The Kodak Vollenda 48, made from 1929 to 1937, was originally built by Nagel Kamera-Werke, and then by Kodak AG in Stuttgart, Germany, after 1931. The Kodak Vollenda 48 was a very high quality, tiny half-frame folding camera producing 16 exposures on a roll of 127 film. It was available with a variety of lenses. This example has a Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 50mm f/3.5 lens and Compur shutter with speeds from 1s to 1/300s, plus T and B. Apertures range from f/3.5 to f/16. The lens focusses from 3.5 feet to infinity. This is a very small camera, just 4-1/2" x 3-1/8" x 1-1/4"
I found this one on EBay, and with a little restoration work, it turned out to be a very nice example, except for a broken lens board latch. It appears to be in good mechanical condition otherwise. I cleaned all the bright work with alcohol and Q-tips, and gave the leather covering a fresh coat of black shoe dye and polish. Some of the black paint has worn off the metal trim and viewfinder, but I left that as found.
The Kodak Vollenda is very well made, solid, and the controls work smoothly and with precision. Its US price was $33.50, a real bargain compared to the Leica and Zeiss cameras of the same era that cost hundreds of dollars.
First produced in 1934, the FED 1 is a copy of the Leica II camera. The serial number of this camera, one of the NKVD types, dates it to 1937. Although copies, the FED copies were quite well built. The camera has a heavy, solid feel. I found this camera in a thrift shop in Green Valley, AZ. The rangefinder works, but the shutter does not appear to work on this example, probably because someone unknowingly set the shutter speed before cocking the shutter. The lens is a FED f/3.5 50mm collapsible lens, also a copy of the Leitz Elmar
Produced from 1948 to 1956, the Zorki 1 is a copy of the Leica II camera. The Zorki 1D was introduced in 1953. Zorki 1D and 1E cameras usually had stamped, rather than engraved lettering. This made it easy to create fake Leica II's, complete with fake engraving on the top plate. In the mid-1990's, hundreds of 1953 Zorki 1D's and 1E's (1954-1956) were made into fake Leica cameras, complete with Leica and Leitz lettering. Some, like this example, were engraved with fake German or Nazi "commerative" logos. This one is supposed to be a 1936 Berlin Olympics "commemorative" camera. I've never seen any evidence that Leica issued any commemorative Leica II's, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, unsuspecting tourists to Russia bought these fake Leicas that were sold as supposed captured WWII war booty. This one is complete with an Industar-22 50/3.5 lens rebranded as a Leitz Elmar. The Zorki 1, like the FED above, is actually a pretty well built camera. This one is functional, although desperately in need of a CLA.
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.
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.
Following the not so successful Contax I, Zeiss introduced the Contax II. Competing against Leica, the Contax II was superior in almost every respect, and was quickly embraced by professional photographers everywhere. The most notable feature of the Contax II was the combined rangefinder and viewfinder window, a feature that wouldn't appear on competitors' cameras until after WWII.
Beautifully styled, the Contax II was followed shortly by the Contax III, basically the same camera with a built in light meter. Following WWII, much of the machinery and expertise needed to manufacture the Contax cameras was carted off to Kiev, Ukraine, by the Soviets, where the camera was resurrected as the Kiev (see the Kiev 2 copy below).
This camera is in good working condition, and is equipped with the Carl Zeiss Jena 50/2.0 collapsible lens. Post-war production resumed in Stuttgart, West Germany, with the completely new Contax IIa and Contax IIIa, shown below.
I can't remember if this is the Contax model my father bought and used after his Argus C3. He may have purchased the Contax IIIa. The post-WWII Contax IIa was smaller and lighter than the Contax II. It also offered some improved features over the Contax II, although some consider the IIa to be less robust than the original II. But they are still fine cameras capable of excellent photographs. The lens is a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 made for the Soviet Kiev, a Contax clone.
The Contax IIIa added a light meter to the basic Contax IIa body. After setting the film speed on the rewind knob scale, the ring on the rewind knob could be turned to match the exposure reading to the correct exposure time for the selected lens aperture. Unfortunately, the selenium cells in the Contax IIIa light meters died decades ago, and replacements are no longer available. But they are still fine cameras capable of excellent photographs. A handheld exposure meter can be used if needed.
