Saturday, 23 March 2013

Review - AGAT 18k

This is a strange little camera. Made in the Soviet Union in the 80's, it's a manual, half-frame, 35mm pocket camera. Despite it's simplicity, it's a lot of fun to play with.

A lot of it's limitations end up providing noticeable benefits. For example, there's no light meter, so it doesn't need any batteries. It's also very simple mechanically, so it's very small and light.

Working out how to use it though requires a bit of thinking about, unless you read Russian.

The trickiest part about the AGAT is loading the film.  You have to pull the camera apart into two halves and then carefully load  the film can and spool it before putting it back together.  Making sure everything stays in place while you re-assemble the camera can take a couple of tries.

Taking photos is all very simple, and manual.  Firstly set the ISO on the small yellow dial, then select the weather conditions you are shooting under on the top part of the large dial.  Then you need to estimate the distance of your subject to the lens and set this on the focussing ring.  Then shoot.

It all sounds very iffy, but it's surprising how well it works.

Once you use if for a while you appreciate how much thought has gone in to it's design. The lens cap not only covers the lens, but all the exposure dials and the shutter release button.  The front of the viewfinder is mirrored for self-portraits. The hand strap unscrews allowing you to use a standard thread tripod. And, it's half frame, which means you should get twice as many photos from your roll of film.

However, the most interesting part about the AGAT is the look of the photos it takes. Everything comes out looking like you were in Eastern Europe in the Cold War.  Very cool.