AGFA Optima Review

You may remember a while back I was fortunate enough to receive a free AGFA Optima Sensor Flash.  I’ve had it a few weeks and have ran a couple of rolls of film through it and feel ready to write a brief review.  Don’t expect hard hitting facts and lens reviews, I’m not interested in those things.  All photos here were Fuji Superia 400, scanned with my diaper scanner, so not the greatest quality…

Some quick details about the camera:

  • 40mm f2.8 lens
  • scale focus
  • flash (pops up quite high to avoid red-eye)
  • powered by 2 AAA’s
  • large red shutter release
  • film is rewound using the film advance lever

The first thing you notice with this camera is that it is well built. Although there are plastic parts, there is obviously a lot of metal in the construction. It feels sturdy in your hands and has a bit of heft to it.  Although scale focused, there are click stops at 1.5m, 3m and infinity which can help when taking shots on the fly.  The flashes powers up almost instantly and while a bit harsh, it helps in a pinch.  I was quite impressed with the quality of the photographs.  The other roll that I shot was actually slide film, and it had absolutely no trouble getting the exposures correct.

So as I said this review will be short on technicals, however I think the feel of the camera is what’s important.  This camera as I said feels great in your hands. It’s well built and leaves you feeling confident that it will perform well and not leave you stranded.  Loading the film is simple as you only have to slide the leader under a special flap and it catches on it’s own. The film advance is smooth with just enough resistance to let you know the film is indeed advancing.  The only oddity I noticed is that when you get to the end of the roll of film (12, 24, or 36, you can’t take anything besides these multiples) the camera will allow you to keep pressing the shutter release and allow you to move the film advance. No more pictures are taken, and the film doesn’t actually advance, so it’s odd that it doesn’t simply stop working like most film cameras.

I also love this camera’s simplicity.  Sometimes it’s nice just to take pictures without too much thinking, and that is something this camera excels at.  Simply guestimate the distance and snap away!  I took it to a few markets and found it a great street photography camera as you are generally the same distance away from all the stalls so it’s easy to pre-set the distance and take pictures of what ever interests you, no need to worry about exposure and aperture.  I’ve got a roll of BW in it now, and I’ll be searching for a yellow filter later this year to see if I can boost the contrast up a bit.