|Editor's note: No offence is
intending towards those of you who unwittingly contributed to this guide
(i.e. those sellers whose errors I've included here). We all make
mistakes (yes, me too): typing errors; mis-typings; mis-readings
or just simply mis-understanding something we're unfamiliar with. And
sometimes it's just the typing fingers didn't do what they were told.
So, if you see one of your bloomers here, don't take it personally. They
are included in what is intended as good humour and the best possible
taste. And the hope that others can learn from them.
Getting the description right - Descriptive words
- Correctly naming your camera
Voigtlander mis-spellings - Reading your camera
- Box camera confusion
Serial Numbers - Condition - Viewfinders
(incl. Coated & Uncoated) - Apertures - Shutters
Agfa cameras in particular
Googling for information - Sources of restored
How to make bidders lose confidence
about Kodaks made in Canada
(Yes, folks: this is definitely due for splitting up into separate pages!)
Getting the description
To be fair, buyers, and in particular, buyers
who know their cameras, will know what you mean. But, from your point of view,
incorrect spellings or descriptions in the headings will mean your camera may
not be picked up by searches and inadequate, incomplete or incorrect
descriptions can be misleading and may lead to unnecessary questions and, most
importantly, undermine a buyer's confidence in you. Sellers who do it right
(e.g. petrakla, certo6, beedhams, fannyb1, brian4242, etc) get top prices for
their cameras. Buyers have confidence in them and, no doubt, many have them in
their favourite sellers list. So, with that in mind, let's start with some
To begin with, this:
...... is a folding camera, not a "Foldout
(nor is it, as the seller listed this Kodak:
a "vintage folding pull box camera",
going on to describe it as a "Vintage
Box pull camera, kodak 620 film, has a glass lense" ) Wonderful! (ed.
note: undoubtedly a glass lens as plastic lenses weren't invented until the early '60's)
KODAK JUNIOR DE-LUXE CAMERA IN EXCELLENT CONDITION WITH CASE -
||a Kodak expanding camera!
What makes it a folding camera (expanding or
otherwise) is not a
‘concertina’ or ‘folding paper’ or a 'fold out bit' or a 'telescopic front' but
a ‘bellows’ (...... and note that that's two ‘l’s, not
Nor is it (as seen recently on several US
listings) a 'billows' or a 'billow' camera.
e.g. Item number: 280265058920
Kodak Billow Camera 1920's with View Finder:
with ....... "No rips in billows"
And also note that a 'bellows' is always plural, never singular.
One ‘l’ makes for a different word: namely ‘below’ e.g. as in 'below
the belt' or ‘Fire down below’. If 'Below' doesn’t make sense,
then the oft-seen 'Belows' makes even less sense, if that's possible. It's not
even a recognised word.
There again: as it says on this
YouTube video: "Click bellow for the official version."
You've got to admit: this spelling is oh-so tricky!
(She's got a lot going for her, but I don't think a
bellows is one of them)
~ ~ ~
All of this nicely leads us into
spellings, so let's move on:
.....is a lens
..... not a
lense (the plural of lens is lenses - 'lense' is a
non-word) ....... nor is it a 'lenz' .........
nor is it a 'lends' (that
being what a bank does for you when you borrow money from them!)
e.g. Item number:
"Unfortunately it has suffered some damage - the main LENDS has an
internal glass fracture at the bottom."
And here's another all too common mis-spelling, here found describing a .....
VINTAGE KODAK BROWNIE I.B.T. FOLDING
BELLOWS ARE INTACK (i.e.
(the I.B.T. referred to are the shutter settings, which the
seller has misinterpreted as the model name)
(had better mention: there are alternatives: namely 'in
tack' and 'in tact')
~ ~ ~
and now for another of my favourites:
how a single mistaken letter can change the meaning of what we write
IS MY RETINA 1B WHICH HAS BEEN IN THE FAMILY FOR MANY YEARS AND
TAKEN MANY PICTURES.
THE CAMERA COMES WITH MANUEL.
Manuel: a character in Fawlty
Towers: a waiter played by Andrew Sachs, a well-meaning but
disorganised and constantly confused Spaniard from Barcelona
with a poor grasp of the English language and customs. He is
verbally and physically abused by his boss.
or ...... could it be that he meant:
Manual: a handy book of instructions.
