Agfa Isolette

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Classic Scale Focus Cameras:
Agfa Isolette I

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Isolette is an inexpensive post-war German folding medium format camera built between 1951 and 1954. It featured scale focusing and a halfway decent Agna 85mm f/4.5 lens.

It's pictured here with the Agfalux flash unit which uses #5 bulbs. The bulb here is a #5B which is daylight balanced. The #5s are astoundingly bright, enough to sear the eyebulbs of all your friends and enemies. The Agfalux folds up into a nice compact unit seen below.

Many guidebooks and collectors mistakenly identify these cameras as Jsolettes. The 'I' in script looks very much like a 'J' which accounts for that mistake. However, if you find a 'Isorette'* cameras, this is the first type of Isolette before the name change and is valuable.

* I like to kid that the 'Isorette' was the Japanese market model. Hahaha. I'm Japanese so I can make those sorts of jokes.

The Isolette series of cameras had a long history. The first Isolette was produced in 1938 and the last Super Isolette (with coupled rangefinder) was made between 1954-1960. The sixties brought the demise of the medium format rangefinder and the introduction of compact 35mm rangefinders and SLRs.

Nonetheless, folded up the Isolette is not much bigger than a Kodak Retina IIIc (a 35mm folding rangefinder) and could easily be describable as "pocketable" - more so than even the smallest Canon EOS.


Interesting quirks

The shutter uses an inexpensive Vario leaf shutter. The body appears to be made of aluminium. There is no double exposure prevention on it, so you can make ghost images to your heart's content. When you wind film, you must observe the little red window on the back and align numbers. Quite a simple mechanism, which means that most of these units still work.

There were three choices or grades of lenses from worst to best. With the 3-element lenses, stopping down to f/8 or f/11 will yield the best results. The 4-element Solinar is an excellent lens.

  1. Agnar = 3 element
  2. Apotar = 3 element
  3. Solinar = 4 element Tessar-clone


Technical Details

Camera Name
Isolette I
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Scale focusing


Agnar 85mm f/4.5

3 elements in 3 groups
Close focus: x m (x')
Filter: xx.xmm screw-in
Cap: xxmm push on


Vario leaf shutter: 1/xx sec. - 1/xxx sec + B

Metering System



f/4.5-f/xx (x stop steps)


M and X PC-type flash connection on lens

Film type / speeds

Type 120 (medium format)
6cm x 6cm exposure size (actual 56mmx56mm)

Battery type
Dimensions and weight

xx W x xx H x xx D mm
xxx g

Retail price



About Agfa

Agfa actually has quite a long history. It was formed in 1873 as the "Actien Gesellschaft für Anilin Fabrikation." Agfa USA joined with the Ansco corpation in 1928 (before the War for the history-impaired) and produced a series of Agfa-Ansco cameras, mostly inexpensive consumer models. After the war, they quickly jumped back in the camera (and film) business and produced a number of inexpensive consumer cameras under both the Agfa and Ansco marquees. Some time in the 1970s, the brand died, but I don't have more information on that.


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