CAMERAS > AGFA
Agfa's history began more than 140 years ago, with the merge of a belgian photo business and a chemical manufacturing company from Germany.
In 1867, a factory for photo chemicals production was established at Rummelsburger See, near Berlin. In 1873, company was registered as "Aktien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation", AGFA. One of their most famous products, a developer called Rodinal, was introduced in 1892 and is still being made, after more than 115 years.
In 1890, Lieven Gevaert (aged 22 by then) established his own workshop at Amberes (Belgium), mainly focussed on manufacturing calcium-based paper for photography use. Barely four years after, Armand Seghers decided to invest in the company, and with an initial budget of 20.000 belgian Francs (around 500 Euro), "L. Gevaert & Cie." is created. In less than one year, international expansion is made real by acquisition of "Blue Star Papers", a French company located in Paris that provided the recipe for a gelatine-based paper.
By 1904, business had experimented a big growth, and new infrastructures became mandatory: factory was moved from Ambered to Mortsel, to a place that still nowadays is occupied by an AGFA's factory. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to "Gevaert Photo Producten N.V." and its budget was 15 million of belgian Francs (around 375.000 Euro).
Since 1916, thanks in good part to the efforts of Dr. Rudolf Fischer from Berlin, AGFA was researching color film emulsions; during the 20s the efforts continued, and resulted, in 1936, in AGFA presenting the "Agfacolor-Neu", covered no more and no less than by 278 patents. Was the first color film not requiring multiple layers nor multiple exposures, and its developing process was "universal" for general purposes.
When in 1925 Agfa took over from Bayer the Rietzschel's factory at Münich, they just rebadged the current portfolio adding the famous diamond-shaped logo. That same year, Agfa's first spanish subsidiary was opened. The world had to wait one more year, until 1926, before Agfa unveiled their first camera per se, Agfa Standard. 1927 was a year full of news: Rietzschel's name was removed from production, the Billy family of cameras is introduced, and licensing for selling Agfa's products in the US was granted to Ansco. In 1930, their first box camera for 6x9 rollfilm. Thanks to a compensating strategy, the Box 44 could be bought with 4 "Reichsmark", recovering losses derived from the low price of the camera with the 120 rollfilms sold. A curious data about this, is that for one to be able to buy it, it was required to have 4 coins of 1 Reichsmark each, forming the word "AGFA" (those coins had one letter printed, signaling the place where the piece was coined).
Gevaert was also specialized in X-Ray films and materials suchas SCIENTIA, a brand of plates and films for researchers and scientists, and used for example in astrophotography or nuclear physics. In 1959, first fully automatic 35mm camera was presented, the Agfa Optima: one million copied were sold in three years.
In 1964, Agfa introduced their "Rapid" system, as a counterattack to Kodak's 126. That same year Gevaert and Agfa AG (owned by Bayer) merged. So, on July 1st two separated operational companies were created, each participated 50% in the other: Gevaert-Agfa N.V. at Mortsel (Belgium) and Agfa-Gevaert AG at Leverkusen (Germany).
In the beginning of the 80s, international speculation on the silver market caused a significant rise in the price of this metal, 7 times more expensive than the previous year. As silver is one of the most important base materials for the photographic industry, these high prices put Agfa-Gevaert in a difficult financial situation. Bayer delivers additional funds and consequently obtains 100% ownership of the Agfa-Gevaert Group. In the upcoming years, Agfa stopped making cameras (those with the Agfa logo made after 1983 are OEM products rebadged) and they repositioned themselves towards the Healthcare sector by acquiring different companies. In November, 2004 Agfa redirected all its photographic activities to a new, independent entity, AgfaPhoto, that was licenses to a german company, Plawa. Since 2006, the Graphics and Healthcare divisions are splitted into operational units. A third one is also created, Materials, in charge of film making activities.