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.
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.
What you see above is a Contax G1 camera body. Well, more exactly, this is the part in which you can verify that it was made in Japan by Kyocera, which, if you didn’t know, at the time when this camera was released was known in the West for making copying machines. The system was a flop. Not because the cameras and the lenses were bad: they weren’t. In fact, the lenses are on par with Leica, which is to say that they’re as good as a photographic lens can be. They failed because there was no market for such a product. Them guys at Kyocera failed to understand why they would totally fail at selling “Contax” cameras made in Japan.
You know, when Oscar Barnack, the all-maker, gave the first Leica to us, he had a very specific idea of what he wanted to achieve: he wanted to give us a camera that was small enough to fit in your pocket and light enough to carry it on a sunday hike. That is, of course, the official story by Leitz, first owner of the Leica brand, and as storytelling goes, it is probably bullshit. More or less. Because you can’t trust someone who’s trying to sell you something. Except for me, the most honorable of merchants. You can trust me head-on because I love you more than I love my business. I like this creation myth though; just in the sense that it is so stereotypically German that it is almost hilarious. I see the eyes of Doktor B wide open in a closeup, the plane slowly travelling out and showing a demented grin: “Eureka! I vill kreate a kamera für zee hikers!”; all this in b&w 1930’s cinema film. Just sublime.
Why do I distrust the hiking camera myth? My two cents: too politically correct in its context to be true. Because, let’s admit it: if you build cameras, or cars, or battleships, your primary goal is selling them and everything else you’re going to add to this is just marketing.Baron I, is an exception to that, of course.
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.
It looks like Baron I, as enthusiastic as he was about telling you everything about the Zenit 3M, missed one key link in the Zenit ¿evolutionary? line.
For, behold, here’s the Zenit 3, without an M, only 3. I simply assume that the Zenit C, being nothing else than the original Zenit with a flash synch socket (hence the C, which is cyryllic for ‘s’, which in turn stands for synchronised), is the Zenit mark 2, since, AFAIK, there is, officially, no Zenit 2, not even at blueprint stage.
Yes, back to Zenitology it is. I’ve been doing some assignments with my alloy digital camera in the last weeks so I haven’t had much time to shoot something classic and classy like this Zenit 3M. I didn’t plan on doing Zenitology today but when I went to my studio and almost casually picked this Zenit 3M its sensuality numbed my reasoning. As if I ever had much of it.
While I was touching it, caressing it, feeling it against my face… yes, we left-eyed folks are just so lucky that we must push the camera with our whole face in order to get our good eye actually see something through the viewfinder. I mean, while I was doing all this, the urge to shoot something analog and chrome and SLR came to me. Hi, my name is Baron I, and I am a cameraholic.
Now that I am complaining about trends, I can tell you something else that pisses me off besides gear reviewers calling us idiots for looking at their work.
Now there are those who say that gear doesn’t matter, that you can take perfect pictures without a Leica or five grand lens.
In fact, this trend goes back many years ago. There is an urban legend about photojournalist Ernst Haas saying ‘Leica, schmeica, the camera doesn’t make a difference’ to a couple of leicaphiles trying to coax a statement about Leica being inherently superior to other brands from him. This is still the trend this days. Both things, I mean: leicaphiles and leica-schmeicas.
There are some guys who are even more shameless than Baron I, by veiledly asking for free samples for reviews. Baron I is true and asks directly: buy me a Leica MP and make me happy. No subliminal trickery here: Baron I is so much alpha that he goes superliminal: buy it to me.
This above is the Leica-à-la-carte of my dreams: an MP, glossy black paint, because black is the new chrome; and vulkanite cover, because vulkanite is eternal. Well, not that eternal, but truer to the original. Oh, black paint, you age so gently.
I mean, why all those guys, who make sure that you have who make MONEY by being sure that you have access to all the specs of any given camera call you an idiot for wanting to know? Isn’t that stupid? I mean, calling your readers, those who ultimately are to blame for you being paid, idiots for caring about the info you give is the most idiotic, stupid, suicide move you can do.