Agfa

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AGFA (abbreviation for Aktien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation) was a major producer of cameras, accessories, film and photographic chemicals, founded in Berlin, Germany in 1867. Since 2007 the brand name is licensed to OEM companies.


History

In 1867, Chemistry scientists Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Carl Alexander von Martius founded Gesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation mbH in Rummelsburg near Berlin. The company produced aniline colors. In 1887 chemical scientist Momme Andresen drove the company to enter photo chemistry. Its first success was in 1888 the developer Rodinal. Later it had problems entering film production since Kodak was years ahead. In 1908 it launched a less flammable security cine film, and in 1910 it opened its big film factory Agfa Wolfen in Wolfen (then in Middle Germany), then the second largest film factory in the world - Kodak in Rochester remained the biggest. During WWI production shifted from photo film to medical x-ray film, aerial photography film, and cine film for the soldiers' field cinemas. Filters and glasses for gas-masks were also made.

In 1925, Agfa was one of the companies that merged to form Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie (IG Farben), a huge corporation covering many dye, photographic and associated industries. As part of the merger, Agfa obtained the Rietzschel camera works in Munich from Bayer, and badged all Rietzschel products with its Agfa rhombus. Several of Rietzschel's cameras were continued, including the Isolar and Ninon, but in 1926 the first real Agfa camera was introduced, the Standard, in both plate/film pack and roll film models. In 1927 the name Rietzschel disappeared from the products, though the heritage of Rietzschel can be traced in Agfa camera and lens names for many years after. In that year the successful Billy camera series was introduced. In 1928 the US division of Agfa entered a merger with Ansco, and over the following 15 years many models from the two companies were sold under the joint name Agfa Ansco.

In 1930 the first Agfa Box camera for 6×9 cm exposures on roll film was produced. In the following year it popularized photography in Germany by dumping the Box 44 for 4 Reichsmark, easily recouping its losses afterwards by selling Agfa 120 roll films. In 1937 it brought out its first camera for 35mm film. After the USA entered the War in 1941, Agfa lost Ansco which began its own film production afterwards. Agfa introduced its modern color negative still photography film and paper in 1942 as base of the Agfacolor films and papers that became competitors for Kodacolor after the war. After the war cooperation with Ansco was revived, but only on the camera sector.

Shortly after the Second World War, IG Farben was broken up by the occupying powers because of its close association with the Nazi government. Some of the assets located in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany were taken in reparations, but some continued to operate (for example, the plant in Wolfen continued, first using the Agfa brand, then renamed as ORWO). Agfa incorporated UCA in Bremen which became a camera factory, and later also Iloca and Staeble to enhance production capacity. For own shutter production it took over two clock makers. In 1964 it even took over its main German competitor, Perutz.

Agfa improved its prewar camera models and introduced the new 35mm Solinette. In 1954 it modernized its camera design with the Silette series. The pre-War Isolette was the basis of the highly successful series of medium format folders in the 50s, culminating in the Super Isolette and the Automatic 66 (a folding camera with aperture priority AE, in 1956!). In 1959 a 35mm viewfinder camera with auto-exposure button followed, the Optima. In 1964, Agfa-Gevaert was formed with the merger of Belgium film and paper manufacturer Gevaert. The Rapid system was introduced as an answer to Kodak's 126 film. The company debuted cameras accepting 126 film in 1967.

In 1968 Agfa introduced its red sensor point, a round membrane made of red foil and framed with a metal ring. Depending on the camera type, either a mechanical or an electromechanical shutter release button was hidden under the flexible membrane. Since then this touchpad-like shutter button was used on most of the company's models and became a familiar feature.

In Germany Agfa had a huge success with its popular "Ritsch-Ratsch" pocket cameras, which accepted 110 cartridge film. A whole series of these Agfamatic cameras was launched twice, the first series using magicubes and the second, flipflash. Of course these cameras had the red sensor point as shutter release button.

In the early 1980s Agfa produced its last film cameras. The new models of the Selectronic series were manufactured by Chinon. Agfa gave up camera production in 1983 after having been taken over by Bayer in 1981. All later Agfa film cameras were OEM products.

