Vintage Cameras by Country of Origin

Pentax Auto 110

The Pentax Auto 110 is the smallest single lens reflex camera ever made and the only camera with interchangeable lenses ever produced for the 110 film cartridge. A true camera system, the Auto 110 has six available lenses: 18mm, 24mm, 50mm, 70mm, 18mm fixed-focus, and 20-40mm zoom (all f/2.8), two external flashes, an electric film winder, and a slew of macro adapters, filters, diopters, and lens hoods. A third party 1.7x teleconverter was also produced by the German company Soligor.

Olympus Pen EED

The Olympus Pen EED is a direct descendant of Japan’s very first half-frame camera: the original Olympus Pen. As it was one of the smallest available 35mm cameras at the time, the Pen was named as such because its portability could be compared to that of a (very oddly shaped, large, metal) pen. Seven years after the Olympus Pen debuted, the Germans launched the hallowed Rollei 35 which was just as small but could make normal 35mm frames and effectively heralded the end of Japanese half-frames. In defiance, this EED variant was released one year after that supposed end and, quite stubbornly, Olympus continued making Pens well into the 1980s and then revived the name in 2009 for its line of Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Kodak 35 RF

The Kodak 35 RF was rushed to production in Kodak’s attempt to catch up with Argus who, at the time, were having great success with their C series of consumer-friendly rangefinder cameras. Unfortunately, their entire strategy revolved around simply taking the Kodak 35 and slapping on a rangefinder assembly. However, despite their seemingly simple and cost-effective solution, the 35 RF still cost well over twice as much as the ubiquitous Argus C3 and therefore remained eating its proverbial dust until Kodak finally stopped production in 1948.

FED-2

The FED-2 is a 35mm rangefinder built in Kharkov, Ukraine in a factory that was once an orphanage. After the groundbreaking Leica II was introduced in 1932, Soviet leaders tasked the FED factory with building a clone. The FED-2 is a descendant of that first Leica copy. And if that’s not interesting enough, FED is named after Felix E. Dzerzhinsky who was the founder of the NKVD, the shadowy secret police organization that would eventually become the KGB.

Nikon Nikkormat FT3

In terms of serious cameras, this is my genesis: the Nikon Nikkormat FT3. My father bought this beautiful camera as a young man in Hong Kong and gave it to me when I began getting serious about photography in college. I’ve spent many hours shooting with this camera and have even lugged it overseas on assignment to various developing countries as my backup and film body. It’s been a sturdy and dependable friend for many years now and has taught me many things about photography, the most important of which is patience.

Franke & Heidecke Rolleicord IId

The Franke & Heidecke Rolleicord IId was introduced in 1947 as the latest edition to the Rolleicord line, the more affordable version of the Rolleiflex line of premium TLRs. TLRs or Twin Lens Reflex cameras are uniquely equipped with two lenses that do different jobs: one is connected to the viewfinder for composing while the other one exposes the film and takes the photograph.

Herco Imperial 620 Snap Shot

The Herco Imperial 620 Snap Shot is a simple plastic box camera that was manufactured by the Herbert George Co. of Chicago (which would later become the Imperial Camera Corporation). This and other box cameras like it were initially sold under the brand name “Herco” and then, somewhat confusingly, under the “Imperial” brand. While doing my research, I found this camera being referred to as both the “Herco Imperial” and the “Imperial Herco.” This camera will be referred to in this article as the Herco Imperial because it just makes more sense given the hierarchy of text on the camera itself.

Argus Autronic II

The Argus Autronic II is an automatic fixed-lens rangefinders produced by Argus in 1962. Like many Argus cameras of that era, the Autronic II is fairly unremarkable at a glance with its simple but vaguely awkward styling.

Canon Canonet QL17 G-III

In 1961, Canon—then an upmarket camera company—shocked the industry by debuting the Canonet line, a series of modestly-priced compact rangefinders. The very first Canonet model completely sold out in just two hours while worldwide sales hit the one million mark in a mere two and a half years, an auspicious beginning for what would be a wildly popular line of cameras that would span over two decades. The Canon Canonet QL17 G-III is the final high-end model of the Canonet series.

Konica C35 EF

The Konica C35 EF is the very first compact 35mm camera to feature a built-in flash. The “C35” in its name stands for “Compact 35mm” and the “EF” standing for “Electronic Flash.” In Japan, this camera is known by its nickname “Pikkari” which, as far as I can tell, translates roughly into “glittery brightness.”

Sony Digital Mavica FD-81

The Sony Digital Mavica FD-81 is an early consumer-grade digital camera that was released by Sony at the dawn of the megapixel wars for a whopping $899 (roughly $1,275 in today’s dollars). The Mavica series—which is short for Magnetic Video Camera—is notable for its use of removable disks to store images, starting with bespoke Video Floppies before graduating to 3.5″ floppy disks (like this FD-81), and eventually mini CD-Rs and mini CD-RWs.

BelOMO Chaika-II Anniversary

The BelOMO Chaika-II Anniversary is a special edition of the BelOMO Chaika-II that was produced by the Belarus Optical and Mechanical Enterprise in its Minsk factory to commemorate the 50th year of the Soviet Union. The Russian word chaika translates into “seagull” which was the call sign for Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman ever to go into space and the person who this line of cameras is named after.

