Two Models from the Agfa Karat Series: The 6.3 Art Deco and Agfa Karat 36
Posted: August 28, 2023 | By: Journal Editor
In 1936, Agfa introduced the Agfa Karat 6.3, first in a long series of models. Reflecting the times, it was of an Art Deco design. It had a collapsible front plate and featured a Galilean tube that served as viewfinder. It “uses a type of film cartridge called ‘Rapid’ that holds twelve 35mm frames.
The camera is loaded with a light tight Rapid film cartridge which holds the film. The film advance mechanism transfers the film into a similar cartridge on the other side of the camera. The film is not rewound and the receiving cartridge is taken for developing” (http://www.artdecocameras.com/cameras/agfa/karat/).
The Karat evolved over the years. “From [a] humble model with a three-element f/6.3 front-cell focusing Igestar lens through an f/4.5 version to quite sophisticated models with f/3.5 four-element Solinar with Compur shutters. All took twelve exposures 24mm x 26mm on 35mm film in special Karat cassettes” (Collecting and Using Classic Cameras, Ivor Matanle, 1986, p. 35). The author comments, “They are sadly unreliable and should not be bought as cameras for use.” As Rapid cartridges are no longer produced, the Art Deco Cameras website contains information about how to circumvent that problem.
Shutter speeds are 1/25s, 1/50s, and 1/100s, and the aperture spans f/6.3 to f/22. The camera lacked a flash. Camera-Wiki describes the Karats as a series of “strut-folding 35mm cameras made by Agfa. Two distinct series can be observed, first from the mid-1930s until the breakout of WWII and one from 1946 until the mid-1950s” (http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Karat).
It states that the Rapid cassettes were used until 1948; at that point the Karat 36 was designed to use standard 35mm cassettes; however, “27 years later the Karat cartridges were revived as Agfa’s Rapid film system.” The Agfa Karat 36 received a less-than-stellar review from Perry Ge: “We all have our go-to cameras. This is not mine. It is however one of the quirkiest cameras in my unreasonably large collection of rangefinders and rangefinder lenses” (https://www.35mmc.com/12/07/2019/agfa-karat-36-review).
Ge describes the Agfa Karat 36 as “a collapsible 35mm fixed-lens rangefinder with a small bellows tucked behind a metal frame. It uses a Synchro-Compur leaf shutter with speeds up to 1/500s.” The “quirks” Ge mentioned were described in some detail in another photographer’s review based on only one roll of film because he was “outdone by one of the quirks a couple of times” (https://photothinking.com/2020-01-17-agfa-karat-36-v3-36-carat-camera/).
Despite his frustration, and decision to avoid using that camera, he acknowledges that the quality of the one roll of film successfully developed was quite good. In its day with was competitive with the Retina rangefinder. A favorable review of a late model Karat from the 1950s, which includes some history of the company, suggests the problem may have been fixed and offers a two word summary, “German Rangefinder” (https://mikeeckman.com/2015/11/agfa-karat-36-v1-5-1950/)
What the heck…
Are Those Even Cameras?!
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