#OldCameraChallenge, the Agfa Preisbox (Part 1)

The second camera in the #OldCameraChallenge is the Agfa Preisbox. I’ve been a bit slow in continuing with the challenge as current events, first the continuing pandemic and lately Putin’s unwarranted attack on Ukraine have been very demotivating.

The Agfa 44 box camera, known as the Preisbox, was first introduced in 1933 and was made up until about 1938. It’s a cheap camera made of a thick cardboard body with steel ends and a simple wooden shutter mount. The glass meniscus lens is fitted into the steel film insert rather than the film body, which unsurprisingly in my camera left the lens a little scratched (and very dirty) after some 90 years of use and misuse. The Preisbox takes standard 120 film and makes 8 exposures of 6 x 9cm. The camera has a single aperture of approximately f11 and a fixed shutter speed of about 1/30-1/50s, suggesting that a 100ASA film could be used on sunny days

The story of  the Preisbox is well documented, and is an early example of marketing a cheap product to drive sales of the ‘software’. The marketing tactic is familiar to anyone who has bought a cheap inkjet printer only to find they have to pay a premium for the ink cartridges later. At the beginning of the 1930s the German manufacturer Agfa was in dire straits, suffering from the impact of the Depression, and needed to increase its sales. The company came up with a campaign to sell a cheap camera, the Preisbox, and use it to drive the sales of Agfa film. German Marks, the currency of the day, were stamped according to where they were minted, and if people collected 1 Mark coins stamped ‘A’, ‘G’, ‘F’, and ‘A’ they could purchase the came four 4 Marks. The campaign was a resounding success, with over 1 million cameras sold, and any loss the company suffered for selling the cameras so cheaply was more than offset by the sales of the film. In fact, so many cameras were sold that Agfa could barely keep up with production of film stocks.

The Preisbox from my Outlet Box was in good working order, apart from being very dirty and the lens was a mess. The shutter worked beautifully, and taking the front cover off revealed a quite clean shutter mechanism, although the mirrors and glass of the viewfinders were dirty.

On the rear door, two of the light seals had dropped off, and the red window was missing. Fortunately this was rattling around in the camera box, so just needed a little glue to fix back in place.

Cleaning the Preisbox was easy, the body and shutter mechanism received a wipe with alcohol using a cotton pad or bud and then another wipe with a microfibre cloth. the lens was gently wiped with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol and then dried with another cotton bud. Unlike the Kodak Brownie N°2 I decided not to repaint the metalwork but to embrace its slightly used look.

After a clear couple of days the weather has taken a turn, but once the weather improves I’ll be out with the Agfa Preisbox loaded with some Lomography Redscale, which hopefully will have enough latitude to produce some decent exposures.

Published by Keith Devereux

'Let me close my eyes and sense the beauty around me. And take that breath under the dark sky full of stars.' Mira Furlan

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