Not long ago, I read an article in papermag.com in which David LaChapelle interviewed Steve Sasson, the creator of the first digital camera. I mean, serious business here. There’s a lot of myh on the invention of the digital camera, I mean, that of Kodak locking Sasson in a closet and the evil board of directors hiding the blueprints of the gizmo at the bottom of a safe so that tech breakthrough didn’t ever see the light of day. That isn’t accurate. It’s true that Kodak failed at making the transition from basically a chemical company into a digital imaging one, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try. In fact they were making zillions out of licensing the digital camera patent to third parties, sometimes even mounting Kodak sensors onto their camera models. If Kodak didn’t want to make a profit out of this patent, we wouldn’t have seen our first digital camera until 2005, when the original US patent expired. They wanted to sell digital cameras, but, much like Xerox in the 80’s, they failed to translate the fact that they had all the relevant patents into a position of total market dominance. They tried. And failed.
Ah! Another strange beast. Not because its rarity; in fact, it’s quite a common camera, but take a look at it. How on earth did them people at Olympus manage to put a reflex camera into this tiny compact body. Well I guess that the vertical half-frame (18x24mm) helped, but still… No, it’s a joke, I know everything about cameras: the magic trick here is a double porroprism, which in my language sounds quite funny. Porroprism rigs are potentially much smaller than pentaprisms, which allowed them guys at Olympus to build an SLR camera that was smaller than a 35mm rangefinder.
Main drawback: the image will be dim as hell, but hey, it’s so small.
One curious thing about this camera is that I’ve heard that long since now, in the era of the all-analog film making the Olympus PEN FT was highly coveted by still photography pros in the movie sets, as it offered the chance to shoot stills with frame ratio similar to that of cinema cameras. Now, with the digital age being irreversible both in photography and film making, it’s no more than a curiosity… But hey, it’s shiny and chrome, and you and me know that the gods of photography favor those who shoot with style.
Aaaaaaand, yes, I always have one or two in my store cause they’re so cool, so now you know where to buy one.
See what an adapter can do? Of course focus is a little tricky cause this lens, the ‘FED Summar’ was collimated specially for its native body, which, I will totally casually add, is for sale in my store, bundled with the lens.
It’s a pleasant lens to use anyway, if you can endure the inconvenience of the focussing lever and the flare wide-open.
Someone once said that adapters were the most disruptive gadget in the camera industry: ten bucks and you can bypass the schemes of first brands. Of course, first brands don’t make them because they want you to use their lenses. Besides, it would be bad marketing for them to advertise that one of the advantages of your system is that you can use glass from competitors.
Sniff, sniff, something’s rotten in filmland, people. The last few years have seen an acute decrease in price of used medium format camera gear, specially pro medium format stuff. The only MF cameras that still fetch a big moolah tag are those specifically intended for amateur use, and even those are pretty cheap compared with what they used to be. Digital has finally killed 120 film in the pro area. Not only digital backs for medium format systems are cheaper and better, but there are also non modular cameras with ENORMOUS image sensors like the Leica S series, capable of taking huge images. Also, smaller full frame digital sensors are becoming better and better. Pro photogs are not like us, boys and girls, but mostly boys, errr… Ok, from the beginning. I was saying that, unlike amateurs, who like shiny and chrome and complicated, pros like matte black and easy.
Let’s leave Zenits apart a little bit now and talk about another immense, glorious, immortal, victory of the USSR in the consumer goods field: the Kiev SLRs. Well, the first generation of them. It is not that the second generation wasn’t an immense, glorious and immortal victory, but I have two hands only, so I can only bash one generation of Soviet victories at a time.
If you think Zenits are not a nadir of design, here above is a Kiev 15. You can call it whatever you want, I call it butt ugly. But I kinda love ugly cameras, you know.
Look at this. Just LOOK AT THIS. No? Nothing special? Look twice. It might look like a Leica II with a Leitz Summar but it is not. This, boys and girls, is a FED S with a 5cm f2 “FED Summar” collapsible lens attached.
Why is it special, you say? Well, first of all, less than 2000 (yes, two-thousand) samples of this camera were ever made, and not all of them were supplied with the “FED Summar” lens. Add to this that this was produced in 1940, before WWII spread to the Soviet Union, so we can assume that at least some of them were lost during the war; plus, it’s 75 years since it was made… in short: it is a very exclusive item.
There are things I will always love about the US. For example, when they have to demolish something big instead of doing the sensible thing they stick a big chunk of dynamite on it and blow it up. I love those chaps. That’s what happened with Kodak’s oldest film facility a few days ago, it was mid-july and them lucky guys at Rochester NY, the holy city of Kodak, were lucky enough to have a second Independence Day fireworks display, with some delay. Boom went the dynamite and with it more than 90 years of filmmaking industry crumbled unelegantly. This was very indicative of the current state of affairs in Kodak nowadays.
Yes, I’m going to bash Kodak. About the title: I didn’t mean the ‘I will love you forever’ kind of special, rather the below 70IQ kind of special.
No, I didn’t go crazy, and no, I don’t sell them in my store (but I sell many other cameras, so go there and buy): this is a Lomography Belair.
For those of you who don’t know, the Belair is one of the most original cameras by Austrian company Lomography, who are kicking since the 1990s selling lo-fi analog cameras and expired film at premium prices to people who don’t actually take pictures and want cameras just as props cause they’re cool. Don’t take me wrong, film cameras are cool, especially if you buy them from me, but there’s something in Lomography’s marketing that just makes me throw up.
Now, if you’re going for popcorn expecting Baron I to beat Lomography in this post, save that bag for another day. I will fight this brawl, just valar dohaeris, not today.
Now, now, what do we have here? If you said “evidence that Leica trolls us photogs”, bingo, you’re right. Yes, ladies and gents, this is a Leica Digital Modul R, the meanest, baddest, most cumbersome, method of taking digital images around, and your guess is correct: it’s for sale at you know where. You thought there is a direct link between price and performance in photo gear? It’s Leica: think twice.
Sure, for a six grand release price, you would expect something better than a 10MP crop-image sensor that shows noticeable noise from ISO 400 onwards (it isn’t that there is too far to go at a max of ISO 1600). But hey, you can have it much cheaper now. From me. Yes I want your money. No, do not complain; this is an awful lot of moolah, but it’s collector stuff.
Guess what: I had another one a while ago. Just it wasn’t a rangefinder but a SLR. And bigger. This is important for a photographer. Size matters, and every photographer knows ladies like big. Well, it’s the one above. Yes, this “ARAX” is in fact a modified Kiev 88, which, incidentally is not even remotely related to rangefinder Kievs.
See, the Arsenal factory, the maker of the Kievs in Soviet Ukraine, made a little of everything, from military rifles to photo cameras. But more rifles. OK, you just need to know that all cameras ever made there at the Arsenal factory were called Kiev, regardless of their film format or if they were still or cinema cameras. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, camera production seemed to have completely stopped.