5 frames with...

5 frames with an Agfa Optima 1535 Sensor – by Nathalie Porter

November 18, 2020

In my never ending quest of looking for new cameras to try out I tend to mostly look for overlooked “hidden gems”, models that for one reason or another are not the focus of any attention today. One of the cameras I encountered in that search was the Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor, which Hamish reviewed here before.

It took perfectly fine pictures, but I felt it wasn’t the nicest to use and didn’t develop enough fondness for it to keep it in my gear line-up for very long. But the 1035 put my attention on its more luxurious sibling, the Optima 1535. These are much more rare and usually command a surprisingly high price, way beyond my range. Closely following new auction sites listings paid off in this case however, and one day I was able to pick up a beautiful Agfa Optima 1535 Sensor for a reasonable amount of money.

There’s one big reason why I, just like others, wanted to get this specific camera much more than any other model of its range. That’s of course the addition of a rangefinder. And I have to say, it made all the difference for me. This is where the big and bright viewfinder, for which the Optima Sensor line is known for, really shines. It feels like this is what the lower models were meant to be all along. Focusing with it is just great, among the very best I’ve experienced with any camera.

And maybe I was just getting used to the quirky characteristics of these cameras by then, but also the rest (almost identical to the 1035) suddenly became much nicer to use. Even the awful noise of the shutter and rough, plasticky film advance started to be kind of charming instead of annoying. It all just clicked together. The automatic exposure is simple and fast in use – complimenting the ease of composing and focusing very nicely. It’s a relaxing, effortless shooting process but still employing manual focus which I always find makes me engage more than any AF camera. In many ways it’s exactly what I like the most.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. For reasons which I won’t get into here I had to sell it. Sometimes that’s just how it is. But I know I’ll be on the lookout for another one.

Thank you for reading! If by any chance you’d like to see more of my pictures, you can find me on twitter.
And in case you’re wondering, the pictures you can see here were taken on an expired roll of Rossmann 200 (aka Fujicolor 200) film.

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  • Reply
    November 18, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    I’ve had two models from this particular series of cameras, and think they are great. I don’t usually trust the meters in auto only cameras, but with these it’s different: always seem to get exposure just about right. What is the name of your cat, by the way?

    • Reply
      Nathalie Porter
      November 18, 2020 at 5:21 pm

      You’re right, they’re very accurate – I seem to remember that someone even successfully tested one of these with the new Ektachrome on this very website. And the cat’s name is Mila (sounds better in Polish), she’s actually sitting on the same window right now 😀

      • Reply
        November 18, 2020 at 8:24 pm

        Czesc to Mila. Take plenty of photos of her. My cat Paris died Sunday morning 😥 and I have tried to find some pictures of her but can only find one from 7 years ago!

  • Reply
    Eric Norris
    November 18, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve put a few rolls through my Optima 1035, and so far I *like* the camera but I don’t *love* it. The viewfinder is fantastic, the exposure works correctly, and the lens is sharp if you can guesstimate distance correctly. On the downside, the metal body has a bit of flex in it (not as solid as I expected) and the film advance lever feels flimsy. The shutter button on mine popped off once, but I pressed it back in place and it has stayed on since then.

  • Reply
    Arthur Gottschalk
    November 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Nice pictures. How much for the cat?

  • Reply
    Alex Vye
    November 18, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    Nice pictures, I rather like the one with the old fence

  • Reply
    Matthias Rabiller
    November 18, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Nice review and pictures. If you’re particularly interested in a big bricght beautiful viewfinder, you might want to give the Voigtländer Vito and Vitoret series. They’re a good deal bigger than the Optima, but have absolutely splendid viewfinders with 100% magnification, i.e. what you see though the viewfinder overlaps exactly what you see with your eyes. They’re also very well built, and pretty cheap.

  • Reply
    MIchael J
    November 18, 2020 at 11:26 pm

    Aha! I thought I recognised an old-style Polish numberplate on the Fiat, and that’s a very handsome cat that has clearly found the warmest spot in the house and knows it. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures- I’m sure I remember someone having one of these cameras when I was a child, and it’s good to have that memory button prodded.

  • Reply
    Clive Williams
    November 19, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    I remember admiring the businesslike styling of this series of cameras when they were current in the 1980s – but too expensive for me then. It’s a little disappointing to hear that they don’t feel as good as they look – but, as you say, that viewfinder could make up for a lot.

    And a meter/film combination that can (just about) cope with a black-and-white cat lit from one side must be doing something right. After 23 years and three B&Ws I’m still learning to solve that problem*.

    *And it’s a real problem. The rescue centre from which our third and current cat came told me that B&Ws take longer to rehome than other cats because it’s so hard to photograph them convincingly. So perhaps they need an Optima there!

  • Reply
    AJ Millar
    November 19, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    One of my favorite cameras I own, I was hoping for them to stay obscure until I pick up a back up. I have so many good photos taken with it I am always blown away. Other than a Olympus XA I can’t think of another camera this small that has a manual focus system. I really hope to get another 1535. (I did just get a 535 but haven’t used it yet.)

  • Reply
    DeeDee Yelverton
    November 20, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    The cat photo is beautiful!

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