Sunday, April 25, 2010

"A Technically Perfect Camera"

For my fellow photography enthusiasts out there looking for the ever elusive "perfect" camera, look no further--look to the past. That's right, back in the '60s, Germany based Agfa made the "technically perfect camera," the Optima IIs, at least according to the owner's manual.

The Optima IIs (pictured left) is a charming 35mm rangefinder camera, featuring a revolutionary "automatic mechanism" that selects the proper exposure setting for every shot. Operation is quick and easy, just focus, press the "magic release lever," and BAM, perfect pictures every time! No more bad pictures caused by incorrect exposure settings.

Part of what makes this camera so charming is the brilliant language of the owner's manual. The first lines are worth quoting in full, "You are now the proud owner of a technically perfect camera- the fully automatic Agfa Optima IIs which does not require any complicated manual operation and so leaves you free to concentrate on the subject. What a source of boundless joy that is!" I don't recall reading anything like that when I bought my Nikon D40.

I have no doubt that the Optima IIs will be my source of boundless joy once I figure out how to set the damn ISO meter just right. Hell, I had to read the manual before I could even turn the ISO adjustment dial, where I learned "to do this, turn the milled disk with the aid of a coin until the required DIN or ASA speed is opposite the setting mark." Turns out all I needed was a quarter and my best guess about the settings. After setting the dial to ASA 200/DIN24, I loaded the camera with Ilford 400 Delta Professional black & white film and went to shooting. Here's a little taste of the magic:

The Texas Tech Architecture building before a storm. This is my architectural homage to Ansel Adams's The Face of Half Dome.

The Student Union Building just before the same storm.

And finally, the main library looking out from a second floor window in the Student Union.

All these images link to my Flickr page for optimal viewing. I would like to thank Ani Dela Rosa, a promising photo major, for processing the negatives and teaching me how to scan those negatives into digital images.

Please try to enjoy the pictures, and if you have any advice on how I can the Agfa Optima IIs better, please do not hesitate to comment on this post. I welcome any suggestions, magical or not.
Reproduction of original Agfa Optima IIs owner's manual available at:

1 comment:

  1. found one of these yesterday. good find: