Unexpected Developments

Agfa Isolette (4610)
Agfa Isolette. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

Something a little unusual today. Earlier this week I had another go at cleaning up and fixing my dad’s old cameras. The one I’ll talk about today is an Agfa Isolette II from the 1950s. This was an inexpensive medium-format camera that took 120 roll film. My copy has a Pronto four-speed shutter (25/50/100/200 and bulb) and an Apotar 85mm f/4.5 lens. Everything is completely manual and mechanical (no batteries needed), and other than the film winding and shutter button everything is controlled from the lens mount. It also has a self-timer (that red knob lower right).

Now this specific camera belonged to my dad, and from what I understand was originally my grandfather’s. It arrived to me in overall good condition considering its age, except for one show-stopping problem: the focus ring would not turn. Some digging around on the net and I found this was a very common problem with this model. The lubricant used just seizes up solid after some decades. To fix this I had to take the lens apart, dunk the front and middle element (which were fused together) in some rubbing alcohol for most of a day, and then carefully grab each side with pliers to twist them unstuck. Unfortunately, with my attention not to damage the screw threads on the middle element, I inadvertently dinged the outer rim of the front element. You can see this just by the 1:4.5 marking on the lens). This does not cause any usage problems, but it’s a pity to have such an imperfection on an otherwise nice piece of engineering.

Once this was done I wanted to carefully check the bellows for leaks, so set up my flash on a remote trigger and fired that through the back of the camera while taking photos of the bellows corners. As it turns out it’s mostly ok, with very minor cracks in the corners where the bellows fold. They’re small enough to fix with nail polish, so that will be my next step.

Meanwhile, when I was at the local Fuji lab to pick up a print I casually asked if they still sold film, and found they still had some old rolls of 120 laying around. So I returned home with an unplanned purchase: a pack of five rolls of Fujifilm NPZ.

Fujifilm NPZ 120 (4621)
Fujifilm NPZ 120. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

Unfortunately they don’t develop 120 any more, so I’ll have to dev these myself. I have the necessary gear for B&W chemicals, and my scanner can take negative or positive film up to 8×10, so these will in most likelihood end up cross-processed. It feels like such a pity, but hey. I tried to see if anyone has experience with developing this particular film in Rodinal, but couldn’t find any. I guess this will be a first. Meanwhile this pack is sitting in our wine cooler at 10°C, and soon I’ll be trying my hand at some medium-format. Wish me luck.



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