Thursday, October 12, 2017

Film Camera a Month - September

So September was meant to be my month for using my Polaroid camera. I went with my 600 model with auto flash. Spoiler alert - I had a lot of blank photos! Mid-month I had to do a switcher-a-roo and select October's camera which was my Agfa Isolette folding camera. I picked it up at an thrift store for a cheap price and since then it has simply looked pretty on my shelf. Thankfully this project is pushing me to actually use all my cameras. I searched for a manual, loaded some film and went from there. I actually took it on our last trip, having only briefly read the manual and thinking I could wing the operation. I've never used a folding camera before and since it's completely manual, reading the instructions from start to finish was actually pretty important! Once I had a proper read through it was straight forward :)  I do get into the weeds a bit below (in terms of the camera's operation) feel free to just look at the pretty pictures!

The view from the top.

You can see its bellows once opened (I'll show you how to open below) and also the film winder button (top left) followed by the bellows release button, the hot shoe (top centre) then the shutter release button (top right).

This is the camera closed up and that's my model hand pushing the bellows/lens release button :p

After pressing the button the bellows and lens pop out and there are four components you need to pay attention to. You need to set the f/stop, this model starts at 4.5 up to 32. You need to set the shutter speed (bulb to 200). You need to set the distance focusing ring (3 feet to infinity) and then you need to click back the shutter lever. This is my first time using a camera with one of these and worthy of the manual read through! You basically crank this lever backwards and then when you release the shutter button (on top of the camera) the lever will click back into place. The camera also has a shutter release cable screw near the lens for selfies :p

To close the camera, you use both thumbs in the middle of each hinge to depress them which will let it neatly fold up. Above, I've cheated (having already used my thumbs) but unfortunately I needed at least one thumb to take the photo :p

(I took this photo once I had finished the roll, winded the film back on the spool and opened the back.  So when you're first putting in a roll you do it on the opposite side!)

Loading film is pretty basic, slide the film in the film spool chamber (which has a nifty way of popping out) and then pull enough of the blank film across into the spool on the other side, making sure it has slotted in evenly. Wind the film a few times (using the shutter wind button on top) and then close the back of the camera. The back has a little peep hole and every 120 film has printed instructions on the film so you know when you're in position to take your first photo as the film will say "1". After each shot you wind the film until you see the next number in the peep hole. When the last shot has been taken (number 12) you simply keep winding the shutter wind button until you can see the last bit of film through the back via the peephole, open the camera (release button on side) seal your 120 film with the paper tab and go get it processed! It's also nice to change the blank spool over to the other side, ready for next time :) Oh and always load/unload film in a low light spot!

So how did my roll go? I used Ilford HP5 400 plus b&w and although a lot of the shots were overexposed the few that turned out I really loved! Since everything on the camera is manual (no batteries needed) you do need to work out the correct exposure for each shot. I was feeling pretty confident I could guess my exposures + knowing film is fairly forgiving but please don't try that at home :p My local lab recommended a light meter app on my phone and I tracked one down, aptly named "light meter". I'm partly way through some colour Kodak Ektar 100, super interested to see how that roll turns out!

The camera obviously has some flaws, an f/stop that only goes down to 4.5, no inbuilt light metering, a minimum 3 feet/1 meter focus, a shutter speed that only goes up to 200 but for a camera built in the 1950's I can't help but marvel at it's engineering! To me, the photos have this quality that none of my other cameras can produce. What do you think?

Now onto the fails! 
So as I said before none of my Polaroid film worked out! 
I'm not sure if it was the film to blame or the camera or both!

Firstly I picked up this film at the op shop for $1, from this one experience I would probably not recommend you buy expired Polaroid film :p

There's a good chance that the chemicals will have expired and your roll will come out yellowy/brown with no image.

Never fear though because I had a box of black and white film from the impossible film project which I had been lovingly storing in the my fridge (the recommended thing to do).

This time they all came out white - eep! I was thinking it maybe had to do with the fact my 600 camera always fires a flash so I made sure to try it in different light settings (once inside a dark car at night) but still the same results.

I think the ultimate test would be to buy some fresh film and give it a whirl but to be honest, I gave up (for now!) :p

I had another camera as back up for my series, so I decided I would use that for October but I loaded in fresh batteries and it was a no-go so I think October might just be using my Isolette again. I hope you guys can overlook the bumpy road this series has taken and hopefully be inspired to pick up a film camera that's been sitting on a shelf not getting any love :)


  1. oh those b&w looks pretty special :) also i'm getting really jealous of all your film cameras collection!

    1. It's been fun to finally make use of them! I definitely need to explore this camera more for sure :)


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