Two Wednesdays ago, the day I was rushing around trying to focus on work and also get organized for Ohio, I got a giant, heavy package via UPS delivered to the door. I opened it up to reveal a carefully wrapped group of antique cameras and a lovely note from my cousin Margaret (who, I believe, lurks here but has not commented). These were her father’s film cameras, and as they were gathering dust at her house, she thought she would send them along to me.
They are all beautiful cameras but by far my favorite is this one: a Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex, a twin-lens reflex model manufactured by Zeiss sometime between 1934 and 1939, according to this website (the shutter lens assembly is from an earlier model and the body is from a slightly later model, so my guess is that someone fixed this one by combining parts from both). It’s both a long way away from my Rolleicord/Yashica TLRs and very similar; the focus wheel is actually a lever mounted on the side, but all of the wind/shutter/aperture controls are exactly where I expect them. I cleaned up the optics with a damp cloth, dusted out the inside, and made sure the mechanicals all work.
Then there was a box in perfect shape that held a Kodak Senior Six-20, a medium-format bellows camera from the late 1930’s. All of the original sales material is included, and the camera looks like it was just pulled off the shelf of a Woolworth’s or Sears & Roebuck by a guy in a bowtie and shop apron; the leatherette is unmarked, the bellows is pristine, and the mechanicals are flawless. When I look at the packaging and design of this piece I think of modern-day Apple: the design is excellent and of its age, there isn’t anything on the package that doesn’t need to be, the craftsmanship of the package and camera is exquisite, and it feels like an event to open the box. I could put this next to an iPhone box from the modern day and they would be father and son.
The next is a Minolta A.2 35mm rangefinder from somewhere in the late 1950’s, an absolute beast of a camera that probably weighs 35 lbs. It’s also in excellent shape and the mechanicals check out as far as I can tell. It’s enclosed in a leatherette case that probably adds another 10 lbs. to the whole package. How did people travel with stuff like this back in the day? My neck would snap like wet twigs if I had to haul this thing around Disneyland for a weekend.
There was a Revere Ranger 8mm winding cine camera, which is actually heavier than the Minolta. I think this thing was chiseled out of pig iron. It’s finished with that marbleldy texturing that was popular in the 1950’s for things like movie projectors and electronic equipment, and it feels solid as a brick in my hands. It’s actually the second of these that I’ve got: My Dad had one of these in the stash I bought back in 2002, and I’m curious to put them side by side to see if there are any differences. This one has a set of interchangeable lenses, which is kind of cool for its day.
Finally, there’s a General Electric exposure meter in a small velvet pouch. The pictures make it look really cool, like it’s an instrument that was pulled from the control panel of a DC-3. Unfortunately it’s jammed into its case, a half-box made out of bakelite, I’d guess, and I can’t seem to get it out. I’ve got to do some research on how to extract it without ruining the material.
Margaret, these are all wonderful timepieces, and I really appreciate your gift. I’m going to put them in a place of honor here on the Photography Wall, and I’m definitely going to put some film through the Zeiss—as soon as I finish the roll in the Yashica.