CLACK! 5 Frames with a Very Simple Agfa 120 Box Camera – By Stewart Waller

It was love at first sight, so I bid too much and won an Agfa CLACK 120 film 6X9 format box camera. The shutter wasn’t working exactly right, but this camera is so basic that it’s simple to take apart and fix. The fact that it uses 120 film is a huge advantage over many other box cameras (mostly Kodak) that often have fiddly 620 film spools that require either re-spooling or purchasing a re-spooled film from a limited selection of stocks at a premium— like double the price or more.

The CLACK is a German-made, metal-bodied box camera from the late 1950s to mid-60s with a meniscus lens and three aperture settings, one with a built in close-up lens setting. Some also have a built in yellow filter option, but mine doesn’t. The shutter has one speed of about 50, as well as a bulb setting for slow exposures. Shooting 50 speed Ilford PanF Plus, I used a tripod and remote cable release in every shot—and mostly shot on bulb.

The 120 film advances along a convex back and the horizontal curvature serves to keep the outer edges in better focus. You use a typical red window to see the number when a frame is ready; there is no double exposure protection. The viewfinder is eye level and a decent approximation of what you get, although keep in mind there is no parallax correction—so things you think are centered might not be.

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, now, but I took this camera out around my neighboring adopted hometown city of Durham, where I raised a family once. Most shots are at the Eno River State Park there, but two are downtown.

I thoroughly enjoyed shooting this quirky camera, and the results to me are wonderfully spooky—which I could never accomplish with a ‘real’ camera. I had my film processed and scanned at The Darkroom in California.

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7 thoughts on “CLACK! 5 Frames with a Very Simple Agfa 120 Box Camera – By Stewart Waller”

  1. My Clack is looking down on my from the shelf right now, asking why I don’t put some some film in it. These are indeed fun cameras, used in the countless thousands to gather probably millions of images.

    The curved film plane is an ingenious solution to the problem of a cheap, less-than-perfect lens. Why bother with a better lens when you can correct aberration by curving the film? The results speak for themselves.

    Yes, I’ll have to load some more film in mine. Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. Very impressive results given that this little camera was possibly intended mainly for wallet/postcard size snaps type of user. I would certainly be interested in picking one up. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Certain aspects of this camera, such as the meniscus lens, single speed shutter and the curved film plane remind me of my very first film camera, over 60 years ago, a Kodak Brownie 127. I still have one.
    Sometimes simplicity is so attractive. I’ll look out to see if I can find one.

  4. Stewart, your Clack snaps are better than many I’ve seen taken with vastly more expensive cameras, which proves something. The Clack was one of the best of the boxes. Agfa knew their stuff. My first camera when I was 10 in 1948 was Brownie E with the dreaded 620 film. Mine had a pull out yellow filter which made quite a improvement to landscapes. On New Year day 1950 I was exploring a shipwreck and twisting the camera strap which slipped undone. My Brownie disappeared into the submerged seawater bilges of the wreck. I retrieved it and washed it out in fresh water but unfortunately the yellow gelatine filter dissolved. I still have my Model E and put it on display on top of the kitchen cupboards. Unfortunately the other day when I was dusting it, it fell down a cavity I didn’t know was there. Fortunately it’s made of steel and I’m going to borrow a friends magnet on a string to recover it. Or maybe I’ll leave it there and look for a Clack to click.

    1. Thank you Graham! And thank you for sharing your story—the history of these cameras is a big reason I got involved with old cameras in the first place. I hope you find your old Kodak or a new *old* CLACK!

  5. If you really want to be stunned, load it with color positive film. That 6×9 slide will stun you and is impressive even more that it came out of a camera with a google lens.

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