Sharpest 120 Folder?

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cptrios

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Man, I posted this 1.5 years ago! Several folders have come and gone since then, and I can definitely say that the Super Fujica Six has been the best overall. Definitely the most straightforward to use, and the lens is very impressive when it wants to be. Sadly, just a week after a trip to Iceland, mine fell onto a carpet from about 3 feet up and was mangled beyond repair. Served me well for that trip, though!

I think mine had a bit of an issue with the front standard, which perhaps brought the lens just a tiny bit too close to the film plane at 'infinity.' Lots of my landscape shots ended up a smidge soft, almost as though they were stopped down into diffraction territory (which they weren't). However, sometimes I'd end up with a very satisfactorily sharp image like this one. Sharpness is sadly the only thing it has going for it (boring subject matter aside, it's badly exposed, badly developed, and hastily camera-scanned), but it's still a useful example! XP2 @800, HC-110.

reyk.jpg
Here's a center crop at 5000x5000 resolution:
cent1.jpg
And from the right edge:
edge1.jpg
I also wouldn't say the lens is overly clinical, either. A really nice all-rounder. Two issues, though: 1. The edges of the film frame were on the shiny side, so I got some internal reflections that I fixed with some strips of black Shurtape. 2. No strap lugs!

Now, I've got a Mamiya 6K (Sekor lens) and a Zeiss 532/16. Very different cameras, neither of which has a lens as technically good as the Fujica's (sharp centers but soft, tessar-y borders). The Mamiya isn't for me, thanks to red-window film advance, but I do like the Zeiss and the lens has plenty of character. I think I'll end up getting another Fujica, though, or maybe bunging the lens/shutter from my old one onto a new body. I also wouldn't mind checking out a Mamiya 6 Automat, because I do like that rear wheel focus!
 

takilmaboxer

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My favorite folder is the 6X6 Zeiss 523/16. It has a coated Tessar that is zone focus. Anything over 15 feet away is plenty sharp at f/11. I like it so much...I have three of them.
Anything closer than 15 feet and I use one of my several 35 SLRs.
 

Randy Stewart

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Makes you wonder why other cameras didn’t use pressure plate focusing. :errm::whistling:

The film plane focus system on the Mamiya 6 folder is unique and so much less vulnerable to strut damage. I think it was never copied in other folders because it adds some weight and thickness to the body. It must also make it more difficult to calibrate the rangefinder, since you cannot optically judge focus by examination from the film plane.
 

Helge

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The film plane focus system on the Mamiya 6 folder is unique and so much less vulnerable to strut damage. I think it was never copied in other folders because it adds some weight and thickness to the body. It must also make it more difficult to calibrate the rangefinder, since you cannot optically judge focus by examination from the film plane.

While “fixing” one problem, it has a harder time keeping the film taught and plane.
It’s also very, very difficult to design a mechanism that moves a whole plate in and out completely linearly on all four corners, as opposed to a simple helicoid.
Much harder than to design a good folding mechanism.
The depth of field is very thin once you reach the film plane, even at relatively high apertures.

It’s also very difficult to know the film plane on a folder, full stop.
The best stab at it I can come up with, is to make a roll of film with a test pattern interjected at some film number and observe through the lens with a side lit, slanted halfway mirror.

There was at least one other folder that moved the film plane. An English one, can’t remember the name.
So not as unique as you suppose.

It’s a good idea, but needs some special sauce to work.
One would be to momentarily clamp the film between a rigid plate on the back and an optical glass plate on the front. And then move that sandwich in a highly controlled manner.
Would be an excellent opportunity to introduce electromechanical vibration reduction, at the same time.
 
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Helge

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A medium-format IBIS camera? Where do I sign up?

That’s one of the fantastic aspects of folders, that it is actually realistically possible to bring a table tripod that will support the camera and you can carry the whole setup in a small bag.
A medium format SLR or TLR would need a bigger head and a wider base.

