I like many photographers have a fascination with the tools that we use to make our living, specifically the tools that were used by the masters and those we look up to. I have a small collection of vintage and novelty cameras, some of which I actually use in my professional work.
Easily my favorite camera to work this, the RZ67 is a medium format “studio camera” that has a lot of versatility; Interchangeable film backs, viewing screens and a plethora of amazing lenses are all at my disposal here.
It’s heavy, weighing in at 5 pounds with a lens, viewfinder and back attached. Still, this doesn’t deter me from taking this along on portrait shoots. It’s all about planning the shot, both for lugging this beast around and for capturing an image “in-camera.”
While the RZ67 requires a lot of forethought to take out on a shoot, the Nikon F2 has been everywhere with me, from back home in Wisconsin making family portraits to New Zealand and Greece shooting travel stories.
This camera was a favorite among photojournalists in the 1980s due it’s durable metal body and fully mechanical shutter which could be used for any length of time in nearly any sort of weather conditions. It does have a built in light meter that requires a watch battery, but you can always make due with a hand held meter.
As you can see I have 2 of these, one given to me by a friend’s father and another from a family member. These can still use many modern lenses, and there’s no feeling quite like the thumb-actioned-lever that manually advances your film.
Polaroid Model 95 Land Camera
The Model 95 was the first commercially available “Land Camera” model was first sold to the public in November, 1948. It produced Polaroid’s famous instant prints in about 1 minute. Both the camera and the self-developing film was named after the inventor, Edwin Land and They were manufactured by Polaroid between the years of 1947 and 1983.
Mechanically this camera works fine, and it appears to have maintained it’s light-tightness. However, it is nearly impossible to find film for this camera, which is disappointing. I have heard tales of people converting their land cameras to shoot 4x5 sheet film, but this is a project I have not looked much in to undertaking. Still, it’s got a beautiful bellows extension and a folding/collapsable body that make it a handsome addition to any collection.
The Argus was a low-priced rangefinder camera mass-produced from 1939 to 1966. Due to its shape, size, and weight, it is commonly referred to as “The Brick” by photographers(or “The Lunchbox” in Japan). It has a unique method of loading film, in that after you insert the cassette you have to close the back and wind the camera until it essentially unloads the entire roll on to a separate spool. I have not run a roll through this one yet, but mechanically it seems to function just fine, if a little stiff in places.
The Starflex was introduced in 1957 and was designed for amateur photographers. It has a wonderful little waist-level viewfinder and a “flashgun” that would take a screw-and-pin flashbulb.
I adore this camera, it’s so small and light, and it just has that vintage camera look with a comically large flashgun and 2 big lenses on the front. Unfortunately this particular one is missing the base-plate which means it is not light-tight. It also doesn’t help that the 127mm film it took was discontinued in 1995 and only small boutique manufacturers produce it today.
I don’t shoot film when I produce videos - it’s digital all the way for me. But I love the look and feel of the old super-8 cameras, particularly the models with pistol-grips. The metal one is a Yashica, known for it’s TLR cameras, and the black plastic one is a Chinon. Both of these work and, while I have not produced anything myself on these, I love having them around. There’s just a joy to play with, the zoom lenses are so fun and the cameras themselves are so intuitive to use. You put the camera up to your eye and pull the trigger.
I’m always looking out for new cameras to add to my collection. As any collector knows, no collection is ever “complete.”