Yashica Auto Focus Motor

The Yashica Auto Focus Motor (also known as the Yashica 5-Star Auto Focus Motor) is a compact viewfinder camera with autofocus introduced by Yashica in 1981. Yashica underwent many changes during the Auto Focus Motor’s three year production life including being bought out by Kyocera and the beginning of Yashica’s departure from the consumer SLR market to focus on budget point and shoot cameras.

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor (56/2)

The Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor (56/2) is a well-built and relatively advanced box camera (regarded by some as “the king of box cameras”) introduced by Zeiss Ikon shortly after the end of World War II and the subsequent division of Germany. The Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor line is a continuation of the original Box Tengor series manufactured by Goerz before it merged with ICA, Ernemann and Contessa-Nettel to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926. The 56/2 is the final camera to bear the Box Tengor name.

Graflex Crown Graphic

The Graflex Crown Graphic (also known as the Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic) is a large format press camera introduced by Graflex Inc. in 1947. The lesser known Crown Graphic is commonly mistaken for the Graflex Speed Graphic which is often regarded as the most famous press camera of all time. The mistake is easy to make, however, since the two cameras are identical apart from an additional focal plane shutter on the Speed.

LOMO Smena Symbol

The LOMO Smena Symbol is a simple 35mm viewfinder camera introduced by LOMO in 1970. The Symbol belongs to the long-lived Smena (Russian for “relay” or “young generation”) line of cameras that were manufactured by three different Soviet factories (MMZ, GOMZ, and lastly, LOMO) from 1939 until the mid 1990s, effectively outlasting the Soviet Union itself. Smenas like the Symbol, 8M, and the 2 are mostly made of plastic and were purposely designed to be inexpensive.

Spartus Six Twenty

The Spartus Six Twenty is a box camera dressed up as a TLR introduced in 1940 by the Spartus Camera Corporation of Chicago. The Six Twenty—so named because it takes 620 format film—is what’s called a “psuedo TLR” which means that it looks like legitimate TLR at a glance but is technically a box camera because the lenses do not focus in tandem (unlike its cousin, the Spartus Spartaflex which has a coupled focusing system). In fact, the lenses on the Six Twenty can’t really be focused at all.

Argus A

The Argus A is a simple viewfinder camera introduced by Argus in 1936 that played a significant role in popularizing the use of 35mm film in the United States. Although it was already gaining traction in the United States thanks to Kodak and their Retina series of cameras, it took the Argus A’s relative affordability at $12.50 (about $220 in today’s money) to truly bring 35mm film to the masses, sparking a dramatic change in the landscape of consumer photography in America as well as the rest of the world.

Kodak Motormatic 35F

The Kodak Motormatic 35F is an automatic viewfinder camera introduced in 1962. The Automatic/Motormatic series cameras were the very first automatic exposure 35mm cameras to be made by Kodak and also the very last of their 35mm cameras to be produced in the United States. As their names might suggest, Motormatic cameras are motor-driven while the Automatic range have a manual film advance. Motormatics also have more shutter speeds.

Altissa Box

The Altissa Box is a simple but elegantly styled box camera introduced in 1951 by Altissa Camera Werk. One year after the launch of the Box, Altissa’s owner Berthold Altmann fled to West Germany leaving his company behind to be taken over by the East German government and turned into the state owned “VEB Altissa Camera Werk” with “VEB” being short for Volkseigener Betrieb or “people-owned enterprise.”

Minolta-16 MG-S

The Minolta-16 MG-S is a subminiature “spy” camera made for use with Minolta’s proprietary 16mm film cartridge and introduced by the Japanese camera company in 1970. Ten different Minolta-16 variants were made during its nearly 20 year (1955-1974) production run. The MG-S was the ninth model and widely considered to be the most advanced of them all.

Yashica EZ-Matic Electronic

The Yashica EZ-Matic Electronic is a viewfinder camera made for the 126 film cartridge introduced by Yashica in 1969. Its older brother, the original Yashica EZ-Matic, is pretty high-end for what it is with two exposure modes (automatic and aperture priority), accessory shoe, and self-timer. Unfortunately, this EZ-Matic Electronic variant has none of those things.

Univex Mercury CC

The Univex Mercury CC is a half-frame viewfinder camera introduced by the Universal Camera Corporation of New York shortly before the beginning of World War II. Founded by individuals with no experience whatsoever in the photography business, Universal created cameras that were innovative but still simple enough to efficiently mass produce. Because they were only usable with proprietary film cartridges, Universal sold their cameras at very low prices, causing the brand to become synonymous in the United States with quirkiness and affordability.

Ansco Memo II Automatic

The Ansco Memo II Automatic is a 35mm half-frame camera introduced in 1967 by Ansco. The Memo II Automatic and the Ansco Memo Automatic from 1963 are actually the same exact camera, just re-released to reflect the name change from Ansco to General Aniline & Film (GAF). In turn, both cameras are rebadged versions of the Ricoh Auto Half and were manufactured by Ricoh for sale by Ansco. The Memo Automatic from 1963 is not to be confused with the original Ansco Memo, a 35mm half-frame box camera from 1927.

