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.
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.
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.
And finally came the first Zenit. Zenit = Russian for zenith. Zenith = directly above from you. Well, well, what are you, Soviet Union, trying to tell me here?
Serious now. Yes, I know what you guys are thinking: it looks like a Leica II with a pentaprism on it. God, you’re sharp. See, I don’t know why, maybe it’s because copying has stuck so hard on Russian culture since the good ol’days of the Soviet Union, but all descriptions of an old Zenit in evilbay auctions look very much the same. Try to google this sentence: “the simplest approach was taken”, and you will find a zillion pages speaking about the first Zenit. All those people are literally and shamelessly copying from a JL Princelle, a prophet of sorts, of whom someday we will talk here…