This post describes an odd looking camera of fairly unique design, the Agfa Flexilette 35mm twin lens reflex.
My Flexilette camera
As with so many of my vintage camera collection this Flexilette was an eBay sale which I found whilst browsing around looking to see if there were any bargains. I came upon this unit, priced at only £9.95 in a ‘buy it now’ sale, and thought it was worth a gambol. It was described as faulty with a locked film advance and shutter but in my experience that could be a variety of reasonably simple fixes, so I bought it and paid an additional £5 for postage.
When the unit turned up a couple of days later I found a somewhat untidy unit with a couple of physical damage issues, and the shutter / film advance problem the seller referred to. It was minus the leather case (which was as expected – the seller didn’t say a case was included), and without any other accessories.
As it happens, the shutter / film advance issue was easily fixed.
The camera was basically locked because the shutter had been fired but the shutter release button didn’t travel far enough to also release the film advance mechanism. This left the film advance locked and unable to move. By pushing the shutter release down with a small screwdriver inserted in the release button which acted as a cable release, the film advance unlocked and the camera worked. It locks up again on the next cycle if the same small screwdriver isn’t used to release it, but the problem sounds easily fixable.
The other damage issues the camera has are a broken viewfinder lens, although this is the framing viewfinder rather than the actual focusing screen viewfinder so it’s not so bad, and a dent in the top cover. Also the trim is missing from the top of the viewer and the camera is a bit grubby and worn. All in all however it isn’t bad for £15 since a working clean example is quite expensive just because they are unusual and rare.
Agfa Flexilette Description
The flexilette was made by Agfa in the early 1960s and build on the basic Agfa Silette 35mm camera body. The stand out feature of the flexilette is the fact that it is a twin lens reflex, with an upper viewing lens used for composition and focusing, and a lower taking lens which is responsible for the actual capture of the picture to film.
Twin lens reflex cameras were fairly common for larger format film like 120 and 620, but there were very few 35mm designs made.
I guess the main advantage of the design is to give a larger composition area, but the design can also lead to more interesting compositions, because the camera is naturally held at a lower level rather than at eye level. Composition is more tricky however because the image is reversed. The light is reflected up to the viewing screen via a mirror so it takes time to become accustomed to moving the camera in the opposite direction than expected to change the composition.
In truth, other than the twin lens reflex design, the Flexilette is in other ways an unremarkable camera.
The Prontor shutter offers speeds of 1 sec to 1/500 sec and bulb exposures and the 45mm Apotar f/2.8 lens can be stopped down to f/22. There is no exposure meter, but the viewing screen has a split level focusing aid in the centre of the screen to assist in getting the focus sharp.
The camera has a flash sync socket, but of course the viewing screen at the top of the camera means there is no flash shoe fitted, so the user would probably have had a flash holder which screwed into the tripod bush on the bottom of the camera.
The frame counter on the top of the camera, above the bottom mounted film advance lever, is the sort which counts down, so it would be set to the number of frames just after loading the film. There is a small sliding button on the back of the camera enable the photographer to do this.
Agfa Flexilette Specification
- Agfa Flexilette 35mm twin lens reflex camera
- Prontor shutter offering 1sec to 1/500sec + bulb
- 45mm Apotar lens
- F/2.8 to f/22 aperture
- Focusing screen with split level finder
- Composing viewfinder
- Bottom mounted frame advance
- Frame counter
- Film type reminder
- Table top stand built in
- Off centre tripod bush
- Flash sync socket
- Serial Number: AD6920
- Manual available on-line here