Classic Cameras; The Top 20 Cameras Of All-Time Countdown; Schneider’s List, The Next Five—Do You Agree? Page 2

The Maxxum 7000's AF system focused fairly rapidly (in about 1 second in good light with easy subjects) and represented a considerable improvement over previous AF systems, but is no match for today's AF SLRs. Later in '85, Minolta announced the die-cast metal-bodied Maxxum 9000 aimed at serious amateurs and pros, with more advanced features, including spot metering and a 1/4000 sec top shutter speed.

Despite being a landmark camera that changed the course of photographic history, the Maxxum 7000 is readily available at modest cost on the used camera market, because AF SLRs are sold on the basis of technology rather than intrinsic value. A Maxxum 7000 would certainly make a nice user collectible, and it will accept all Minolta AF (A-series) lenses, of which there are legions on the used market. The 7000 with a 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.7 Minolta lens sells for about $150-$200; the Maxxum 9000, about $50 more.

7) Kodak Super Six-20--1938

The world's first series-production autoexposure (AE) still camera, the Super Six-20 was nearly 20 years ahead of its time, but it nevertheless exerted a profound influence on camera makers as a technological benchmark. With advances in electronics and metering technology, the concept of autoexposure took the photographic world by storm after World War II, and was ultimately developed into today's sophisticated, through the lens, multi-pattern, multimode autoexposure systems. Understandably, Kodak introduced the Super Six-20 with considerable fanfare at the then staggering price of $225 (about half the price of a new 1938 Ford).

A strikingly handsome folding rollfilm camera of futuristic post-deco clamshell design, it produced eight 21/4x31/4 images per roll of 620 film and featured a front-cell-focusing Tessar-formula 100mm f/3.5 Kodak Anastigmat Special lens plus a giant 33/4x3/4" selenium cell under a metal "awning" just below the rangefinder and separate viewfinder. On the left side of the front standard, there's a manual-override aperture scale calibrated from f/3.5 to f/22. Set it to the unmarked "automatic" setting past the f/22 mark and you can see a little comb-toothed bar. As you press the right-hand shutter-release slide inward, a moving needle (which is coupled to the three-bladed iris diaphragm) becomes trapped between the teeth on the bar. Thus, Kodak originated the trapped-needle system of automatic aperture control that was used (in refined form) on many later shutter-priority AE cameras.

This system had its limitations: It was based on a single film speed (ASA 32); only worked with shutter speeds from 1/25 to 1/200 sec (though the Super Six-20's Kodak-made leaf shutter has speeds down to 1 second); did not do well in dim light; and was no paragon of reliability. Considering its limitations, Kodak's engineers wisely designed a complete range of manual control options into the camera.

The lens, which focuses down to 4 ft, is capable of very sharp results. Fewer than 1000 Super Six-20s had been built when the camera went out of production in '45, and while it was a great image builder that demonstrated Kodak's technological prowess, it was not a great sales success. Today, the Kodak Super Six-20 is a quintessential collectible verging on being a museum piece. Clean, functional examples are seldom offered for sale and are generally priced at $3000 and up.

6) Polaroid 95--1948

The first Polaroid Land Camera and the first commercially successful instant-picture camera that developed the picture inside the camera with no user intervention, the Polaroid 95, brainchild of Dr. Edwin Land and manufactured by the Polaroid Corp. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a sensation when it was announced in 1947 and became (to coin a phrase) an instant success when first offered for sale in '48. Described by Minicam magazine (predecessor of Modern Photography) as "a four-pound grandfather Kodak with a russet covering," it was a robust, beautifully made, brown leather-covered folding camera providing eight 31/4x41/4 "pictures in a minute" per roll using the patented diffusion transfer process.

After loading the film and pulling out a paper leader to position the first frame, you took the picture, then pulled the paper leader again to draw the exposed negative along with the print paper through the rollers. This burst a pod of viscous processing agent (combined developer and fixer) and spread it evenly between the two strips, developing the negative image. The unused silver salts, made soluble by the fixer, diffused into the receiving layer of the print paper, where they were reduced to silver. The whole process took one minute, and at the end, you opened a flap at the back of the camera and peeled the deckled-edge, sepia-colored print away from the negative strip, which was discarded. In '50, a new orthochromatic black and white Polaroid film with more neutral tones replaced the earlier brownish material, but it required a protective coating after removal from a camera, so an applicator with neutralizing lacquer was furnished with each roll.

The Polaroid 95 was so successful that it remained in production with only minor changes until '61. All models feature heavy cast-aluminum construction and folding bed. The original Polaroid 95 ('48-'53) has a 135mm triplet lens with apertures from f/11 to f/45 and shutter speeds from 1/8 to 1/160 sec, both controlled by a single dial calibrated in Polaroid's own light-value system (1-8).

The phenomenal success of the Polaroid 95 made Polaroid a household name and a legendary stock market phenomenon and paved the way for what became the world's most successful film-based system of instant-picture photography. This led to such notable achievements as the pro-caliber Polaroid 110 series, the Polaroid 100 series based on the peel-apart Polacolor film pack, and the remarkable SX-70, a folding SLR that ejects full-color prints that develop in daylight. The original Polaroid 95 was produced in large numbers and is a readily available, though now filmless, classic that sells for around $100 among collectors.

The Top 20 Cameras Of All-Time
20) Kodak Instamatic 100 - 1963 10) Leica M3--1954
19) Reflex-Korelle - 1935 9) Konica C35AF--1979
18) Hansa Canon - 1935 8) Minolta Maxxum 7000--1985
17) Rolleiflex Automat - 1936 7) Kodak Super Six-20--1938
16) Zeiss Contax II - 1936 6) Polaroid 95--1948
15) Asahiflex IIB--1954 5) ?????
14) Sony Mavica--1981 4) ?????
13) Contax S--1949 3) ?????
12) Hasselblad 1600F--1948 2) ?????
11) Rolleiflex (Original Model)--1929 1) ?????
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