(manual from the Latin 'manus': hand)
I'll leave you to decide!
(P.S. sorry to disappoint but it's not a Retina 1B but the earlier 1b.
The 1-big-B has a lightmeter. See mine
Correctly naming your camera:
Take care to copy
the name of camera accurately. This is especially important in the listing
heading. Spell it wrong there and ebay searches won't find it. And that means
buyers can't find it.
All the following mis-spellings are from
actual ebay listings:
It's Zeiss NOT Ziess OR Zuiss ......
Ikonta NOT Ikonia OR Iconta OR I Konta.
It's Zuiko NOT Zcuiko.
NOT Kodax or Kodac .......
NOT Eastham or Easterman ........
Brownis, Browni OR
A Nollenda Negel ....... would that be
Nagel Vollenda, by any chance?
an Agfa Redcord III ! (Agfa RECORD
(to be fair
to the seller he did subsequently correct this one!)
then there's the Agfa
Issolette 2 Folding Rollfilm Camera
and the Isosette
As we can clearly see dual viewfinder windows, indicating a rangefinder, it is
undoubtedly an Isosette III.
(Spelling the Isolette's maker
Agpha will certainly get people's attention.
Fortunately, since one turned up in an 'Agfa' search we learn that the ebay is
programmed to read 'ph' as 'f'.)
This is a vintage iron .........
this is a modern iron .......
.......... is a Zeiss IRON!
(i.e. Zeiss Ikon ....... dyslexia rules OK?)
And, most importantly,
Voigtlander NOT Voightlander (a
mis-spelling so common that ebay search recognises it!)
Nor, for that matter, is it
Voitlander, Voiglander, Voighander, Voightander, Yuighander, Vigtlander,
or Highlander. (Yep, that's
right ...... I kid you not: Highlander!)
(the above list is taken from 'my
collection of Voigtlander mis-spellings' which is all too frequently added
Read your camera:
I've seen an 'I don't know what it is'
camera with 'Super Baldax' embossed in the leather and clearly visible in the
photograph. Other frequent 'don't knows' are 1920's Voigtlander plate
cameras. So, it's useful to know that those cameras (Vag, Avus or Bergheil)
have their names embossed in the carrying strap. As do their roll film
compatriates: the Bessas.
Due to distinctive features such as the wire-frame film-wind
knob the seller of this 1932 3rd model Bessa described it, understandably, as an
Inos I. Not so: 'Bessa' is embossed in the carrying strap.
If there's no name on the camera be sure to
state the lens. This often suggests a likely maker. For example: if it's Voigtar,
Skopar or Heliar it's a Voigtlander. If it's Agnar, Apotar or Solinar is an
Agfa. However, Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar and Xenar are fitted to many makes
and models. Nevertheless, it is a measure of quality and worth stating.
Pre-empting the questions:
It's as tiresome to have to e-mail sellers and
ask for the basic information as it is for you, the seller, to have to answer
them. Questions like: ‘Which lens has it got?’ and/or ‘Which type of
shutter does it have?’. You can be sure you’re dealing with a ‘I know
nuffink about cameras’ seller when he describes a camera as a ‘Prontor’
camera. Which leads us to:
The Prontor II camera and the Compur
"Vintage Agfa Prontor 11 folding camera with case"
It’s understandable because ‘Prontor II’ is
written in big white letters on the front – but, so have they all – well, an
awful lot of them, anyway. You need to narrow the field a bit! There is no such
thing as a 'Prontor' camera!
Not knowing that it's called an 'Agfa
Billy' Record (its name isn't on it, hence the confusion) but some or all of
"1930's Art Deco 6x9 Agfa folding camera with Apotar lens" would be appropriate.
With Prontor II shutter, of course!
And if only to make my point, here are two others:
||Ihagee Auto Ultrix Zweiformat
Prontor II Lens
(in reality a Schneider Radionar lens)
VINTAGE BALDA PRONTOR II FOLDING CAMERA
(also, as it happens, with a Schneider Radionar lens)
Naturally this isn't confined
only to Prontor II's.
