Camera History

A National Geographic Find – by Chris Page

Holidays often provide the opportunity to explore new areas for Street Photography. However, for this break, I traveled to the far reaches of Pelorus Sounds in New Zealand. Beautiful nature, but no Streets. This situation meant I could focus my camera lens on the family, and to catch up with a little holiday reading.

While hunting for reading material, I stumbled upon a collection of National Geographic magazines, with issues dating back to 1952. National Geographic is always worth a browse, even if just for the stunning photos. On this occasion, it was the camera adverts that caught my attention. Having time on my hands, I grabbed my trusty Olympus and snapped away. I discovered political incorrectness, innovations that never quite made it, and manufacturers who are not with us anymore. Where better to start than with Kodak?

Kodak and 3D Cameras

National Geographic, January 1955

Kodak was king before digital. This advert for a ‘Stereo Camera’ demonstrates how far ahead of the game the company was. Not bad for $84.50. The ‘KodaSlide Stereo Viewer’ is a similar idea to today’s Virtual Reality headsets. While 3D photos still sound fun, it is hard to get excited about the ‘exclusive brightness control’. Kodak ended the production of The Stereo Camera 1952. Today, these models can still be picked up on eBay for less than $100 and would be an awesome addition to anyone’s compact camera collection.  The shutter speed went up to 1/200, which would have been ideal for the following product.

Ansco Film in the 1960’s.

National Geographic, November 1963

Ansco was a company large enough to place an advert in National Geographic for their Anscochrome film, but where are they now? Maybe they went bankrupt following the offer to, ‘give pictures that satisfy or a new roll free.’ Ansco states their 200ISO film was fastest in the world, outpacing anything manufactured by Kodak. However, while this advert claims that Anscochrome were, ‘the truest color films ever developed,’ Kodachrome remained the medium of choice.

Selfies

National Geographic, November 1968

With flipped selfie screens and follow-me-drones, adverts continue to promote self-indulgence. I would happily indulge in purchasing this Polaroid Camera. With an, ‘all metal, brushed chrome finish’, it would fit in with the smartest hipster crowd. Maybe friends would be impressed with the black and white photos ‘made without flash’, or possibly the ‘beautiful color close-ups’ of my wife? This instant camera certainly looks better than the plastic models available today. While on the subject of looks, Minolta managed something completely different.

Minolta

National Geographic, May 1977

Minolta SLRs are still sought after and have an excellent reputation. Camera designs are slow to change, but here Minolta evidently tried to break the mold. Why have I never seen one of these, and where can I download that font? The Minolta 110 Zoom is how the future should have looked, yet production ended in 1979, and its successor looked much more like a conventional SLR. Maybe it was the small 110 cartridge film that stopped this from being the success it could have been. On the topic of size…

Small Camera, Large Format

National Geographic, May 1977

While trends change, some selling points remain the same. The argument that, ‘you don’t need to switch to larger formats’ is as relevant now as it was then. With a quality Zeiss lens attached, who are we to argue? The promotion of accessories appears to be a format that has never been out of fashion. Hasselblad state this camera could take cartridges of film with 500 exposures, this appeals to the Street Photographer in me. However, processing that many photos would me an expensive chore. I particularly love how this advert offers ‘printed matter’ for the taking.

More than just taking pictures

National Geographic, May 1976

Apparently, in 1976 photography was also about having a quiet smoke after a hard day’s filming. The use of cigarettes is one advertising technique that I am guessing will not reemerge anytime soon. Check the film processing chemicals are not flammable before lighting up!

I took these photos while sat on an old sofa outside my family’s holiday home. I think the collection is a significant slice of history. These adverts motivated me to head out and purchase a box of film for my much neglected Nikon F80 and my compact Lo-Fi special, an Olympus Superzoom 800s. What amazes me is how good some of these cameras remain today. These hunks of metal were built to last. If you have an old camera and you would like to see one of the original adverts I may well have it, feel free to contact me via my website, www.pagespics.com.

Keep Clicking, Chris

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7 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish Gill
    February 26, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    I love that polariod advert – so pervy in a so 70s way!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Helge
      May 24, 2019 at 10:47 am

      How is the Polaroid add pervy‽

  • Avatar
    Reply
    James T
    February 27, 2018 at 11:21 am

    At a guess the 500-exposure magazine for the Hasselblad must have been derived from the ones they sent to the Moon with the Apollo crews. Those used 70mm movie stock.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    February 27, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Chris, it is always fascinating picking up old copies of photographic magazines and those such a Nat. Geo. as they often reflect the times as well. And this can throw up some strange contradictions and which to us today we may take as gospel. The Kodak advert for their stereo camera is a good case in point. Kodak is trying to sell its camera, so bear this in mind.

    Even ignoring the European based stereo cameras that preceded the Kodak, there were at least three US manufacturers selling stereo 35mm cameras a few years before this Kodak, the Stereo Videon, 1949, the Stereo Contura and Stereo Revere 33, both 1950, thus dispelling your thoughts that Kodak was ahead of the game.

    Regarding Ansco film, they did go on to make a 500 ASA (ISO) and a friend showed me some of his slides – grain like golf balls! But I suppose a lot of fun in the right circumstances.

    I have a number of 110 cameras in my collection, including the two Minolta reflexes. Considering how relatively poor the format was, it amazes me the lengths to which some camera manufacturers went with some of their models. Their top models are exquisitely made and I’d say over-engineered for the format. This first attempt by Minolta at an slr is interesting today purely by its design, and it must be the biggest 110 camera ever made. I suspect that not many would care for lugging it around. It uses mirrors, not a pentaprism, so the image is darker than one might expect. The MkII is a much better proposition, being smaller and better specified. Canon introduced the 110 ED, a slab of a camera that visually looks not unlike the many simple pocket 110’s. But it is high spec and is fitted with an f2 lens, and a coupled rangefinder to boot. Some of the top of the range Agfa’s with their “Pocket” series are interesting, too.

    But my two favourites are the tiny Rollei A 110 and, the equally small, Pentax Auto 110, a true slr with interchangeable lenses. The quality of the Pentax lenses is superb and can be adapted for use with m4/3 as their imaging circle covers the sensor. Unfortunately, they can only be used wide open at f2.8 as the aperture is contained within the body. But they all have manual focus.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    chris
    March 1, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Using Pentax lenses on a m4/3 throws up some interesting possibilities. And the Rollie is a fantastic looking camera. I’m not sure how easy it is to use, but I would see many of them for sale in China. I’m not living there now, and wish I had purchased one. As for the Minolta, it just looks so ‘Back to the Future’, although it clearly was never going to take the world by storm! Thanks for the info.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Terry B
      March 1, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      Chris, regarding the Rollei A110, I assume by how easy to use, you may be referring to its diminutive size? No need to worry on that account, unless you do have very large hands! Simply load the film and then winding on is a push-pull action (like the Minox B or Minolta 16 subminiature models) and new PX27 batteries are readily available. The lens is the tried and tested Tessar design. Far more capable than the film.

      If you already have a m4/3 camera, then for a cheap adapter and a lens you’re set to go. My “testing” was carried out with my Nex 5N, not ideal, but whilst it does demonstrate the fall off using APS-C, it also shows how sharp the lenses are wide open. This will be far less of an issue with m4/3 as the sensor and 110 negative are the same size. Last year I acquired an Olympus EPL-1 for experimental purposes and as this has no AA filter, results should be even better. Perhaps I’d better do a re-run.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Chris Pattison
    March 4, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Fascinating stuff Chris. I really enjoyed your article and learned quite a lot. I never knew of Minolta’s 110 system camera. Some cracking work on your website by the way.

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