Sunday, 16 October 2011


As a kid my first experience of photography was the 'Kodak Brownie 127' camera.  The big fat oval shaped beast enabled me to produce my first blurred picture, at the zoo I recall.  The camera was used on many occasions, usually by my dad, but rarely by myself.  I suppose this enabled the black box to survive so long! I did have some sort of rubbish camera around 1970 and attempted to get the thing to work.  This had similar success to my picture in the zoo!  Rude murmurings from those around me distracted my learning process and my interest waned somewhat. Later, far removed from such 'friends,' I did try a 'Lomo LC-A' camera, which was a Russian produced piece of rubbish that has become a cult among some. One day in the late seventies, before most of my readers were born, I purchased a 'Zorki-4,'  from somewhere. This camera began after the war in a factory that had been produced a 'Fed' camera, a poor imitation of a 'Leica' camera. Such copies abounded after Leica introduced their high quality produce during the twenties and thirties.  These Russian cameras worked well enough, and were being produced right up till 1978.  Then one day my brother gave me a 'Zenit-E' of dubious age and condition.  

My brother, ten years older and nowhere near as good looking, took to photography in a big way.  So much so that he ended up in the RAF photography section. After his demob his mechanical knowledge saw him repair Leica cameras until his retirement.  At one point I myself considered the RAF but while the nice sergeant informed me of all the good times I could find in the services, good pay, friends, travel and so on, he forgot to mention the millions of armed men standing guard throughout western Europe.  He also forgot to mention the nuclear bombers and fighters high above as we spoke training for nuclear war, although he did say I could learn a trade, death probably!  The photography section was closed at that time so I declined the joy of being told my eyesight was so poor I could not be accepted, and also my habit of screaming "We are all going to die!" would unsettle other crewmen on the aircraft.I dared not inform my brother I had considered this as I felt he may resign!  He still doesn't know.  

The Zorki was an excellent camera for a simple amateur, or so I was called rather too often by some. However mine had a small problem in that a hole appeared in the screen and if I recall right my brother took it to fix and I never saw it again!  However the Zenit made up for this.  The Zenit was an SLR camera with TTL metering. Certainly the metering was aged and of dubious quality but I took many pictures with that camera and thoroughly enjoyed using it.  In time I added extension tubes, enabling me to take close ups of objects.  I had wished to do this for many years, since one day I had watched a bumble bee happily brushing the pollen from his fur into those pockets on his legs.  He stayed outside my window for ages and I had no means to take his picture, and extension tubes were the answer.  Naturally once I had them no bumble bee has come my way.  The Zenit was a popular camera, cheap, as the Soviets wanted foreign exchange, easy to use, and as it weighted a ton it was marvelous for Irish weddings.  Simply by keeping the beast in its case, grabbing the strap firmly, and then swinging it around the head it became a terror weapon in such circumstances. As the ambulancemen loaded up the guests you would be enabled to take photographs of both the wounded and their broken cameras.  The Zenit was photography's equivalent of the T-34 Tank! 


Enjoyable though the Zenit was I had seen enough Irish weddings and spent £125 on a good second hand Minolta X-300.  This was, and is a great camera for such as I. By adding a couple of lenses I was soon able to see great distances and into folks windows got shots of objects far away. The only problem I found was settling down on a south coast beach, with the Isle of Wight in the near distance, yachts making their way up the Solent, hundreds of pictures available, all the lenses, filters, and other things I never understood standing by, and realising I had run out of film! I can see that view still.  I did enjoy taking portraits of people, if I could get them to stand still long enough.  Candid shots I find a but invasive but I have taken thousands of pics of people and now have three good ones to show for it!  Very enjoyable this hobby.  Quite why we enjoy it so much I sometimes wonder, especially when looking at old pictures and wondering who, or what, I am looking at!  However since it arrived on the scene photography has always been popular.  When Kodak enabled the majority to benefit with the 'Box Brownie (and who hasn't got one somewhere in the family even today?) and a wide variety of folding cameras a rich heritage of photographs has been left for us all. I never fail to be amazed at some of the pictures I find on the web, from the 'ordinary' person let alone the one willing to pay a bit more for the camera.  People have such an eye for the unusual, the humerous and the beauty around us.  Looking at pictures takes us out of ourselves in a way that differs from reading prose.  That too can open windows in the mind but a photo makes it easier, and brings us a more factual representation of a situation and can set the mind enquiring about life.

