America did not invent photography—that honor must go to the French—but US camera manufacturers can take credit for introducing simple ways of taking pictures and bringing photography to the masses. Along the way, many also came up with often strange and sometimes ugly designs.
Jan 28, 2014
Published: Dec 01, 2013
The 35th Tokyo Used Camera Show was held from February 20-25, 2013, in the Matsuya Department Store in Tokyo. Nearly 100 camera fans began a queue at 6pm the night before the opening at 10am, and it was a chilly evening indeed. Upon opening, these were the first people who ran up the escalators or jammed elevators to the 8th floor, the large exhibition hall where the show was held. Their quest? Perhaps to be the lucky man who would grab a rarity like the Leica KE-7A Civilian with an Elcan 50mm f/2, priced at $12,000.
Spencer Grant a...
Jan 28, 2014
Published: Dec 01, 2013
On the shelf in my home office I have a collection of press cameras I’ve never used to take a picture. That’s not what they’re there for. They’re a tribute to a generation of bygone news photographers whose professionalism and skill set a standard to which I’ve aspired for over 40 years.
Cameras with built-in meters were not rare in the 1960s, but the problem with camera meters before the Topcon RE Super was that the cell took in a different view than that of the lens. Using a standard lens that was mostly okay, but if a wide-angle or telephoto lens were fitted, changing the field of view and the part of the subject needing to be accurately metered, it was a different matter.
The Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) design involved two lenses, one to record its image on film, the other to reflect its image to a focusing screen. The style dates back to the days of plate cameras, but came to the fore with the launch of the Rolleiflex in 1928.
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...