Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking vintage 6×9 folding camera

This is the second of many posts about the cameras in my personal collection. It isn’t the one I intended to do next (the Mar-Crest toy camera) but there’s a good reason: I promised that I would develop the roll of film in that camera first, but that didn’t quite work out. I processed the film, but the developer I used (HC-110) turned out to be spent, because I forgot to date it when I mixed it. So I’m running another roll and will post the Mar-Crest when I have images. With that, on with the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking:

The Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking with the back open.
A view of the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking with the back open. You can clearly see the inside of the lens and bellows are in sad shape, and the hinge pin has completely rusted through at one end. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking is my first, and so far only, Agfa camera. It’s an Agfa Ansco because prior to World War II and the negative image of Agfa, American camera maker Ansco merged with the German manufacturer for about 15 years. The partnership was dissolved in 1943.

Some details on the camera itself

Internet sources are sparse on the actual history of many Agfa cameras, but it appears that the PB20 series was mostly made around 1940. The less-expensive Readyset was apparently made from 1934-1938. So my educated guess is that this was made between 1934 and 1943.

The Viking was the high-end, top-finish model of the Agfa Ansco PB20 6×9 folding camera series, offering a cloth covering instead of leatherette, a body shutter release, and the f/7.7 Viking lens instead of the f/11 or f/14 lenses on lower models.

It used 620 film (Agfa’s code was “PB20,” hence the name) which is loaded into small, removable carriers.

About my example

I bought my Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking at an antique store in Rico, Colorado, on my recent vacation to the Four Corners area for about $20, which is probably more than it’s actually worth. Why? Because it’s functionally hopeless.

Front view of the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking.
In this front view of the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking you can see the rust on the edges of the front cover, the handle rings and the folding top viewfinder, and the deteriorating cloth covering. (Daniel J. Schneider)

It looks like the camera was left folded up and stores outdoors, or in a very damp place. The cloth covering is badly deteriorated, the polished/enameled exterior parts are more rust than camera at this point. One end of the hinge pin on the camera back has rusted clean through. Even the chromed rings on the handle ends are rusting badly.

The bellows is brittle, cracked, and full of holes — probably enough that it’s beyond repair. The shutter functions, but not consistently – it sticks badly 2/3 of the time.

The viewfinder is badly fogged and visibly bent far out of alignment — not so far that the camera won’t close, but clearly not right.

And the film advance knob seems barely functional. And the lens appears to have a bit of mold around the edges.

So yeah — no pictures from this one; it’s a piece for my shelves only. And that’s okay, because my shelves need cameras.

Give me a few more days to run another roll of film through the Mar-Crest camera and I’ll post about it when I have pictures to show.

Review Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking
Author Rating
3
  • Gordon Dimaggio

    I have the same camera in almost mint shape, functions perfectly. interested?

    • I suppose it would depend on how much you are asking for it. Have you checked the bellows for pinholes?

  • Gordon Dimaggio

    pb20 viking

  • Gordon Dimaggio

    no holes in bellows. functions perfectly 35.00 + shipping.

    • Yeah, I’d have to pass at that price. I’m in no hurry and there are so many of these out there I’m sure I’ll come across one eventually. You may be able to get more than that, even, on eBay, though it looks like not many of the listings are selling right now. I appreciate the offer!