photokina - Retro Camera Roundup
By James Grahame
The massive photokina photographic trade show is held every two years in Cologne, Germany. The photo industry is rapidly shifting to digital, but that didn't stop us from hitting the show floor last week in search of retro-style gear. Let's start at the Minox booth...
Minox was founded in 1936 to manufacture miniature cameras. More than 70 years later, they're still obsessed with miniaturization and classic design. They've had some success with miniature digital replicas of classic designs, but now they're offering a range of photo gadgets for the discerning wanna-be spy.
The star of at the espionage-themed Minox License to Shoot booth was the €199 ($280) Minox DSC, intended to evoke their classic Minox B model from decades past. It weighs a mere 60g and incorporates a 3.2 MP (interpolated to 5.0 MP) sensor. It looks cool, but who's going to buy it in a world where capable cameras are incorporated into pocket-sized mobile phones?
Practicality was thrown out of the window as grown-up kids flocked to the Minox booth to get a look at their range of tiny camera-equipped pens, belt buckles and eyeglasses.
The ever-expanding range of Minox miniature digital replicas includes the Rolleiflex MiniDigi AF 5.0, featuring a unique square 5.0 MP (interpolated) image sensor, miniSD storage and a 1.1" LCD display.
There's even a vintage-style flash attachment available for the Minox classic camera lineup, shown here mounted on a miniature Leica M3 Classic Camera. Minox wasn't the only manufacturer exhibiting retro-style equipment, however...
There were a handful of TLR (twin lens reflex) medium format cameras on display, including a stunning gold-plated special edition version of the classic Rolleiflex. It features a Zeiss-Planar f/2.8 80mm taking lens and enough bling to keep even the most demanding millionaire rapper happy.
Medium format fans on a budget were intrigued by the latest old-school offerings from Seagull. These Chinese cameras don't have the fit and finish of their German inspiration, but they're a great way to shoot 120 film without breaking the bank.
Olympus impressed with a mock-up of their upcoming Micro Four Thirds standard digital camera. It features interchangeable lenses and styling that seems to have been lifted straight from the 1980s. They're aggressively aiming to get it into production by early 2009.
The traditional film fanatics at Lomographic Society International presented their wares with an unforgettable 'LomoWall' incorporating over 100,000 amazing film images. It quite literally carpeted their booth. The Lomography lineup included dozens of affordable 35mm, medium format and instant cameras.
Oddly enough, the product that captivated me the most wasn't a camera at all. It was Lomography.com's unique RedScale Negative 35mm film, "designed to re-cast your image in a sea of powerful and seriously intense red, orange, and yellow tones." The result is unforgettable.