Minolta Hi-Matic

The original Minolta Hi-Matic is one of the first mainstream fixed-lens rangefinders and the first Minolta to feature automatic exposure. The Hi-Matic was also rebadged and sold in the United States as the Ansco Autoset and gained some notoriety after American astronaut John Glenn purchased one at a local drug store shortly before embarking on the Mercury-Atlas 6 space mission. Although there were other cameras on the Friendship 7 spacecraft, Glenn burned through five rolls of film with his new camera while on board, shooting many historical images including this photograph of the earth.

Yashica T4 Super D

The Yashica T4 Super D is one of the last models of the T* series of compact cameras made by Kyocera (who owned Yashica at the time) in partnership with renowned German lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss AG. All cameras in this series used high quality Carl Zeiss Tessar lenses with the legendary T* coating which meant superb image quality in a small package. The Yashica T4 and its variants were also sold as the Yashica T5 and the Kyocera T Proof.

Polaroid Pronto! Sears Special

The Polaroid Pronto! Sears Special was sold exclusively at Sears department stores and is a variant of the Pronto!, Polaroid’s first non-folding Land Camera to use SX-70 instant film. Polaroid’s earlier instant films required users to peel the negative away from the print which, unfortunately, caused many photogenic locations to become littered with discarded negatives, much to the chagrin of Polaroid founder Edwin Land. Land addressed this concern by developing SX-70 film, which did not use separate negatives and therefore produced no excess waste with each exposure.

Olympus AF-10 Twin

The Olympus AF-10 Twin is basically the cheaper, non-weatherproof version of the Olympus Infinity Twin. Like the Infinity Twin, the AF-10 Twin has two lenses (a wide-angle 35mm f/3.5 and a telephoto 70mm f/6.3) that you can switch between with a touch of that wonderful, tiny red button on the top.

Kodak Tele Disc

In 1982, Kodak launched what they thought would be a revolutionary product: disc film. Instead of fumbling around with roll film or awkwardly shaped cartridges, consumers could now load their cameras by simply inserting a thin, sleek bit of plastic into the back.

Pentax P30T

The Pentax P30T is a plastic manual focus SLR spawned during the peculiar limbo period that took place after manufacturers began moving away from heavy, all-metal manual focus SLRs but before plastic autofocus cameras became the norm. The P30T differs from the base P30 and its other variants in that it has a plastic film door as well as a diagonally split focusing screen.

Yashica T AF-D

The Yashica T AF-D is a high-end 35mm compact camera introduced in 1985. Shortly after acquiring Yashica in the fall of 1983, Kyocera took advantage of its existing licensing agreement with renowned German lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss AG and began production of the T* series, a successful line of compact cameras that use high quality Carl Zeiss Tessar 35mm lenses with the legendary T* coating. The very first model was the Yashica T AF which was closely followed by this data back-equipped AF-D variant.

Polaroid Land Model 104

The Polaroid Land Model 104 is Polaroid’s first lightweight, plastic Land Camera (named after inventor and Polaroid co-founder Edwin Land). It belongs to the lower end of Polaroid’s 100-400 series of instant cameras which, despite sometimes wildly varying levels of affordability and build quality, all feature folding bellows, clearly labeled operating sequence, and automatic exposure.

Sears 2.8 / Easi-Load

The Sears 2.8 / Easi-Load is a rebranded Ricoh 126-C EE, a fixed-lens viewfinder camera designed for Kodak’s now-obsolete 126 film cartridge. It features a 43mm f/2.8 Rikenon lens with a minimum focus distance of three feet. Like many 126 cameras of this era, the Easi-Load has no integrated flash and must rely on top-mounted flash cubes, plastic rotating cubes that have four single-use flash bulbs good for four exposures. Other notable features include an interesting “atomic” Sears and Roebuck logo next to the viewfinder, nicely recessed film advance lever, and a threaded shutter button to accept a soft release or shutter release cable.

Kodak Baby Brownie Special

The Kodak Baby Brownie Special is a very simple box camera constructed of Bakelite, an early plastic. It has a basic meniscus lens with a minimum focus distance of five feet and a single fixed shutter speed (estimated to be about 1/40) activated by the button on the side. The optical viewfinder runs across the top of the camera next to the film advance knob. A nice braided hand strap is supposed to span the top of the camera from the metal brackets on either side but it’s missing on this one.

Kodak Instamatic 304

The Kodak Instamatic 304 is one of the more technologically advanced cameras in Kodak’s famous Instamatic line with a then-sophisticated automatic aperture system controlled by a selenium meter (seen on the front next to the viewfinder). It has a relatively simple Kodar 41mm f/8 lens with two shutter speeds: 1/90 and 1/40 for flash photography.

Kodak Six-20 Bull’s Eye

The Kodak Six-20 Bull’s Eye is a box camera made of Bakelite, an early plastic. The shutter lever is located under a simple meniscus lens with a minimum focus distance of eight feet and a fixed shutter speed with manual bulb mode activated by the lever above the lens. The primitive viewfinder is only usable for approximating composition and runs along the top of the camera next to the circular metal knob that’s used to advance the film after each exposure. The little nub opposite the braided handle is used to keep the lens level when the camera’s resting on its side for portraits.