Compur shutters get an occasional airing too.
This 'unknown' camera
no maker's name. But it's the lens, not the
shutter, that leads to a possible
F. Deckel-Munchen Compur 120 Film Camera
(its unusual f4.5 Laack Regulyt lens lead the search to the
Beirax Stelo as the most likely candidate.)
ZECA CAMERA with f4.5 10.5 cm COMPUR LENS
(an uncommon camera fitted
with the desirable Zeiss Tessar lens. Seller needed to say so in the
the above examples illustrate how
camera makers sourced their lenses and shutters from specialist manufacturers
has a Leica
WB700 has a
The Box Camera confusion
It may seem odd to include box cameras and
TLR's in this, but I have seen 1920's plate cameras described as a box camera (example
below). Understandable, perhaps, as they do become a square cornered box
when closed up. Nevertheless, it has a bellows lens extension, so it's a folding
camera. This should clear this up:
not a box camera
not a TLR
not a box camera either
a twin lens reflex (TLR) (here a Rolleiflex 3.5F) in
which, when the focussing knob is turned, both viewing and taking
lenses move as one to facilitate accurate focussing.
the Voigtlander Brilliant. Even if fitted with an
excellent lens and shutter as this one is, most are non-foccussing
and so, in reality, it's nothing more that a sophisticated box
an early Rolleicord which the Voigtlander Brilliant
successfully mimics. But this is a true TLR - the viewing and taking
lenses move as one for accurate focussing.
mis-described Agfa 'Box' camera: a late 1920's
"Here is a Zeiss Ikon
Ikoflex box camera."
Oh no it isn't!
It's a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR).
First, since we've mentioned TLR's:
Rolleiflex sellers will so-ooo conscientiously tell you the serial
numbers on the lenses but not the number you want to know: i.e. the camera
serial number - which is engraved above the name plate. Knowing that enables you
to identify the
model and date of manufacture.
(Yes, yes, I know:
Rolleiflex is a TLR not a folder, but I'm making a point here about giving the
Similarly, Voigtlanders can be dated using the
..... and Schneider-Kreuznach lenses can be
if the Rollei has a Xenar lens, the lens number will do!). With so many makers
using S-K lenses that link is really useful should you want to date your camera.
Rodenstock lens can be dated
The truth is that the age has little to do
with the condition. Most cameras, and certainly most folding cameras, would have
been replaced within ten years or less. Cameras were very
expensive relative to income, so if you had the money to buy one in the first
place, you'd probably have the money to upgrade to the next model when it came
along. Nothing changes! Furthermore, with the onslaught of Japanese SLR's in the
'60's, most photographers switched to 35mm to get three times the number of
shots per film, along with through-the-lens focussing and metering, as well as
interchangeable lenses. And so cameras like the Isolette, below, became obsolete
in vast numbers after only a few years use. Years in which they'd had very few
films through them. After which they were put away in a cupboard or the loft and
forgotten. Not surprising then, half a century later, that we find most of them
in such excellent condition. They'd hardly been used!
So, the often seen statement: "Good
condition for age" is largely meaningless. If, like the example of the
seller below, you're no expert in cameras ....... how would you know?
most commonly mis-used description is ...... mint!
Agfa Isolette II Vintage Camera. Leather
Case . Mint!
"Here for sale we have a German made Agfa Isolette II in original case
no expert on cameras but, as you can see,
in Mint Condition."
Oh no it's not! 'Mint' means that it's as it
was straight out of the factory, still in its original packaging, untouched by
human hand. Dust it for fingerprints and you won't find any. 'Mint-' ('mint
minus') means it's like 'Mint', but has been taken out of the packet and handled
and perhaps even put on display in a shop. So you will find fingerprints. It's a debatable argument whether
Mint- allows for being operated to demonstrate it to a customer. 'New' means as
bought from a shop:- i.e. it will, most likely, have been handled but will not
have had a film though it. Once it leaves the shop it naturally progresses into
the Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair categories, although many dealers
sub-divide 'Excellent' into Exc++, Exc+ and Exc, perhaps because they only deal
in top quality equipment and need to differentiate between minor differences.
