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