The Voigtländer Prominent was one of the most sophisticated cameras of the 1950s—also among the most complicated, and just a bit eccentric. It was launched in 1951, a time when 35mm rangefinder cameras were at their peak. Yet it anticipated the approaching popularity of single lens reflexes by offering devices that converted it from rangefinder to reflex use and surrounding itself with interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, close-up attachments, filters, and other accessories that made it a true system camera.
Making panoramic pictures in the digital age is easy. But it’s a lot more fun to use classic panoramic cameras, many of which can still be bought and used today.
The first panoramic camera was the Megaskop, made in 1844 to produce daguerreotypes on silver-plated copper plates, 4.7x17.5” wide. Later, there were Cirkut cameras, made first by the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company in 1904 and later by Kodak. These cameras were, and still are, used to produce super-wide school or sports club pictures. As the exposure was made, a clockwork motor rotated the camera on its tripod while inside the film traveled from one spool to another, past a slit at the focal plane.
Nov 13, 2012
Published: Oct 01, 2012
Once upon a time a camera wasn’t just a consumer electronic mediocrity but a gem in a show window reflecting brilliant illumination from its matte chromium skin. Such were the products on display at the 34th annual Tokyo Used Camera Show, which ran in the exhibition hall of Matsuya department store late this winter. Unlike many department stores in the US, Japanese department stores are premium boutiques of selected goods, usually with a big exhibition space as a traffic generator.
Limited production, exquisite fit and finish, and usability, too: how much more does it take to qualify a camera as a classic, or a collectible? Maybe a good dash of eccentricity; and the NPC 195 qualifies on all counts.
The fortunes of NPC (Newton Plastics Corporation) rose and fell with those of Polaroid. They were probably best known to most photographers for their Polaroid proofing backs using the late Marty Forscher’s patents for optical-fiber transfer of the image, though they also made a superb tripod head of unique design (the Pro-Head), a microscope camera, and more. They did a lot of government work, including for NASA, but a few years ago, after decades of success, they closed their doors.
Polaroid was not the first company to try instant photography. Back in the daguerreotype and wet plate days, patents were granted for cameras in which the plate could be developed inside the body. But it wasn’t until 1864 that the first commercially successful instant picture camera came to the market.
When Leitz launched the Leica in 1925, they did more than start the 35mm revolution. They also influenced the way some rollfilm manufacturers began to consider smaller formats. One result was small rollfilm cameras that took their own unique sizes of extra-small film. The Ensign Midget was one of the best.
It’s a dream specification. Top-flight construction; about the same weight and bulk as a professional D-SLR, though rather more convenient in shape; interchangeable lenses; camera movements; choice of ground-glass or viewfinder viewing; and a great big juicy 6x9cm format. It’s finished in beautiful Morocco-grain leather and the controls and fittings are in nickel and black-lacquered brass. It certainly sounds both desirable and usable.
When it was launched in 1956, advertisements of the time claimed the Rittreck to be the world’s most versatile Single Lens Reflex (SLR). It’s a statement that would be difficult to argue with. How many other SLRs can you name that offered interchangeable lenses, interchangeable backs, close-up facilities, a choice of four different formats, and the option of shooting on roll film or cut film?
If you’re a baby boomer (and even if you’re not) you might remember the ads in the comic books, science and handyman magazines that touted “Secret Spy Cameras. Fits in the palm of your hand…” And if you’re like me, you mailed off your allowance or lawn mowing money so you could take secret photos of your family and friends. The camera you received was barely...
Those who read Popular Photography magazine in the years from 1972 to 1987 will be familiar with the name and with part of the work of Norman Goldberg, who was its technical director over that period. They and others may also know his book Camera Technology: The Dark Side of the Lens (Academic Press, 1992).
Goldberg is perhaps best known, in the Leica world, as the creator of the Camcraft...
Long before the Mind of Minolta popularized autofocus SLRs with the introduction of the Maxxum 7000 there was the XD.
The year was 1977 and Minolta Camera Company, Ltd. was riding high. Fueled by the success of the SR-T series and the inimitable XE-7, Minolta launched the XD family, beginning with the XD-11 (labeled simply XD in Japan and XD-7 in Europe). The XD-11 was the first...
In the days before digital, most film cameras had built-in, battery-driven motor drives. But cameras with motor drives were around long before the electronic age, the only difference being that they ran by clockwork.
Say clockwork to collectors and Robot is the name that springs to mind. These cameras were the brainchild of Heinz Kilfitt, a German watchmaker and prolific...
A while back I had picked my top 20 cameras of all time, a topic that still draws comment on the Shutterbug Forums. While few Shutterbug readers venomously assailed my choices or impugned my historical accuracy, practically everyone posting on The Top 20 Cameras of All Time Forum was rooting for their favorite cameras, or complaining that their gems weren’t included.
In 1947, the English Wray Optical Company took out a patent on an amazing and innovative 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR). It had an eye-level penta-prism viewfinder, instant return mirror, Through The Lens (TTL) metering, and a built-in clockwork motor drive—four features never before seen on this type of camera.