Old Cameras | Our Favourite Things: Bryan Edition


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6. Old Cameras

*If there was a guided tour of our blog* “If you take a look to your left, on the side of the screen you’ll see a sketch of a Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflux Camera! This camera was unique in that it had two lenses, one for focusing and composing through the viewfinder atop the camera, and the second for actually exposing the film.” This whole article might seem like a contradiction to my last post about Photoshop. But just relax and enjoy the tour :) Vintage cameras are often labelled as ‘hipster’. It is true that there is a particular fad or trend with people labelled as so-called ‘hipsters’ using unique and/or obscure film cameras to make images that are analog and look different. I think this is a natural reaction to the swarm of visual media out there, and the result of a desire to create something that is different by any means. It shouldn’t reflect on the person because this is their way of standing out. Don’t we all desire that at some point? These unique images could be created using plastic toy lenses (google: Diana or Holga), using expired film, or the instant, one-of-a-kind polaroid, to name a few examples of hardware from days-gone-bye. People can be very opinionated about whether the processing or hardware is just covering up, or enhancing some shoddy, or, respectively, excellent photography. I’m not going to go near that can of worms! Either side of the argument is very judgemental, and aims to alienate. Why do I bring this up then? Well, I’d like to share my perspective, which is that of a collector, rather than someone who uses the cameras (except for my experiences with the beastly 4×5 view cameras for school).

This is Thomas. He is a photography student. He has to use a 4×5 view camera. Sometimes he wears that cloth as a cape just for fun. I did too, but I was taking this picture at the time… thomasoharaphotography.com

“We live in digital world, and I’m a digital girl” …wait, that’s not how the song goes! However, that’s the truth. There are a lot of advantages to digital. Far more than I can get into now. Sometimes there is something alienating about the latest technology. More people are technologically literate, but what does that really mean? Sure we know how to use things, but is there a difference when you know how it works? Whether this would make you a better photographer or not is debatable. I just personally like knowing how something might work, so when problems come up I try to solve them with my comprehensive knowledge, rather than procedural. This works on the level of software in the new cameras, and also with exposure and lighting in my photography. But If a camera were to stop working in the fundamental electronics I think about 99% of people would say “well, I’m cooked.” With this in mind, I often take an inside look at the mechanics of old cameras, because they were more ingenious and practical with their limited mechanical tech. I can appreciate, and examine the structures and deduce the specific mechanism and function. I don’t consider myself an engineer by any means, but that hands-on understanding is so much more inspiring than the intangible functions going on in a computer chip, or the latest image processor. Here’s my collection as it stood last year.

Click for a close-up

I haven’t added any since then, since I keep finding ones that are too similar! I really want to own a Twin Lens Reflux, and probably my most sought after camera is the SX-70 by Polaroid, which probably is the most aesthetically pleasing, and all-around uniquely designed camera in history.  Form meets function with the folded portability it offers. This is what made Polaroid the most exciting company around during their heyday. From my understanding, what they had in inventiveness they lacked in business sense. Very unfortunate. Here’s an original ad for the SX-70.

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Bryan can most often be found taking photographs for his commercial studio Cooper & O'Hara, but he also has a passion for cooking, zoology, travel, science, entertainment, design, and creativity in general. Email Me