Table tripods with a short stem, can be held to any surface, including your own chest to act as a stabilizer for slow times like 15th to half a second, where you can actually catch a person resting without too much blur.

But of course film plane stabilization would be very welcome. ;-)
 
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takilmaboxer

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But of course film plane stabilization would be very welcome
I would be very happy just to see a clone of the older designs, like the Zeiss 6X6, with a modern lens, even if it's just an updated 4 element.
 

JPD

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But of course film plane stabilization would be very welcome
I would be very happy just to see a clone of the older designs, like the Zeiss 6X6, with a modern lens, even if it's just an updated 4 element.
A unit focusing four element dialyt would have been nice on a new classic style folder. They can be extremely good, and could be found on early 120-film folders until the mid 30s.
 

xya

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I had several of these Mamiyas, they were nice, but I did not keep them. To me it seems as if film advance is not as regular as on other folders. Obviously, moving the film plane makes it less reliable. I had irregular spacing on the films all of my cameras. Nothing to worry about, just irritating. And the overall performance did not impress me. That maybe a question of taste...
 

Helge

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But of course film plane stabilization would be very welcome
I would be very happy just to see a clone of the older designs, like the Zeiss 6X6, with a modern lens, even if it's just an updated 4 element.

Absolutely! “More” is the enemy of it actually happening.
When you look into the design of folders and their evolution, in the fifties everything was more or less perfected for what a regular person will be willing to pay.
Not that much has happened to production and manufacture since, to totally change that equation.

With a (removable) clip to insert a smartphone into you’d have rangefinder, preview viewfinder and light meter all in one. Preferably with a unifying app, but even the existing separate apps would work, albeit slower.

An Ikonta like folder with a few tweaks would absolutely kill. Should be possible for something like a $1000.
And worth it for a new, serviceable and even upgradeable camera.
 

Donald Qualls

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There was at least one other folder that moved the film plane. An English one, can’t remember the name.

Ensign Commando. Actually had it before the first Mamiya Six appeared; the Commando came out in 1946, and lasted only a couple years. Got the name because it was designed as a battlefield camera, but took too long getting to production (like lots of other stuff from that era).
 

flavio81

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There was at least one other folder that moved the film plane. An English one, can’t remember the name.
So not as unique as you suppose.

Ensign Autorange 820 with the Ross Xpres lens
 

Donald Qualls

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Ensign Autorange 820 with the Ross Xpres lens

No, the Autorange (aka Selfix) had front cell focusing like an Ikomat or Wirgin Auta (and fixed film plane, of course).
 

nosmok

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No, the Autorange (aka Selfix) had front cell focusing like an Ikomat or Wirgin Auta (and fixed film plane, of course).

No, the Ensign 820 Autorange had coupled RF, a fixed front element with moving film-plane focusing, and RGB banding on the Ross Xpres lens front, indicating apochromatic correction (though no one has found any literature explicitly saying the A-word). The Selfix 820 and 820 Special had front element focusing, no RGB bands, and (in the Special) an uncoupled RF. Complicating things, the Autorange 16-20 6x4.5cm camera DID have a coupled RF, but also had front-element focusing ala the Super Ikonta. I have owned all of these cameras at one point or another, so am speaking from experience.

ETA: the results I got from the Autorange 820 fully justified its lofty rep-- that lens was astonishing, and maybe the fancy pants focussing mechanism helped. But I found a very close competitor in the front-element focusing Agfa Solinar 105mm f/4.5. The easier carry of the Agfa, plus its lack of collector cachet, sealed the deal. Scale focus forever!
 
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Donald Qualls

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Scale focus forever!

Yep. I've repeatedly been astonished with the level of sharpness from my 1927 Voigtlander Rollfilmkamera (10.5/4.5 Skopar) -- I think it has almost as much to do with getting a good example as it does with design.
 

flavio81

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No, the Autorange (aka Selfix) had front cell focusing like an Ikomat or Wirgin Auta (and fixed film plane, of course).

