Vintage Cameras

Argus A Series 35mm Camera

The camera that started the 35mm revolution in the United States. Prior to the Argus A, a 35mm camera was an expensive import. Introduced in 1936 by the International Radio Corporation, the Argus A was priced at $12.50, and thousands were sold, making IRC a player in the 35mm camera field. Camera sales were so successful that IRC sold off their radio business and concentrated on camera manufacturing. I found this example in an antique shop in St. George, Utah.

Argus C3 35mm Rangefinder Camera

Known affectionately as "The Brick," the Argus C3 was in production from 1939 through the mid-1960's, replacing the successful A series cameras. It was one of the most successful cameras of all time as over two million were sold during its lifetime. My dad had one of these in the early 1950's. I found this example at a flea market for $8.00.

Agfa Silette 35mm Camera

This was my first 35mm camera. I got it for my fourteenth birthday in 1957. It is a 35mm camera with optical viewfinder. I added the accessory rangefinder.

Futura-S 35mm Rangefinder Camera

The Futura-S was a well-made rangefinder 35mm camera made in Germany from about 1950 to 1955. This one belonged to my son-in-law's father.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super BC or S "S-Matic"

My daughter found this Contaflex at an estate sale and purchased it for me. My dad had a Contax RF camera, but I am not familiar with the Contaflex cameras. Based on my online search, I believe this to be one of the last Contaflex models, either a Super BC or S S-matic, which featured a shutter priority automatic mode.

The Contaflex line was introduced in 1953 and continued until 1968. This model featured a Synchro-Compur X shutter and Tessar f/2.8 50mm lens, in addition to CdS TTL exposure.

Kodak Retinette 1A 35mm Rangefinder Camera

Made by the German division of Kodak, the Retinette was produced from 1959 to 1966. It used a Compur shutter, similar to the one shown on the Agfa above. This one belonged to my sister, who probably picked it up used in Germany in the 1970's.

Nikkorex F 35mm SLR

My second camera, after the Agfa Silette, and my first Nikon camera, which I purchased used in 1971. A heavy, solid camera, it was strictly mechanical, not even a battery to replace. An accessory light meter was available, which mounted over the front finder in the foot attached to the front of the camera. I used the Nikkorex F until 1982, when I traded it in on a used Nikon F. Shown with a Nikkor non-AI f/3.5 43-86mm zoom, sometimes called the worst Nikon lens ever made. Even so, the lens was a good seller and popularized the mid-range zooms so common as kit lenses today. The AI versions were much improved.

Nikon F 35mm Professional SLR

This was Nikon's first professional 35mm SLR. Nikon rangefinder cameras and lenses were already well known, having been discovered by American journalists during the Korean War. The Nikon F body was very similar to the rangefinder bodies. However, a new lens mount, the F mount, was designed for this camera, and is still in use today. Almost all Nikon lenses made since 1959 can be mounted on most Nikon professional SLR and DSLR bodies with the F mount. I've had this F since about 1982, and although I don't use it anymore as the finder is too dim for my eyes now, I love the feel of the camera and its shutter. This example has the eye-level finder attached, and I also have the Photomic FTn and waist level finders for it.

Nikkormat 35mm SLR

The Nikkormat was a lower cost camera targeted to consumers and amateur photographers who couldn't afford or didn't need Nikon's professional bodies. Nikkormats were produced from 1965 to 1978. I did not have a Nikkormat then, but did use a Nikkorex through the decade of the 1970's. I traded it in 1982 for the Nikon F, above, and did not have a picture of it. I have purchased a couple used Nikkormats since then, one for my daughter, about twenty-five years ago, and this one I found a couple years ago at a flea market.

Nikon FE with MD-15 Motor Winder

The FE was introduced in 1978 as the second compact Nikon, following the FM of 1977. The FE was an electronic camera that operated on batteries, offered Aperture Priority operation, and interchangeable finder screens. This FE belonged to my mother. The shutter/film advance doesn't work reliably, but it works fine with my MD-12 winder attached.

Nikon F3 Professional 35mm SLR

Considered by many to be Nikon's best professional camera, the F3 was so in demand that in remained in production until 2002, long after the introduction of the F4 and F5. Very similar to the FE, it featured an Aperture Priority mode, and a stepless electronic shutter. Several interchangeable finders were offered. I bought this one used to replace my FM that I gave to my grandson when he was taking a photography class in college.

Zenit 35mm SLR

The Zenit TTL was a Russian made camera produced from 1977 to 1985. The build quality is impressive. It features TTL metering. The camera itself is big, built like a tank, and weighs a ton. I found this one at a flea market for $7.00. I have never used it, so I don't know how well it performs.

Nikon F4 Professional 35mm SLR

It seems strange to list the F4 as a vintage camera, but it has become a classic, and is now nearly thirty years old as of 2017, having been introduced in 1988. I purchased mine as a refurbished body in 1998. At the time I was shooting model railroad images for publication, before digital submissions were permitted, and I needed the 100% viewfinder. I also used it extensively for landscape photography when we were doing shows.

