Agfa Isoly III Review : 4×4 classic

The Isoly series is probably best known for the humble Isoly I, the camera that launched a 1000 Diana clones. But the series also feature a range of other models including the top of the range Isoly III which makes for a rather good 120 P&S

Agfa Isoly III - 120 film camera
Agfa Isoly III – 120 film camera from the 1960’s

Don’t mistake for it’s little brother the  Isoly 1 (irritatingly Agfa didn’t always print model number as you can see here). They may share the same body design and viewfinder but that’s about it. The mechanics and lens are much better with a 3 element glass lens backed with a prontor variable shutter

Medium Format Millpond II
Dumfries Dec 2014. Agfa Isoly III with Lomography 100CN

Agfa Isoly III  Specs

  • Lens:  Agnar or Apotar 60mm
  • Focus : Scale
  • Metering: None
  • Aperture: f/3.9-22
  • Shutter: 1/30-1/250 + B
  • EV 100asa: 9-17
  • Filter-Thread: None
  • Film Mask : 120 4x4cm
Agfa Isoly III setting close up
Agfa Isoly III setting close up. Note shutter cocking switch closest, the timer further away with red mark

If you’ve a modern Diana F+ or have an old Diana the shape will seem instantly familiar. The plastic body is quite stylish and obviously was so good it was nicked as a design for the old Diana. Unlike the Isoly I the film plate is flat but otherwise the difference is all up front. Like the Isoly I & the Diana F+ you open the film compartment by turning a switch on the base and slide off the back.

Reflective cut
Dumfries 2014. Agfa Isoly III with Kodak Portra 160

Focus is a scale affair with the lens barrel also given a helpful Depth of Field (DoF) scale.  Behind that is the shutter speed ring. You’ll need to manually cock the shutter by a small lever on the top side of the lens (don’t touch the timer lever on the bottom) .  Nearest the body is the aperture ring. There is no metering (the Isoly Mat based on the Isoly IIa offers a coupled selenium meter) but I can’t think of 120 P&S that offered as much flexibility as the Isoly III and it matches some of my 70’s and 80’s Japanese compacts on EV range. You can shoot up to  400ASA  in most standard conditions with impunity.

Vintage Fan mail
Dumfries 2014. Agfa Isoly III with Lomography 400CN

The camera has  double exposure prevention, cable release, Tripod mount and unusual for its age a hot shoe flash mount only.  The exposure lock is shown in a small hole beside the shutter (locked on red – can fire on white). The manual suggests any shutter speed can be used with an electronic flash. There is a timer but don’t touch it !!

Morning Crossing
Dumfries Dec 2014. Agfa Isoly III with Lomography 100CN

And this camera works pretty well as a 120 P&S with crisp accurate shots when I get the exposure right and is probably the best clinically 120 P&S I’ve ever used. The images are 4×4 which mean whilst you lose out on negative size you gain with 16 shots on a roll.

Just don’t touch the timer. I did and I still don’t know if the 1/30 setting was knackered before I used it or not. Certainly old 120 cameras tend to develop issues more so with slower shutters but I stupidly touched it before I tested and now it’s more like a 1/2 (yup the timer jammed).

Caerlaverock Gateway
Caerlaverock Castle 2014. Agfa Isoly III with Lomography 400CN

A classic 120 P&S. Maybe not one for lomo style shots nor does it have the boggling versatility you get with a modern Diana F+ or Holga regarding interchangeable lens, backs etc but this is the most flexible to shoot fixed lens 120 P&S I know.

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