Thursday, January 19, 2012

Agfa Isomat Rapid

Agfa introduced Rapid film in 1964. It was supposed to be easier to load than regular 35mm film. Unfortunately for Agfa, Kodak 126 film propelled by the poplar Instamatic Cameras eclipsed the Rapid Film System. By the end of the 60′s even Agfa was selling 126 cameras. With the Rapid System you need two cassettes. One with film and one to take up the film. You place both cassettes in the camera and slide the film leader into the empty cassette and close the camera. When you are finished you remove the take-up cassette for processing. There is no rewinding. With this system the film also is protected if you should open the back of the camera before the roll is finished. The Cassettes also have a metal plate that sets the film speed for cameras that are capable of reading it. The Rapid cassettes use standard 35mm film and it is easy to reload an empty cassette. For me Rapid film is far and away the easiest of the obsolete film systems to work with.

I bought the Agfa Isomat Rapid for a few dollars on Ebay because it had a couple of Rapid Film Cassettes that I needed for Yashica half frame. It is a funny thing that on Ebay often a camera with a Rapid cassette will sell for less than people are selling the casssettes for by themselves. When I got it it appeared that the shutter would not fire which didn’t bother me since I hadn’t bought the camera to use. Lately I have been interested in using the square format. When looking to see if there were any 35mm cameras that did the square format I saw the Isomat Rapid mentioned. I thought it was too bad that the one I had appeared not to work. However in reading further I found that this camera has to be loaded with film and have the back closed for the shutter to work. And when I loaded the film and closed the back the Agfa Isomat Rapid did work.

The Agfa Isomat Rapid came out in 1965. It has a 38 mm 3-element Color-Agnar f:4.5 lens. The lens is zone focus either by symbols at the top of the lens or by a length scale at the bottom. It has two exposure modes, automatic and flash. The mode is set by a lever upper-right of the lens. For automatic exposure set the lever to “A” and the camera will automatically select an aperture setting. At automatic the shutter is fixed at 1/70. In automatic mode when you press the shutter halfway you will see a green light in the viewfinder if the exposure is okay. If not okay there will be a red light. The exposure system is powered by a selenium cell so no batteries are needed. Surprisingly the cell in my camera still works. For the flash mode you use the lever to set an aperature that will work with your flash. The shutter speed in the flash mode is 1/30.

So far I have just ran a couple of rolls of Legacy Pro 100 b&w film throught the Isomat. I took two feet of bulk film and pushed it into the Rapid cassette. This yields 16 square images. I have only used the automatic mode and found it gave good results. I haven’t been too particular about the focusing going mostly by the symbols. I do think that with some care this lens could give reasonably sharp results. So far I have been pleased with the ease of use of the Isomat and the images it gives. I imagine it will be a camera that will get regular use. If you would like some square images in 35 mm along with a kinda interesting camera then the Agfa Isomat Rapid can often be found for less than $10 on Ebay. You will probably need to ask the dealer about the cassettes since they usually don’t mention them.

Agfa Rapid Cassettes

Agfa Isomat Rapid Gallery