The Kiev 2 is a Russian clone of the pre-WWII Contax II. I found this copy, fitted with a nice Jupiter-8M lens, on EBay. This camera has had a recent CLA, according to the seller, and I have used it with good results.
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.
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.
Another Russian camera that actually takes pretty decent photographs, the Zorki 4 is essentially a copy of the Leica II, although its looks a little different, more modern, in my opinion. The Zorki 4 was produced from 1956 to 1973, and many were exported to western countries. The Zorki 4 is large and heavy compared to some of the contemporaneous rangefinder cameras. There are quite a few variations of the Zorki 4, and those built up through the end of the 1960's demonstrate better craftmanship and quality that later models. Even by 1963, cost cutting was apparent. The lettering was silk-screened rather than engraved. You can see that the lettering on the front is wearing off, as is some of the lettering on the controls.
Taking photographs with the Zorki is very old school, although one nice touch is the combined viewfinder and rangefinder, with diopter adjustment. It is by far the easiest rangefinder in my collection to focus and compose. I had fun using it. The shutter must be cocked before adjusting the shutter speed to avoid damaging the shutter mechanism. This one is equipped with the Industar-26M 50/2.8 lens in M39 mount.
My daughter found this Contaflex at an estate sale and purchased it for me. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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. Although I've never used the body, I have mounted and used the Helios 44M via an adapter on my Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E2 with very nice results.
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.
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.
I often wished Nikon would make a professional digital version of the classic Nikon SLR. They have done that, more or less, with the Nikon Df. I think its retro styling is quite evocative of the F3. Otherwise, the Df is more or less a D4. The Df is also smaller and lighter than the other pro Nikons, making it a much more pleasant camera to carry around all day compared to the D4.
At right, is the Nikon Df. Hardly a classic yet, but it fits in well with the vintage cameras on this page, with its retro styling, smaller size, and reduced weight. This one is equipped with a Nikkor 28-70mm zoom and a 100th Anniversary Nikon leather strap.
It seems strange to list the F4 as a vintage camera, but it has become a classic, and is now more than thirty years old, 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.
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.
One of Kodak's best selling cameras, the Kodak Vest Pocket models were produced in several grades from 1912 to 1935. This was the first camera to use 127 roll film. This model, which I found at an estate sale, is an Autographic model, so called because there is a door on the back of the camera that can be opened, allowing the photographer to write notes on the negative using a special stylus. Many of these cameras were carried by soldiers during WWI.
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.
The Foldex 20 was an American camera manufactured in the early 1950's. It used 120 film. This one belonged to an uncle.
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 Amazon.com.
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.
Produced from 1938 to 1942, the Univex Iris was the Universal Camera Corporation's effort to market a more upscale camera to compete with the Argus A series and imports. In nice Art Deco styling, the camera featured a collapsible 50mm lens, with f stops ranging from about f/8 to f/22. Although the lens was fixed focus, three shutter speeds were available: I, for instantaneous, B and T. For most shooting, the I setting would be used. Like the Univex Minicam above, the Iris used proprietary No. 00 Universal film. There was a space inside the camera for a spare roll of film. Other amenities include provision for a cable release and a tripod socket.
I found this example on EBay along with its original box at a very decent price. The camera is in excellent cosmetic condition, and appears to be in working order. The B and T settings work correctly, and the I setting works, probably at about 1/50th of a second. The lens diaphragm works properly as well. The lens looked pretty hazy, but it turned out to be dust inside the lens, which cleaned up from inside with a Q-tip and alcohol. As a bonus, the film take-up spool is present.
Introduced in 1938 to complete with Leica and Contax imports, the Univex Mercury sold for $25. It was a very well-built, although unique camera, featuring a rotary shutter, which accounts for the circular protrusion on the top plate. The camera boasted a top shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second. A later version increased the shutter speed to 1/1250 to match the Contax II. The Mercury was a half-frame camera using special 35mm film made in Belgium. The Univex Mercury was the first camera to have a hot shoe for the accessory flash. The lens is a Tricor 35mm f/3.5. This is a quite clean example I found on EBay, and appears to be functional. After WWII, production resumed as the Marcury II, using standard 35mm roll film.