Digital cameras have revolutionised photography in a way unimaginable just twenty years ago!  No fiddling with films, no waiting for developing, and by clever use of the pc it is possible to improve the picture in front of us.  A snap taken now can be uploaded and transported worldwide in minutes!  The pocket size makes it easy to slip in the pocket, and the use of a small screen instead of an even smaller viewer enables more options for picture taking, fantastic I say!  One day, when rich, I will obtain a bigger version, although not a Leica!  I will also find some friends and take a few portraits again as I have not done that for years. Daft I know but this is one of my favourite activities these days, simple and enjoyable, and I still don't comprehend just why it should be so enjoyable, but it is!



Jenny Woolf said...

I had a Zenit E. They were pretty good cameras. I really miss the quick response of my film camera. I suppose i could and indeed should buy a better digital one, an SLR perhaps, but I appreciate it being so tiny and portable. Hmmm you still can't win!

Relax Max said...

these are indeed all cameras. Great post title.

FishHawk said...

I recognized the names of two out of the five! What did I win?

Adullamite said...

Jenny, A good SLR with two lenses is good, but very costly!

Max, You are observant at least.

Fish, Your prize is in the post!

Relax Max said...

This is as close as I have ever come to touching a Leica.

Relax Max said...


Anonymous said...

My dad picked up a cool German camera with a bellows during the war. I took some great shots with that. Unfortunately these days film if available I'm told must be procured on line.

I've always wanted a dark room to develop my own b/w.

Adullamite said...

Max, I have handled Leicas, I once owned 1938 version, and my brother let me examine a M6 some years ago. That was only worth about £3000 at the time! Mine cost £125. I wonder how much it would be worth now.

Max, Yes 'Ra.'

Leaz, Cool German, Voigtlander or some such. All German cameras are top notch.

Anonymous said...

The camera now in my closet picked up by my father-in-law (also during the war) is a Voigtlander. Tomorrow I shall pick up the other when I visit the folks. You have inspired me! Now to hunt down film...

Relax Max said...

Well, I know Ra is an Egyption sun god, and I got your Book of the Dead/Grateful Dead comment. I have only seen the word used in crossword puzzles though, so you threw me.

I doubt your brother let you touch a real Leica. :)

Adullamite said...

Leaz, Good luck with getting film, there must be some available.

Max, I threw you? There's a first!

soubriquet said...

There's a trigger for some memories!
I too started out with the box-brownie. When it became clear that I really did want to learn to take photographs, my dad 'loaned' me his little folding Kodak, I think they were known as a 'vest pocket camera' though we british don't have pockets in our vests.
Like you, I worked my way up via the Zenith... When I was a student, you had to master the zenith before there was any chance of getting your hands on a Nikon.

Funny thing... When, in the mid eighties, I visited Soviet Russia, I thought a neat thing to buy there with my western currency, might be one of those 500mm mirror lenses. I went in the big photography shop on, i think, Nevsky Prospekt, in Leningrad, and and enquired, only to be met with confusion, denial, and obfuscation. Most of the cameras in the store were blobby plastic things, which should have given me a clue. At first I was told no such lens existed. Then I was told it was for the military only..... Then came the questions. How did I know of this lens? Why was I trying to acquire one?
Who sent me?
When I told them it was the cheapest long lens available in Britain, they became even more flustered.
How silly of me to even think such a gem of Soviet ingenuity would be available in britain... And our cameras and lenses would be vastly inferior.

Of course. So sorry to have troubled you. Bye...

Adullamite said...

Soub, you forgot that Russians had no money? :)

soubriquet said...

Oh no, they had a definite lust for foreign money. So much so that people were constantly offering many times more than the official rate if I would sell them dollars. Being, at the time, an ex-pat brit, living in Finland, I had dollars. Because they're kinda handy as a universal currency.
I could have bought a nice tractor, or a couple of tin-box cars, I quite fancies a vintage mercedes I saw, held together with string and wire, with bare canvas where the tyre-tread should be.
Nope, the truth was, I think, that Russia didn't want its citizens to have long lenses. So the shop guy had only seen them used by state officials.
I have a few neat stories from that time, if I go spend some dosh on a slide-scanner first. And if i can then find a box of nearly thirty year old slides.