First Results, Agfa Billy I Vintage Camera

It took weeks, but we finally got back our first eight photos from the Agfa Billy 1 (mfr: 1952) we were testing for functionality (see previous blog post).

The good news is that the camera works!  Mostly.  We know that photos have to be taken within 6 meters, because the lens, which rotates to achieve the right focal length, gets stuck at 6 meters.  It could be that the lens is no longer calibrated correctly, because a number of the photos are out of focus.

The bad news is that the photos could use some work, but we expect that will improve as we learn to use the camera. The photos were taken by my daughter, who says she has already spotted a few things she can do better. The next roll has been dropped off at the developer.

We managed to find someone to develop the 120 film locally in Windhoek.  But it took 3 weeks because they couldn’t find the adapters to process the film through their machine.  We’re talking about film that was invented in 1901 and is still being used more than a century later.  The original film was wound on a spool made of wood and metal.  At some point they invented plastic, and now it’s a plastic spool.

So here are the photos:


The photo above is a springbok skull leaning against a painted brick wall.  I’m not sure what happened at the bottom right of the photo, and it’s odd that the photo actually focuses on the lens itself, as you can see small pits and scratches.  It’s possible this is a double exposure, as we were trying to figure out which lever takes the photo and which simply releases the shutter (in case you decided not to take a photo).  Bear in mind the viewfinder and the lens look in two different places – this was 1952, after all!


This is an unintentional double exposure.  It’s my daughter at the computer, and at the bottom is the ceiling in our living room, which is where we were sitting when we were trying to figure out the controls on the camera and loading the film.


A photo of our hallway.  I have no idea why it’s so grainy.  Is more light needed, like in a digital camera?


These are sheet metal guinea fowl, taken outside.  Again, we were too close to the subject.


The fact that this outdoor photo of our patio area and the trees in the background turned out pretty well, suggests that the camera may be best suited for outdoor photos.  The dark object in the foreground is one of the guinea fowl again – experimenting with an object in the foreground and focusing.


A photo of the photographer’s feet 🙂


This photo of our front door turned out fantastic and in focus.  In the late afternoon you get a lot of light here, as west is to the rear of the photographer.  Lesson learned!



Picture on the wall, taken inside.  This is probably the best focused close-up.

While we continue to explore with this camera, I’ve also received a spool needed to convert 120 film for use in a Kodak Brownie (1933-1941) we also have; and I also scored an Agfa Billy Compur (1934-1942) on eBay that is due in the mail any day.

Check out the Flickr Agfa Billy group to see what’s possible with this camera once you figure out how to use it – 8 photos at a time!

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