One of my interests on ebay is old folding medium format cameras from the middle of the last century, in particular the Agfa isolette. There is much informtion available on the web about the later models but I could find little on the earlier ones which are my main interest. So I thought I'd share what I've managed to glean from books and the internet as well as my limited experiences of fixing them up and using them.
The 'early' ones are the pre war black plastic Trolitan topped Isolette 6.3 and post war Aluminium topped '4.5' version. The cameras are essentialy the same apart from the shutters and lenses. They pop up quite often on ebay, but mostly located in Germany. You'll also find manuals online for both.
The Agfa Isolette models include:
Isorette 1936 (renamed Isolette) Some sources say 1937
Isolette 6.3 1938-42
Isolette (model 4.5) 1946-50
Isolette I 1952-60
Isolette II 1950-60
Isolette III 1952-58
Isolette V 1950-52
Isolette L 1957-60
There are in the region of 100 variations.
The pre war models with the plastic tops that I'm interested in were dual format with the option of 645 as well as the usual 66. The Isorette released in 1936 came with an Igestar f6.3 lens in a Vario shutter. From 1937 you could also have a Pronto shutter with the Igestar or with an Apotar f4.5 lens a Prontor II or Compur shutter. the Solinar f4.5 came with a compur rapid shutter. All these shutters had an art deco black enamel look. From late 1937 the name changed to Isollete although the camera remained more or less the same with similar lens and shutter combinations.
The "4.5" model is very similar to the pre war versions apart from the aluminium top and the addition of double exposure protection and a 'time' control on the camera to hold the shutter open. They had various prontor and compur shutters and came with an Agnar, Apotar or Solinar lens. I'm not sure whether these were coated or not.
The Isolette I onwards was 66 only in shutters ranging from the three-speed Vario to the Synchro-Compur. They were made from duralumin and the body covering is robusit, a hard wearing material that rarely shows wear.
Models with the four-glass Solinar are most sought after, but the three-glass Apotar and Agnar are capable of top results - it is said.......
'Beedhams' (on ebay) in his very useful guide to lenses on folders comments on the quality of the Apotar.
Since the parts that go to make up an Isolette are mostly interchangeable between models you may often end up with a hybrid. Most often it's the lens and shutter that get's changed for a later better combination..
This is the first Isolette I bought. It's an Agfa Isolette 6.3 (after the lens presumably)
It is the wartime 1938-1942 version with the trolitan plastic top. This is the first I bought and has an uncoated igestar f6.3 lens in a basic leaf shutter (vario I guess) - pressing the shutter release button is all that's needed. You don't need to cock the shutter.
Although in generally good condition when received the front focusing element was frozen which is aparently typical. I fixed this and cleaned the shutter and the rest of the camera. Luckily the bellows were in perfect order and the camera now works very well. Isolletes have a reputation for poor bellows, however the 6.3 and 4.5 versions were, in nearly all cases, fitted with leather and usually survive very well - at least from what I've seen.