Topic: Voigtlander Bergheil 9x12cm, 1933 (or so)
What may be a funny or a completely boring story. I have a local antique dealer place (sort of a cooperative) that often has old cameras scattered around the place, mostly non-working junk just because it looks nice. Anyway, I went in last Saturday, Yashica D around my neck not to pose but because I was finishing off a roll of 120 and couldn't be bothered to put it away. First guy I see says "Ooh, nice camera!" and we start chatting, then he says "What do you think of this?" and shows me this rather rusty and battered looking LF folding camera. So I have a look and it's a Voigtlander (just vaguely discernable on the beaten up leather) and more to the point it has an ƒ/4.5 Heliar lens in a 1/200 Compur rim-set shutter. "Oh!" I say, "It's a Voigtlander, I like those!" (having not too long ago got a nice 6x9 Bessa).
Now I know next to nothing about LF Voigtlanders or LF anything really, but I remember reading that there was a 9x12 model called an Avus, so I start talking about Avus, and he, being the canny antique dealer he is, promptly looks up what else but eBay listings for Voigtlander Avus cameras (this is how antiques dealers work these days - looking in a book is a bit too much like hard work for them).
And we start a bit of good-natured haggling. I've ascertained that the important bits look good. The lens is dusty but not fungussy. The shutter runs on all speeds although they all sound slightly lazy and the aperture opens and closes. The bellows look light tight from cramming most of my face inside them, and holding them up to the light. But the camera itself looks beaten up to hell. The leather's very tired looking and dried out. The groundglass is intact but a mess. The black paint is all chipped everywhere. The carry strap is so dried out it half falls off while I'm holding the camera.
But but but ... it's a Voigtlander, it looks like it'll work (it also has a couple of filmholders) and it has that Heliar lens (which antiques guy is a little hip to, he knows enough it seems from eBay searches that Heliar is a magic word but not quite how magic). So we start at him saying, being coy, "What's it worth to you?" I say "It's not something I need and it's a beater but it is nice, £40?" And he says "I've had a look at Avus cameras with Heliars and I think it's more like £200, and anyway I just paid £40 for it." And I say "I'm not spending that, but I'll have a walk around and think about how much I want it vs how much I need it", which I do, and return and say (still thinking it's an Avus) "I think it's worth £75 max to me, as a tool for experiments and to use, because it's a mess as a display piece but it does look usable. And I'll walk away from it if you want more, happily, because I don't need to spend more but I also don't want you to think I'm trying to rip you off". And we agree. And the deal is done.
The kicker being of course, when I get home and start looking up the len/shutter combos, then actually looking at what's stamped on what's left of the leather carry strap, it is actually a Bergheil and not an Avus at all. A rather higher grade of camera and more collectable and with a generally considerably higher collector price. Excellent ones going for pretty silly money, four figures, and even just goodish ones going for quite a lot more than I paid. I've even seen just the Heliar/Compur lens unit sell for £200+ (unusually it's a bayonetting, removable piece and Voigtlander also made a telephoto lens of some sort that could be easily swapped). None of which really matters to me because I just saw it, was aware it had a good looking Heliar on it and decided the time was right for me to lose my large format virginity. But I think I may have stolen it off him without really knowing how or why. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?
Oh, and does it take pictures? Yes, it does, eventually. But cut me some slack. Large format is a whole new learning curve. Loading film holders (with print paper, which I had to hand but no film because why? I've never had a need for cut sheet film before) is a trial. I loaded and exposed several sheets backwards so that they exposed through the paper rather than onto the emulsion before I worked out what was going wrong. Then my guesswork exposures for ISO3 or so print paper were way off and I was estimating whole numbers of seconds, lots of seconds rather than the 1/5 to 1/10 it actually needed at ƒ/8. So I was grossly overexposing the paper and getting it as far as solarisation.
So the one single, half decent result of a picture from a Sunday afternoon spent messing about, was a portrait, appropriately enough, of my daughter's photo nut boyfriend. It's in focus. It's exposed about right, if on a tilt. And he was impressed enough to say "Wow, those antiques really can actually take sharp photos!"
Oh, and a pic of a Fender Strat:
I am so early days with it. One afternoon's playing about does not constitute mastery by any means or even a beginning of it. But it's such a fascinating, slow photography process that I just know it's going to become a regular summer weekends thing and hopefully I'll start to be able to demonstrate to myself and anybody else, that I can do this and the results are something special.
Favourite M/F lenses: Nikkor 50/1.4 pre-AI, Zuiko 50/1.4, Flek 35/2.4, SP 35-80/2.8-3.8, Macro-Tak 50/4 preset *NEW* Jupiter-8 and more rangefinder lenses to come!
Favourite (and only) AF lens: Sigma 12-24