Camera: ca. 1951 Agfa Billy Record I with Agnar 75mm/f 6.3 lens.
Film: Agfa Rollei Retro 80S
Locale: Frederick County, Maryland.
Since the day I first used it, the basic Agfa Billy has been all but asking to be taken seriously in spite of its very limited shutter speeds, and its slow and basic lens. It's a well working and easy camera to use, but in retrospect, it has often been overlooked as a serious image maker for other cameras in my repertoire. As a result, it has seen decent usage, but its most recent "assignments" have been more for novelty photography, such as with long expired film or as a test bed for cross processing of slide film.
In these experiments, I had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images put forth by the less than revered Agnar lens. Thus, I elected to approach this roll of my much liked Retro 80S film with a more serious tone. All shots were exposed at an EI of about 50 and all are taken within an aperture stop of one stop from wide open. And this marks one of the few times when I actually load one of these old cameras with film that has a common brand with it, as Rollei film carries the same Agfa diamonds as this camera.
Though sent off with 7 rolls of color 120 slide film of colorful fall scenes for developing, I was extremely eager to see the results from this roll taken on black and white. My findings are below.
1 - Catoctin Furnace, MD - f/8, 1/50 - I struggled for a good perspective from which to shoot this old iron furnace. Foliage just didn't seem to fall in the most photogenic places. The result above is OK, but doesn't quite hit the mark.
2 - Graceham, MD - f/6.3, 1/50 - Glare is no friend of the Agnar lens, and this shot taken against the light only reinforces that. The scene is also marred by overexposure and a focus issue in which the tree in center seems to be the only (somewhat) focused item. The latter actually allows the image to work in some ways, as it makes the bridge scene appear more dreamy in nature.
3 - Creagerstown, MD - f/8, 1/50 - For the life of me, I can't remember the focal point on this image. Clearly it wasn't the fuzzy barn in the distance. The image here came out overexposed, but was somewhat able to be restrained to looking more normal through post processing.
4 - Walkersville, MD - f/8, 1/50 - My hope was to focus on the old kiln at right, but that didn't quite seem to happen despite what seemed like an accurate distance of 30 feet.
5 - Walkersville, MD - f/8, 1/50 - Badly overexposed, I should have shot this at f/16. Though somewhat correctable in post processing, the result is lackluster in tonal range. Like the sharpness in the tree at left though.
6 - Jefferson, MD - f/6.3, 1/50 - And then, just like that, at the Poffenberger Road Bridge, it happened. The Agfa with its pedestrian Agnar gave me an image that looks like a work of art! Perfectly exposed with dramatic toning and great shadows, it is an image that embodies what I like to achieve in photography, and is definitely one that I want to be able to replicate again on future shots.
7 - Jefferson, MD - f/8, 1/50 - Not quite as nicely composed as the image above, a shot of the Bennie's Hill Road Bridge is still quite nicely rendered. The light leak at lower left adds a bit too much of an "artistic" accident to the scene, but I don't by any means hate it.
8 - Feagaville, MD - f/8, 1/50 - A from the car window shot of an old VW bug looks like it could have been taken in the 50's, particularly on the Retro 80S stock. However, the ratty truck behind it ruins what is otherwise a pretty nostalgic scene.
Overall Thoughts: Not quite the roll of winners I had hoped for, but with enough promise, particular in image #6, to make me totally want to run another roll of film through this basic camera to continue to get the best results I can from it.