I have an extensive film camera collection, and sometimes I like to look at them and see how designs have changed over the years. It’s strange to have my black ultra-modern Nikon D7100 digital camera right next to a 77 year old box camera, but it puts things into perspective. I don’t use them anywhere near as much as I’d like to, but I will…one day…
I apologise in advance because this is a slightly indulgent entry where I post photos of some of my old cameras; my current favourites, in fact. I’d like to think that even if you’re not interested in cameras, you might just appreciate the aesthetics of them.
I love this camera! It radiates precision engineering. It’s an Exakta Varex VX 35mm camera, produced between 1951 and 1956 by Lhagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen Co. Dresden, in the former East Germany. This is one serious fellow! It’s very heavy, and features an interchangeable viewfinder, a built-in razor for cutting film mid-roll, and a curious left-handed film winder and shutter button. It’s beautiful but actually not very intuitive or easy to use.
Here’s another serious looking chap. This is the famous Argus C3 camera, produced by Argus USA, between 1939 and 1957. Lovingly called The Brick, Argus made these C series rangefinder cameras in the millions over a number of years, and they introduced 35mm photography to many many people worldwide. Even today, it’s possible to find cameras like this in almost mint condition. Mine arrived with the original box, receipt, flash bulbs, filters, leather case, and old musty smell.
It has a great Steampunk look that I really like, but it wasn’t nicknamed The Brick for nothing! This has to be one of the worst cameras to hold ever! The bakelite body is heavy, the square edges dig into the flesh, and the viewfinder is so tiny you almost have to squint to see anything. Even so, it’s an important part of camera history, and is one of my favourites.
Trivia: I saw Columbo use one of these in an early 1970s TV episode. It did look like he was holding a brick!
I’m not even sure I need to introduce this one. This is one of the famous Kodak Brownie box cameras. Kodak produced them in huge numbers and sold millions around the world. They were responsible for making film photography accessible to the masses. In fact, the Brownie name has an 80 year history, beginning in 1900!
The box camera is one of my favourite types of cameras actually. In it, the spirit of photography is contained. We are presented with a box to hold the film, a hole to see through, a hole to let in the light, and a lever to open and close the hole. That is the very essence of photography!
I fully intend to carry this bad boy around with me on holiday. The kids will think I’m carrying a tiny briefcase! The fact that I can barely see anything other than light and indistinct shapes through the vintage eye hole makes it all the more appealing.
Ahhh…the lovely all plastic Diana camera. You know, the lomography nuts go crazy for these nowadays. In fact, the Lomography company (a very clever marketing gimmick to sell plastic cameras to hipsters) have even remade this as the Diana+. Of course, they sell it for a steep price.
The one pictured here is an original from the 1960s, and was made in great numbers by the Great Wall Plastic company in China. Indeed, there were even plenty of Diana clones made with different names.
The appeal, you ask? It’s all plastic and was never even considered particularly special in its day. I’d suggest that the so-called Lomography movement (plastic cameras sold at high prices, genius marketing, bad photography, blurry snapshots) has fairly contributed to the current popularity of the Diana. After all, they were not originally made to be great cameras; merely to sell for profit to as many people as possible. Now that I think about it, that hasn’t really changed. Lomography is doing exactly the same thing with them now!
Forgetting my cynicism for a moment, the Diana is kinda cute. It might fall apart in your hands, or frustrate you with numerous light leaks that have to be taped over, but there’s a charm to it that goes beyond marketing I think.
I hope this hasn’t been too dull for those of you without much interest in cameras! Thank you for reading. And as always, happy to hear from you if you’d like to comment.