Agfa Clack

Taking pictures with a cheap tin box

The images shown in this gallery are something very special to me, since all of them were taken with one of my three vintage »Agfa Clack« cameras. This pretty cheap box type camera was introduced in 1954 and was sold in many thousands in post-war Germany of the 1950ies. Actually, it was so popular that it became a household name.

From a technical point of view, this camera has no »bells and whistles« at all, on the contrary: The lense is a one-element meniscus lense, therefore the film has to be wound in a spherical curve alongside the back of the light tunnel. Only two separate exposures are to be selected by a lever and the symbols of »sunny« and »cloudy«. A third lever position with a close-up lens comes in handy when shooting details. Shutter speed? Forget it! The thing says »Clack« and there you go! Decent exposures are only to be achieved by using 50 ASA films, the standard speed of films back in the 1950ies.

Now what makes this camera so fascinating? First of all, it is the gigantic format of 60x90 millimeters (medium format 6x9). Second, it's the availability of modern colour slide films in the 120 roll film size. I myself use the Fuji Velvia exclusively, a film renowned for its brilliant colours. A roll of film takes eight exposures, and the size of a developed slide is to a usual 35 mm slide what a postcard is to a tiny stamp: Even some professionals are amazed and most amateurs are puzzled...

The clumsy business of changing films, the poor viewfinder, comparatively high costs per picture and the ever-present danger of unwanted double-exposures are enforcing a well-planned and thoughtful approach to the shooting session. This, of course, turns out to be a real advantage: Instead of just pushing the button, you really compose your shots more consciously. And this actually means over-compensating the technical drawbacks of the little tin-and-bakelite-camera. So take my word for it: Look for one, buy one, try one!

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