Voigtländer Avus Upgrade

From 1913 to 1935 the German company Voigtländer manufactured a midrange plate camera called the Avus. This was before the standardisation of sheet film holders that came after WWII (I think). These cameras took 9x12cm film which was common in Europe and used by several other manufactures.

A very famous Edinburgh view with the 90 year old optics of a Voigtländer Avus f/4.5 Skopar

The Avus was really well made. I remember there was one in the house when I was growing up that was in pretty good condition but we never put any film through it. It would have been too complex when we could take and develop 35mm anyway. I’m not sure what happened to that particular camera. Today, 80+ years after they stopped being made, you can still pick up a working Avus on eBay for not too much money. The trouble is they are more or less just ornaments because you can’t easily get film or developing tanks for 9x12cm film.

A few weeks ago I saw one going for a song (£45 incl. postage) which lacked either a focussing screen or any plate holders. It did have a pack film holder though and I thought I could maybe use it for wet plate collodion photography – I was also reminiscing about playing with that Avus some forty years ago. So I did some Googling around to see if I could convert the pack film holder for wet plate use and I came across a guy on Thingiverse who had created a model for 3D printing a converter back so that you could use “modern” 4×5 inch film holders on the Avus. This would be ideal as I have a bunch of 4×5 film and plate holders as well as a roll film back. It was late at night so, reader, I bought the camera.

The trouble is I don’t have a 3D printer or space to put one even if I bought one (I mustn’t) so I needed to get the parts printed. I discovered that there are POSH services where printing something like this comes in at several hundred pounds (you can buy a home 3D printer for £300) but also much cheaper services. I found a really nice guy on Gumtree who was a CAD designer by trade and had a 3D printer at home. He printed the parts for just £33. This weekend I glued them together and hey presto I have yet another working plate camera for less than £80! Plus I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve used 21st Century technology to join a 90 year old camera to a 60+ year old film format. Soon I’ll use it with a 170 year old imaging technology. It’ll also be interesting to see how the low contrast, uncoated lens interacts with high contrast Harman Direct Positive Paper.

5 Comments on "Voigtländer Avus Upgrade"

  1. Fascinating. My first serious camera was a TP quarterplate reflex with a Triotar 15cm lens and a focal plane shutter. It came with a 120 back that worked and I could process the negatives more easily. Uncoated lens, low contrast but sharp enough. I moved on to a 5×4 Linhof monorail years later and transparency film but now all I have left from those days is a Plaubel 6×9 monorail, which was quite accomplished in what movements it allowed.. I had to make a wide-angle bag bellows to permit movements on a 65mm Super Angulon. Still very interested in old cameras.

  2. 5×4 film has been around for over 120+ years as has 9×12, film sheaths to use cut film in some cameras are advertised in the 1898 BJPA. Roll film was invented in 1881 but it only became more wide spread along with some sheet film in the 1890’s.

    I have a 5×4 1904 Century No46 that I can use with plates or film with inserts and a Alliance Roll Film Camera Co Ltd 110 rol film camera, 5×4 negatives on roll film although a dual back was vaialble on some models, the company was founded 1898 and folded 1904 becoming part of Houghtons their cameras renamed as Ensigns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.