Advantages Ownership of a precision instrument
Disadvantages Batteries difficult to come by. How much longer will film be produced?
I have always considered my latest camera to be my ‘coolest gadget’, well maybe along with the Brompton folding bike I’ve now had for nearly 10 years. Unlike the Brompton, I get through rather more cameras.I’ve always been a keen camera owner, probably more so than is justified by my abilities as a photographer.
My very first was a Kodak Brownie 44a, not a box camera, despite the name, but still a roll film camera. I distinctly remember its proudly worn Design Centre Award sticker and, luxury of luxuries, two exposure settings; one for bright light and one for very bright light!These were the days when you always placed your subjects facing the sun, and woe betides you if the sun wasn’t out. It used 127 roll film with 12 exposures per roll and punished you with double exposures if you didn’t get into the routine of winding on the moment you took a picture. You were also treated to blank prints if you wound on once more for good measure.
So off to Boots I went, with my birthday money gripped in hand, and paid about £7-19s-6d for a Beirette which was exclusive to Boots in the UK. Nevertheless, it was made by Woldemar Beier in Dresden in the then DDR. I still have it, partly out of sentimental attachment and partly because it refuses to die, even 48 years on its shutter is practically silent when fired. This was to be the first of a few East German cameras that came my way mainly for reasons of cost.Compared to the Brownie, this was sophistication beyond measure. It had lever wind and you couldn’t fire it twice by accident. It had 3 (yes, 3!) shutter speeds and a full range of aperture settings. It also differed in so much as it could be focussed rather than rely on bright weather. I still smile today when a camera is described as ‘focus-free’ – no it doesn’t have auto-focus, it just doesn’t focus.
Of course, being a nascent nerd even then, a camera that needed all of its parameters to be set by the user was prime territory for some extra gadgets. I bought a Hanimex light meter to take care of exposure settings and a Boots Rangefinder, rather like a miniature version of those used by WW2 tank commanders. It’s difficult these days to view Boots as a centre of excellence in reasonably-priced camera gadgets (and home brewing for that matter). How times change.After a few years, and several copies of Amateur Photographer, I’d started to hear about these ‘SLR’ jobs, not even knowing that it stood for single lens reflex, but they sounded like a jolly good idea. I mean, you looked through the ‘taking lens’, so there was no more chopping Aunty Aida’s head off – what you saw was what you got, including whether it was in focus or not.
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