Silette

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Silette is a name used by the German maker Agfa from 1953 to 1974 to designate successive generations of 35mm fixed-lens viewfinder cameras. The corresponding rangefinder models were called Super Silette. There was also an interchangeable lens rangefinder model called the Ambi Silette, which is discussed elsewhere. The first models were sold in the USA under the name Ansco Memar and Super Memar, and some of later ones were sold under the name Agfa Solina.


The first generation


The first generation of Silette models was produced from 1953 to the early 1960s.

The original Silette appeared in 1953. It is a simple, well-built 35mm camera with a viewfinder, a leaf shutter, a lever wind advance and an accessory shoe. The range of shutters went from the Pronto (1/25-1/200) to the better Compur Rapid or Synchro Compur (1/500), with the Prontor (1/300) in between. The lens is a three-element Color Apotar 3.5/45mm or 2.8/45mm, or a four-element Color Solinar 2.8/50mm. In the USA, the camera was known as the Ansco Memar.


The original Super Silette is the same body with a coupled rangefinder. The range of lenses included the same Color Apotar 45/3.5 or 45/2.8 and Color Solinar 50/2.8, but the top of the line was Color Solagon 2/50mm six-element lens. Today the original Super Silette with the Color Solagon on the Synchro Compur is considered the most desirable model of the Silette fixed-lens family. In the USA, the original Super Silette was known as the Ansco Super Memar.

The Silette L, introduced in 1956, has the same body as the viewfinder Silette, but with an uncoupled selenium meter in the top plate. The camera was made with three successive types of meter, with a bigger or smaller setting knob, and a larger or smaller cover flap. The shutter and lens combinations are the same as above, except the cheaper Pronto.

The Silette SL, made from 1957, was based on the last variant of the Silette L, but the exposure meter is coupled to the aperture and speed settings. The lens is a Color Solinar 2.8/50mm and the shutter is the Prontor SLK to 1/300.

The Silette LK of 1958 is a cheaper variant of the SL, with a Color Apotar 2.8/45mm lens and a Pronto LK 15-250 shutter. Launched the same year, the Silette Automatic (named Silette SLE at the beginning) is better, with the meter reading visible inside and a bright-line viewfinder.


In 1958 the body of the basic Silette model was slightly modified, with an advance lever hidden in the top plate and a larger viewfinder. The cheaper models have a simple viewfinder and the better models a bright-frame one, with a second window to illuminate the frame-lines. Lenses include the Agfa Agnar 3.5/45mm, Color Agnar 2.8/45mm, Color Apotar 2.8/45mm and Color Solinar 2.8/50mm. The shutters are the Pronto, Prontor and Compur Rapid, as well as the Vario B-25-50-200 on the cheapest model. Some of the simpler models were sold in the USA under the name Solina.

One variant of the 1958 basic Silette has a different, elevated top plate that announced the style of the later models.

Prototypes of a Silette Stereo model have been mentioned.


The second generation

After 1959 many Silettes adopted a taller, un-stepped top housing, resembling the fully automatic Optima: for example, the Super Silette LK. Around 1969 the Silette series adopted Agfa's red "sensor" release button and got a completely squared-off body style. The Silette LK Sensor is a rather late example of a camera using a selenium meter cell.

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