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Be it ever so humble

Agfa Silette Special

The Agfa Silette is not just a single make or model of camera it's an entire dynasty, covering a range of models from a simple 3 speed manual viewfinder to a fully automatic 9 speed with TTL light meter and rangefinder. With a range of lenses from f3.5 to f2 and even some with alternative lenses form other makers like Schneider Kreuznach. They first went into production in 1953 and continued well into the sixties. Exactly when depends on your definition of the Silette in terms of specification because there were "late" models which used 126 cassette films but I don't regard these as true Silettes because they are not 35mm. I guess the end of the line for me was the LK sensor.

 

 

Prontor 4 Speed

Vario 3 Speed

Super Silette SVS

Prontor SVS

LK Sensor

  

    

With a lifespan and a range as vast as the Agfa Silette I can only scratch at the surface and write about my own experiences. There's something about the Silette that, for me, makes them desirable. There were never highly acclaimed by the press nor are they regarded as classic collectables, in fact quite the contrary. It's their rugged simplicity, reliability and performance that makes them appealing to me. They are pretty much the most indestructible compact that I have come across, I have only found one that I couldn't repair and even then I probably could but I would have needed to find spares which would have involved breaking another.

Taken with an early model 4 speed Prontor and Apotar f3.5 lens.

My collection seems paltry when you look at the range available but I keep adding all the time. I can only guess at the number of models and variants but I can be sure that I would never achieve a complete collection of all of them. However, there are literally thousands of them still in working order and they pop up at car boot sales, charity shops and the like with considerable regularity and chances are that with such a range there won't be 2 of the same model at any one time. As I write this there are currently 22 on ebay covering at least 5 models and with lens and shutter variants, ranging from 99p to 15 pounds. In fact I'm watching one with a Colour Apotar and 9speed SVS shutter.

These are truly a camera for all seasons with a model to cover just about any eventuality. For general use in good weather and light the basic 3 or 4 speed models are adequate whereas for low light applications the multiple speed variants would be better. And if it's accurate focusing that you need then look no further than the Super Silette with it's pinpoint rangefinder. If you can't work without a built in lightmeter then there's the LK and if you really want to keep up with the in crowd and have interchangeable lenses as well you go for the Ambi Silette. Like I say there is something there to suit everyone's needs.

Prontor SVS

LK Sensor

The one thing I can't understand is why they decided to offer an option of alternative lenses like the Schneider Kreusnach. I know they are excellent lenses but then again so are the Agfas. The Apotar and later Colour Apotar are superb and then there's the Solinar which is legendary, and I'm still trying to find one. Scratch that last line, I now have one...watch this space.

 

Super Silette SVS

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