My Personal Camera Collection
Those of you close to me know that I’m a bit of a collector of these odd cameras. I am slowly-but-surely photographing and documenting all of them for my camera gallery. I hope to have all of them listed, and most of them bragged about, over the course of the year. This will hopefully be an ongoing list. I don’t plan to stop collecting old cameras — unless I run out of room.
Zeiss Ikonta 521
Zeiss Ikonta 521 Circa late 1940s
This is the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 521. It’s the first of the Zeiss folders in the 521 lineup, and also the first camera I bought for my collection. It is a folding bellows-style camera that fits squarely in the front pocket of a sport coat. It utilizes 120 film, and shoots a 4.5×6 image (vertically). It has a popup viewfinder that’s fairly accurate, although provides no magnification. It’s a bit cumbersome to shoot, but has some cool features. First, it not only has the shutter release on top, but has an additional release at the front of the lens. Second, while it doesn’t have a counter, it does have a reset indicator that turns red when the shutter release is reset. This is handy. It also has a little badge on the front that flips out to act as a leg for setting the camera upright (landscape shots). I picked the camera up for a few bucks on eBay in 2015. The bellows are good, lens is clean, and overall it’s in great shape for a 60+ year old camera.
This is a Canon F1, built sometime between 1971 and 1976. It came with a 28-80mm kit lens. It was a gift from U.S. Navy Combat Photographer John Collins. This camera is a tank! The split-center focus ring is accurate and easy to use, the dials are easy to read, and it’s got more configurable controls than the International Space Station. This was the grand-daddy to the Canon AE1.
Let me introduce to you the Girlfriend, a.k.a. the Canon 7 Rangefinder. I affectionately call it that because it is the camera I put so much time into. In fact, this is Girlfriend 2.0, as the original got knocked off of a shelf by one of my cats, and died a horrible death. Luckily Roberts Cameras in Indianapolis was able to hook me up with another very nice one that I was able to customize. This camera is circa 1965, and it sports the KMZ Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 lens from the Soviet Union. It’s an amazing lens. An interesting feature of this camera — one that really makes it fun for me — is the meter on the top plate. It’s just 1960s GT racing cool.
Kodak Retinette 1A Type 042
I have so many favorites in my collection that I find myself nostalgic about cameras I bought early on for my collection. I’ve actually managed to take a few photos with this 1961 Kodak Retinette 1A Type 042, and it’s an amazing camera. Kodak of old made some absolutely fantastic glass, and this is no exception. It’s sharp all the way open (although it only goes to f/2.8). An interesting feature of this camera is that the film advance lever is on the bottom of the camera, and believe it or not, it has a very natural feel. The other interesting tidbit is that this camera is completely manual to the extent that you have to focus by judging distance correctly. This is truly an “f/8 and be there” camera.
LOMO Lubitel 166B
The Lubitel 166B wasn’t my first TLR, but it is definitely one of the coolest-looking. I have to admit I have a sweet spot for anything Russian. I grew up in the US during the Cold War so I was taught — in school — that Russians were poor people that stood in line for food and brown shoes, and had no happiness. Once I got into cameras, I found that Russians made some really cool cameras! This is a Twin Lens Reflex camera that has two lenses synchronized. The top lens is what you see, the bottom lens is what exposes the film. This camera was in a recent post of mine about camera repair. The cool thing about this camera is the blue color. It’s an aftermarket job as far as I can tell, but the person responsible did a slick job.
1955 Leica M3
You know I can’t get too far into this list without bringing up the crown jewel, the 1955 Leica M3 Rangefinder. This camera is so sweet. I snatched it up from eBay on a consignment deal for about a tenth the cost of a new M. I actually had my Jupiter 8 attached to it for a few days before I shelled out a couple car notes for the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5. This camera takes unbelievable photos. Sure, it’s mostly the lens, but the camera is so balanced and quiet. It’s solid brass, has a rubberized focal plane shutter, and speeds from B to 1/1000s. I normally shoot it with Kentmere 100 pushed a few stops.
Graflex Speed Graphic Mini 2×3
This beautiful camera showed up on my doorstep sometime around November, 2016, and I was initially perplexed. I hadn’t bought any cameras recently, yet this one had eBay tape sealing the box. I checked eBay and PayPal, but neither showed a purchase. It turns out my dad had wanted me to try a larger format camera, so he hunted around for this one. It is a beast, for sure. It has both leaf and focal-plane shutters, multiple viewfinders, and a coupled rangefinder. The film for it is about the size of a business card, and loading/developing it is a bit cumbersome, but so was everything in the 1940s.
1947 Argus C3
This is my paternal Grandfather’s Argus C3. I had to do a little research on it to get a close date approximation. It’s around a 1947 model. He bought it, and a 1947 GE Light Meter at the same time. I imagine he took some interesting photos with it, most likely slides, but I have none of them at my disposal. The camera is a beast. It weighs a ton, and is a total square, hence the nickname “The Brick”. The most memorable thing about this camera, historically, is that Tony Vaccaro used it to take over 7000 photos of WWII. It still works. It has a split viewfinder, the focusing one being yellow which leads me to believe it was sent in for repair. His model camera originally came with a blue focus window. It’s not a fast lens, f/3.5, but it’s got enough speeds and apertures to capture decent photos. These cameras are a cult classic. You can pick them up all over the interwebs, but I wouldn’t spend more than $20 on one. They’re just too plentiful.
