three cameras, petri, yashica, agfa

Six of my Best Freebie Cameras – Part2: The Others – By Rock

Following on from my previous post regarding the ‘sins’ of being given cameras for free, when you have too many anyway, here is part 2 featuring three others. If you took notice of the feature image, you will know what is coming: a 35mm rangefinder and two medium format cameras, and all dating from before I was born. As before, this is not a comprehensive review but details of their acquisition and usage, a little discussion and some sample photos.

Up first is the Petri 7s, introduced to the world in 1963 by the Japanese optical company Kuribayashi who had just changed their name to Petri. Now this camera has been reviewed on this site before, by Barry Carr, who was underwhelmed by both its quality and performance. Interestingly, what Barry found frustrating I actually like! For example, I favour cameras that feel heavy. It’s quite big for a rangefinder, and I find that helps with operating the controls especially focusing. The 7s features a ‘green-o-matic’ system with a green tinged finder that aids focusing, which is easy enough via it’s yellow patch which is clear and crisp. In addition, I prefer 45mm as a standard focal length.

photograph of petri 7s camera
Petri 7s – fixed 45mm 2.8 lens with leaf shutter up to 1/500th and surrounding selenium cells
page from a camera instruction booklet
superlative features – according to the official instruction book, that is

Mine came to me as a present two Christmases ago, with the original instruction book and a smashing Focal Camera Guide (great series of books), first edition. I do like to use this camera when I am in rangefinder mode because it’s so simple to use. Even though the ‘circle-eye system’ exposure meter works, I tend to use sunny-16. It’s just too easy to knock the DIN/ASA setting off as you naturally brush over the little tab when you focus or turn the aperture ring. Unfortunate design error. As much as I like the camera ergonomics, I’m less impressed with the results. Pretty much all the photos, well… glow! This doesn’t appear like normal flare. Glare would be a better word. Just a tiny bit of sunshine, especially on reflective surfaces (water, glass, metal) renders as a dazzle. Lack of contrast is a bi-product. You have to either shoot on overcast days or appreciate the effect and work with it. Have a look at and see what you think…

after dusk photo of cranes etc
Basin no.2 – nice opening shot (Fuji Superior 200)
image of deserted restaurant outside scene
Dockside Shopping Outlet – the lens is showing plenty of flare (Fuji Superior 200)
boatyard scene
Chatham Maritime – beginning to glare! (Fuji Superior 200)
flowers and leaves in woodland
local woodland – far too much dazzle and halo effect for me (Kodak Pro Image 100)
photo of building under construction
London construction – redevelopment somewhere in the so-called Knowledge Quarter (Fuji Superior 200)
photograph of outside chairs and bunting
VE commemorations – social distancing street party ready to commence (Kodak Pro Image 100)
black and white photo of side of shed
peeling paint – taken in subdued light (AGFA APX 100 expired 2013, developed in near exhausted Bellini FX6a , rescued in DXO Optics Pro 8)

It was during the recent VE commemorations here in Britain that I obtained the next two cameras. I had walked around my village in the morning with Petri in hand, snapping photos of the bunting, flags and decoration going up. During the afternoon, impromptu street parties sprang up everywhere.  Lockdown was in full swing and people needed to socialise. We had ours with a small group of households literally in the road, as this was the only space to maintain social distancing. Drink and conversation flowed, including the subject of vintage cameras, and this led to a TLR being thrust into my hand. It was a neighbour’s late husbands which had not been seen the light of day for over ten years, and she would rather it go to someone who would use it and appreciate it.

photograph of a Yashica EM TLR camera
Yashica Mat EM – this TLR feels like a class act

The case was falling apart; inside was a Yashica Mat EM which seemed to be in good order although the lenses were filthy. The EM was a 1964 replacement  for the 1959 LM. These two are virtually identical, and not too dissimilar from the original Yashica Mat of 1957. They all featured crank advance which I found to be quite brilliant. Just turn the lever clockwise until it stops with the frame number in the little window. Now turn it anti-clockwise until it stops. The film has advanced and the shutter is cocked.

I have long avoided TLRs as have found them difficult to operate, especially using waist level finders. Looking downwards, I have trouble focusing my own eyes on the finder let alone an actual image on its screen. I did own a Flexaret once but had to get rid of it. Now I had the chance to have another go, and I ran two films through the EM the very next day. Unfortunately, these two films were both expired and I had no idea how they had been stored. So although I made a slight adjustment for exposure I didn’t really expect to see the backing paper patterns and numbers  imprinted on every frame! The results looked promising though so I tried some alternative film i.e  fresh Porta and I am impressed…

photograph of countryside with fence
Ranscombe Farm – beautiful Kentish countryside spoilt by imprinted backing paper (LOMO 100, expired)
photo of woodland with path
Six Acre Wood – nice sharp detail in the community woodland (LOMO 100, expired)
photo of church tower behind wall
Cuxton Church – promising photos with the expired film (LOMO 100, expired)
churchyard photo with long grass and headstones
Cuxton Graveyard – I often test new cameras here (Kodak Portra 400)
photo of tree trunk
tree trunk – the magnifying loupe was essential for accurate focus, d-o-f scale no good here (Kodak Portra 400)
photo of a river with pattern in the mud
River Medway – f5.6 I think for this early evening river scene with wonky horizon (Kodak Portra 400)
alley behind some houses
alley behind some houses – I thought I’d include this one to highlight the colour saturation and super sharpness of the lens (Kodak Portra 400)

