Were All The Cameras Great?

HalinaGrand Dad? Were all the cameras in the olden days great?

Yes, Timmy. They were all perfect. It is only since the coming of the digital camera that they have started to become horrible.

Before you write to the editor of this weblog column, who is me, and complain that I am not taking old cameras seriously, consider two things;

  1. There were a lot of really bad old cameras in the olden days.
  2. I cannot demand my own resignation. I pay no attention to me.

I am pressed to this cynicism by memories of some truly great clunkers that I encountered in the 1960’s when working as a student in a city camera store. I don’t recall that the place took in secondhand equipment as such, but it hardly needed to as it had an accumulation of unsold stock that looked pretty used as it was. This was the era that saw us trying to sell EXA I and EXA II cameras alongside Nikon F Photomic T cameras. Agfa Clack cameras in boxed kits as well as Pentax Spotmatics. We had a 4 x 5 Arca Reflex brand new. Other countries had the atom bomb and the Beatles but we had that Arca.

As a foolish young photographer I did my share of stupid buying for stupid reasons. People who have also owned Bolsey C1’s, Minox A, and Mamiya 8mm cameras may wish to go silent and thoughtful now. Those who also invested actual money in Hanimex lenses, 50mm macro lenses, and Spiratone fisheye converters instead of spending it on beer or girls can also leave by the side entrance. I do remember with great fondness the Soviet-era Quarz 8 windup camera as I still have it – sans any source of film but as useful as it ever was. It will never die.

I never went down that dark smelly alleyway marked ” Petri “, though, about ten years ago when an acquaintance gave me a perfectly good Petri 35mm rangefinder camera. “Good” is a technical term. It was stolen from the glovebox of my car one night and I cannot sleep some nights thinking of the fate of the thief. Laughter will do that to you.

I suspect that the lowest point in retail was reached sometime in the late 60’s when Halina came out with yet another camera-like object from Hong Kong and the wholesaler pressed several examples on the owner of the shop. Rather than flinging the boxes into the fire he put them down to the sales floor and they lay there like dead rats for years. The shop is long gone decades ago and I never knew the fate of the Halinas. I have not got the courage to enquire.



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