I simply don’t understand the fascination with a process this expensive. It’s about $3.50 per shot to use this camera. I’ve written about it before, so I’ll leave just tidbits here. I put new leather on it a few months ago and cleaned it up. It was also my paternal Grandfather’s camera. Once he got hooked on them, he used them forever. He just really liked them.
This is another one of those spend way too much for crappy shots cameras that I own(ed). I recently sold it. I picked it up for $1 at Thrift City and sold it for $15. I’ll snag another one some day when I’m ready to build a thorough Polaroid collection. This one is a mostly plastic camera, unlike the SX-70. It’s also less portable which makes me wonder why it was even a thing. It is however iconic, pun intended, as it was the original inspiration for the Instagram icon.
Olympus Zoom 105 LT
This interesting little camera was a great buy on eBay. It came with a couple rolls of film and a case for ten bucks. Yeah. It’s got this funky face that screams way too cool for 90s sci-fi and when you switch it on, the chrome lens cover flips down automatically as the lens protrudes electronically. It also has a neat 90s feature, more of a gimmick, where you can flip a switch on the back and make it a panoramic camera. Basically, this just puts black bars on the top and bottom of the frame so you get a skinny picture. The LT in the name stands for “Leather Trim”, but should be called the PT since it’s actually Pleather.
The Holga, invented in Hong Kong in the 1980s, is a medium format, fixed-lens plastic camera. It was intended initially for the Chinese consumer market, but it’s popularity quickly spread to the rest of the world. It is so unique due to it’s cheap build quality and plastic meniscus lens that give the images soft edges, sharp centers and a lot of vignetting. It also, depending on how old the model is, can have light leaks which lend to it’s individuality. It is, by far, one of my favorite cameras.
The Cola Cameras
These are my Coca-Cola themed cameras. I got the one on the left, the clamshell 35mm, at a thrift store back in 2015. It’s your typical promo camera, plastic everything but it does come with a flash and a film counter. The one on the right is another novelty camera shaped like a can of soda. It is from 1998. The lens cover slides open and closed to make it look more like a can of pop than a camera. I’ve considered taking it out in crowds to see what kind of reaction I can get.
The Zorki 4 was my first Rangefinder camera. It’s a Soviet-era camera produced between 1956 and 1973 at the KMZ factory outside Moscow. It was a clone of a Leica. It had this quirky feature — like other cameras of its time — where adjusting the shutter speed had to be done after the film was advanced. If done prior to film advance, the delicate mechanical pins in the shutter mechanism would be bent and the camera rendered inoperative. I know this from experience. The lens on this is the Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 . It’s a Soviet clone of the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2. This particular Jupiter 8 (from 1968) needs rebuilt as it doesn’t focus accurately. I have a 1976 Jupiter-8 on my Canon 7 that is tack sharp.
The Olypmus XA is an aperture priority rangefinder camera. That’s right, rangefinder. The lever on the bottom of the lens adjusts the focus on the 35mm f/2.8 lens. It also has a nifty clamshell cover that protects the lens, and a feather-touch shutter release. It’s also really tiny – smaller than an iPhone 4. They’re pretty popular, but can be picked up on eBay pretty cheap. They have sharp focus and quiet operation, and along with zone focusing make them great cameras for candid street photography.
This camera was a gift from a co-worker. He’d picked it up while in on duty in the military. The Olympus OM-D was Olympus’ first pro series SLR. It’s got mirror lock, auto-exposure, and a beatiful 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens.
Zenza Bronica ETRS
Christmas of 2017 I found myself wanting a really decent medium format camera. I’ve got several toy cameras and even a couple antiques, but I wanted one that was modular. I did some searching and found this beauty, straight from Japan. It’s a circa 1980-82 Zenza Bronica ETRS with the AEII prism. It came with a beautiful 50mm lens, a 120 back, and a speed grip all for half what I paid for my Leica M3 body! It takes beautiful photos in 6×4.5 (think widescreen) format. It’s a heavy beast, but the photos that come out of it are fantastic. I ended up getting a 75mm lens to go with recently from KEH and it’s also in mint condition.
Canon EOS Rebel Ti
The Klasse is currently the point and shoot I carry in my bag. It goes everywhere with me. I recently took it to Lake Erie and Niagra Falls. Out of 3 cameras, it was the only one to consistently work every time I pressed the shutter button. It is an aperture priority camera and allows for zone focusing, although it will also do AE and AF. These cameras are a bit on the steep side, but the lens quality is pretty spot on. I’ve yet to have a camera with a Fujinon lens that doesn’t shoot amazing photos.
From Russia with love, this bakelite and pressed steel beauty is the Smena Symbol. It’s a zone-focus point and shoot camera. It’s lite and feels really plasticky, but it takes really sharp photos. Don’t spend more than $30 on one, though. Those sneaky sellers will try to gouge you for them regularly.
Behold, the AGFA Optima. Hecho en Germany in 1959, this camera was the first auto-exposure 35mm camera available and along with it’s brethren like the Kodak Auto 35 and the Braun Paxette it ushered in a new era in photography. It was (and still is) pretty damn impressive. It was a completely manual camera that utilized a selenium light meter to mechanically control the shutter speed and aperture. This one was a gift from one of the parents of my cub scouts.
In case this is your first time here, my name is Chris and I love plastic toy cameras. I love their cheap injection-molded construction, the meniscus lenses, and the simplicity of operation. The Lomographic Society has really taken this to the next level and they haven’t slouched with the Diana F+.