Straight from the thrift store: the Click II!

5 Frames with a “Dreamy” Agfa Click II – By Gabriele Bozzi

My first contribution to 35mmc is more a consequence of shoddiness than anything else. On a lazy Saturday, I picked a shiny Agfa Click II in the local thrift store, for the sensible price of 3,5 euros. The Agfa Click, and her sibling, the Clack, are often dismissed as toy cameras, some even compare them to the Holga. That’s quite unfair because, despite their simplicity, these shooters are quite capable.

I sincerely marvel at the ingenuity of Agfa engineers: they squeezed the most out of their bare-bone mechanical and optical designs. One must give credit to them for building durable devices with rather unsophisticated  materials.

But, back to the “shoddiness” part: after years passed in a dark cupboard, the lens needed some care and a bath in ammonia to get rid of fungus. My Click II uses an air-spaced doublet instead of the meniscus found in previous Click versions. The two elements are held together by a tin ring coupled to the front assembly by three plied fins. One doesn’t even need precision tooling to tear apart the whole thing.

Perhaps the austere assembly instilled me undue overconfidence, or perhaps I was hastened to catch the afternoon light. I will never know why I re-assembled the lens with the rear element reversed.

Unaware of my mistake, I loaded a roll of Ilford PanF 50 and set out for a sunny afternoon, for a stroll on the riverbank of the Schelde.

An office on the road
The latitude of PanF helps in all light conditions
River boat moored
The safest haven is the one without water

Square format has a curious effect on me: it makes me search for depth and light contrasts. The Click sports a 72mm lens focused on infinity at f8.8 or f11. One can forget about the depth and rather settle for light contrast and avoid busy subjects. Nevertheless, I kept instinctively composing in the centre because of the innate symmetry of 6×6 screams for that.

The viewfinder is spartan but precise. The generous bakelite body handles well and compensates for the long excursion of the shutter lever. Double exposures are possible if wanted, otherwise I advice to develop the instinctive act of “rewind-after-shooting”, being the proud owner of two old Yashica TLRs, I have been through this long ago.
The Click II has such a silly look that it could be the less menacing street camera to shoot in plain view if it wasn’t for the slow shutter.

Twice a train (double exposure)
With the Agfa Click double exposures are as simple as shooting twice

While I enjoy the simplicity of a world at 50 ASA where your options are just “Sunny” or “Cloudy”, I profoundly hate the diaphragm lever because it also engages the internal close-up lens. There’s no way to realise that the lens is on while composing and shooting. Indeed, I found myself sliding the damned thing when it shouldn’t have been the case. In retrospect, it didn’t make much difference, as I discovered afterward.

Imagine my surprise when I developed the negatives. After a first solemn utterance, I looked closely at each frame and stopped invoking supernatural punishment hitting me.

Too fast to catch (a biker)
WIth a shutter fixed at 1/30, the Click is hardly an action camera

The internet is full of articles on how to reverse a glass element and give pictures the dreamy look. In my hasted haze, I inadvertently modded the Click II to become the master of dreamy photography. It isn’t a perfect mod because the center of the image remains slightly out of focus. But the dreamy halo is an artsy surrogate for depth, the same depth that I assumed to lack completely. I can positively say that instinctively framing for the center saved most of the shots. I might have achieved a lesser result if I had to compose on a 6×9.

The bench under the centenary tree
The lens is rather contrasty for a doublet

The more I look at the pictures the more I link with them. I feel the connection so much that I decided to keep my Click II with the reverse lens for many film rolls to come!

See the whole roll here…

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with a “Dreamy” Agfa Click II – By Gabriele Bozzi”

  1. In a small way I’m also a fan of the Click. Having almost no choice of exposure value I decided to use a 400 iso film and Blutack a red lens on the front for a high contrast look. I managed to get some scratches on the negatives (lots of tiny scratches???) but now that summer is on the way I’ll be taking it out again. It’s liberating to carry a camera that gives so few choices and weighs almost nothing.

    1. Absolutely! Just frame, exhale, and shoot. Not having to fiddle with setups keeps me focused on the scene.
      Regarding the scratches, check if the curved borders framing the lens are dirty or if the bakelite is chipped. Eventually you can polish it.

  2. Great article, and congratulations on some lovely photographs. I pulled out my Agfa Click-1 at the beginning of the month and took it to the fairground. It was a joy to use and the Agfa engineers designed a beautiful camera. Hopefully, I’ll have the photos back tomorrow.

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