Rangefinder Cameras

Minox 110 S

Minox 110 S

The Minox 110 S is a subminiature 110 format camera introduced in 1975. This slim little camera was first presented to the public alongside the revolutionary Minox 35 EL at Photokina 1974 which unfortunately meant that it was pretty much completely overshadowed by its bigger brother. Produced by Balda on behalf of Minox, the 110 S also had an alternate life as the Balda 1000 but with different lenses. In an ocean of inexpensive 110 cameras like Eastman Kodak‘s Pocket Instamatic line, the Minox 110 S is of surprisingly high quality. Despite its plastic construction, there’s nothing about it that feels flimsy or cheap.

Rollei 35

Rollei 35

The Rollei 35 was a revolutionary viewfinder camera debuted in 1966 by Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke and is still one of the smallest full-frame 35mm cameras ever made. Curiously, the story of this legendary camera begins not at Rollei, but at rival camera manufacturer Wirgin in the early 1960s. Wirgin’s chief designer Heinz Waaske had just finished developing the Edixa 16—a subminiature camera which parasitically made use of its competitor’s proprietary 16mm film cassette while offering itself as a more economical alternative to the Rollei 16.

Leica IIf

Leica IIf

The Leica IIf is a high-end 35mm rangefinder debuted in 1951 by Ernst Leitz GmbH and produced in the German city of Wetzlar. This model is essentially identical to the Leica IIIf but without the capability of shutter speeds slower than 1/25 of a second. However, even the IIf model itself has several variants. This particular example has red flash sync numbers around the base of the shutter speed dial as opposed to black and a fastest shutter speed of 1/1000 as opposed to 1/500.

Taron Eye

Taron Eye

The Taron Eye is a premium 35mm rangefinder camera debuted in 1960 by Taron. The Eye is the predecessor to the very similar Taron Eyemax that was introduced shortly afterwards. However, unlike the Eyemax which came with a choice of two lenses with different maximum apertures, the Eye appears to have only been offered with the relatively high-end 45mm f/1.8 Taronar lens.

Bolsey Model B

Bolsey Model B

The Bolsey Model B is a 35mm rangefinder introduced by Bolsey in 1947. The Model B is essentially the rangefinder variant of the Bolsey Model A—a camera which seems to have never made it to market apart from being rebranded for sale as the LaBelle Pal—and is also the camera upon which the Bolsey Model C TLR is based. Bolsey produced several variants of the Model B with incrementally advanced features such as a double exposure prevention mechanism and flash synchronization and even made models specifically for the US Army and US Air Force

Balda Baldessa Ia

Balda Baldessa Ia

The Balda Baldessa Ia (or Balda Baldessa 1a) is a 35mm rangefinder camera introduced by Balda Kamera-Werk in 1958, about ten years after founder Max Baldeweg fled Socialist Dresden to reestablish his company in the soon-to-be West German city of B ünde. The Baldessa Ia and its sister model the Ib are basically identical to the original Baldessa I with the addition of a coupled rangefinder. The Baldessa Ib then went a step further by also including a built-in light meter.

Kodak Retina II

Kodak Retina II

The Kodak Retina II is a high-end 35mm folding camera introduced in 1936 by Kodak AG, Eastman Kodak’s branch in what was then Nazi Germany. Like the original Retina, the Retina II was designed by Dr. August Nagel, founder of Nagel (which he sold to Kodak) and Contessa as well as co-founder of Zeiss Ikon. There are a number of different variants of the Retina II, the first three of which were manufactured before and during the early stages of World War II. In 1941, the Kodak AG factory in Stuttgart halted operations and began contributing to the war by making time-delay fuses for shells used by the much-feared 88mm Flak anti-aircraft gun. Then, shortly after Germany’s surrender in May 1945, camera production resumed and more versions followed. The exact Retina II pictured here is a type 142 (produced from 1937-1939) which is characterized by having separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows as well as a knurled knob for advancing the frame.

Olympus XA

Olympus XA

The Olympus XA is a sleek compact 35mm rangefinder introduced in 1979 by Olympus. After succeeding with a long line of compact 35mm half-frame “Pen” cameras, Rollei struck back with the amazing Rollei 35: a camera as small as any Pen but able to produce full-frame images. Olympus continued on with the newly outclassed Pen for over a decade before they finally came back with a real answer to Germany: the Olympus XA. When it was released, the XA was the smallest rangefinder ever made and is still one of the smallest today.

Ansco Anscomark M

The Ansco Anscomark M is an unusual 35mm interchangeable lens rangefinder manufactured for Ansco by Riken Optical Co., Ltd. (better known as Ricoh). A small percentage of the cameras produced were also sold as the Ricoh 999.

Graflex Graphic 35

The Graflex Graphic 35 is a 35mm rangefinder introduced in 1955 by Graflex as a replacement for the Graflex Ciro 35, the camera on which it was also heavily based. The Graphic 35 was designed in the US and earlier examples were made in Rochester although production shifted to Japan with Kowa later on. The lens and shutter were sourced from West Germany.

Tower 51

The Tower 51 is a conventional fixed lens rangefinder produced by Iloca Kamera-Werk in Hamburg, Germany as a direct variant of the Iloca Rapid-B and sold by Chicago-based department store and mail order giant Sears, Roebuck and Co. under their Tower brand. Over the years, Sears sold a wide variety of rebranded cameras produced by different manufacturers such as the Tower 39 Automatic (made by Mamiya) and the 2.8 / Easi-Load (produced by Ricoh).