GOMZ Smena-2

The GOMZ Smena-2 is a plastic 35mm viewfinder camera introduced in 1954 by the Soviet State Optical-Mechanical Factory or GOMZ for short. Curiously, “smena” in Russian translates into “relay,” a fitting moniker since the 25 or so camera models that bear the Smena name were manufactured under three different brands from 1939 until the mid 1990s: MMZ (which eventually became BelOMO), GOMZ and, when GOMZ changed their name, LOMO. Smenas are made almost exclusively from plastic and were priced for mass consumption.

Toyoca Six

The Toyoca Six is an extremely rare dual format folding camera introduced in 1957 by Toyohashi Y.K. Tougodo under the brand name Toyoca, a contraction of “Toyohashi” (the city in which the company was based at the time) and “Camera.” The other part of the name, “Tougodo,” was named after one of Japan’s most famous naval heroes, Admiral Togo Heihachiro who shared a hometown with one of the company’s founders.

Voigtländer Bessy AK

The Voigtländer Bessy AK is a viewfinder camera manufactured by Balda on behalf of fellow German optics company Voigtländer which introduced the camera in 1965. So called to imply a (in reality, very faint) connection with the legendary Bessa name, the Bessy was a cutting edge camera designed for Kodak’s now obsolete 126 film cartridge, a format overwhelmingly popular at the time among amateur photographers who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of loading traditional roll films.

Kodak Jiffy Six 20

When it was introduced, the Kodak Jiffy Six 20 was marketed by Eastman Kodak as the simplest, most user-friendly folding camera ever made. Up until that point, most folding cameras were of the same basic design (example: Kodak No. 3A Autographic). They were relatively difficult to handle, complex, and required users to manually unfold the camera and extend the lens in order to take photos. In the spirit of simplicity, the Jiffy boasts a simple two button operation. The first small metal button can be found on the film advance knob’s side of the camera and releases the front plate, causing the metal struts on either side to snap into place and automatically extend the lens. The second button is the shutter lever which can be found on the side of the front plate once extended.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye is a simple plastic box camera produced from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. In addition to being made in its flagship factory in New York, the Brownie Hawkeye was also manufactured in Canada and France by its international subsidiaries. Over the years, there have been a significant number of Kodak cameras called the “Brownie;” this Hawkeye is one of the most popular models ever to bear the name.

LOMO Smena-8M

The LOMO Smena-8M was introduced in 1970 by the Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Union. The Russian term “smena” translates into “young generation” or “relay” which is interesting because the 8M’s 25 year production outlasted the Soviet Union itself. The Smena name has existed since 1939 when the original Smena, a 35mm folding camera, was introduced by GOMZ, one of the state-run optics factories that eventually merged to become LOMO. Smenas are made almost exclusively from plastic and were designed to be inexpensive. As a testament to its success, there have been roughly 25 camera models bearing the Smena name starting from before WWII to the mid ’90s.

M.I.O.M. Photax III

The M.I.O.M. Photax III is a simple viewfinder camera made of Bakelite—an early plastic—produced by Manufacture d’Isolants et d’Objets Moulé, a now defunct French company that specialized in electrical insulators and plastic molding. M.I.O.M. made several different cameras before and after the Second World War including eight variations of their flagship Photax model between 1937 and 1960.

Agfa Optima 500

The Agfa Optima 500 is the second-to-last model in Agfa‘s Optima line and is the direct descendant of the very first mass-produced camera ever to feature automatic exposure: the original Agfa Optima. The Optima 500 is also unique because it was released in 1964 during the corporate merger of Belgium’s Gevaert Photo-Producten N.V. and Germany’s Agfa AG. At the time, Agfa AG was owned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG which eventually upped it’s 50% stake in Agfa-Gevaert N.V. to 100% and controlled the company until 1999.

Ricoh AF-60D

The Ricoh AF-60D is the data back equipped variant of the AF-60, one of half a dozen or so consumer grade autofocus point-and-shoot cameras introduced by Ricoh in the mid to late 1980s. This particular AF-60D—which was purchased by my father when I was a kid—has the distinction of being the first camera I have ever used. I remember going into my parents’ bedroom and digging the Ricoh out of my dad’s sock drawer. I remember looking through its viewfinder at the mirror and putting my finger on the shutter button like I had seen my dad do so many times. A click and whirr later, I ran away giggling.

Spartus 35F

The Spartus 35F and its twin, the Spartus 35 are simple 35mm cameras made of Bakelite, an early plastic. Modeled after the highly successful and massively influential Argus A, the 35F features a classic shape very common to 35mm cameras of its era. The 35F was manufactured in Chicago by the aptly named Spartus Corp. before it became the Herold Manufacturing Co. which is why the lens of this particular specimen bears the Herold name. Spartus Corp. and its incarnations produced a great multitude of Bakelite cameras (many of which are practically identical to each other) under a wide variety of different brand names such as Utility, Falcon, Monarch and, of course, Spartus.

Konica MT-9

I received this Konica MT-9 by mistake a few days after winning an auction for a Konica C35 EF. I opened up the package expecting a superb Hexanon-flexing wonder but was met with an unexceptional plastic compact camera instead. The seller (a charity shop) didn’t believe my story until they attempted to put this very MT-9 up for auction and included a photo of the serial number which I quickly matched to the camera I had erroneously received. Story proven, they quickly took down the auction for the MT-9 and immediately sent me my C35 along with a hastily worded but very sincere apology.

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.

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.