I don’t quite remember what exactly got into me. Something about wanting some square sprocket images or something, if I recall. Or maybe I got tempted by one of the 1-2-6 days (December 6, January 26, 12 June) somehow. Who knows. But there I was, one day in October, watching some of the FPP videos on 126 film and cameras, particularly the one about the Fakmatic 35 to 126 converter thing, in which they listed a few cameras that worked well with it. Most of the recommended cameras, like most 126 Cameras in general, were very simple, boxy Kodak Instamatic models, with a single aperture and shutter speed, but one piqued my interest due to its somewhat smaller, curvier lines and big red shutter release: the Agfamatic 200 Sensor.
Given my love of the Agfa Optima Sensor 535, with its amazing viewfinder and interesting load/rewind system, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with another member of the Sensor line, and found an Agfamatic 200 on the ‘bay for a decent-enough price. And in a five minute flurry of shopping for which I’ll forever be slightly chagrined, I bought it and ordered a Fakmatic direct from Camerahack in Italy.
It took a few weeks, and somehow the Fakmatic arrived from Italy before the Agfamatic got here from Wisconsin (thank you Louis DeJoy and the Republican Party). I spooled a length of Fomapan 200 into the Fakmatic and loaded it. It seemed a bit loose, so I used the little red washer that came with the Fakmatic expressly to make the fit a little tighter…
This was a mistake. Given that you have to tape up the rear window—126 film had a paper backing like 120 film—and the Fakmatic has no backing paper or window, there’s no easy way to tell when you finish a roll. 126 cartridges held a maximum of 20 frames, so after several days and a couple of masked-up walks in parks, I figured I must have shot 20 frames (actually probably more like 40), so I took everything into a dark bag, felt around, and to my surprise, found that the film hadn’t budged at all.
Sheesh. I took out the washer, waited a few days, and tried again, and my second time out, the winder seemed to actually wind, and after another couple of days and another masked-up walk in the park, I unloaded the Fakmatic directly into a developing tank and… well, I hate developing just one roll, so I loaded another length of film into the Fakmatic and spent some more time shooting…
So it was early December before I ended up developing anything, and the results are wonderful!
But more on that later.
The Agfamatic 200 is one of 4 cameras (as far as I can tell) in the Agfamatic Sensor 126 lineup. There are Agfamatic 50, 100, 200, and 300 models, each with more features than the last. The 50 has a single shutter speed and aperture; the 100 has two exposure settings: cloudy and sunny; the 200 has four exposure settings: cloudy/shady, hazy, sunny, and bright sun (aka air fried bacon); the 300 has automatic exposure via a couple of cds cells on the front and the ability to zone focus.
Honestly, I wish I’d known about the 300 before I bought the 200, though they seem quite rare and, really, it’s not like I’m going to shoot this a ton either way.
Anyway. I jumped on the first Agfamatic 200 I found, and it’s kind of a cute little camera…
It’s light, fits nicely in the hand, and with that big red shutter release, is really pleasant to shoot.
As far as technical specifications go, it’s fairly simple:
- Lens: 44mm Color Agnar Parator (I have no idea what “Agnar” or “Parator” mean… probably “plastic meniscus” or similar)
- Shutter: 1/40th and 1/80th (roughly)
- Aperture: f/8, f/11, f/16 (or thereabouts)
From what I can tell, cloudy = 1/40th at f/8, hazy = 1/80th at f/8, sunny = 1/80th at f/11, and super sunny = 1/80th at f/16.
If you’re curious, here are four images, one at each exposure setting:
It may not look like it, but there’s a rather obvious difference between the hazy and sunny steps, and, really, it’s fairly even one stop difference for each. (I made another test with some portraits of my darling wife; as she’s sans-hijab in them, I won’t share them, but trust me: there is a four stop range to the Agfamatic 200.)
