Recent acquisition: Ansco Viking Readyset

I’ve been on a 35mm SLR jag for the last couple of years, in case the number of SLR reviews I’ve written here hasn’t caught your notice. I’ve discovered that I’m an SLR guy through and through. But that’s led me away from my first photographic love, which is seeing what kind of images a simple camera can make.

Ansco Viking Readyset

That’s led me to look for old boxes and folders lately. To make it interesting, I’ve narrowed my searching to cameras that take 120 film. Given how many such cameras take 620 film, this shrinks the field considerably.

I came upon an eBay listing for this Ansco Viking Readyset. Agfa made these in Munich for Ansco from 1952 to 1959. I certainly overpaid, at $45 shipped, but at least this example is nearly in mint condition. Most of these that I’ve seen over the years have been rough.

This Viking Readyset features an f/11 Agfa Isomar lens, which I’m betting is a single-element design. It offers two aperture settings, “Bright,” the full f/11, and “Hazy,” which might be f/8. An old ad I found for this camera says that the shutter operates at 1/40 sec.

The camera offers two focus zones, 5 to 10 feet and 10 feet to infinity. The viewfinder is a simple pop-up “sports” type, on the same side of the body as the winder. The body is metal with a coating that feels like it’s made of plastic. There’s a tripod mount on the faceplate, a nice touch. The camera also features a flash sync port. The Viking Readyset makes 8 6×9-cm images on a roll of 120.

Interestingly, the Readyset was the least of a three-model line of Viking cameras. The top-line Viking featured an f/4.5 lens; the next one down an f/6.3 lens. Both were set in a 1/200 sec. shutter. The Viking cameras cost $48.65, $34.95, and $19.95, respectively, when new. In comparison, an Ansco box camera could be had for as little as $4.95.

This camera looks to need no reconditioning, although to be safe I will check for pinholes in the bellows and repair any I find. I’ll also gently clean the lens with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Look for photos from this camera and a full review probably later this spring, or in the early summer.

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8 responses to “Recent acquisition: Ansco Viking Readyset”

  1. J P Avatar

    I’ll be looking forward to the results! I will confess that as a non-photographer, I find these old-timers far more interesting than the SLRs, which I’m sure are monumentally better cameras. I guess I just love quirky old things, being a quirky old thing myself.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, I’m trying to lean into quriky old cameras this year. So you’re in luck!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I love old folders like this, and owned a few in my day. I remember my first camera being a Kodak folder that probably took 620, and to this day, remember looking at the big negatives (compared to Instamatic and what was probably 127), maybe that’s where I started my large format “jones”.

    BTW, in this inflationary age, I consider $45.00 to be pocket change. I’m retired on a fixed income, so everything counts, but when I was working not that long ago, it was nothing for what I considered my photographic expenses. If the camera is in good shape, especially the lens, and the bellows are great, it’s a gift for $45. It IS a lot tho, when you can get a Pentax MX for $70, and these are so simple, but I guess there’s just a minimum amount of money to be paid?

    There are an amazing amount of these type of cameras I’ve seen and checked out at resale and “junk” shops, that I never even get around to checking the bellows on because someone has bent the “tongs” or supports to the point where I can’t figure out how to get it to close. There must be a high incidence of people dropping these with force, or even falling on them with their full weight, while they are open!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Inflation has hit old cameras unevenly. I expect Pentax K1000s to go way up, but not offbeat cameras like this one!

  3. arhphotographic Avatar

    Although not a 120 film camera I recently tried a Kodak Vest Pocket. I was amazed by the quality of the images coming out of this 100 year old camera. Look forward to seeing your post on the ‘Readyset’

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Very often, these simple cameras do pretty good work!

  4. brineb58 Avatar

    I love old folders!!! I have one of these that needs a little work to get it in shape to shoot. Nothing like a 6×9 negative!!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s always a matter of the lens. I tried a Kodak Tourist once and it gave me soft, muddy results. That lens was a stinker.

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