Kalimar  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Kalimar Brand Overview

Kalimar logo

Founded: 1952 — St. Louis, MO, USA
Currently: defunct

Kalimar Brand History

Kalimar was an American brand which was founded by Abe and Robert Lipsitz in 1952 as an expansion of their existing camera distribution business. The Lipsitz brothers’ interest in photography began at a young age and soon became their profession with Robert staffing the camera counter at a local department store while Abe became a camera repairman. Soon, the two brothers struck out on their own and started a business selling dark room equipment out of their mother’s house on the west side of St. Louis, Missouri.

Before long, the United States entered World War II and both brothers joined the military. Abe served in the army but Robert—who had a deep fondness for aviation—joined the air force and was able to combine his passions by serving in the 8th Air Force Combat Camera Unit, a group tasked with gathering footage to help sell war bonds back home. During his service, Robert documented numerous military operations in the European theater including D-Day and the Allied bombing of Dresden which targeted German industry and destroyed many factories including those belonging to Zeiss Ikon, Eho-Altissa, and Balda. After the war ended, the brothers resumed their growing business and eventually renamed it Kalimar.

Instead of merely selling photographic equipment, Abe and Robert entered into agreements with manufacturers from Japan, China, Germany, and the Soviet Union and soon began importing and selling cameras from abroad under the Kalimar brand. Companies that licensed cameras to Kalimar included GOMZ, LOMO, KMZ, Regula, Seagull, Aires, Fujita, and even Minolta. At its peak, Kalimar had a 22% market share of Japanese cameras in the United States and even supplied equipment to NASA for the Gemini V mission.

By the 1990s, Kalimar’s self-branded cameras were primarily cheap plastic point and shoots and it also acquired licenses from Mattel and Warner Brothers to source and distribute Barbie and Looney Tunes branded cameras. At the end of 1999, Kalimar was sold to photographic accessory company Tiffen which continued to sell Kalimar products before quietly discontinuing the brand in 2007.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Kalimar cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 308-309.

“Kalimar,” Wikipedia, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalimar

“Kalimar,” Camera Wiki, http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Kalimar

“OBITUARY: Robert Joseph Lipsitz,” Dignity Memorialhttps://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/olivette-mo/robert-lipsitz-7107222

“Moving experiences,” St. Louis Business Journal, https://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2001/09/24/tidbits.html

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