The Soviet camera industry didn’t copy too many american designs. Most of the time they designed cameras based on German and Japanese concepts; They were not fools: German and Japanese stuff are as good as it gets when you talk about cameras.
The Moment is a strange beast in the Soviet camera world. It is to the Polaroid 95 what the Kiev 6C was to the Pentacon Six: a model very much inspired in the original, so much that it couldn’t be sold in the West because of flagrant patent infringement. It wasn’t an exact copy and there are a few different details, but the Soviet Pola has Land genes in it. The insides are pretty much the same, as the instant photography system was copied exactly, but there are many different things.
I normally visit antiques shops looking for cameras; you never know what you fill find there. There’s quite a few quality levels when we’re talking antique shops and that one was more an indoors junkyard than a shop; these are the kind of shops I normally like, but hell, all that stuff looked like it had been dug up from a dump.
The ‘camera section’ was a glass cupboard filled with trashed brownies, 8mm cameras, some rusty SLRs and three or four folding 6x9s. When I took a close look I could not believe what I saw: an Argos. The salesman was a royal pain in the ass: he had the theory that folders are worth at least fifty bucks cause people like them as paperweights. To be honest, it was my bad: if you are before a dishonest salesman and you take interest in something, he will double the price. Fifty bucks paperweights. Man, tell me where this kind of customers are, because it they’re paying this for a paperweight they would give a million for a Leica.
Here it is. Look at it, for this is the camera that definively made Leica… an underdog in the selling charts. Who’s to blame? Junior. Ludwig Leitz, Ernst Leitz’s son, was really full of himself In Junior’s eyes, ‘flex’ cameras were a trend that wouldn’t last: real men shot rangefinders. Now it’s not the fifties anymore, and we know what happened next. The Leicaflex shows the strong bias towards rangefinders in Wetzlar: they tried to design a SLR that was as little a common-lore-reflex as it could be.
In may ways, it reminds me of the first Contax I: a gorgeous camera with innovative features, just the wrong innovative features. But at least Zeiss made the wonderful Contax II immediately, so…
Besides, guys at Wetzlar failed to implement features that were common at the time, like TTL measuring or interchangeable prisms. If you are one of those who still say that this was made to prevent dust from entering the viewfinder, you are a fool with capital F. Had those people known what they were doing, they would have used interchangeable prisms, or at least a prism wouldn’t be fogged by its own natural glue over time.
If I tell you I have a nice camera made in China you will say ‘so what’. Yes, now everything is made in the Unpopular Republic of China by workers paid peanuts while factories keep closing in the West. For the powers that be it’s win-win. For 99.9999% people in this wretched world, it’s a disaster of biblical proportion. Before 2000 the made in China label carried an aura of exoticism, as it was almost unknown here in the West. Back in the day, made in China was so freakin cool.
We can finally announce that we have gone online with our own store. Finally Camera Store Barcelona is its own man in the Internets. We will keep our presence in ebay, and I will try to mislead you to our ebay store as often as ever, but now we also have our own thing. Migrating our store has been a lot of effort, but the sight of so much leather & chrome really eased it all a lot.
Of course, I’m inviting you to check our new store out, here at our site. And I’m just inviting you, which is quite mild, because my lawyers told me that installing a plugin that went apeshit and spamming pop-ups would have undesired legal consequences. The consequences will never be the same, said a philosopher. Yes, we are proof that rehab from 4chan works in some cases.
On the serious side now, as you can see, we’ve gone nuts and are offering insane discounts, up to 30 to celebrate we’re in the ‘nets. From now to the 19th, If you want to go and steal a shiny, shiny chromed gizmo from us, now it’s your chance.
