Agfa Isola II
The following instruction set is specifically tailored towards the Agfa Isola II though it should serve well as a guide to the earlier Isola I model (short of the fact that the Isola I has an inbuilt selectable yellow filter that was not incorporated in to the Isola II).
The Agfa Isola shoots 12 images at approximately 6 x 6 cm on standard 120mm medium format film and should work well with a variety of film stocks (black & white and colour, negative or reversal films). Considering its vintage it was most likely intended for use with the equivalent of ISO 50 or 100 film though in poorer lighting conditions ISO 400 film may prove useful.
The rear film door is opened by means of a sliding sleeve lock on the right hand side of the camera (when holding the camera in the normal shooting position).
Slide the lock down in order to unlock the door.
Inside the camera you will find a film chamber to either side of the rear of lens area and at the base of these chambers two metal arms that swing outwards to facilitate loading and unloading of film.
An empty 120mm film take up spool should be placed in to the right hand chamber, below the film wind on wheel. An unexposed film will be placed in to the left hand chamber.
At the top of the right hand film chamber, below the film wind on wheel, where the empty take up spool is to be placed you will notice a small metal wedge crosses the metal spool locater. This will fit in to the slot (or one of the slots in the case of spools with cross-cut slots) at either end of your empty take up spool.
The first fiddly operation: Place the top end of the empty take up spool against the metal spool locater and turn the spool until it locks in to place with the metal wedge. Place the swinging metal arm at the base of the camera so the spool locator at its end slips in to the hole at the base of the empty take up spool.
Having done so carefully lock the swinging arm in to place at the base of the camera. If you feel any undue resistance then the top of the empty take up spool is not registering correctly with the metal wedge so will need further adjustment.
Place the unexposed film spool in the left hand chamber following the same procedures as applied for inserting the empty take up spool. This might also prove to be a little fiddly though there is no registration wedge at the top of this chamber, so a little less complexity is afforded on that count!
Draw the paper back film leader across the film gate and insert the precut wedge shaped end into the slot in the empty take up spool. Turn the film wind on wheel on the top plate of the camera a little to ensure the paper leader is inserted correctly (an arrow on the film wind on wheel indicates the correct direction of rotation).
You may habe to hold the left hand swinging metal arm at the base of the camera in place during this and the next operation, perhaps using the thumb of your left hand.
With the back of the camera still open wind the film a little further until you are certain that the paper backing sits neatly within the lower and upper limits of the take up spool thus ensuring smooth film transmission during use.
Close and lock the film door.
Paying close attention to the red film counter window located towards the centre of the film door, wind the film on. A fair amount of winding will be required in order to arrive at the first useable section of the film as a large amount of paper backing is used with 120 film in order to protect it from fogging when being handled outside of the camera.
Keep going .......
But don't lose focus or you may find yourself missing the first useable portion of film. A light tight film changing bag helped me save that extra frame in this case. Otherwise you just have to live with losing one of your 12 useful frames.
Having shot your way through to frame 12 and completed that final shot, wind the film on fully until there is no further evidence of paper film backing to be seen in the red counter window, at which stage it should be safe to open the film door and carefully retrieve your film for processing.
Different film manufacturers employ different styles of film leader symbols which may take a little getting used to but once you arrive at frame 1 you are ready to shoot your first shot.
Preparing the lens barrel
At the front of the camera you will note a knurled ring at the base of the collapsed lens barrel. Turn this counnter clockwise firmly...
... and you will know when you have turned far enough as the lens barrel will slide out a little.
Draw the lens barrel out to its full extent and turn a little in a clockwise direction to lock in to place. You can be reasonably firm in performing this operation as the Isola is a robustly constructed camera though naturally apply discretion in the degree of firmness employed.
During shooting observe the small hole adjacent to the shutter button and film wind on wheel. If it shows up white then the current frame is unexposed. If it shows up red then the current frame has already been exposed and you need to wind on to the next available frame in order to shoot.
Two aperture settings are available with the Isola II (f-6.3 and f-11) and the aperture setting lever is located at the 4 o' clock position (approximately) when viewing the lens barrel from the front. The larger aperture setting (f-6.3) will allow more light to pass in to the film chamber and will also lead to a smaller depth of field.
Three shutter speed settings are available and the lever for this is located at the 10 o' clock position (approximately) when viewing the lens barrel from the front. Two instantaneous speeds are available at 1/30th and 1/100th of a second. The B setting will allow the shutter to stay open for as long as the shutter release button is depressed.
Focus by means of turning the frontmost lens barrel element in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction so the required focus distance corresponds with the arrow decal located at the top of the lens barrel.
Use of flash
The Agfa Isola II is capable of firing and synchronising with a modern electronic flash unit (for certain at 1/100th of a second though to date I have not tested it at 1/30th). On a side note, whilst the Isola I will similarly trigger a modern electronic flash unit, there are known synchronisation issues undoubtedly due to the older design being made to accomodate the slower reaction speeds of vintage flash bulb firing units.
Whilst the Isola has an accessory shoe located on its top plate above the viewfinder, this is not of a hotshoe type. It will hold your flash unit in place but you will also require a flash synchronisation cable to link your flash unit to the male flash synchronisation plug located at the three o' clock position towards the front of the lens barrel.
Whilst it is common for modern electronic flash units to come complete with a synchronisation cable (the illustrated flash unit is a base level Jessops branded electronic flash) this is not exclusively the case. If your current flash unit does not come with one of these cables or indeed does not have a connection to add one you may wish to consider purchasing an inexpensive additional unit that does have this facility. Alternatively you may choose to source a hot shoe adapter with an inbuilt synchronisation cable.
The adapter illustrated here was purchased via eBay at a fraction of the cost of buying a new flash unit with synchronisation cable.
If you require any additional information to be added to this instruction set or spot any errors do please contact the author at email@example.com