In effect Exc++ might look the same as Mint- to look at, but has
been used, regardless of how much or how little.
comments in his guide: "it's likely that most truly 'Mint' condition cameras
are already in the hands of collectors."
Perhaps we should
commend retailer Ffordes of Inverness for simply using 'Signs of use', 'Slight
signs of use' and 'Obvious signs of use' . Much easier! Although to
judge by some old timers seen on ebay we'd need to expand the list to 'Signs
of heavy use', and 'Gross signs of use'. Or should that be 'Gross
signs of mis-use'?
Here are a couple of excellent examples of Mintiness:
||This 'Baby' Rollei was
described as MINT but
'with slight colour loss to the
Who's he kidding? Only himself, presumably.
There's no 'BUT'. Either it's mint or it's not!
'Mint' means no faults of any kind.
and here, amazingly, a mint condition camera for spares or repair:
ZEISS IKON NETTAR. Part- MINT.
21 Oct 2010-12-03
Item number: 270648044473
6 x 6cm
folding camera Stuttgart, Germany. The exterior - leatherette and chrome
fittings, the entire lens assembly, the lens elements, the bellows (they are
light-proof) and the top-plate are all in utterly perfect condition.
wind-on knob, however is missing and the shutter is locked
so being listed as
Oh, how disappointing. I guess it's not mint after
And then there’s viewfinders. I remember
having to ask a 30’s Bessa seller which viewfinder it had. I had to ask because
he put up only one photo, taken of it in long shot, showing it’s right-hand
side. An open-frame viewfinder is the 1935 model, pop-up viewfinder is the 1937
model. Got back a terse reply complaining about “so many questions from all
around the world for a camera worth only £20” (or so he thought!). But who’s
fault’s that? He didn’t show a close-up of the front so that buyers could read
the lens and shutter type and, by photographing the ‘wrong’ side, we couldn’t
tell which model it was. Moral: avoid having to answer questions by showing the
essential information in your photos. You know the old saying; ‘a picture is
worth a thousand words’. That would be a thousand of your
words answering those tiresome questions from all around the world. And it’s no
excuse that he didn’t know that there were so many lens/shutter/viewfinder
variations because he hadn’t done his research. More about that later.
my 1937 Voigtlander Bessa with f4.5 10.5cm (105mm) 4-element Skopar lens
photographed to show the pop-up viewfinder.
to see the 7 other variants)
(Note the little ‘brilliant’ viewfinder on the
lens assembly. It's an aid to dating a camera. Present on all cameras before the
war, no longer there post war.)
Sharp and informative: the close-up of a lens/shutter assembly:
not so helpful .........
(taken from an listing for a rare and desirable Kodak Regent)
In one sense cameras are like cars. When you
buy your Ford Focus or your Nissan Micra (or whatever) you have a choice of
engines (1000cc, 1300cc etc) and gearboxes (auto or manual, 4-speed or 5-speed)
not to mention all the trim options. And all those variations are reflected in
the price. It may be advertised on TV as ‘from £6995’, but you can be sure that
the combination we all want is more likely to be £12995!
Kodak 3A’s have
28 variations of lens and shutter. If the lens is a "Tessar" or "TTH" the
buyers want to know! Pre-war Voigtlanders are variously fitted with the
3-element Voigtar, the 4-element Skopar or the 5-element Heliar. (There is also
a special 3-element Helomar on the
Bessa Rangefinder). After roughly 1951, with the change to colour film,
Voigtlanders have Vaskar, Color-Skopar or Color-Heliar.
Agfa's are Agnar, Apotar or Solinar.
Pre-war/pre-Agnar was the Igestar.
* Read more about lenses in
beedhams guide: "Choosing
medium format lenses - what's in a name?"
Coated or un-coated?
The threshold after which lenses were coated
is around 1951 (launch of Voigtlanders Bessa I being typical) coinciding with
the availability of Kodacolor and other colour films.
S-K Xenar 1937
coated lenses of the 1950's
Som Berthiot Flor
Above you can see Xenar lenses both coated and uncoated.