We haven’t seen any official announcement, which, on the other hand is quite normal for Chinese (AKA from the country without law) enterprises, but we can now surely say that the Shanghai GP3 120 film isn’t being made anymore. For a year and a half prices have been skyrocketing in the evilbay and other gray market sites to insane amounts, and finally, even the most obnoxious offers have ceased. Sold out. Sould out and not made anymore. The auction you see above is from an ebay post. They sold the last three rolls for 111 US dollars. This makes every roll 37 George Washingtons, which is in-fucking-sane. And even more if you take into account that this was notorious for being the cheapest 120 film around, both label and quality wise. And I loved it, GODDAMIT. This is a twilight moment for the Baron. Everything I love goes. Don’t get me to like you: the Cosmos will kill you just to piss me off.
If there were analog cameras that truly were another breed were the Polaroids. The reasons that they were totally different beasts from the far more common 35mm and medium format cameras lies in the much larger area that the polaroid had to expose; you see, for all effects, the Polas were large format cameras only that its negative (because all Polaroid film involved a negative, and the really clever ones didn’t show it to you) was used only once on a single contact print.
The fact that they were dumbified large format cameras amazes me. Dr. Land, the designer of all Polaroid cameras very much followed the path set up by designers of 6×9 folders that were the rage until the popularisation of the 35mm cinefilm format in the early 1930’s by Leica. If you take a look at the first Polas from the 1950’s, the similarities are obvious. The folding served more purposes than just coolness: it was intended for portability. See, the exposure area being larger meant that the focal distance of the lenses involved had to be in proportion; this made for very large cameras, and here’s where the folding shines: it could be collapsed into the body when not in use and it was much lighter than any other alternative. With time, the designs were more and more simplified in order to cut costs and being able to sell the cameras for cheaper. What you see above, the Type 80, was an involution on the concept: it simply got rid of the bellows and changed it for rigid thermoplastic integrated into the film compartment; with setting operable from the both the body and the fixed lensboard.
Today you gonna read me delve even deeper into madness and talk Russian lenses. Shall we? Ok, now. Once the bug has bitten you and you have the old glass flu, russky lenses are so conspicuously there that you can’t ignore them. Many despise old Soviet glass out of plain prejudice: because it’s a product of the commie economy. Which sure had its issues, but we are talking glass & helicoids now.
For all of those who talk crap on Soviet lenses without knowing shit: you should know that when most Soviet lenses first hit the (very controlled commie countries’ only) market in the 1950s, they were on par with its Western counterparts (I won’t say ‘competition’ because they didn’t share markets), both mechanically and optically. Take into account that many optical legends like the Biotar, the Macro-Switar, the Zoomar, the Angeniéux Rètrofocus, the first Summicron… were mass marketed for the first time in the 50’s.
Once I saw post in a forum in which some chap asked whether he should buy old glass (actually he mentioned a few models like Pancolar, Super-Takumar, etc.) or stick to the zoom kit lens he got with his brand new DSLR. And you know, opinions are like asses: everybody’s got one; there were all kinds of answers, but one fella made me smile telling the guy that both all those classic lenses and newer ones were better at taking pictures than we are photographers. That is and isn’t true.
To be fair, lenses formulated in and after the 1980’s beat hands down older lenses at key aspects like flare, contrast and resolving power. Coating tech may not look so glamourous as optical design, but the revolution came from there.
Medium format SLRs for non-specialised use are a totally different breed than 35mm cameras. The current shape of the 35mm SLRs were defined between the 1930s and the early ‘50s, and the most critically influential design is, without the shadow of a doubt, the Kine Exakta. What we identify as an SLR today is, almost without exception, a scion of the Exakta. The other is the Contax S, which ported the concept of the Kine Exakta into the Contax rangefinder body, which was inherently superior, plus, they added the pentaprism, without which most of us don’t understand an SLR. For medium format cameras, designers followed different strategies.
The main influencer in medium format SLR design is the Hassy. The original Hasselblad is allegedly based on a German aerial camera. Should we trust their founding myth, and you know what do I think about founding myths, it is a military tool adapted for everyday use, which is creepy enough.