B&W Photos from an Old Agfa

My latest hobby is drawing some ire from the “head of household” but it seems harmless enough – scouring eBay for deals on vintage cameras, and, for those for which film is still available, experimenting with photographs to see if I can master this ancient art which is quickly being lost in the age of digital photography. Rather than “spray and pray” endless gigabytes of digital exposures in the hopes of getting a handful of decent ones, with these old cameras, you get 8 chances to get it right. Then wait until the prints come back and try and remember the conditions and settings with which you took the snaps to begin with – because there is no metadata file.

The latest feedback I’ve received from the film processors had to come all the way from the U.S. – five weeks’ round trip for a roll of film handcarried by someone who happened to be headed stateside, and then the prints they mailed back to me – because there’s no one to process black and white 120 film. The photos were taken on a camera I got a great deal on at eBay – an Agfa Billy Compur, pictured below, manufactured between 1934 and 1942.


The top print on the stack was the one below, which I think is remarkable for an 80-year-old camera.


Then there is this photo I took from the balcony, which is a little dark but turned out the way I’d expect a photo from 1934 to look.  I had taken a previous roll with this camera, and oddly, they all came out blurry.  The color version of the same shot is featured below the black and white – from the same balcony but aimed slightly to the left:




On the way home from swim coaching, I stopped at a gas station and took the shot above, which could have been better.  And below, the classic problem I’ve had with these old cameras – a double exposure caused by forgetting to advance the film.  Done in the right way, this could produce an interesting effect.  I’ll have to wait for the next rolls of 120 film to come in the mail before I can try that.


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