It was retired in 2006 when I purchased a Nikon D1 digital body. It is my favorite camera for shooting, and I wish Nikon could make a professional digital version of the F4. The Fuji X100 and X-Pro1 I now use most often come closest. The pro Nikons, like my current D2X, are just too big and heavy to lug around unless I specifically need a DSLR.

Kodak Junior Six-20 Camera

The Kodak Junior Six-20 camera was marketed from 1932 to 1935 to customers who wanted more than a simple Brownie box camera. It featured very attractive Art Deco styling, but this base model, shown here, wasn't much of a performer. One of the first cameras to use 620 film, the camera featured a f/11 lens and shutter speeds up to 1/100s, and a No. 0 Kodon shutter. Fancier models had faster lenses and Compur shutters. The base model cost $10.00 in 1933, the equivalent of $480 today. This camera was given to me.

Foldex 20 120 Camera

The Foldex 20 was an American camera manufactured in the early 1950's. It used 120 film. This one belonged to an uncle.

Kodak 3A Pocket Folding Camera

The name is a misnomer. The camera is huge and will not fit in a large coat pocket, much less a shirt pocket. The 3A was Kodak's first camera to use film that produced postcard sized images. Kodak designed 122 roll film specifically for this camera.

Compared to most consumer cameras of the era, the Kodak 3A was a much more complex camera. It was manually focused, and it had an adjustable lens with approximate stops from f/8 to f/45. Shutter speed could be adjusted from 1/25 second to 1 second, with an Instantaneous setting of 1/100 second for handheld snapshots, plus T and B settings.

The camera was first sold in 1903. A number of improvements were made over the years, and the camera continued in production until 1943. My great-grandfather used a Kodak 3A to take photographs on a cross country tour in a Model T Ford in 1920. His images are published in a book, Across America in Our Model T, available at

Rolleiflex 4x4 Baby Grey

This grey "Baby" Rolleiflex is another camera that belonged to my mother. The Baby Rolleiflex was introduced in 1957 and used 127 film. The mounted 4x4cm slides were the same frame size as 35mm slides, and became very popular as "super slides." This camera was my mother's second Baby Rolleiflex. Her first one was lost in a rafting accident on the Tanana River in Alaska, which almost cost my parent's their lives as well.

Univex AF-5 Minicam

No, AF doesn't stand for autofocus, although the fixed lens required no adjustment. Another camera that belonged to my mother, the 1938 Univex AF-5 was the last in a line of Univex cameras that were extremely popular, selling over a million during the Depression. Marketed as a less expensive alternative the Kodak Vest Pocket camera, the Univex camera used proprietary UniveX 00 film. This camera still has its original box and owner's manual.

Kodak Brownie Model 2A

The Kodak Brownie 2A was in production from 1907 to 1936. It used 116 film, and over two million were sold. The handle is missing on this example; otherwise, I don't know much else about it. I found it in a thrift store.

Kodak Cartridge Hawk-Eye Model C

The Cartridge Hawk-Eye Model C was in production from 1926 to 1934. The Model C used 120 film, and had a fixed lens. The Model C is actually smaller than the Brownie 2A above, but it appears they may have shared some parts in common. Hawk-Eye cameras were first made by the Boston Camera Company. Eastman Kodak acquired the brand in 1899. This example came from a consignment store.

Antique Contact Printer

I found this very beautifully made brass and wood contact printer in an antique store in La Mesa, California. I rewired it internally with period correct reproduction cloth covered wire, along with a new power cord and vintage style AC plug. The original momentary contact switch was broken beyond repair, so I had to replace it with a similar, but modern switch. It uses two light bulbs and has a built-in safe-light. The platen can accept negatives up to 5x7 inches.

Vintage Light Meters

Left to right, a Weston Model 348, a Metraphot 3, and a Brockway branded Sekonic Studio Model S. Before auto exposure, you either used your experience or the Sunny 16 rule to set exposure, or used the exposure guide printed on the inside of the film box, or a handheld meter, such as the three shown here.

The Weston 348 was Weston's only CdS meter and dates to the mid-1960's. Weston meters date to 1932, and were probably the first modern light meters available. All their meters are highly regarded, and would probably still be in use if batteries were available for them.

The Metraphot 3 used selenium cell technology, and could also be purchased calibrated for Leica shutter speeds. The Metraphot was tiny compared to other meters, such as the Westons or Brockways. The Metraphot was designed to mount on the camera's accessory shoe, but also came with a cover that slipped over the selenium cell so that the meter could be used for incident light readings. The Metraphot dates from the early 1950's. I used this one on my Agfa Silette.

The Brockway meter has an interesting history. It was strictly an incident meter using selenium cell technology. Brockway Camera was an inmport company that had imported Bolex movie cameras, and acquired the rights to the Norwood Director, a light meter developed by Donald Norwood and Karl Freund, a cinematographer. According to James Ollinger, Ollinger's Light Meter Collection, Freund filmed such classics at Metropolis and Dracula, and developed the three camera technique used for the I Love Lucy television show. The Norwood Director was unique. It had a hemispherical dome over the selenium cell, and the upper part of the meter over the dome could be rotated. Brockway acquired the rights to the meter in the late 1940's and marketed it as the Brockway. The meter was eventually sold or licensed to Sekonic, where it became the Sekonic Studio Model S, until discontinued in the 1970's.