Here's another comparison:
Agfa Isolette's Apotar lens
The wider the aperture the better. Hence, the
wider the aperture the higher the original price! Manufacturers write it on the
lens as a ratio, so look on the lens (around the glass) for 1:3.5 or 1:4.5 or
1:6.3. Photographers, on the other hand, describe it by it’s ‘f’ number: f3.5,
f4.5, f6.3 …… or f2.8 or f1.8 or whatever. In the example above right you can
see it reads: Agfa Apotar 1:4.5/85, which a photographer would read as an "85mm
f4.5 Apotar lens".
Pre-war Voigtlander’s shutters can be 3 speed
Embezet or 8 speed Compur or, later, the 9-speed Compur-Rapid. But the
1931 Jubilar has a simple un-named 2-speed (presumably Embezet). And, as if
to be different, Baby Bessa's (the Bessa 66) and the cheaper model 6x9 Bessa's
have a Prontor shutter.
The great sticking shutter
Agfa Isolette Rangefinder Camera
An Agfa Isolette folding camera with a built in rangefinder
(i.e. an Isolette III)
Agfa Apotar f4.5 85mm lens in a Prontor-SV shutter
All in working order.
PLEASE NOTE - After rechecking the camera it was found that
the slower speeds are sticking which often happens
with old cameras when
not used for some time
- repeated use
or a service
will cure this.
VINTAGE BALDA BALDIX 120 FOLDING CAMERA
The 1 second not working
due to lack of use.
Lack of use? I doubt it. It's the build-up of crud that's the problem. What we
call 'servicing' is mostly about cleaning. As for: "Repeated use will cure
this?" Oh no it won't!
This is fantasy. Founded in optimism, perhaps. But more likely in
ignorance. Or it's simply sales talk. It's simply 'the thing people say'. To be
fair, sometimes, just sometimes, if you're really lucky, they do improve. But
they'll never return to the indicated speeds. Not that I've ever had such luck.
All of mine got progressively worse. The fact is, they stick because the
mechanism is old and dirty. Servicing is the only cure. This belongs in the
category of "Things to say that make bidders lose confidence". It means you
don't know what you're talking about!
It's normal for shutter speeds to be slow. A shutter mechanism has two ranges: 1
sec to 1/25th and 1/50th to 1/300th. The fast range are usually reasonable and
may well 'sound right' although, in reality, the 1/300th is probably closer to
1/200th. It's the slow range that's likely to be bad. So, what can you do?
Well, you can roughly time the 1 second by your watch. If it's close - say,
roughly 1 second or roughly 1½ seconds, say so. With luck
the others will be in line. If the 1 sec doesn't close, try the
sec. Often when the 1 sec is stuck, the
will often time at around a second (or 1½ or 2 ...... whatever!). Report
what you find.
About Agfas in particular
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked
Agfa Isolette sellers: “Which lens does it have?", "Which shutter does it
have?”, “Does the focus ring turn easily, stiffly or is it stuck?",
"Is the bellows shiny plastic or leather?" (leather is rare) and "If plastic,
how bad are the splits in the front corners?”
Agfa Isolette’s (6x6 format) (as well their
6x9 siblings, Agfa Records) can have 3-element Agnar or Apotar or the more
expensive 4-element Solinar. The affordable version Isolette I has a 3-speed
Vario shutter, but the ‘II’ can have Agnar + Pronto, Apotar + 5-speed Pronto,
Apotar + 8-speed Prontor-S or its later variants Prontor-SV or -SVS. Or even
(rarely) Synchro-Compur. The desirable Solinar lensed versions are similar,
although, being top of the range, not the 5-speed Pronto.
the green grease they used on the focussing hardens with age. This really
applies to the early ones as well as pre-war. Nevertheless, buyers like to be
reassured, and want to know whether the focussing turns freely or not:
how stiff it is - or if it's stuck. So, if yours is free moving then reassure
them by saying so. Some degree of stiff/slow movement is normal. Non-moving
isn't the total downer you might think - it can be freed by a courageous owner
applying a hair dryer. My uncoated Apotar example in the pictures above, is like this.
Warning to anyone
attempting this: as it heats up you'll want to keep trying to turn the focussing
ring so be warned: the metal gets very hot before the
grease melts, so be sure to take hold of it with a cloth or tissue! It's for
this reason I like to wrap the camera body in a towel to prevent the body
heating up and so protect the hand holding it. Disclaimer: please understand
that you or your buyer does this at your/their own risk! Finally: once
freed, be sure to turn it regularly to keep it that way.