Beauty Super L

The Beauty Super L (also sold as the Beauty Varicon SL) is a 35mm fixed lens rangefinder introduced by Beauty Camera K.K. in 1958. The Super L was one of the first cameras sold by Beauty after the company recovered from bankruptcy in 1957 and one of the last models produced by the company until it closed its doors for good sometime in the early to mid 1960s.

Acro Model R

The Acro Model R is a relatively obscure World War II era rangefinder camera introduced in 1940 by the Acro Scientific Products Company of Chicago. Like Spartus, Acro was part of the “Chicago Cluster,” a group of Chicago-based camera brands that produced a series of nearly identical Bakelite cameras. However, unlike the vast majority of those cameras that were designed to be simple and cheaply made, the R is an upscale model for advanced amateurs.

Ansco Karomat

The Ansco Karomat (also known as the Agfa Karat 36 and Agfa Karomat 36) is a 35mm rangefinder camera built by Agfa and introduced in 1951 by Ansco. Although based on Agfa’s original Karat which was designed to use the precursor to Agfa’s proprietary 35mm Rapid Film cartridge, the Karomat actually uses today’s standard Kodak 35mm cassette.

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.

Rollei XF 35

The Rollei XF 35 was released in 1974 by Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke as the latest addition to the Rollei 35 series which, at the time, were the world’s smallest full-frame 35mm cameras. Compact full-frame cameras like the Rollei 35 series and the Olympus XA pretty much single-handedly destroyed the half-frame 35mm market as they proved that a full-frame camera could be made just as small without compromising image quality.

Polaroid Spectra

The Polaroid Spectra is the first model in the Spectra System line (also known as “Image System” and the Minolta Instant Pro in overseas markets) of instant cameras introduced by Polaroid in 1986. With this new line of cameras came a new line of instant film named Spectra/Image/1200 film which, apart from producing rectangular instead of square images, is more or less identical to existing 600 series film.

Petri Racer

The Petri Racer is a fixed-lens rangefinder introduced by Petri Camera Company, Inc. (formerly known as Kuribayashi Shashin Kogyo K.K.) in 1966. Similar to other Petri cameras like the 2.8 Color Super, the Racer features the signature “GREEN-O-MATIC” viewfinder which visually sets it apart from other Japanese fixed-lens rangefinders.

Bolsey Model C

The Bolsey Model C is a 35mm twin lens reflex camera based on the Bolsey Model B. While the Bolsey Corp. of America produced still cameras, its founder, Ukrainian-born Yakob Bogopolsky (who later changed his name to Jacques Bolsey) is also famous for having founded the cinema camera manufacturer Bolex while living in Switzerland. Once he moved to the United States at the beginning of World War II, Mr. Bolsey produced a series of conventional and aerial cameras for the federal government.

Kiev-4A

The Kiev-4A is one of several professional grade 35mm “Kiev” rangefinders produced by the Arsenal Factory, one of the oldest and most famous industrial factories in the former Soviet Union and modern day Ukraine. After the defeat of Germany in World War II, most of the surviving equipment and schematics from the Zeiss factory were removed from Dresden and taken to the newly reestablished Arsenal Factory in Kiev. Although primarily a military factory, Arsenal also produced civilian products including copies of cameras made by other manufacturers such as Zeiss Ikon, Hasselblad, and Nikon.

FED-5B

The FED-5B is an interchangeable lens rangefinder introduced in 1977 by FED, a state-run optical manufacturer named after Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police. The FED-5B and its siblings (including the FED-2) were all manufactured in what is now the Ukrainian city of Kharkov in an orphanage turned labor commune.

Balda Super Baldina

The Balda Super Baldina name has actually been used on two different cameras, one is a folding rangefinder introduced by Balda Kamera-Werk in 1938 and the other is the one pictured above: a fixed-lens rangefinder from the mid 1950s. Both incarnations of the Super Baldina have been released alongside view-finder only “normal” Baldinas.

Konica Auto S

The Konica Auto S is the first ever automatic exposure 35mm camera to be powered by a cadmium sulfide meter. Introduced by Konishiroku Shashin Kogyo K.K. in 1963, decades before it became officially known as Konica, the Auto S is also the first automatic exposure model in the “S” line of classically designed compact rangefinders.

Kuribayashi Petri 2.8 Color Super

The Kuribayashi Petri 2.8 Color Super is a fixed-lens rangefinder produced by Kuribayashi Shashin Kogyo K.K.. Confusingly, there doesn’t seem to be an “official” model number for this camera as it’s just one of many ambiguously named fixed-lens rangefinders made by Kuribayashi in the late ’50s and early ’60s. However, the well-known McKeown’s Price Guide To Antique & Classic Cameras identifies this particular model as the “Petri 2.8 Color Super” so, for simplicity’s sake, that’s what I’m going to call it here.

Revere Stereo 33

The Revere Stereo 33 is a 3-D stereo rangefinder camera produced in the 1950s by the Revere Camera Co. of Chicago, Ilinois. Sadly, Revere only made three still cameras and two of them are stereo rangefinders (the other one was released under the Wollensak brand and is basically the same camera with different lenses and shutters), the third one being a plastic automatic camera that takes 127 film. There were a number of 126 film cameras sold under the Revere name in the ’60s but they were produced by Minolta under license.