I have always had a fascination with things that are uncommon or unusual. So the Brumberger 35mm camera fits nicely into both of those themes. Brumberger’s are an uncommon brand of cameras with rather obscure and convoluted origins. Brumberger its self was a photo supply company that operated in New York for many years but went out of business before I was born. Cameras that carried their branding were generally budget models that were purchased from Japan and the particular model I have is in fact a rebranded Neoca S2 made by Mizuho Optical for a short window between 1955 and 1956. If one looks carefully enough there are a few traces of the cameras origins to be found on the Brumbrtger.
The camera has a fixed 45mm f3.5 Anastigmat lens, it claims to be coated but I imagine it is single coated. It boasts an early example of a film advance lever so early it is a rather uncommon and quirky double stroke film advance. Shutter speeds are somewhat limited maxing out at 1/300 of a second, a bit slow by modern standards but good enough in most situations. The camera does not have many features nor does it sport especially impressive build quality. It does have a rather unusual feature for a camera of its age. Most older cameras have a minimum focusing distance of about 1 meter or 3 feet, the Brumberger’s minimum focusing distance is a little under 1.7 feet. Not exactly a revolutionary features as the small viewfinder does not have any parallax correction marks to help with the close up composition. But the camera does perform well when shooting very close to a subject.
Even thought this camera is unremarkable on paper, I have a real soft spot for it. I think some of the attraction is the strange name “Brumberger” sounds like the name of a cartoon character or a James Bond villain. Aside from the novelty of the name the little things like the double stroke film advance and the light weight body made of largely of aluminum give it a very unique feel compared to the heavy brass body Leica copies that were being charged out in Japan around the same time this camera was made.
If you are looking to buy one of these cameras I would suggest picking one up that includes the lens hood. In the case of this particular camera the focusing ring is rather small and the lens hood with its “knuckling” or “clam shelling” is very helpful for getting a grip on the focusing ring and finding focusing.
The Brumberger does have some weak points worth noting. For example the clasp for the film door is lacking an automatic latch when shut. One must hold the door down and lock tab in place to secure the door. The shoe mount does not have any pressure plates so any meters placed in it will have a loose fit and could slide off if not attended to. The view finder is pretty small, but on the other hand the rangefinder patch has high contrast, so it is easy to see.
I have had pretty good results shooting this camera with black and white film. the lens provides a good contrast. I have yet to test it with color film, I suspect the results would be ok but nothing to get overly excited about. The lens does show vignetting at a few aperture levels and it gets pretty bad when closed down. At mid apertures and wide open its optical performance is better. The camera also spots a surprisingly nice depth of field the wide open, but shooters will have to take advantage of that close minimum focusing distance to get a really good depth of field.
Some reports I have read suggest the Brumberger scratches film, due to its lower cost materials and a poorly designed film gate, but I have not encountered this flaw.
In the greater scheme of things the Brumberger is not all too special or beyond the ordinary. I think some might even place it in the niche of “lomography” or lofi cameras. I tend to avoid cameras that fall into that niche, but that is probably a fair assessment. Despite the unremarkable nature of the camera I still like it. The limited shutter speeds and not particularly fast aperture do often force me to be more mindful of how I am shooting. On the other hand the rangefinder coupled focus gives more options and greater usability than many better known “lomo” style cameras.
At the moment the Brumberger is probably the most primitive camera I own and the cheapest by a wide margin, but I think in some ways that is why it is fun to use. There have been a few times I shot the Brumberger alongside a Nikon S2 or SP with a Nippon Kogaku 50mm or 35mm lens only to have trouble distinguishing which frames came from which setup after looking at a few developed rolls of film a week later.
In my mind it’s a fun camera with a funny name.
You can read some more in depth thoughts about this camera on Mike Eckman’s website here
Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience
There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:
Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.