What impressed me most was the amazing rendition of the lens. For every shot I needed to use the loupe and even then hold the camera to just below my chin. No shooting from the hip for me. I just hoped everything was in focus. Obviously no need to worry, the Fujinon 80mm (Tomioka?)  lens is remarkably sharp. Ouch!

The story of the Yashica moves nicely on to the final free camera. Just a day later, as a result of said street party, I was presented with a medium format pocket folder. Being a fan of all things AGFA, I recognised the old diamond logo immediately – I was excited. The camera was in it’s resting position. It opened tentatively but opened fully. It feels a tad fragile and delicate, so much so that I now keep it open and prefer not to close it up. It is, after all, about 90 years old and is not much more than thin aluminium and cloth. This camera is very light.

photo of agfa billy2 camera
AGFA Billy 2 (pre-war) – simple bellows camera from the 1930s

Say hello to the AGFA Billy 2 (pre-war) – “the camera for the coat pocket.” Please note that this is not the same as another Billy 2 from the 1950s, or post-war. This 1931 model uses 120 film in the 6×9 format, so that’s 8 shots per roll. Just three apertures (7.7,11,16) and shutter speeds (100,50,25), and focus is either “nah” or “fern” (near, far). I have been sticking to 1/100th and f11 where possible…

monochrome photograph with slipway to sea
St Marys Island – this photograph of the slipway was from the initial film I tried out (Rollei Superpan 200)

As you can see, the first roll to go through the camera (for a very long time I suspect) suffered from light leaks. I understand that Superpan is very sensitive to the red wavelength so I taped up the red window as a precaution. All the negatives had these streaks. Not sure if this is bad loading, bad developing or bad joins in the old camera. So for the next attempt I decided to load in the dark, completely tape up the camera joins and self develop. Much better results and the kind of photography that I like…

monochrome photo of train at a station
Cuxton Station – self developed and self scanned (Fomapan 200)
monochrome photograph of old railway sleepers and earth
railway sleepers – shoot at 1/100th and f11 and roughly focus on the subject (Fomapan 200)
monochrome photograph of a tree double exposed
double exposure – I couldn’t hear the shutter click, so unsure I clicked again and accidentally created this effect (Fomapan 200)

I like the images from the Billy 2 so will keep using it. Probably just b/w films like Fomapan or HP5. I suspect I will keep the Yashica TLR for colour work; it seems to work well paired with the Portra. Not so sure about the Petri, though. I do like using it but the results are just weird. Anyway, this concludes my two part post on my freebie cameras. I’ve no doubt I will be given more in the future, which I will appreciate. I would be interested to know what cameras you have been handed for free and do you use them.

Thanks for reading, cheers Rock ( )

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15 thoughts on “Six of my Best Freebie Cameras – Part2: The Others – By Rock”

  1. It’s great fun to read about your gifted cameras, thanks for that!
    I am not out photographing enough publicly to be offered (m)any cameras. I got my dad’s Canon FT a few years back, some 35 years since he last used it – it was the camera I learnt photography on in my late teens. And I was gifted my aunt’s father’s 35 mm Kodak Retina folder some years ago, though I haven’t used it yet. My friend Erik gave me his Minolta XG-1 which he hadn’t used for years because the film would break. I think he was too rough handed, is what I think. I sold that one. The fourth and most recent camera I was gifted was a Zenobia 4,5×6 folder which I loved to use. I have to calibrate the focusing, come to think of it. Thanks for reminding me, Rock!

  2. Hi Rock,

    Looks like very great results. Actually I am impressive with your blogs, So thinking to read daily visit your website for gaining knowledge. Indeed thanks a lot.

    1. Glad you like my blogs. I need to write some more, I think. Feel free to check out my website, I have not updated for a while as was thinking of switching to Instagram but I am undecided.

  3. The results from the Petri look very much like haze in the lens. I don’t know how practical it would be to try to clean it.

  4. Interesting my Petri 2.8 has the same haze; I put it down to dirty optics and haven’t the time to deal with it – nice score of cameras you have been getting 🙂

      1. Agreed; mine was nice to shoot had a super quiet shutter but the results were disappointing – I have other better cameras so it’s in the for sale pile

  5. i agree, my petri is a pretty good camera, nice clear sharp images. Not found the glare an issue either. You might just have a crook S7.

    1. Since writing this I have removed and cleaned the lenses. Haze seems the likely cause of the soft image effects. The back lens haze seems permanent so think I may leave them out for good and convert the camera to pinhole

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