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Please note: RPS House is closed for our exhibition install. We will be open again from 10am on Friday 9th August 2024.

Agfa Billy 1

Just some old camera?

Stuff to see and build

What do you see in this image? Just some old photo memorabilia? Something that lives in a box, or displayed on a shelf gathering dust? Stop and study this for a moment and see some possibilities for stuff to do.

It is indeed an old camera, probably manufactured around 1950 in Germany; an Agfa Billy 1. It shot onto 120 roll film to give 2¼” x 3¼” negatives. So pretty big by modern digital sensor standards.

Large format negatives gave a number of possibilities. In the workflow of Ruth Harriet Louise large negatives were retouched and contact printed in volume. It also made for big cameras with lenses mounted on extendable bellows, and I do like big cameras. One of the virtues for me is that it gives you space to get in there and build stuff.

Before I share my thoughts on this camera I should add context. This was my late father's one and only camera. It was the first shutter I ever pressed and sent me on a journey that continues here. So the projects will do it no harm.

Medium term option is to do an IR "conversion". I did one on a digital compact camera some years ago. With some Ilford SFX film this could be an interesting option. The Analogue Group have some resources that would help those not versed in the art.

Longer term this camera is destined to receive a home built digital back. I converted a Zenit B 35mm camera into a precision light source last year and presented the work at the 2019 Imaging Science Group Good Picture event. There is more room in a 120 roll film camera and I quite fancy going back to my roots with a monochrome (digital) camera.

So what about short term, during our lock down period? Watch this space - Potato Photographer of the Year...