Tag Archives: 120

Clack!

A trip to the Wolverhampton camera fair is invariably likely to end in a few purchases, planned or otherwise.  Sometimes it seems that going to the fair without a shopping list leads to worse excesses than when I plan my extravagances beforehand.  Last weekend was no exception.  There was absolutely nothing I needed to look out for, and so I went along with an open mind and a (unwisely) restocked wallet.

Faced with a dazzling display of photographic paraphernalia, my receptive mind reached down into its subconsciously creative recesses in a determined effort to justify one purchase or another.  This time I homed in on a Clack.

A what? I hear you say? An Agfa Clack.  But why?  I think what appealed to me is the sheer simplicity of this camera.

The Clack is neither collectable (as defined by its price!) nor particularly rare.  They were produced in serious quantities in the period 1954 to 1965 by Agfa Camera-Werk AG in Munich.  Initially made with a metal body, and later a plastic one (mine is plastic), the Clack is essentially a smallish black box designed to hold 120 roll film.

You can choose one of 2 apertures to suit the prevailing weather conditions.  I believe these are f/11 and f/12.5.  Bokeh should be perfectly shaped, as the aperture disks are just circles in a plastic component which moves into position for each selection.  Mine also has the close up filter, for subjects between 3m and 10m away.  The shutter offers bulb or ‘M’, which I understand to be 1/30 second.  So, the only real control you have over the exposure is in choice of the ISO rating of your film.  I can see I shall be spending the summer checking my light meter, in my efforts to seek out conditions that suit my new camera!

The most exciting aspect of the Clack is of course the focussing mechanism.  Err, there isn’t one.

I have plans for my Clack (watch this space!) but I can’t resist putting a roll of film through it first.  How much simpler can it get?

Lessons from a folding camera

I have been interested in photography in one form or another since childhood, when the unforgettable smells of black and white film processing emanated from my father’s makeshift darkroom in our spare bedroom.   I enjoy digital photography but I’m a technophobe at heart, preferring to create images in camera rather than spend hours at the computer.  I have a growing collection of film cameras and love the simplicity of old folding cameras.  Modern digital equipment has such complexity that it can take over the whole experience of capturing images.  Working with an old film camera really is  like going back to basics as there is so little to do.  Instead of a whole menu to control 61 autofocus points my Bessa has 3 options; ‘people’, ‘groups’ or ‘landscapes’.  There are 2 shutter speeds (unless you want bulb or timer) and 4 apertures.  And as for ISOs expanding to 126,800, your choice is fixed when you load the film.  Simplifying the choices for how to operate the camera leaves far more mental space to be dedicated to my subject and creating my image.  And if you dont like the results, the camera itself makes a great photographic subject in itself!