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Random talk

Give it all to me, baby
Give it all to me, baby

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.

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Walking your Leica II

I'm sexy and I know it
I’m sexy and I know it

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.

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Porrostuff

Nice
Nice

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.

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Central shutter X-travaganza: Zenit fourfivesix

Yes, the filter thread is bent. Geez, will you always see only the bad side of everything?
Yes, the filter thread is bent. Geez, will you always see only the bad side of everything?

You know, in the 1960’s central shutter 35mm SLRs were the rage. Big camera makers, specially German but also Japanese, incorporated them into their offer as a cheaper option for those who wanted to see what they were shooting through a lens. This means they aimed them at amateurs, universally. Those camera systems were pretty limited if compared to the pro focal-plane shutter systems: most models were fixed lens cameras, specially the Japanese, so if you wanted to shoot a different focal length than that of the native lens you had to use an optical adapter, similar to that crap used in the cell phones nowadays when them hipsters want to shoot ‘fisheye’ or ‘tele lens’. The adapters did the job, but optical quality was quite meh. Kodak’s approach to this tech was a system with three optical elements built in camera with a bayonet for objectives that could contain one or more elements for different focal lenses. Anyway, the range of focal lengths was quite poor.

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Baron I, exposed!

My first camera. Mine!

Let’s play a game. What is Baron I’s favorite thing to write about? If you said cameras, you’re wrong: as much as I love boasting about my cameras, Baron I’s favorite subject is Baron I. We’re going to leave Zenits aside for a minute and talk about how all this madness began.

First of all, you should know that Baron I has a secret personality. Much like Superman, I was born Baron I and I’m Baron I most of the time, but I conceal my camera superpowers below a much less awe-inspiring facade, just for not having to deal with nubile female groupies all the time. Let’s call this persona “Citizen I”. I must confess that sometimes I enjoy leaving my blue blood at home and mixing with the common rabble as Citizen I. Even though, my inherent, sheer, aristocratic aura spills out of me all day long, so it’s a struggle.

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Shiny seventies

Eeeew. But I like it. I need help.

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.

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Zenitology: lost chapters

Yes, you're cute
Yes, you’re cute

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.  

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3M, the ¿evolution? of the Zenit line

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.

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Now that we’re talking bout black Kievs…

sinarp+symmar+5-5-2015001

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.

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The Leica led to the FED, the FED led to the Zorki…

fghfghfghfghfhfh

…and the Zorki led to the Dark Side. Or to the Zenit, which is the same thing for all of us who own one.

We were saying in the last article about Zenits that they basically came from the Leica. Let’s see how.

In the 1930s imports in the Soviet Union were scarce and the official economic doctrine put great emphasis on autarchy, so the great plan of the commies became to produce everything at home… by breaking any patent laws if necessary. Many implements of Soviet manufacture, especially consumer goods were close copies of Western models, and cameras were no exception. Well, as close as the Soviet production model, which clearly didn’t favor quality, allowed.

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