I have had quite the medium-format fever this year as I’ve quested for a pleasing shooter that takes 120 film. I could probably have stopped at the Agfa Clack because it was so easy to use and gave such pin-sharp results. But I already had a few other 120 cameras in the to-use queue, and I couldn’t resist buying a couple more because the price was right. This may end up being the Great Medium-Format Winter at Down the Road!
This Ansco B2 Speedex was one of those cameras I couldn’t resist buying, not just because I got it for cheap, but because it takes square photographs. I love square photos!
Ansco made several folding cameras using the Speedex name in the 1940s. They had near doppelgängers in Agfa’s Isolette line; Agfa and Ansco were one company in those days. The B2 Speedex was made starting in about 1940 and as best as I can tell was the entry-level Speedex camera. But in this case entry level didn’t mean cheap; it came with an 85 mm f/4.5 Agfa Anastigmat lens. I couldn’t find an authoritative answer about this lens’s design (three elements? four?), but anastigmat lenses are fully corrected against aberrations, which costs. The unnamed leaf shutter fired at speeds from 1/2 to 1/250 sec.
By the way, if you like old folding cameras also check out my reviews of the Agfa Isolette III (here), the Kodak Tourist (here), the Kodak Monitor Six-20 (here), the Kodak Six-20 (here), and the Voigtländer Bessa (here). Or check out all the cameras I’ve ever reviewed here.
Ansco (and sister company Agfa) folding cameras from this period are notorious for bellows full of pinholes that leak light all over your film. I was so delighted to get this camera that I dropped a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros right into it without checking the bellows first. Hoping to guard against light leaks, I just kept the camera closed until I was ready to shoot. I had business in nearby Zionsville, so I took the Speedex along. Its downtown is rustic and charming.
A few of my photos came back with my intended subject not quite in focus, like this one. I meant to focus on the sign, but in the photo it is a little fuzzy while the steps behind it are crisp. The B2 Speedex offers no focusing help to the photographer; I must have guessed wrong. The day was very cloudy, so I shot the lens nearly wide open, which reduced my depth of field and therefore my margin for focusing error.
The B2 Speedex also offers no help reading the light, so I got out my GE PR-1 exposure meter. The light across my little car was interesting, so I shot it, for probably the hundredth time.
Ok, so here’s the hundred and first time. I was trying for shallow depth of field, and got it.
The little barn in my back yard is another frequent subject, one well suited to the square photograph. This is probably the strongest composition I’ve managed of it. I’d better screw some plywood to the back of that one door along the bottom, or I’m gonna have critters living in there with my lawn tractor.
The Speedex’s lens was acceptably sharp but isn’t among the sharpest lenses in my old folders. It delivers reasonable detail, though.
Check out my Ansco B2 Speedex gallery for more shots.
I really enjoyed using the B2 Speedex. I’ll be sure to check the bellows for pinholes, and patch any I find, before I use it again.
Last updated on 12 March 2020 by Jim Grey