|Belomo Agat 18K|
The Agat 18K is one such horizontally-orientated half frame camera. It's a very small (95x60x45mm), light-weight (130g) camera mostly constructed from ABS-type of plastic, manufactured by Belomo in the former Soviet republic of Belarus. There was an earlier Agat 18 (presumably the 18 is from the frame size); the 18K model improves on its predecessor in having a wider ISO range, an extra setting on its exposure calculator, a threaded shutter button for cable release, and a redesigned lens cap which covers both lens and shutter release. This lens cap is attached via a cord that has a screw fitting which doubles as a tripod mount. It's designed to be held for horizontal shots, with the film travelling from bottom to top rather than left to right, and held to the right eye with the shutter release operated by the right hand. The camera's ergonomics make holding it for a vertical portrait framing rather more awkward - perhaps it's best held to the left eye and operated by the left hand; using the right eye, the bulk of the camera rests against the user's forehead.
The 18K's manual only appears online in Russian, and so the camera may never have been intended for export (apart from the initials ISO, all other writing on the camera is in Cyrillic): some of the information in this post has been gleaned from other websites, but some from the manual via my own attempts to translate some of it using online tools. The Agat cameras are very easy to find online and very cheaply too: SovietCams.com suggests over half a million of the first version were produced from 1983; the 18K version came out in 1988 and would be the preferred model simply for its extra features. Both versions of the Agat camera have an Industar-104 f2.8 28mm lens (giving a slightly wide angle of view, about 40mm on a full-frame 35mm format), stopping down to f16. The lens has a filter thread and also focuses down to 0.9m, with the viewfinder giving indications of parallax correction for close focus.
|Agat 18K lens and exposure calculator|
Object in snow, in the mountains, the sea under clear sunThe inner ring also includes dark and light circles at either side of the line for one-stop exposure compensation. With the exposure set, the calculator indicates which aperture is in use, marked off next to the white line where the ISO is set. The shutter is coupled to the aperture setting: the manual lists the possible combinations in a table that appears to suggest that both aperture and shutter speed are continually adjustable as it shows intermediate aperture settings and odd shutter speeds. At f2.8 the shutter is either set to 1/65th or 1/130th, down to 1/540th at f16. The table of apertures and shutter speeds in the manual has asterisks against the intermediate aperture settings, 3.4, 4.8, 6.8 and so on and the asterisk appears to mean something like "The aperture value is not specified on the camera"; as there is also an asterisk against 1/65th at f2.8, this would appear to show that this aperture and shutter combination is set with the exposure ring rotated as far as possible anticlockwise (on the fastest ISO settings, the outer ring is moved some distance past the window symbol to achieve this). As well as the provision for exposure compensation, it is of course easy to override the exposure calculator by simply by either changing the ISO setting or choosing a different symbols.
Bright sun, harsh shadows
Hazy sun, soft shadows
Light cloudy weather, no shadows
Cloudy or shade with open, clear sky
Very cloudy, thunderclouds
Indoors 1 metre away from a window in the absence of direct sunlight
|Agat 18K focus scale and depth of field indicator|
|Depth of field diagram from Agat 18K manual|
|Agat 18K with 35mm cassette on take up side|
|Agat 18K with Ilford FP4 Plus|
The Agat 18K looks and feels like a toy camera in many aspects, but in its design, if not in its construction, it's far more ambitious than that, despite the caveats above. The features such as the focussing lens, the wide ISO range, the ability to remove film partially shot from cassette to cassette, and the exposure calculator coupled to both apertures and shutter speeds, more than just a 'sunny 16' set of symbols, there's also a hotshoe hidden under a sliding cover for flash: all these suggest something more than a toy. I've used an Olympus Pen EE3, which has been my half-frame camera that I've relied on for many years, and although the Agat 18K's Industar lens doesn't compare with the performance of the Pen's Zuiko, it does have a wider maximum aperture, a wider ISO range, and the ability to focus its lens. It's also a much lighter and smaller camera, and very pocketable: perhaps the fun of using it locates the Agat 18K in the toy camera category.
|Agat 18K with Ilford FP4|
|Agat 18K with Ilford HP5 Plus|
|Agat 18K with Foma Retropan 320|
|Agat 18K with Ilfodata HS23 rated 25|
Agat 18K on SovietCams.com
Agat 18K manual in Russian
Belomo cameras on Camera-Wiki
Agat 18 review on BKS Picture Blog