The 1950s saw the release of the Ansco Speedex 4.5 Special, a 6×6 folding camera made in Germany and sold by Ansco and Agfa under the names Speedex and Isolette. The camera lineup offered a range of models with diverse lens and shutter configurations to suit different budgets.

As a piece of photographic equipment, the Speedex 4.5 Special is an interesting and simple camera. I am fortunate to own a copy that is equipped with the highly regarded Agfa Solinar 85mm f/4.5 lens, known for its optical quality, and is reportedly the only shutter mechanism in the series that can shoot at 1/500.

I found my Speedex at a thrift shop and spent weeks fixing it up. I’m happy to say that my efforts have restored the camera to working condition, including repairing a dry lens that would not focus and fixing light leaks in the bellows. Most shutter speeds function properly, except the “B” setting. However, I have found the slow and fast speeds reliable for setting the exposure.

Uncoupled rangefinder cameras like the Ansco Speedex 4.5 Special require some practice to achieve precise focus, but the process helps me slow down and pay closer attention to detail. One of the major benefits of this camera is its lightweight design. Its simplicity is also a plus, with straightforward dials and a no-frills approach to its overall design.

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I loaded it with a roll of expired 120 Kodak Plus-X Professional film from 1988. Based on my previous experience with this expired film, I exposed it at an EI of 50 to compensate for any loss of sensitivity. On a cold and cloudy morning, I took a walk through my neighborhood with a sturdy tripod and cable release. I experimented with a range of apertures, from f/11 to the smallest available on the Agfa-Soligor lens, f/22. This allowed me to take advantage of the lens’ sweet spot. By metering exposure based on ISO 50 and small apertures, the corresponding shutter speeds ranged from 1/8 to 1 second.

The roll was developed with ILFORD’s ILFOSOL-3, following temperature and timing closely for success. There is something truly exciting and satisfying about discovering a well-exposed negative that you know will make a great photograph. When you hold the negative up to the light and see the crisp, clear image staring back at you, it is impossible to ignore the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with it.

I’m excited to shoot in color with the Speedex and believe the best pictures are yet to come.

~ Rodolfo

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