Agfa produced the Cadet box camera for sizes A-8 (127), D-6 (116) and this model the B-2 (120). This simple ‘American Made’ box camera represents affordable photography for the masses. During the late 1930s, when this camera was introduced, the large 6×9 negative was perfect for contact prints which didn’t push the quality of the simple meniscus lens beyond its limits. As with most cardboard box cameras of this type, the B-2 features two frosted glass viewfinders, one for portrait and one for landscape. Unlike many Kodak box cameras, with up to three aperture options, the B-2 only features one aperture, probably around f11. The single speed shutter seems to be around 1/30 and is not spring return. So depress the shutter release for one exposure and lift it back up to take another exposure. There is no double exposure prevention. A nice feature is the Time setting. Unlike Bulb that is common for these cameras, but forces the user to hold down the shutter release during the long exposure, the Time setting allows the user to depress the shutter release and let go. The shutter will stay open until the lever is moved back into place. The meniscus lens is behind the shutter, protecting it from dust and scratches.
There is a metal clip on the back panel that when unlatched allows the entire back to swing open on a metal hinge. Remove the metal film carrier to load the 120 roll film, remember to pull out the film advance knob first. Once the film is loaded simply slide the entire assembly back in the camera, close the back, and advance the film using the common red window to view the frame numbers. Be sure to place a piece of black masking tape or equivalent over the red window to prevent light leaks or ghosting. Modern film is much more sensitive than what was originally available back in the ’30s. The Agfa B-2 like many of this type is simplicity at its finest. Producing acceptable results, these cameras are very fun to use and a delight to display.
CLEANING AND REPAIR
The black leatherette is easy to clean. I use leather cleaner if the surface is just dirty with age, but have utilized black shoe polish if the leatherette needs a little added pizzazz after years of neglect. This specimen was in good shape but needed some shoe polish to bring some life back to the surface. It also makes the embossed Agfa logo on the face plate more presentable. Speaking of the face plate it can be popped off with a little screwdriver to allow for better access to the simple rotary shutter and viewfinder windows. Unlike many Kodak box cameras that have small mirrors glued to the inside for the viewfinder reflections, the B-2 utilizes polished metal secured into place with tiny rivets behind the frosted glass windows.
To clean the single element lens, open the camera and remove the metal film carrier. A couple of cotton swabs dipped in Windex or any glass cleaner will do the trick. If fungus or haze is present I suggest a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. The easiest way to access the front of the element is to place the camera in Time mode and release the shutter. The aperture opening is large enough to insert a cotton swab. Simply look through the back of the camera to see what you’re doing. Then blow out any possible debris with a canister of compressed air. A toothpick or long tweezers can be used to remove the snap ring around the lens from the inside of the camera if you want to attempt to completely remove the lens for cleaning. I’d rather not do this if not absolutely necessary. Once the lens is clean, it should stay that way for awhile since it is protected behind the shutter. Clean the polished metal reflectors in a similar fashion and the inside of the viewfinder glass, while the front plate is still removed. Snap the front plate back into place and clean the outside of the viewfinders with glass cleaner.
There are always several auctions for the B-2. Ensure you don’t bid on the D-6 unless you’re actually looking to get the 116 roll film version of the box Cadet. These are fairly common box cameras and can be picked up for $3 to $10 depending on condition. They are fairly light so shipping cost should be reasonable around five dollars. Best thing to do is to place a maximum bid and walk away. If you don’t win the auction, bid on the next one that is sure to occur within a day or two. Garage sales, thrift stores and swap meets are also great sources for these types of cameras.