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Agilux Agiflex 1, 120 roll film SLR, c1946

This Agiflex I, 120 roll film SLR is an English camera made by Agilux. Agilux themselves were formed by the parent company AGI (dating from 1915), who were primarily engaged in making military instruments, including aerial cameras during the 2nd World War. With the rapid reduction of military work following the end of the war AGI made the logical decision to diversify into civilian cameras. The Agiflex drew from the experience gained with the AGI aerial cameras, often cited as being derived from the Kochman Reflex Korelle, a claim that hints that Agilux were just plagiarizing - an unkind suggestion as Agilux made everything including the lenses. Having said that the Agiflex does bear a significant resemblance to the Korelle, being a similarly boxy 6x6cm format 120 roll film camera. The truth is that Agilux copied the shutter geometry from the reflex Korelle, it's mirror/trigger mechanism and the often troublesome cable operated cocking system. The construction differs significantly despite the apparent visual similarity. The extra weight of the Agiflex often perplexes those who are under the impression it's simply a Korelle clone, but most of this extra weight stems from the different approach internally. The camera is based around a single die cast aluminium body which is competent, even though the die joins are plainly visible. Whilst the Korelle shutter was assembled inside the camera, the Agiflex shutter is built into a weighty folded steel box and is inserted as a complete unit, which in turn means the cast aluminium body is totally different from the Korelle. The gears in the shutter are arranged to give the same ratio as the Korelle shutter but with different pitch and count. The viewfinder shade is of folded and pressed steel sheet components with a magnifier and also a direct view arrangement that uses fore, aft and the magnifier as the optics. The top and bottom plates are pressed steel and chrome plated with the trim being natural leather. The standard of construction is adequate rather than refined, brutal hand filing being visible throughout the camera. The Agilux made lens is built into a brass barrel with the focus arranged deliberately quite stiff by virtue of an internal copper braking spring, this is to help prevent the focus shifting as the user alters the aperture just prior to making the exposure. One complete sweep of the advance lever is required to cock the shutter, followed by several nudges to bring the next number into the window as there is no mechanism to adjust for the different spool diameter as the film passes onto the take up spool. Much of the Agilux product range throughout the 1950s was aimed at the mass market, but the Agiflex was a more refined camera, with bayonet mounted lens mount and a range of lenses to appeal to the serious amateur and those unwilling to pay extra for the albeit better German products and the post war import duties they attracted. For the Agiflex I the lenses available were 80mm and 160mm telephoto as well as extension tubes. The Agiflex II followed which introduced slower speeds and larger lens mount with a wider range of lenses available and finally the Agiflex III which was a bit of a restyling. Ultimately AGI decided to get out of the crowded civil market in the 1960s and concentrated on military applications. Few Agiflexes work reliably today as over time the shutter curtain material becomes stiff making it hard to get past the tight guide rollers. As with the Korelle's, the shutter can be cocked by rotating the speed selector clockwise 270º, allowing double exposures - or compensating for the dreaded snapped cocking cable.

This early Agiflex I was acquired for the collection in early 2020. Cosmetically it was okay, but internally needed a lot of work and was reduced to component parts in the workshop and rebuilt with new shutter curtains, being completed in September 2020. The process was partly documented in the workshop section and can be seen in Project 9. The decision to make the shutter mechanism removable is both a curse and blessing and has lead to several compromises, causing significant drag in the system. Whilst it is possible to get the shutter working outside the camera, it performs very differently once installed, so it's best to expend the greater effort once installed. It has retained the Korelle's absurdly tight fitting spring rollers with little tolerance to the shutter curtains bulking up.

Agiflex 1 camera

Body No. 1813
Shutter, B, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500th
Lens, Agiflex anastigmat, 80mm No. 48541, f/3.5
Condition, 8E

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