Agfa Isolette

I took these photos around the historic Dominion Observatory adjacent to the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa (Canada) in 2002 with a 1940’s Agfa Isolette. These are straight scans of my black & white negatives on a Canon 8400F flatbed film scanner. There were several models of the Isolette over the years. It was a medium format folder camera, which means that it used 120 format film and it had a combined lens and shutter mechanism that extended out from the camera body by means of a folding bellows. Mine was the cheaper version with the Agnar lens.

Like many similar cameras at the time, the viewfinder was a simple composition aid and was not coupled to the lens. This model was also not equipped with any means of determining focus distance, so you had to focus it by estimating the distance to your subject by eye based on the focus marks on the lens. But it was a cut above the basic box cameras in that it had full controls for aperture and shutter speed, essentially the same as you would have found on a large format view camera. The 120 format folders were primarily intended for amateur photographers, but of course, in the film days, the camera, no matter how fancy, was really about being a hole through which the light would reach the film at the back of the camera. The quality of the lens might make a difference, but as long as the apertures and shutter speeds were reasonably accurate, a hole is a hole.

The observatory was in operation from 1902 to 1970. Among other things, it was used to measure the time at which stars passed across the meridian and was the basis for Canadian time signals. The photo with the down arrow is the Canadian Prime Meridian marker on the side of the building. It was essentially Canada’s version of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Just experimentation with the camera really, but the older my film photos get, the more I like them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own photo of the camera, so I used one which I believe at this writing is licensed under Creative Commons (Unattributed).

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