Agfa Optima III S

This camera was produced around 1961. It was one of the top cameras for that line, having both a coupled rangefinder and automatic exposure. My example was in super condition with half of an ever ready case, which was useful as there were no strap lugs on the camera itself.

Using it around my local area drew a few comments and stares. It really does look like a classic camera should. The notches on the front of the lens makes it much easer to focus. Set to automatic, the camera chooses the aperture and speed for you. There is no scope for manual settings, which is a shame. It is quite heavy and cool to the touch due to the metal finish.

For once, I actually tried using the flash a couple of times. There is a cold shoe on the top and a PC sync on the front of the camera. Setting the camera to flash you can then set the aperture by using the guide on the flash according to distance. I set mine to f2.8 for the few shots I took. I didn’t take many shots with it as the inside of my house isn’t really a great subject. Plus the flash seemed a little odd, there was quite a delay on the actual flash burst when I pressed the shutter. Strangely the delay got progressively shorter the more I used it. I ended up thinking it wasn’t working which was the real reason I stopped.

While out and using the camera on automatic setting I could hear the shutter speeds. Some of the choices seemed quite slow for the conditions, again made me think the camera was faulty. I didn’t have much hope for a good roll.

Another thing I noticed was the very long throw of the winder. It seems to be almost a full 360 with a click and a tension at the end of the throw. You need to hear that click and feel the tension to cock the shutter, it will not fire without them. There is scope for multiple exposures as there is a button above the winder to release the mechanism. I did not try this function this time. In the manual this is called the magic release lever, but how to use it is not mentioned later. I tried it without a film and pushing it to the side and using the wind on the lever, the film is not advanced. Pretty much what you would expect.

Inside the view finder is an indicator at the top. If there is enough light the indicator is green, if not it is red and a flash should be used. It will still take the shot regardless of the colour.

So how was the roll?

As you can see I didn’t really try many portrait shots as the shutter needed quite a forceful push and it didn’t feel comfortable in that position. In bright light the auto exposure worked really well, but if it dipped at all then the speed chosen was quite slow. Even so, the exposure was correct. The lack of information as to the camera choices made it impossible to know when it would choose a speed that could not be hand-held. You only knew after the fact by the sound of the shutter and then it was too late. It turn out the flash PC actually worked really well.

I did like the camera to a certain extent, but it was a little too unpredictable for me in the long run. I have other cameras that I much prefer, so I doubt I will ever use this one again.

2 thoughts on “Agfa Optima III S

  1. Jim Grey says:

    I had an original Agfa Optima for a while and felt about it much like you did about this III S. It worked, the photos were ok, but the camera was hard to like.

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