The bottom of the lens has a series of distances on them that seem to indicate flash range: Super Sunny – 1-1.5M, 3.5-5′; Sunny – 1.5-2.5M, 5-8′; Hazy – 2.5-3.5M, 8-11′; Cloudy: 3.5M-whatever, 11′ – infinity?. I expect this is the limit of the flash, based on the ISO of the film, with slower films seeing only the low end of the range, and higher speeds seeing further. Also, I expect the flash would light things within the 8 foot range, even if the camera was set to super sunny… And since it seems that 126 film came in a limited range, with Kodachrome X and 64 on the low end, and some 200 speed Fuji and Kodak Gold on the high end, though this is purely based on what I see for sale on eBay at time of writing, here nearly 15 years after it was discontinued.*
Anyway. Enough rambling. How about some pictures? What is the Agfamatic 200 capable of in my hands?
I scared a few people on Twitter and Instagram with the image… What is it? Well, I didn’t crop off the sprockets or space between frames, and I really love some of the effects I got from the light leaks or whatever, but it was just a trip through the carwash.
If you watch the FPP video where Michael Raso puts a roll through the Agfamatic 200, well, it’s pre-Covid and he has friends. Me, well, we’re maybe 1/3 of the way through the pandemic (writing in December 2020, after 8-9 months of extreme social distancing and mask-wearing) and I don’t, so his pictures are somewhat more fun than mine.
As these were test rolls, I more or less tried to test some things.
So above, there’s selfie with window light. The minimum focus distance is probably something like 4 or 5 feet, and my arms aren’t long enough, but I think it could work. I’ve shared plenty of blurry selfies, for sure.
I tested for flare, with some pleasant-enough results:
What else to test with a camera like this? I mean, I tested the different exposures and all, the lens flare, the focus range.
So I just took it for some walks with my wife.
First at my new favorite park on the north shore of Grapevine Lake:
I did a bunch of digital manipulation on that image on the left, burning in the tree and all, and I can’t decide if I like the image on the right cropped or not:
Either way, it’s clear that the lens doesn’t focus to infinity, and that it renders distant foliage beautifully (on Foma 200, stand developed in Rodinal anyway).
With the Fakmatic, and because 126 cameras expect one sprocket hole per frame, you need to shoot, wind, then cover the lens, shoot, and wind at least once and probably more likely twice. So in a nearby neighborhood park, I checked to see what would happen if I only wound on once.
Some possibilities there, methinks, and I’m reminded of the time I tried a panorama on the Debonair. Good times, and I’ll need to take this camera and some color film to the zoo sometime.
After that, I just wanted to be done, and shot the rest of the roll around the park, all on the cloudy setting… tsk. tsk. and I’d probably have done better with the Agfamatic 100 or 50… Oh well.
Look closely and you’ll notice some light streaks… This is due to having to push the exposure up to get a useable image from the wildly overexposed film, so note to self: 200 speed film will do better at f/16 and 1/80th in the bright sun of early afternoon in North Texas than it does at f/8 and 1/40th.
Overall, I had enough fun with the Agfamatic 200 to order up 4 packs of 126 film. I’m hoping to get one or two that are easily reloaded, as I’m not convinced by the Fakmatic. It’s useful, sure, but the inability to track exposures and the extreme light leaks it has make it likely that I won’t reach for it too often.
Also, I’m looking forward to 1/26 and 1/27, to 12th June and 12th July, and 12/6 and 12/7 next year, when hopefully I remember to spend a few days shooting dead formats that take 35mm film… Fun!
*Wikipedia claims there was also some 400 speed film made, and that the now-discontinued ISO Standard for 126 film specified ISO ranges from 20 to 1600, though only 64, 100, 200, and 400 were ever produced. Also, and this was news to me, apparently there’s a notch on the cartridge to indicate film speed to the more advanced auto-exposure cameras, perhaps like the Agfamatic 300. There’s a protrusion on the back of the Fakmatic that I wondered about, and now wonder what ISO it corresponds to… I have some 126 cartridges on the way and may report back in a review on the Fakmatic itself.)