Issue No.2 with Agfa’s (Adox too): the
use of plastic bellows which split at the corners. There are always
holes or splits in the front corners of those plastic bellows. Which is why
restorer Jurgen Kreckel (certo6)
says every Agfa needs a new bellows. Even if it's okay at the time
you buy it, if you use it, you'll repeatedly flex that 50 year old plastic, and it
will eventually fail. Tiny splits may not be visible. My Adox Golf II has no
visible splits, so I was very disappointed to find one in three negatives
fogged. Be warned!
Googling for information:
If you know nuffink about
cameras, or simply know the name of the camera but nothing more ...... GET MORE!
Excuse me for pointing it out but ..... you're sitting in front of a
computer! You have the internet ....... so Google for information:
For example: enter Agfa Isolette
(or simply 'Isolette') into Google and it returns these:
http://www.rolandandcaroline.co.uk/isolettei/isolettei.html (Isolette I)
http://www.rolandandcaroline.co.uk/isoletteii.html (Isolette II)
Search for Voigtlander and you get:
I confess I'd previously not heard of these
two cameras until I saw them for sale on ebay. But I soon found out something
Safe sources of restored
or tested folders:
Kreckel in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylania restores 1950's classics and
describes many of them: His ebay seller's name is certo6. His informative
http://www.certo6.com/ . See his items currently for sale
ebay seller 'Beedhams' - real name Leslie Gilmore, retired
photographer and writer of ebay guides - can be found
See his current items for sale
Example from seller of Voigtlander Bessa
Old camera found in loft ..... sorry, know
nothing about it!
The seller of the above camera
"Sorry I can't be
much help. This old camera was found in an elderly friend's attic recently. She
thinks her father may have used it in the 1940's. ( If anyone knows anything
about cameras, bidder or non-bidder, we'd be MOST interested to have
All I can say is
that the thing has "Voigtlander" written on the back followed by "Bessa 66".
I really am the
look-and-click person. (I'm quite an elderly lady!)"
But, hey there
elderly lady ......... Googling 'Bessa 66' gets you:
http://herron.50megs.com/german-1.htm (need to scroll down 1/3 page)
and this - photos taken with a Bessa 66:
However, this time the Wikipedia entry is not
helpful as it shows the expensive version with the offset viewfinder:
Things to say that make
bidders lose confidence:
"To be honest I
know squat about any camera that is pre-digital age so I'm describing this to
the best of my knowledge."
"I have no idea
whether it is working or not ........" (all too often this means the shutter
"the slow speeds are sticking -
repeated use will cure this" (covered this one earlier!)
Agfa vintage camera up
for grabs. I don't know anything about such cameras. On the lens it
ANASTIGMAT - JGESTAR - F:8,8'
Whatever that means!
Oh, and one last thing:
Kodak No.2 Folding Autographic Brownie
Made In Canada!
Yes, yes, big deal ........ well, actually, no. Because you
see, they were all made in Canada.
In the olden days, before there was 'the UK' and 'the EU'
(or even just 'Yookay' as we are becoming known around the world),
there was Great Britain and its Empire. And goods from the Empire sold in Great
Britain suffered no import duty. So, clever Kodak of Rochester, NY, USA, built a factory across the
water (i.e. the other side of Lake Ontario) in Toronto to assemble cameras for
Great Britain and its Empire so as to avoid that horrendous import duty. In
other words: it's a tax evasion scam!
And that's why all the early Kodaks sold in Great Britain
have 'MADE IN CANADA' on them.
Which means, in effect, that although it's of interest and
appears significant to us, it's something of a self-evident truth. A bit like
saying that Nikon is Japanese or Leica is German. It doesn't really need to be
So there. I guess you learn something every day!
|Oh dear ..... I keep adding
to the content
but, as you can see, there's not much progress on the re-structuring. Sorry!
your comments would be appreciated
click on Gael to e-mail the author:
can help to improve this tutorial:
advising if better explanations needed
advising of more information wanted
|visitors to this page:
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(as of 30th June)