April 18, 2011

Ultimate film cameras for the perfect collection?

The Canon 1/2 frame Demi EE17
As I'm preparing for my summer Modern Alternative Photographic Practices class,  I'm dusting off some of my film cameras and running some tests.  Cross-processing, Holga-ing, panoramic-ing and other stuff and it got me thinking about the film cameras that I have held onto and the ones that got away.  Going one step further I let my mind wander into creating a list of camera classics that have stood the test of time. 

So below is my list of notable film cameras, worthy of a spot in your china cabinet or sock drawer even when there is no longer film available. They are in no other order then the way I thought of them.  Some represent a technological breakthrough while others represent steadfast resilience in the professional world and some are meanful to me,  but all are particularly cool in some way or another.

Syliva taking a break from her Peking Duck
Widelux F8, This particular camera has enjoyed a resergence in popularity (and price #@%&;!!) due to Jeff Bridges public use of the camera.  His site is great and definitely worth checking out.  The F8 was the last Widelux produced by the Panon company who, on this model finally figured out that round helicals kept the rotating lens drum from leaving vertical streaks on the film that earlier models were unfortunately known for.   While I’ve never owned an F8, I got to shoot a roll of film through the amazing Sylvia Plachy’s absolutely brassed camera at the Bejing airport and I've been on the hunt ever since.

Canon EOS 1v  The look and feel of a high end digital camera in a fantastic film camera. Some have called it the finest (actually, the most technologically advanced) 35mm film camera ever made.  All the modern lenses work, it's truly a joy to handle and shoot with. It can be set up with two different grips, one holding 8 AA batteries and one holding only 4 AA batteries.  It will work without a grip too, its tough to make a call on which set up is the most comfortable, as all three configurations make the camera easy to handle and a joy to shoot with.

Canon new F1 with 85mm f/1.2. The workhorse of the 80's and 90's, plus the first professional camera I ever owned.  Crazy fast motor and tack sharp lens, coupled with HP5 it is truly something to beat.  This was a staple of the press corp for years.

Canonet QL17 GIII, dubbed the poor mans Leica, with it's built in meter, razor sharp lens, and 1.2 million sold over 11 years.  Everybody should have this extremely affordable classic in their collection.

The New Fuji X100...familiar???
Canon Demi EE17, just a cool little wonder, often holding it's value though, it looks freakishly similar the new Fuji x100 digital camera...hmmm?  72 frames on a roll of 36 exposure, you can almost shoot with wild abandon...you know just like a digital camera.  Any half decent mini lab (Sam's club and even the Walgreens across from Harrington) can print diptics for you. Very fun little camera.




Leica M6 .85x with a 35mm Summicron, the stealthiest, quietist and classist of all 35mm cameras, not a whole lot else you can say about this treasure.

Nikon F3 and motor, wonderfully ergonomic camera, with modern Zeiss lenses now available this is a manual focus classic that's hard to beat. Twenty years ago all my father wanted were Zeiss lenses for his F3, now that he can finally do it, he shoots with a D90...

Linhof Technika 3, 4 or Master, this was a fantastic system built to the highest of German precision.  Available with an anatomical grip, zooming finder, fully articulated rotating back and enough bellows to use a 500mm Tele-Xenar!  This camera is truly a joy to use, the movements can only be described as magical, I realize that sounds weird...but ask any user and they will agree.

Hasselblad Superwide, the 38mm Zeiss Biogon is often regarded as the very best wide angle lens every designed.  I've only shot with one a couple times, even used Ernie Brooks's personal camera when I was in college.  The images it produces are remarkable. 

Twin lens Rolliflex, c330 Mamiya or Yashica 124. The TLR was the mainstay of photography for so long, any camera collector or photo enthusiast should have a clean functioning TLR in their collection.  Benefitted by it's lack of mirror, use of rectilinear lenses and leaf shutter, the TLR camera has produced more advertising, fashion and news pictures in its time then anything until the modern mainstay of 35mm moved in. Richard Avedon started shooting 8x10 for his portraits because he felt the Rollie was making the images and not him...

Mamiya 6 with 50mm and 75mm quite possibly the most perfectly designed medium format camera of all time and definitely my desert island camera.  Super small, always oriented in the right direction and razor sharp optics with a leaf shutter, with its collapsing lens, this is much smaller and lighter then a 35mm with a motor!  I've long preferred the Mamiya 6's square format to the more popular 6x7 producing Mamiya 7.

617 Linhof or Fuji pending with 72mm and 90mm,  I honestly am surprised how these have held their value so well but they have. Especially when you can: File-Automate-Photomerge-Perspective.....done :)

Hasselblad XPan In the same boat as the medium flat field cameras above, one can produce similar images digitally but there is something about the razor sharp lenses and unique size that keeps this camera at the top of the heap.   This camera created quite a stir when it hit the streets and is still quite popular today.

So long after film has lost its allure and practically, picking up one these, or a favorite of the your own, might just remind you what got you interested in photography in the first place!


2 comments:

  1. Wao! Great post and list! I inherited a collection of cameras that I love and would like to expand. At the moment I have a Mamiya, Yashica, Argus, and some pinhole cameras and brownies. A Pentax too made it here. It works. Not sure if the ones I have are the same mentioned here but I will check. I love photography. When I started graphic design I seriously considered dropping out to go to photography school. Almost always I take my own pictures to do my work or client work. In school, I exclusively took my own photos for work. Thank you for such a great list!

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