In the mid to late 1990's Agfa sold low end compact digital photography cameras under the Agfa ePhoto name, while their desktop scanners were called Agfascan. In 1997, it had acquired Dupont's printing and graphic arts film business.[1] In 2001, they stopped production and ended support for both their consumer scanners and digital cameras.

In 2004, consumer film production ended.[2] A management buy out of the consumer imaging division was made to form the company named AgfaPhoto, soon after AgfaPhoto files for bankruptcy[3]. Some of the factories and machinery from Leverkusen were sold. AgfaPhoto is now a holding company and licences branding to other manufactures.

The AgfaPhoto brand is licensed by German photographic company Plawa which sells a modest line of AgfaPhoto Sensor compact digital cameras. Lupus Imaging[4] is another licence holder of the name AgfaPhoto, they produced the Vista line of 35mm color film that are Made in EU, by Ferrania. In about 2010, they have also distributed APX black and white films in 100 and 400 ISO in 35mm format that was from older master rolls. These were also used by Maco as Rollei Retro 100. By August 2013 the older rolls were used up and they began marketing a new version of the film now with a "New Emulsion" badging and marked Made in EU.

Currently (2012), Agfa-Gevaert (Belgium) is still producing industrial film for the medical, semiconductor and graphic press industry. A couple of companies like Maco using the Rollei brand and Fotoimpex‎ using the Adox brand continued production on some of the film and paper products. In Japan, Powershovel has licensed the AgfaPhoto brand for Vista print and CT Precisa slide film. The films are sold and manufactured in Japan[5].


Plate cameras

120 film cameras

Folding

Rigid

Box

620 & 616 film cameras

(Agfa/Ansco designations PB20 & PD16)

127 film cameras

35mm film cameras

Folding

Fixed lens

fixed lens, half-frame

Rangefinder, interchangeable lens

SLR

TLR

Rapid film cameras

126 film cameras

110 film cameras

The series 1000/2000/... accepted magicubes.

The series 508/1008/... accepted flipflash.

The sophisticated models had a special hot shoe for the Agfamatic Lux flashes.

APS film cameras

Digital

  • ActionCam (1995)
  • StudioCam (1995)
  • ePhoto 1280 (1997 0.7 megapixel)
  • ePhoto 1680 (1998 1.2 mp)
  • ePhoto 307 (1997)
  • ePhoto 780
  • ePhoto 780c
  • ePhoto CL18 (2000, 0.3 mp)
  • ePhoto CL20
  • ePhoto CL30 (1999, 0.9 mp)
  • ePhoto CL30 Clik! (1999, 0.9 mp)
  • ePhoto CL34
  • ePhoto CL45 (2001; 0.7 mp)
  • ePhoto CL50 (1999 1.2 mp)
  • ePhoto Smile (0.3 mp)

Film

See → Agfa film

Chemicals

  • Rodinal
  • Eikonogen
  • Amidol
  • Diogen
  • Diphenal

Accessories


Bibliography

Notes

  1. Agfa-Gevaert in Film Deal with Dupont - New York Times, Aug 7, 1997.
  2. Agfa pulls out of photo film, shares surge - USA Today, Aug 17, 2004.
  3. AgfaPhoto files for bankruptcy protection - Sydney Morning Herald, May 30, 2005
  4. Lupus Imaging website
  5. Agfaphoto with PowerShovel

Links

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Agfa | Amigo | Astro Berlin | Bermpohl | B W | Foth | Goerz | Grass & Worff | Levy-Roth | Ernst Lorenz | Plasmat | Rudolph | Rothgiesser & Schlossmann | Rüdersdorf | Schulze & Billerbeck | Stegemann | Romain Talbot
Camera industry in Munich
Agfa | Deckel | Eder | Enna | Friedrich | Kilfitt | Leitmeyr | Linhof | Niezoldi & Krämer | Perka | Rex | Rietzschel | Staeble | Steinheil
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