1662491293360.png



This is autorange 820's back. You can look at the thumb wheel for focus.
 

flavio81

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Do you have a pic of the focusing mechanism inside the camera?

Hmm...
I don't own the machine

There are some pics on the internet and they suggest that there is NO moving film plane, contrary to what I've claimed. Lol.

So it's a bit strange. Perhaps the front standard moves?
 

nosmok

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Do you have a pic of the focusing mechanism inside the camera?

No pic (and not flavio either), but in my recollection that thumbwheel moved the whole 'light-box' assembly behind the bellows, of which the film guide rollers were the rearmost part. The equivalent of focusing a view camera by moving the rear standard, rather than the front one. The old Mamiya 6 did this as well IIRC.
 

Helge

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No pic (and not flavio either), but in my recollection that thumbwheel moved the whole 'light-box' assembly behind the bellows, of which the film guide rollers were the rearmost part. The equivalent of focusing a view camera by moving the rear standard, rather than the front one. The old Mamiya 6 did this as well IIRC.
Seems about right.
25C487E1-886D-4980-8373-4B2D1402A67F.jpeg
2114556F-5923-4260-9D59-6D5127A8FC29.jpeg

The Mamiya has you threading the film through a special pressure plate.

The Ross system is not necessarily better though, as the pressure on the film varies and the pentagraph mechanism (?) is probably much the same, with the same hysteresis and inaccuracies.
 

Donald Qualls

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That last photo pair shows a camera that seems to be missing the actual pressure plate (should be mounted on the buttons on the two leaf springs. With that present, and enough travel in the springs, it ought to do an okay job of keeping the film against the rollers, though I'd suspect your results would be better if you focus before advancing film (which wouldn't fit with my half-century habit of advancing immediately after exposing).
 

guangong

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I don’t know if they are the sharpest folders, but I am very much satisfied with my ZI Super Ikonta B, bought in early 1970s, as well as Fuji GF 670 and Plaubel Makina 67. Of the three, probably the Makina, with Nikon lens, is the sharpest, although has rather nose heavy feeling in the hands. The most comfortable to use is the Super Ikonta B and lens is excellent. While not as comfortable as the Zeiss camera, the Fuji has advantage of on board meter, but requires more patience for steadiness, and is not the camera for grab shots.

I find the talk and especially the excellent pictures taken with the older folders by contributors to this thread to be a very enjoyable read.

PS Sometimes lucky. My friend at Olden Camera put my Ikonta, in excellent condition, aside for me when it came into the store. I bought the GF new from BH and because last one in stock got an extra discount. I get the feeling these cameras became more in demand after production ceased.
 

nosmok

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I think the Autorange 820 shown does have its pressure plate, it's just a little hard to see in that photo-- the spring tabs are cut out of the plate and then bent and drilled for the mount screws. It doesn't squeeze very hard because it has to travel with the roller assembly. I had to take the PP off of mine because when I got it the red windows were completely shot- loose and barely transparent. I was able to find a leaky lesser Ensign so could replace with correct parts-- this sort of attention to non-functional detail is painful to me now.

2nd best thing about the Autorange 820 is the VF/RF window-- huge, pretty bright, and easy to use. Every other folder I've had you've had to settle for 2 out of 3, at best.
 

henryvk

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2nd best thing about the Autorange 820 is the VF/RF window-- huge, pretty bright, and easy to use. Every other folder I've had you've had to settle for 2 out of 3, at best.

It *does* look enormous.

ross-ensign-autorange-820-with-38-105mm-ross-xpress-lens-rare~7.jpg
While we're on the topic of Ensign cameras.

Selfix16-20.gif


I'm still looking at 6x45 folders, specifically the Selfix 16-20, and wouldn't mind hearing about people's experience with the Ensign albada finders! They look cool but are they any better in practise than, for instance, the Zeiss folding frame finders of the Ikonta 521 and similar?
 
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