The #FrugalFilmProject and how I came to end up with two Agfa Clacks, 19 May 2023

The #FrugalFilmProject and how I came to end up with two Agfa Clacks, 19 May 2023

So on and off ( mostly off) I have been participating in this years Frugal Film Project on Facebook. I rarely take part in Facebook challenges, but this one has been around for a few years and I always see interesting things.

I chose the Agfa Clack as my camera for the year and the film to use as Fomapan Retro. The January film was fine, I tried out the camera (and loved it) and everything was going well. The second and third films, however, were not so good and were both 'fat rolls'.

A 'fat roll' is where the paper and film doesn't wrap tightly around the film take up spool. If you squeeze it then you can feel it is loose and the likelihood is that light will cause fogging on some of the images, especially near the end of the roll.

The images on the first 'fat roll' were clearly fogged, and I'm waiting for the second roll to be developed. However, by this time I was reluctant to try more films in the Clack until I was sure that I wouldn't get any more 'fat' rolls.

My first thought was to add a piece of foam on the plastic around the take-up spool. The problem there was that there was not much space around the take-up spool to fit a piece of sponge in place.

I had one idea to move the little metal spring from the film spool to the take-up spool. The snag there was that in this situation there was nothing to keep the film tight against the film plane and the images would not necessarily be in focus. 

Then I spotted a 'not passed' Agfa Clack on the Kamerastore website. Not passed cameras are those that have failed the Kamerastore quality control criteria and there is always something wrong with them.

In this case, the Agfa Clack was sound apart from the wind on knob being broken. That's fine, I thought, I can take out the little spring and have an Agfa Clack to practise lens flipping on for the Frugal Film Project later in the year. 

When the camera arrived I was really impressed by how nice it looked. These things really are indestructible, and apart from the broken wind on knob it was perfect. I clicked the shutter a few times and then decided to open it up and move the spring to the old Clack. 

Opening the camera is simple enough, you just turn the lever on the bottom and the back drops off. The interior was really clean, apart from a little rust on the bottom of the shutter. Fixed to the rear of the camera was a sticker which read, 'Agfa Isopan IF17'.

Isopan was a black and white film made by Agfa that was rated at 17 DIN. Being a German company, Agfa subscribed to the DIN (Deutches Industrie Norm) system of rating film speed. It can still be seen on older light meters and cameras. Seventeen DIN is around 45-48 ISO, which is close to the sort of film speed common at the time.

Checking the spring mechanism revealed one major flaw in my plan. The structure of the inside of the new camera was similar but just not quite the same as my FFP Clack and there was no way that I could fit the spring into the camera. 

Looking a little closer at the camera I could see why it was different. The Agfa Clack was made from the early 1950s to the mid 1960s, and well over a million were made — it was a very common camera. During its production the Clack went through several variations. Some cameras had two apertures,  f11 for cloudy weather and f12,5 for sunny weather, and some had just one aperture but had a built in yellow filter to increase contrast.

And there it was. My original FFP Clack has two apertures while the replacement camera has a built-in yellow filter. Two variations with the same basic function but different internal design. Oh well, now I have another Agfa Clack to experiment with. The good news is that the roll for May was not a 'fat' roll and the Clack behaved perfectly. 

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