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.
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.
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.
First image, left to right, a Weston Model 348, a Metraphot 3, and a Brockway branded Sekonic Studio Model S. Second image, a ca 1968 Horvex 3 meter in original box by Metrawatt. 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 four 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 as 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. This one is still working and gives accurate readings.
Metrawatt appears to have made a variety of light meters during the post-war years in Germany, under various brand names, including some leading camera brand names. The Metrawatt 3, shown above, appeared as a house brand accessory clip-on meter for several cameras.
The Horvex 3, shown at right, in its original box, was the third in a line of hand-held meters made by Metrawatt. The Horvex 3 was a 1960's era meter. This one belonged to my parents.
At left is a 1938 Weston Model 850 Junior hand-held meter that I found in an antique shop. I like the Art Deco styling. Light or sun rays, a common Art Deco design element, emanate from the silver screw bottom center.
Rotating the thumb wheel at the top right of the meter changed the display in the window so the user could select the correct dial scale. James Ollinger, states that the Model 850 was Weston's first direct reading light meter.
1948-1954 Polaroid Model 95 Land Camera
The Model 95 Polaroid camera is the first instant print camera, introduced in 1948 and produced until 1954, when it was replaced by the Model 95A and then by the Model 95B. It was called the Polaroid Land Camera after its inventor, Edwin Land. Chemicals to produce a sepia toned black & white print were contained in the roll film pack, and it took about a minute for the image to develp inside the camera, so there was no "burst mode" with these cameras. The prints had to be coated with a gel after developing. Color instant film didn't become available until the early 1960's, along with pack film, which enabled prints to develop outside the camera.
Although this camera isn't a prime example as it has some wear on the lens board, it is in overall good condition. The original Model 95 is an extremely high quality camera. The build quality is excellent, with styling much like the large Kodak folding cameras of the Pre-WWII era. I found this one on EBay.
This older Polaroid 330 (1969-1971) belonged to my father. He became quite a Polaroid fan in his later years and owned quite a few over the years. Most of them were sold as part of the estate when he died, but this one and the SX-70 and OneStep CloseUp shown above I kept. This camera had a rangefinder, and used the old type of peel-apart film that predated the SX-70. Film is actually still available, made by Fujifilm. The Fuji FP-100B and FP-100C film pack will work in the camera. A ten exposure pack will run you about $70 - $100, so I won't be testing this camera to find out if it works.
Introduced in 1972, the SX-70 revolutionized instant photography. Previous Polaroid cameras used roll film that had to be removed from the camera after each exposure, and required some manipulation by the photographer to process. The SX-70 was an auto-exposure, single lens reflex folding camera. It used an entirely new film package that automatically ejected from the camera and developed on its own. A flash bar could be inserted in a slot at the top of the camera for flash photography. The SX-70 was discontinued in 1982. This 1977 Alpha 1 model belonged to my father. It still works, and an 8 esposure film pack, costing about $20.00, can be purchased online from Polaroid Originals.
The original SX-70 chrome and leather camera was very popular, but expensive. Polaroid introduced the OneStep, a plastic bodied camera that used the same film pack. A number of variations of the OneStep were introduced over the years. I picked this one up in thrift shop, but it doesn't work.
The SX-70 film pack used in the original camera and OneStep variants was a slow film, under ISO 200. Polaroid followed up with a faster version, 600 film, with an ISO of 640. A number of SX-70 type cameras were marketed to use the film, one being the OneStep CloseUp, which featured an electronic flash, powered by the film pack battery, and an auxilliary close up lens, a cheap sliding plastic lens the could be moved over the taking lens for extreme close ups. Close-up quality wasn't very good, but the camera was otherwise a good performer. This camera still works, and 600 film for it can be purchased online from Polaroid Orignals.