Agfa Clack

Found in a box la­belled ‘ junk’, this nearly 70-yearold dumpy, chunky, boxy cam­era still yields sur­pris­ingly sharp pic­tures

Amateur Photographer - - Tech Talk -

Some cam­eras have ob­scure or es­o­teric names, for ex­am­ple, the Olym­pus Ecru that I wrote about in AP 2 De­cem­ber. But there’s no mys­tery with this of­fer­ing from Agfa – its ono­matopoeic name sums it up per­fectly. The Clack is dumpy, chunky and boxy. Also, at first sight, you might think the Clack takes square pho­tos, but in fact it shoots 6cm x 9cm neg­a­tives, giv­ing eight ex­po­sures out of a roll of 120 film.

I’m in my fifth decade of cam­era ac­qui­si­tion, and re­ally can’t re­mem­ber where this one came from. It resur­faced in a box of ‘junk’ cam­eras that I’d con­signed to the loft many years ago, be­fore I set about us­ing a different one each week. My guess is that it came from a jum­ble sale in the early 1970s.

The Clacks were made in Mu­nich from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s; ear­lier mod­els were made from metal, but later ex­am­ples, like mine, were plas­tic. The spec­i­fi­ca­tions are pretty ba­sic, though sim­pler cam­eras do ex­ist. Two fo­cus dis­tances are marked: 10ft to in­fin­ity and 3-10ft, the lat­ter be­ing achieved by swing­ing in a sup­ple­men­tary lens rather than by mov­ing the lens for­ward. The sin­gle-speed shut­ter also has a ‘B’ set­ting, al­low­ing for long ex­po­sures if needed, but there’s no pro­vi­sion for the use of a ca­ble re­lease, which rather lim­its its use­ful­ness.

Two metal pro­tru­sions on the top of the cam­era are for at­tach­ing a pro­pri­etary flash­gun, so it would have been pos­si­ble to take pho­tos in­doors if you were so in­clined. There’s a short strap on the side which you can slip a cou­ple of fin­gers un­der to help grip the cam­era when shoot­ing.

Shoot­ing with the Clack

Al­though colour film would have been avail­able 60 years ago when the Clack was in pro­duc­tion, most users of th­ese sim­ple cam­eras would have stuck with black & white, so that’s what I de­cided to do, load­ing it up with Fuji Acros ISO 100 neg­a­tive film. With only eight ex­po­sures to play with, I had to re­sist any urge to be trig­ger happy and chose my sub­jects care­fully, also stick­ing to light­ing con­di­tions which such a sim­ple cam­era could cope with. I found the lens to be sur­pris­ingly sharp, and it would cer­tainly have been more than ad­e­quate for con­tact prints, which were quite pos­si­bly the norm for Clack users, given that en­large­ments are pricey and more de­mand­ing when it comes to lens qual­ity.

Con­sid­er­ing that with­out ex­cep­tion, my neg­a­tives are scanned rather than dark­room printed, it will come as no sur­prise that I’m not an ana­logue purist and have no qualms about low-level post-processing ad­just­ments to my im­ages. Gen­er­ally it’s noth­ing that you couldn’t do in a chem­i­cal work­flow, but oc­ca­sion­ally I go be­yond what would be prac­ti­cal in the predig­i­tal era. In the photo above, for ex­am­ple, I cloned out some in­tru­sive posts and a chain that was placed to pre­vent vis­i­tors from get­ting too close to this sculp­ture at Chatsworth House in Der­byshire, which also ru­ined the scene for pho­tog­ra­phers!

‘At first sight, you might think the Clack takes square pho­tos’

Kem­plen used post-processing to clone out some in­tru­sive posts and a chain

The Agfa Clack gives only eight ex­po­sures on a roll of 120 film

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