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I guess my expectations are kind of low, but my Isollette I with Agnar is pretty ok stopped down... and while I did have to attend to the grean cement grease, the original bellows are still fine for 400 speed film (cross my fingers)... but they sound pretty dry... lowish contrast, but decent flare resistance and sharpness... but as I said, this isn't a camera that I expect Zeiss results out of...
Interesting thread. I have been on travel and didn't have time to fire up the computer for anything but work. Ugh!

mh2000. One of the nice things about MF is that there is enough negative and the cof are small enough to be somewhat forgiving. Bottom line, it you are happy, go for it. If you don't have some of the other lenses mentioned here, or those of another better MF, you might want to try one. You might be pleasantly surprised. I have personally never owned an Agfa, but from those who have, the apotar and solinar seem to be worlds above the agnar. Good MF folders are just fun to me. They have a fascination all their own.
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Old 09-26-2008   #27
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I have one with an Agnar too. I won't get another one though -- well, maybe a Billy, but I'd swap out the Agnar with an Apotar.
The Agnar is usually better than the lens in your box cameras. I had a f/4.5 on an Ansco Viking that wasn't too shabby - after the overhaul of the helical.

The quality of the Agnar probably varied a bit from camera to camera. The one on the Viking performed nearly as good as a couple of post war Radionars that were common on a Franka roll-fix.
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Old 09-26-2008   #28
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Quote:
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The Agnar is usually better than the lens in your box cameras. I had a f/4.5 on an Ansco Viking that wasn't too shabby - after the overhaul of the helical.
That's why I said I'd almost rather have a Box Brownie. Almost is the key word there. If the box camera was a Zeiss Tengor though, I'd have to think about it. That Goerz Frontar was pretty sharp for the kind of lens it was.

I bet that Viking would have been a whole lot nicer with an Apotar.

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The quality of the Agnar probably varied a bit from camera to camera. The one on the Viking performed nearly as good as a couple of post war Radionars that were common on a Franka roll-fix.
That's not saying a whole lot though. Thing is, an Agfa with an Apotar costs no more than the same camera with an Agnar. The lens element to film plane distance is the same, most times, with Apotars and Agnars, and they are easily swappable, so why not?
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Old 09-26-2008   #29
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I have to say that my Agnar is very good and I love it. I did not even thought that it can be so nice.
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Old 09-26-2008   #30
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I have to say that my Agnar is very good and I love it. I did not even thought that it can be so nice.
If they were that nice, there would be no reason to make Apotars and Solinars.
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Old 09-26-2008   #31
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In Arvay's defense, some of us are not so a-retentive that we count parallel lines per millimeter on every lens we own, but actually look at an image. We decide for ourselves if we like it or don't like it. My best lenses, to me, are totally boring. So, let someone like what he likes.
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Old 09-26-2008   #32
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Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
In Arvay's defense, some of us are not so a-retentive that we count parallel lines per millimeter on every lens we own, but actually look at an image. We decide for ourselves if we like it or don't like it. My best lenses, to me, are totally boring. So, let someone like what he likes.
I'm not doing that either. I use my cameras and I look at the photos. I study them and analyze them in an effort to figure out what works best for me and why one photo looks better than another. I have an Agnar Isolette, some Apotar Isolettes and a couple of Solinar Isolettes. The differences between photos from my Apotars and Solinars aren't that much, unless you open the apertures up pretty wide. The differences between photos from my Agnar and the Apotars is pretty significant though and it jumps right out at me. Therefore, on both objective and subjective levels, I think the Apotar is a very noticably better lens. Now I accept different strokes for different folks, and Arvay can like his Agnar as much as he wants, but it just isn't in the same league with an Apotar. To me it is like the difference between looking at an old Sanyo TV and a new HD plasma TV.

Last edited by FallisPhoto : 09-26-2008 at 18:55.
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Old 09-26-2008   #33
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whenever a thread arrives discussing the Agnar, Apotar and Solinar people always seem to get defensive and ultimately upset as if the criticisum is directed at the person and not the lenses.

this thread is about the lenses, thats what the OP was asking about.

i am all for anyone and everyone simply enjoying themselves with vintage photo equipment. heck i have some terrible lenses, by todays standards or even compared to 40s and 50s, but have still enjoyed using the cameras for a bit of fun..if expectations are kept to a minimum the results are often surprisingly nice.

however it doenst do anyone any good if they ask about the diffeences in the 3 mentioned lenses to simply say they are all good, great, no difference! that just leads to more confusion down the track with the next person asking.

as with most things, the good advice is to get the best you can afford, particularly as its now 50+ years on from when these were produced someone may as well get a Isollette with at least an Apotar given the choice is pretty much the same money, as often as not. (or even if they cost $15+ or more, that doenst hurt our pockets as much as it did to the folk living in the 50's) .

there is a noticable difference, it may as well be said. and as FallisP mentions the solinar's advantage compared to the Apotar is also when used wider open, which for some people may be important (not to mention you do get those extra lines per mm which can be important as well). what is that saying with photography?...spend big dollars for small gains....well when it comes to Isolettes luckly it works out, to spend pretty small extra dollars for bigger gains. (not counting the S/Isolette)

but by all means if you have an Iso w/Agnar and enjoy it, then continue to do so--like i said i had fun and got interesting photos from using all sorts of worse lenses (older period lenses) than the Agnar...cant remember the last time i used pin hole LOL , must try that again one day.

Last edited by chippy : 09-27-2008 at 16:50. Reason: missed a word
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Old 09-26-2008   #34
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I would probably pick the Sanyo over the plas(tic)ma, but then again, I'm different from most of you, except maybe arvay. This is one of my Sanyo lenses which is always a surprise:


Last edited by charjohncarter : 09-26-2008 at 20:17.
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Old 09-26-2008   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
I would probably pick the Sanyo over the plas(tic)ma, but then again, I'm different from most of you, except maybe arvay. This is one of my Sanyo lenses which is always a surprise:

nothing wrong with being different...and we all are as it turns out

have trouble beleiving though that if we presented in front arvay (or anyone else) the choice between an old Sanyo TV and HDTV plasma and said you can keep whatever one you like best there would be any takers on the old Sanyo





Last edited by chippy : 09-26-2008 at 20:37.
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Old 09-26-2008   #36
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Stopped-down to f8 or so, the Apotar does a pretty good job. This
scan is at 1200dpi on my Epson 4490, Neopan Acros 100 film:



Camera is the Agfa Isolette 4.5, older model to the Isolette I

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Old 09-26-2008   #37
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Probably I'm wrong > It so often that the one should keep the majority line
I will post some pictures later today.

Last edited by Arvay : 09-26-2008 at 21:39.
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Old 09-27-2008   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arvay;
It so often that the one should keep the majority line
It is getting to be that way. Triplets that I found to be quite good stopped down to f/8 ish are the Apotar 105/4.5, Helomar 105/3.5, Novar 105/3.5 and Trinar 105/3.5.
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Old 09-27-2008   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solinar View Post
It is getting to be that way. Triplets that I found to be quite good stopped down to f/8 ish are the Apotar 105/4.5, Helomar 105/3.5, Novar 105/3.5 and Trinar 105/3.5.
From my experience, you can add the Cassar to that list. Don't forget the Elmar either.
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Old 09-27-2008   #40
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Plas(tic)ma vs Sanyo: chippy we will have to ask avray, but that Sanyo really looks sweet to me. Is it yours? If it is, you lucky guy.
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