AGFA Silette SLE
AGFA was the European equivalent of Kodak, supplying a full range of photography inputs, from chemicals to paper, film and cameras. Just like Kodak, they stopped short of progress v into the powerful SLR models, and in AGFA’s case, the few SLR models they sold were Japanese rebrands.
The roots of AGFA go back to the 18th century with philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, through his grandson the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and further to his son Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a chemist, who in 1863 established a company later named Aktiengesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation, literally Public Company for Aniline Manufacturing. The name was too long even for Germans, so it was shortened to the abbreviation AGFA. As it happened, the same process followed in 1967, when Ansco was renamed GAF, short for General Aniline & Film; the Aniline hits again with a company that was associated with AGFA.
Silette was a common name for a long line of monoblock viewfinder cameras, also sold in the US as Ansco Memar. As was common then, the same camera body as a rangefinder configuration had the added title ‘Super’.
As of 1953, the early models were no-frills, basic viewfinder cameras from which many descendants followed. The early models kept changing, but name marking remained a plain Silette, so it takes reviewing the fine details and much guessing to decide which is which. Later models, from 1962, carried a suffix, making recognition easier. These models had a light meter, and their bodies differed from the early models and each other. In the early 1970s, the name continued with a line of cheaper plastic models. Some models of the mid-1960s used AGFA’s Rapid cartridges, sold as an entry-level line. To identify the Silette models, see the model list at the bottom of the page.
The Sileete SLE, introduced in 1958, was also sold under the Silette Automatic name, perhaps to carve a niche in the up-and-coming automatic cameras.
For a 1958 model, the camera is well equipped, and well-made. My unit is immaculate as if it just left the store shelf. There is not a spec of rust, and all dials freely turn, which is uncommon for a piece of 66-year-old mechanical equipment. It’s no wonder, though, considering the hefty price tag it wore when new.
It is straightforward., with no mysterious levers that would require a manual. A light meter needle is visible through the well-lit viewer, with excellent parallax marks, and at a window is on the top. Good shutter speed selection and a very nice lens. The aperture dial locks into the speed selector, so you may change either setting while keeping the correct ratio. A compact body fits nicely in the hand with an offset viewer, which is a blessing when you wear glasses. Looking high and low, the only downside I can find is a difficult-to-turn ASA dial. Otherwise, this is a perfect camera. As with other fixed lens cameras of that time, it was offered with several lens and shutter combinations, so the model described below is what I have.
There is no much online information about it, meaning there is little collector’s interest, which is wrong. It is an able camera and would be an asset to the collector. They are offered at random but at a low asking price, which is a bargain for such quality.
Good to know
- The slider at the back by the rewind knob unlocked the film speed dial, not the rewind release.
- To rewind, turn the left knob; the winder post has no one-way gear as on most cameras.
- The self-timer lever is marked ‘V’ on the synch lever.
|Mode||Manual, meter assited|
|Weight||680 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||470 gr, Body with lens|
|Filter size||35 mm|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Shutter make||Pronto SLK|
|Light meter||Selenium, external coupled, match needle|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|
AGFA Silette SLE Images
AGFA Silette Models List
|Ambi Silette de Luxe||1957|
|Silette Type 3||1958|
|Silette Type 4||1958|
|Silette Type 5||1958|
|Silette Type 6||1958|
|Silette Type 2||1957|
|Silette Type 1||1953|
|Silette L --1958--||1958|
|Silette L --1959--||1959|
|Silette L --1962--||1962|
|Silette L --1968--||1968|
|Silette LK --1957--||1957|
|Silette LK --1963--||1963|
|Silette LK Sensor --1969--||1969|
|Silette LK Sensor --1973--||1973|
|Silette Rapid F||1964|
|Silette Rapid I||1964|
|Silette Rapid L||1964|
|Super Silette Automatic||1959|
|Super Silette L||1958|
|Super Silette LK||1959|