Photograph of a classic folding camera

What is a Folding Camera?

Folding cameras are a well-kept secret. Typically, the optics are amazing, in fact often better than modern mirrorless and high end DSLR lenses. This is related to the physics, put simply, it is easier to make a good small lens than a large one. On top, they are compact, something like the Agfa Isolette can fit into a pocket (they are expensive and quite old cameras, so a padded camera bag would be safer!). One drawback is that you cannot usually swap lenses. If you want a halfway-house, try the Mamiya 6. It has a wide angle, normal and telephoto lens, though it does not collapse to as flat a profile as the Isolette.

Why shoot a Folding Camera?

They are great cameras to take on family holidays, or just use when out and about. If you are popping out for a walk, it is not a lot of extra weight. On top, the lenses are fantastic. Compared to the various lenses and accessories you might want to take with a Mamiya 67 and Pentax 67, you are kind of limited to one lens, with the main choice being what film you want to use. These kinds of limitations can make you more creative.

You might also choose a folding camera for street photography. You can get the same quality as with Pentax67 but be for less conspicuous and hopefully capture more natural images.

Top Folding Cameras

There is quite a range still available. Although folding cameras perhaps had their heyday half a century ago, you were still able to buy brand new Fuji GF 670 a few years ago. Released in 2008, the camera takes medium format film and can shoot square or 6×7 frames. The 80 mm lens is very sharp, equivalent to 40-44 mm on 35 mm. A classic favourite is the Agfa Isolette, which has one of the sharpest lenses ever made. These were produced in the 1950s so if you do get hold of one, make sure it has a clean, lube, and service.


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