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AGFA used the Optima for several generations of automatic compact cameras. The first Optima name appeared on a 1932 Billy Optima, as a klapp model, replacing traditional glass plates with film sheets 7.5×10.5 cm. It was an odd experience that did not float long.

The Next Optima models were a line of viewfinders and rangefinders, where the latter had an ‘S’ suffix. The 2ng generation came in 1964, with a mix of unimportant models, using 35mm, Rapid, and #126 formats. An Optima Reflex of 1961 was a cousin of the AGFA Flexilette. The third and last generation were the Optima Sensor models, also named Selectronic and Agfamatic, where the latest model was introduced in 1982. As with other camera makers, the models carried different names in different markets.

See a complete list of the Optima models at the bottom of this page.

The camera is very well built and fished. The unit on my desk has no aging signs; it is still bright and shiny, inside and out. Not a spec of rust or fog. It is described in the manual as having a “magic release lever”, taken at the time as technology forefront. Light meters were known long before this model, but a fully manual camera was a giant leap forward; this was the same year the Soviets (crash) landed the first craft on the moon. It is styled like the other Optima of that generation, with a heavy body and classic, streamlined style, self-explanatory controls, with no unnecessary features. On the plus side, the camera does not require batteries; just aim and shoots.

An online search on this model does not return much. There is an archived page about an earlier model and some mentions of an Optima III frying pan; that’s all. Assuming not much collector’s interest.

Good to know

  • The focusing dial clicks into position to mark three distance icons.
  • The Rewind knob pops up by sliding back the tab next to it.
  • Film-type memo dial is within the rewind knob.
  • The film speed dial is at the top right. To set it, slide the tab next left to it and use a strong thumb or a coin to change it.
  • The speed selection is automatic, 1/30-1/500. User choices are A, flash and B.
  • In auto mode, the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture. In B mode, the user may select the F stop, the value of which is well hidden in a tiny window.
  • Setting the F stop is inconvenient. The dial is flush with the body, so it is hard to get a purchase. In A mode, the dial defaults to 22.
  • The meter reading shows as a two-tone capsule floating at the top of the viewer window; if it is green, it is good to go. Red is for underexposure.
  • The meter activates upon cocking the shutter.
  • A mystery transparent bubble is on top, by the accessory shoe. The user manual describes it as “Green signal-exposing” (sic). It exposes or shows nothing on my camera, so I am still bewildered.
  • Tor rewind, push and hold in the release pin at the bottom while turning the rewind knob.
  • The frame counter is at the back by the bottom. The case has an opening there.


List number 1269
Brand Agfa
Model Optima III
Manual Butkus (the rangefinder version)
Value Optima III
Agfamatic III
Optima 500
Format 35mm
Introduced 1960
AKA Optima 500, Agfamatic III
Country Germany
Qty made
Initial price 293
Currency DM
Type Viewfinder
Body material Metal
Mode Auto
Weight 700 gr,  Body with lens
Class average weight 480 gr,  Body with lens
ASA range 10-200
Kit lens 2.8/45
Lens make Color Apotar
Filter size 35.5mm
Lens mount Fixed lens
Mount size N/A
Shutter Leaf
Shutter make Compur B
Light meter Selenium, external coupled
Winder Lever
Lock No
Speeds B, 30-500
Mirror N/A
Viewer Viewfinder
DOF preview No
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe Cold
External sync X/M
Sync speed
Timer No
Battery, original N/A
Battery, replacement N/A
Battery voltage N/A
Integral flash None
Service / repair links See

AGFA Optima III images




Agfa Optima models list

ModelYearImage link
Billy Optima 1932
Optima 1959
Optima 1035 Sensor 1976
Optima 1535 Sensor 1979
Optima 200 Sensor 1973
Optima 335 Sensor 1978
Optima 500 1964
Optima 500 S 1963
Optima 500 Sensor 1969
Optima 500 SN 1966
Optima 5000 Pocket 1974
Optima 535 Sensor 1976
Optima 6000 Pocket 1975
Optima 935 Sensor 1981
Optima I 1960
Optima IA 1962
Optima II 1960
Optima II S 1960
Optima III 1960
Optima III S 1966
Optima Parat 1964
Optima Parat Tele 1963
Optima Rapid 125 C 1967
Optima Rapid 250 1965
Optima Rapid 250 V 1966
Optima Rapid 500 V 1966
Optima Reflex 1961
Optima Sensor Electronic 1982
Optima Sensor Flash Electronic 1981

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