Agfa silette 35mm viewfinder camera

This is a review of the Agfa Silette type 5 viewfinder camera which was manufactured by Agfa in Germany in about 1958.

Agfa Silette Images

My Agfa Silette Camera

When I bought the camera from eBay for £5, there were no clues as to it’s model because the seller simply described it as an ‘old agfa camera’, but I assumed by the (rather blurred) picture that it was a rangefinder, because of the two windows at the top.

When I received it however, it turned out to be a viewfinder camera and the second window is simply decoration. This looked odd so I took the top off the camera to have a look and found that there is indeed a mirror built into the viewfinder to support a rangefinder, but the front window is blocked off and no rangefinder fitted. I did a bit of research and found that the silette range did have a rangefinder version, so I assume this was one of those occasions where the viewfinder component was shared between models.

The general condition of my camera is pretty good. Cosmetically, there are a few patches of paint missing from the back, and some slight corrosion of the bright work around the rewind knob and accessory shoe, but otherwise it’s fine. The shutter works at all speeds and sounds spot on for the slower speeds (which are normally the ones which would be inaccurate) and the aperture properly stops down when the shutter is fired.

Although I didn’t know the model of the camera I’d bought, I did a search of flickr for an Agfa viewfinder camera and discovered it is a silette (then discovered that it’s written on the lens!) More research let me discover that it is a Silette type 5 manufactured about 1958.

Agfa Silette type 5 description

As I said above this is a 35mm viewfinder film camera and is an early example of a design which lasted a long time. With the various design changes the silette model was produced from the initial model in 1953 up to the last model in 1973. Along the way the series gained coupled light meters, coupled rangefinders and (match needle) automatic exposure.

This model has none of those advanced features being quite simple in operation but none the less being of nice construction quality.

The exposure system follows the EV method which was popular in the 1950’s which allows the shutter and aperture to be locked to a particular exposure value to get the correct exposure, but then allow that exposure to be shifted for artistic interpretation. For example – say a meter reading was taken and the value was EV 10. The camera could be set to this value and the shutter speed and aperture rings would be locked together at EV10, but together they could be rotated to allow a range of different shutter/aperture combinations to be selected. At EV10 I could choose f/2.8 @ 1/125 or f/4 @ 1/60 or f/5.6 @ 1/30 etc all the way to f/22 @ 1/2 sec. In effect this is the same as a modern digital camera’s program mode which can be shifted to suit the picture you are trying to capture.

When focusing the picture there is no assistance offered by the camera. You need to estimate the distance and select it using the focus ring at the front of the lens. It was possible to buy separate rangefinder units which slid into the accessory shoe (I remember my Dad had one) and these would be useful, but I would suspect that guessing the distance to the subject would be a skill which would be gained quite quickly once it had to be done regularly. It’s also probably true that in many instances the aperture could be set to f/8 or above and the focus set to keep everything more that a few feet in focus.

Other nice features include a neat count down frame counter on the back of the camera which needs to be set by hand after the film is loaded, a threaded shutter release allowing for a cable release, and a 10sec self timer built into the lens housing with the flash sync switch.

Agfa Silette Specs

  • Agfa Silette 35mm Viewfinder Camera
  • Agfa Color Apotar 45mm f/2.8 lens
  • Prontor SVS shutter
  • Shutter range 1sec to 1/300 + B
  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • X & FP wired flash sync
  • Self Timer
  • Cold accessory shoe
  • Count down frame counter
  • Film speed reminder built into rewind
  • Tripod bush on base
  • Ser No: XH6161
  • Manual available on-line here

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